If you had the opportunity of exploring Nyika National Park up north and were asked to describe the experience in one word, my guess is that it will be a very difficult exercise because there many things to see and the name ‘Nyika’ in the Nyika National Park has come to symbolize a myriad things on its own.
I have been lucky to visit Nyika National Park three times in my life and I would simply say that the national park “is amazingly the most beautiful place in Malawi and probably in Africa.
The first phrase that comes to mind when you think of Nyika National Park is that of “heaven on earth”. Some people have gone further to say that if some people still have doubts about God’s creativity then this is the place to take them to appreciate his hand-work.
The Nyika National Park description can also be figuratively found in the Bible according to Genesis 1 vs 12 “And God said, Let the earth (Nyika ) bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.” One would be forgiven to conclude that when God said these words, He was looking at Nyika National Park. Nyika National Park (which is high on a Plateau) is the largest in Malawi covering a vast area of no less than 3200 sq km, and also the oldest having been declared a National Park in 1965.
From the beginning the name Nyika has been used to mean many things. Some say ‘Nyika’ means ‘where the water comes from’, this is in reference to the plateau’s elevation, making it wetter than surrounding areas. Nyika is also a Swahili word meaning “bush” or “hinterland”). Nyika also is the name of the special butterfly Axiocerses Nyika only found in Malawi on the Nyika Plateau.
One interesting observation is that people from the northern part of Malawi fondly refer to the Northern region as “Nyika Republic”. The name simply represents northern region in the most special way. It is estimated the 30% of water in Lake Malawi comes from the Nyika Plateau rivers which overflow into the lake. Lake Malawi is the ‘blood and soul of people of Malawi. The livelihoods of many Malaiwans depends on Lake Malawi.
The London weather
The last time I visited Nyika was in September 2017 and it’s always like first time because of its magical experience. I would strongly recommend the best time to visit the park it’s during summer. Nyika Plateau has naturally cold weather by Malawian standards which is referred to as “London weather”. During summer, you experience the cool breeze and avoid the freezing temperatures. The top is frequently cold in cold dry season the dense fogs called Chiperone may persists well into the morning and even sometimes all day.
You need to be a little bit brave to visit Nyika because it requires a lot of patience since it is a long drive from Mzuzu City and requires a very good 4x 4 vehice. From Rumphi Boma it is only about 120 kilometers but it can take over four hours just to arrive at the Thazima which is main entrance to the park and another 60 kilometers from entrance to Chelinda and speed is strictly limited to 40 kms per hour. The road is rough which hinders a lot people even to dream of going there.
After the long trip we finally arrived at Chelinda Camp and immediately went for game drive which was around 4pm. We went on the adventure which took us to some of the highest points on the plateau. We wanted to experience Nyika and surprisingly what caught everyone attention was the beautiful landscape.
The game ranger and tourist guide asked us what we really wanted to see, and we seemed to agree that we wanted animals. As soon as we started our adventure our priorities changed after just a few meters. We saw the natural dams, streams, rivers, the landscape, very short glass and the view from far it was like someone had done some landscaping on it manually. I realised it was God’s creations handwork .
Everyone was taking pictures and videos almost every few meters of our trip which derailed our trip and we didn’t travel faster than anticipated, but no one seemed to worry about time. The beauty of national park is breathtaking. The situation makes you think that everything else in life can wait!
Sunset at Nyika are special moments as the sun retires slowly in the twilight. The highland grass flickers with the stripes of zebras and is punctuated by glittering boulders that look like set dressing from a Star Trek movie.
The temperature was going lower after 4pm and I noticed that everyone had covered themselves in blankets which were in the vehicle and we stopped at Lake Kaulime (The Magical Lake) for the coffee and tea break. (People around Lake Kaulime believed that the water in the lake had powers to heal them from different diseases)
During our coffee break, we were told that our next leg will be the night game drive. I was excited hearing this because we had not seen animals the day before. I was excited because I had done this before on my first visit and found it irresistibly thrilling.
Nyika has shorts glass which makes it easier to view the game, although the park is famously known for its large number of Zebras, Antelopes and the highest masses of leopards probably in Central Africa. It has also a number of species of smaller mammals such as warthog and bush pig. Africa’s big five is also there; Elephants and buffalo usually keep to the lower ground on the northern edge of the park . We also noticed that they have introduced more elephants recently which were in special made fence wires and were not allowed to see unfortunately. You can go for long walks through the forests and grass. Undulating scenery is at its best in the rainy season when over 200 types of orchid flowers are in bloom. The grasslands of Nyika are rich in wildflowers in other seasons. It is estimated that over 400 species of birds 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, neolithic rock shelter, trout pools and even a “magic lake”.
My third experience at Nyika led me to one conclusion that God is the best art director. The grass, the river, the plateau is the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen in country.
I would strongly recommend that if you love to experience life to the fullest and appreciate it more please book Nyika National Park as your next holiday destination.
Nyika National Park offers different accommodation options depending on your pockets and needs and you can choose between Chelinda Lodge or Chelinda Camp where you are guaranteed of friendly staff.
The Chelinda Lodge is set against a pocket of hagenia woodland overlooking vast tracts of Nyika National Park’s rolling grasslands dotted with large herds of wildlife. It consists of six double-storey log cabins and one two roomed family unit . Each has a fireplace for the cold highland nights.
The ground floor features an open-plan bedroom and lounge, en-suite bathroom and a veranda. A viewing area upstairs functions as additional living space – also ideal for children. The main building has a convivial dining area around a fireplace, and a lounge that opens onto a deck for sundowners.
Where to sleep?
Chelinda Camp is located high on the Nyika Plateau within the park. It overlooks a crystal-clear dam with panoramic views of rolling hills, isolated ridges and open high-altitude grasslands. The Camp consists of two options; there are four chalets which have two bedrooms, a bathroom, lounge, dining area with a fireplace and a small kitchen. There are also six en-suite rooms with twin beds, which share a dining, bar and lounge area complete with comfortable furnishings
Although you are guaranteed of ‘5 star’ service and friendly staff at Chelinda you might face some challenges due to erratic mobile network connection and Wi-Fi . One of most worrying thing is that the Escom’s national power grid does not reach Nyika National Park. The Chelinda Camp and Lodge both run on standby generators and due high costs of running them they switch off the power at 10pm.