NYIKA PLATEAU (THE LIVINGSTONIA TRAIL)

The Nyika National Park in the North of Malawi is the oldest and largest national park in the country covering an area of not less than 1250sq (3,200 sq. km). In 1965 the Nyika National Park became the first certified park in Malawi. It extends across the great plateau which is essentially a granitic dome and its environment is like none other in Africa. The name Nyika means “where the water comes from” and it is, indeed, one of Malawi’s most important catchment areas. The rolling scenery is at its best in the rainy season (January-February) when over 200 types of orchid are in flower. The grassland of Nyika are also rich in wildflowers in other seasons. Weather is variable depending on the season, but it can be chilly at night so we recommend bringing a good quality sleeping bag. It is also highly recommended to bring along a pair of good trainers as a back up to the walking boots in case the boots get wet or muddy on the hike, which is very likely.

The Livingstonia trail is by far the most popular hiking trail on the Malawi’s unique Nyika Plateau. The route runs from Chelinda in the heart of the plateau to Livingstonia Mission on the Khondowe plateau on the eastern edge overlooking the Lake Malawi.

A number of other walking trails are also possible just within the plateau, ranging in length from a night to three nights long.

The Livingstonia trail is a 2night/3day hike comprising approximately 6 hours of walking per day, a vigorous hike and should only be attempted by people with good fitness levels.

The first day traverses the high plateau grasslands as far as Phata Stream where camp is made.
The second day is a steep descent through the Mwenembwe Forest to the boundary of the Nyika National Park at Chakaka Village.
The third day is along the steep sided North Rumphi valley through villages where the people eke out an existence from the steep slopes. There is a final ascent to Livingstonia and accommodation is available either at the Stone House which was built in 1903 by Robert Laws the founder of the mission or at Lukwe Camp overlooking the stunning Manchewe Falls-the highest falls in Malawi.

 

Mountain biking, walking and day drive safaris as well as more conventional 4×4 excursions are also available as indicated in our Active Tours section.

The montane vegetation attracts large numbers of antelope from the diminutive duiker to eland and roan. Zebras are common. The park has one of the highest densities of leopard in central Africa and there are a number of species of smaller mammals such as warthog and bush pigs. Elephants and buffalo usually keep the lower ground on the northern edge of the park but elephants have been seen on the high plateau, on a number of occasions.

For the birdwatcher, the park has a lot to offer: over 400 species have been recorded. The rare Denham’s bustard and the wattled crane are among those to be seen, as is the red-winged francolin –endemic to Nyika. Although a multitude of incredible species can be found in Nyika all year round, early summer (October –November), when the plateau is still fairly dry at the end of winter, is probably the best time for birding, as breeding is at its peak in the forests and grasslands and there is an influx of migratory species.

There is such a lot to see and do in this vast park: waterfalls, a Neolithic rock shelter, trout fishing and even a ‘magic lake’ are just some of the attractions. Available also is an airstrip for fly-in safaris!

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