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Jul 08 2013

Nyika National Park

We were finally here!  After too many hours on dirt road, bumping our way higher and higher, we arrived at Chelinda Camp.  As we descended from the vehicle, we noticed the high altitude chill to the air and the fragrance of pine plantations.  Certainly one of the more unusual parks we have visited.

Malawi’s largest National Park, Nyika, is a majestic park in a majestic part of the country. Situated between the town of Mzuzu to the south, Tanzania to the north, Zambia to the west, and Lake Malawi to the east, it spreads over a total of 4,000 square kilometres. The entrance gate to the park is at about 1,500m altitude, gradually climbing to about 2,400m altitude at Chelinda Camp. The highest peak is at about 3,000m.

We started our journey to the park from Livingstonia, which lies outside the park on the eastern side. The view from Lukwe campsite is truly spectacular when the high mountains of Nyika are covered in mist and clouds in the early morning. We meandered our way long the mountainside of the Nyika plateau towards the entrance to the park in the south – the views towards Lake Malawi were breathtaking.

On the Rumphi side of the park the view changes – mountain side giving way to rolling forested hills. In Rumphi, we had a light lunch as Chef’s Pride – rice, beans and greens a local staple – and tried to buy the last few provisions we needed.  Not a lot on offer beside the basics.  From Rumphi – where the tar road from Mzuzu ends – it is a good hour and a half on a rutted dirt road slowly making its way up towards the gate. From the entrance gate up to Chelinda Camp it is another two hours on dirt, either on the main road, or on one of the other roads that snakes its way between open plains and denser woodland.

On the way up from the main gate to Chelinda, and on our drive around Chelinda, we could see signs of the elephant frequenting the area. There are a number of antelope there; we saw roan, zebra, duiker and bushbuck. The area is also home to a large number of bird species.  But it truly is the scenery that is noteworthy – rolling grasslands extending as far as the eye can see.  We thoroughly enjoyed our drives exploring the plateau, and had Viking Explorer been healthy, we certainly would have explored on foot and mountain bike too!

Chelinda Camp is on the edge of the pine plantation. This plantation was planted in the 60’s and is now a mature forest, covering about 10,000ha. Even though it has been decided to log the plantation, it has grown too big, and a decision has recently been made to leave some of it alone. Chelinda consists of a forest lodge with a number of luxury chalets, a few cottages (self-catering and full board), and the campsite. The campsite has five stands with thatched cover and fire pits, and a larger grassy area. The ablutions have hot water all day around – due to the pine plantation there is no shortage of fire wood. The area is unlike any other national park we have been into – the plantation and the logging makes for a strange backdrop to a luxury lodge and campsite.

At night, we listened to the nothingness, the quiet of being so high up.  The nearest civilisation miles away – although strangely, a local village not that far away.  And let’s not forget – the temperature dipped almost to freezing!

A current initiative in Southern Africa is a concept called the Peace Parks. Nyika is part of this initiative, with a memorandum of understanding in place between the Malawian and Zambian governments to open the borders between Nyika on the Malawian side, and the adjacent parks on the Zambian side. It appears progress is being made, although at true African pace.

The park is remote. It is about four hours – including gate formalities – from Rumphi on not so good dirt roads. There is no permanent electricity – electricity is only provided by generator in the evening for the lodge. Mobile phone reception is intermittent, and internet is non-existent. For camping it is best to pick up all provisions on the way up (Mzuzu/Rumphi), including fuel, water, and fire wood. Water and fire wood may be available on request, but don’t count on it.

Facts:

  • Situated north of Mzuzu, about four hours drive on dirt roads from Rumphi
  • No provisions in the park. Take all you need for the duration of your stay.
  • Fees are US$10pppn, plus US$5 per day for the vehicle. Camping at Chelinda is US$15pppn.
  • There is a network of secondary roads in the park, although accessibility depends on weather.
  • Chelinda offers game drives and guided walks. There is also the option of doing multi-day hikes with bush camping.

3 comments

  1. Vic

    The nothingness would also have been because pine trees are exotic, and very few, if any, species of African animals and birds have adapted to life in a pine forest. The pine plantations in SA are also almost devoid of life – even insects, snakes, you name it…

  2. Albert

    Nice to be reading your adventures after ours from Petauk to Mfuwe, South Luangwa.After SL I visited Malawi for 3 weeks. Niyka as well. And yes: it was cold at night! I did bike for a day in the most beautiful scenery! (After Malawi 4 weeks in Tanzania with Betty. All the highlights: Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngornogorno, Serengeti and Zanzibar. I’m now back in north and west Zambia heading for KAfue NP. The car is still holding and back to 4×4 with the help of a great mechanic in Lusaka who managed to find 2 hand original parts! After Kafue: Caprivi Namibia) Save journey and still having good memories from spending a week together, gtz Albert

    1. Viking Explorer

      We also have great memories! We hope the rest of your trip in Africa has been as enjoyable, and we look forward to meeting you again one day. kind regards

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