I recently travelled to Malawi’s beautiful Nyika Plateau, far in the north of that long thin country. It is a long journey from Mfuwe, requiring a long day’s driving to Mzuzu, an overnight in Mzuzu and then a bumpy 5 hour drive up onto the plateau.

However, as you climb on the second day’s travel, you leave the villages behind, the vegetation starts to change and the air cools. Chelinda, the camp at the centre of the park from where the area is administrated, is at 2300m so there is a substantial climb from the relatively high town of Mzuzu. On the way, you pass through perfectly uniform miombo woodland, then rocky outcrops and finally high rolling hills in the area around Chelinda.

Chelinda was built to operate a pine forest operation in the highland areas, some of which is still standing. It has grown into the HQ of the park, a tourism operation and accommodates a thriving village at its core. In the 60s the area was hit by a falling meteorite, just one of many stories that add to the park’s rich history!!

Being very sparsely populated with predators, and free of elephants, the highland areas are safe for walking, fishing and cycling. We enjoyed wonderful walks, all day drives across the rolling “Scottish” hills and picnics at the dams near the camp.

We were a little early in the year for the incredible orchids that appear before Christmas, and we were a little unlucky to miss seeing the stunning male lion that has been seen regularly in the area recently; but we had wonderful viewing of zebra, roan, eland, reedbuck and wonderful birds. The little pockets of afro-montane forest in the folds of the hills are rich habitats full of birds found only in that type of forest, found in few places across Africa. In these forests are also red and blue duiker of which we enjoyed brief sightings.

A few photos to illustrate the experience follow: however, very much of Nyika’s charm is in the smells, sounds and feeling of being there, and in the bird species – I recorded more than 80 species in a week, of which 40 were new to me!