The Nyika Plateau is home to the Nyika National Park, an extraordinary place that is shared between Zambia and Malawi, 2,000 metres above sea-level.
The plateau promises spectacular views and is deemed one of the most beautiful places in Africa. Nyika, commonly understood to mean “where the water comes from,” also meaning “wilderness” boasts 200 varieties of wild orchid due to regular rainfall. Chisanga Waterfalls is itself a magnificent sight to behold, where the North Rukuru river literally falls off the plateau to water the Thalire District.
Duiker, eland, roan, and zebra are among many such animals seen roaming the plateau. The abundance of these animals lends credence to the belief that the park has one of the highest densities of leopards in Central Africa – but this claim is wholly unsubstantiated – and being nocturnal creatures, hardly visible to the average tourist.
Warthogs, porcupine, bushpigs are commonly seen whereas elephant, buffalo and lion sightings are much rarer. 400 bird species have been recorded by enthusiasts and the rarely sighted Denham’s bustard and wattled crane are among the feathered treasures to be spotted by a good eye. The red-winged francolin is endemic to Nyika National Park and bird lovers will enjoy seeing these stunning creatures.
People wanting to experience the true beauty of Nyika have several options to choose from besides staying on or enjoying a game driving experience over the plateau. Walking trails such as the Sangwala trail and Livingstone Trail offer multi day excursions across the plateau with fully equipped porters and knowledgeable guides. This is a great walking experience for avid hikers and nature lovers. Booking through an agency is recommended as getting lost on the plateau after taking an unmarked road is fairly common.
Mountain biking in Nyika National Park is also an experience not to be missed. With views in every direction and the park teeming with plants and animals, the average mountain bike enthusiast would be in seventh heaven traversing this terrain.
Novices may choose a 2-hour 14.2 km loop that promises a view of wildlife, and also of the magnificent raptors and countless crows that nest in Nyika. The Plantation loop will take riders past a dam and through forest, granting access to views from the eastern side of the plateau.
For intermediate cyclists or even beginners wanting a challenge, 31.4km on Chosi Loop promises 3 hours of the most exciting bike ride you have ever had. This is the trail that offers the most when it comes to sighting wildlife. With Chosi Loop leading past 3 watering holes and a salt lick, there is ample opportunity to see antelope, duiker, reedbuck, and zebra. A keen eye may even spot a jackal.
The unique experience of watching Nyika’s roan antelope rooting in the dam amongst the weeds while holding their breath for 30 seconds is another marvel you won’t want to miss. Cameras and binoculars are a must!
Experienced riders wanting more of a challenge will find Chelinda Loop a grueling 5-hour 36.6km trail that will test any rider lacking in fitness. Whichever place you choose to start your ride, you will be ascending roughly 850 metres, so this challenging Loop is definitely not for the fainthearted.
The Loop will take you past the Chelinda Falls which is accessible via a short walk and riders can discover various wildlife sightings along the way. Scarlet Tufted Sunbirds, hyena, Red Rock Hare and Klipspringer are on the long list of local wildlife you might spot while cycling this Loop and other trails on in the park
There is no doubt that whichever trail you choose the first time, you will come back to do a different one later, and Cycle Malawi will be there to make all the arrangements for you. Whether its hiking through the montane grasslands, peaceful game viewing across the sunset hills or biking through the wooded trails. Nyika is a special place both serene and active in nature and splendid beauty.
Visit the Nyika National Park on our 10 Day Nyika Fly-in Cycle Tour