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Nyika National Park

Photo © Laura.johns00

Travel Guide Africa Malawi Nyika National Park

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Introduction

Nyika National Park is the first, largest and highest national park in Malawi. It was established in 1965 and is located in the north of the country on an average altitude of about 1,800 metres above sea level. The park is over 3,200 square kilometres big and apart from seeing wildlife is a good place to go trekking, mountain biking or even horse riding. Wildlife includes elephant, buffalo, lion and one of the highest concentrations of leopard in this region.

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Geography

The name Nyika means "where the water comes from" as the plateau's elevation makes it wetter than surrounding areas. Other suggested meanings are "wildnerness" and "short grassland". The top is frequently in cloud, both in the rainy season and in the cold dry season when dense fogs, called Chiperone may persist well into the morning and sometimes all day.

Most people experience the Nyika by staying on or driving over the plateau itself but this represents only around one third of the National Park. The escarpments and northern hill areas descend to lower altitude and feature a much drier landscape seasonally. This is dominated by Brachystegia woodland and Protea scrub at the interzone between the grassland and the woodlands.

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Sights and Activities

During the rainy season over 200 different types of orchids are blooming. The grasslands of Nyika are rich in wildflowers all through the year but especially from January to April during the rains.

The plateau itself is recommended for trekking and mountain biking, as well as more conventional 4x4 excursions. The montane vegetation attracts large numbers of antelope from the diminutive Common duiker to eland and roan. Zebra are common near Chelinda and the highest part of the plateau. The park is said to have one of the highest densities of leopards in Central Africa but this has not been supported by any scientific survey in the past 20 years and all mammals suffer changes in populations which can be rapid. Being mainly nocturnal they are rarely seen, although tracks and signs have been regularly found. There are a number of species of smaller mammals such as warthogs and bushpigs, the smaller cats and porcupine. Elephants are often seen anywhere on the plateau but buffalo are rare or probably extinct now. Hoof prints associated with them in the north of the park probably represent wandering domestic cattle from Uledi. Lions and elephants have recently been seen on the high plateau.

Over 400 species of bird have been recorded in the park. The rare Denham’s bustard and the wattled crane are among those to be seen, as is the red-winged francolin - endemic to Nyika.

Other attractions include waterfalls, the most impressive being Chisanga Falls where the North Rukuru river falls off the plateau to Thalire District, neolithic rock shelter, trout pools and even a "magic lake".

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Opening Hours

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Cost

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Getting There

The park covers practically the whole of the Nyika Plateau in northern Malawi, about 480 kilometres north of Lilongwe and 60 kilometres 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 northwest 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 kilometres of Livingstonia there is no access from the eastern side.

There is an airstrip for fly-in safaris.

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Eat/Drink

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Sleep

The recently refurbished Chelinda Camp and the brand new log cabin lodge provide excellent accommodation and facilities.

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This is version 1. Last edited at 9:34 on Sep 7, 17 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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