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Nyika National Park, Malawi

Nyika National Park is the largest national park in Malawi with an area of 3200sq km. The park covers almost the whole of the Nyika Plateau in northern Malawi, about 480 km north of Lilongwe and 60 km north of Rumphi by road. Access is by a single dirt road which branches north off the road from Rumphi to the Katumbi border post, and winds its way up the south-western scarp of the plateau, continues over the top, where it forms the border with Zambia, then descends the north-west scarp in a series of bends, and continues north to the Chisenga border post. On the top of the plateau, a spur goes east to Chelinda, the headquarters of the park nearer the centre.

Although the park boundary comes within 35 km of Livingstonia there is no access from the eastern side. The name, Nyika, means "where the water comes from" as the plateau's elevation makes it wetter than surrounding areas. The Nyika and Tumbuka people are known to have inhabited the park since time immemorial and were only relocated to pave way for the creation of the park in the early twentieth century. Artifacts and iron smelters still found on the plateau are evidence of this lengthy human habitation. The top is frequently in cloud in the rainy season which brings over 200 types of orchid into flower. The grasslands of Nyika are rich in wildflowers in other seasons as well.

Nyika is recommended for trekking, mountain biking and horse riding safaris, as well as more conventional 4x4 excursions. The Nyika National Park is home to large herds of zebra, eland, roan antelope, sable antelope, lichtenstein's hartebeest, kudu reedbuck, bushbuck, duiker, and warthog. It houses the largest concentration of leopard in the country. The nocturnal family of wild animals includes hyena, jackal, civet cat, honey badger, porcupine and aardvark. There are apparently no lions in the park. Other attractions include waterfalls, a neolithic rock shelter, trout pools and even a "magic lake". The recently refurbished Chelinda Camp and the brand new log cabin lodge provide excellent accommodation and facilities. There is an airstrip for fly-in safaris. The lower-lying Vwaza Marsh Game Reserve is only 50 km south of Nyika National Park and some visitors take in both on one trip.

The land west of the plateau road as it traverses the top is in Zambia, which also calls its portion Nyika National Park, comprising just 80 km². As there is no other road, Zambians can only reach it via Malawi. The Zambian park includes a colonial-era resthouse with splendid views west. The game park entrance is situated 129km from Mzuzu and 68km from Rumphi. Drive west from Rumphi for approx. 60km and take a right turn towards the gate. There is a daily entrance fee payable at the gate.

1. Chelinda Camp and Lodge are around 56km from the entrance gate.

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