NYIKA NATIONAL PARK
WHY TRAVEL HERE?
Formed in 1965, this is the highest and largest of Malawi’s National Parks, has scenery second to none, and offers superb views of the northern part of the lake. Nyika National Park is considered one of the most beautiful montane plateaus in Africa. The blooming wildflowers form a colourful blanket over the gently rolling hills. The horse riding safaris on offer here cater for all levels of riders and offer an intimate way to interact with the surrounding bush and animals. It is renown for one of Africa’s densest leopard populations.
This is the northernmost Park in Malawi and is situated on the Nyika Plateau north of Lilongwe, and borders onto the easternmost tip of Zambia.
100 different mammals are found here including strong population of leopard, bushbuck, red and rare blue duiker, herds of hundreds of eland, greater kudu, klipspringer, Liechtenstein’s hartebeest, puku, reedbuck, roan antelope in abundance, side-striped jackal, spotted hyena, warthog and zebra. Although elephant have been seen in the Park the numbers are very low. Nocturnal animals present in the Park are the hyena, jackal, serval and civet cats, porcupine, honey badger and aardvark.
Around 400 species of bird have been recorded on the Nyika Plateau and include the migrants that arrive between November and December as well as 8 endemic species. The Chowo Forest is home to the rare bar-tailed trogon, red-breasted sparrowhawk, olive-flanked robin, bar-throated apalis, malachite sunbird, and white-tailed and blue flycatcher.
The Park lies on an ovoid plateau that forms the western margin of the East African Rift Valley and comprising wide plains and sweeping valleys. This is one of the most important water catchment areas in Malawi and the sources of four large rivers that drain into Lake Malawi cut the area with deep gorges and high waterfalls. The plateau lies at an altitude of 2,000 meters above sea level and affords wonderful views, and spectacular cloud formations can be seen on the horizon.
Parts of the plateau at high altitude are covered predominantly by short open grasslands, and select patches of evergreen forest. Miombo (Brachystegia spp.) woodland is dominant at lower levels and the game moves down to these lower levels where temperatures in winter are warmer. Generally the hills are grassy with ferns, heather, juniper and pine plantations, and the valleys wooded. There are over 200 species of orchid and protea on the plateau. 28 endemic species of plant exist here – including a genus of the orchid Cardiochilos.
Due to the high altitude the climate here is particularly mild and thus any time of the year is good to visit. The warm season is between September and May and temperatures are never more than 21 degrees Celsius. The rain falls between December and March, and in these “warm” months the temperatures in the evening can be very cool. During winter from June to August the temperatures are very low, and frosts can occur. Temperatures can fall below 0 degrees Celsius during winter and one should have warm enough clothing. Game viewing is best in the dry season. Bird watching is best between November and March when migrant birds arrive. The rains result in the hillsides being covered by a carpet of colourfulflowers, and again in August and September.
One can go on game drives, guided walks, horseback safaris, night drives, and for birding enthusiasts, the birding is excellent. Vast networks of walking paths, horseback and wilderness hiking trails afford trekking on various nature trails for 1-5 day periods. Trout fishing is on offer in the dams and streams near Chelinda.
from Lilongwe take the main road northwards in the direction of Kasungu to Mzuzu via Chikangawa on the M1(good tarred road); from Mzuzu continue northwards on a tarmac road for approximately 63 km to Rumphi, then turn westwards onto the m24 towards Katumbi. After about 50 km turn right into the Park at the Thazima gate. Chelinda Camp is 60 km from the entrance to the Park. During the months of heavy rain, a 4X4 is necessary for the roads within the Park.
There is an airstrip 3 km from Chelinda Camp at which chartered light aircraft can land.