Malawi – Nyika plateau with kids

This place blew our minds! After spending two months on tropical Likoma island, arriving on the Nyika plateau couldn’t be more of a contrast. The plateau is situated 2000 mtrs above sea level and therefore the temperature can be below zero in wintermonths (June, July, August). But what a breathtaking region this is!

Green hills as far as the eye can see, lush green forests and stunning water falls. The Nyika plateau is great for hiking, mountain biking, game drives (elephants, leopards and antelopes) but since the park is so big chances of seeing animals is rather difficult. Yet, enjoying the beautiful scenery is enough already. We stayed four days on the plateau. Nyika is a great destination to travel with kids.

How we got there?

We arrived at the plateau in our Randy Lover. A 4X4 is with no doubt necessary to reach the camp and lodge. The dirt tracks are a challenge to drive, but the scenery definitely makes up for it. From Mzuzu, Malawi’s third-largest city and the last major city before going to Nyika, it is about a three to four-hour drive to the main gate of the park. We broke down on the road between Rumphi and the gate 🙈 so we took a little longer. After the gate, it’s another two hours to Chilenda camp and lodge. Another option is to fly to Nyika. There’s an airstrip close to the lodge and camp. Ulendo airlines has a charter flight coming from Lilongwe. The flight takes about 1.5 hours.

Where did we have the sweetest dreams?

Arriving at Chilenda camp makes you believe you’re somewhere high in the mountains in Europe. It is the only place to stay on the Nyika plateau. They cater for everyone as you can pitch your own tent, stay in a self-catering chalet or stay in the lodge consisting of eight luxurious cabins. When we arrived, the fireplace was already burning, and we immediately got this cozy feeling of returning to your cottage after a long day outdoors.

Our self-catering chalet had two bedrooms, a living area with a fire place a nice bathroom and a kitchen with a real fire stove. We stayed both in the self-catering chalet and the lodge. The lodge is the more luxurious version, overlooking the stunning surroundings and never ending green hills. The highlight was definitely to have our own chef that made the best fresh bread in the morning and delicious meals.

As the nights were still too cold (just above zero), we didn’t stay at the campsite. We had a look through and the spots are amazing. You have free view overlooking the plateau and antelopes grazing by your camp. There are nice ablutions, a kitchen area and of course a big fire pit so share amazing stories with fellow travelers under a sky full of stars.

How we stayed active?

The activities are plenty! You can easily spend four days to a week on the Nyika plateau without being bored. We highly enjoyed the mountain bike trails, the hiking trails and visits to Chosi view point (2500 mtrs) and Chelinda falls. The dams are great for fishing and for the adventurers there’s even a four-day hike to Mushroom farm in Livingstonia. The guides know this place very well so going on a hike with them is definitely worth it as they will point out special trees, flowers and of course animals. For birders, Nyika is heaven. With many highly restricted distributions, Nyika is a key birding destination in Africa. Varied habitats including forest patches, high-altitude grassland and broad-leaved miombo woodland are home to some 400 species.

After your full day of activities, you can just sit down and relax and enjoy the amazing sun that will set behind the hills.

Money!

Money is an important matter in Malawi, as most places only accept cash. Luckily, Chilenda accepts dollars, euro’s and pounds as well besides the Malawian Kwacha. The self-catering chalet costs $160 per night based on four persons. Every extra person is $25 per night. Your private chef costs you $6 per day.

The lodge costs $100 per person per night and kids are half price. This price is based on self-catering, but you do get a chef.

You can also stay at the campsite where you pay only $15 per person per night.

The park fees are $10 per person per day.

The activities we did cost us $15 per mountain bike per day. They have two kids bikes. The smallest was suitable for our four-year-old, and the other one was perfect for our 8-year-old. Our 10-year-old could use a small adult’s bike (size M). We paid $25 for a guide taking us to the waterfall and look out point

You can do numerous hikes yourself and of course that’s all free of charge.

This place is worth every penny. As it’s so remote, you can imagine what it takes to take things out here and have electricity running with a generator. But most importantly, you support the local community with your stay and providing so many jobs. Moreover, taking care and conserving this beautiful piece of nature takes a lot.

Anna, Fedde & Ids favorites

Nyika is a kid’s dream. It’s the perfect place for a family holiday. The whole surroundings made it feel like they were characters playing in the Sound of Music. They played on the hills and played hide-and-seek in the pine tree forests. Taking a shower under the Chilenda falls and doing a thrilling mountain biking trail seeing Reed bucks, Zebra’s and warthogs on the roads. There’s a play area with swings and little play houses opposite the reception, but in this environment children don’t need much as they can play wherever they want. The homemade pizza made by our own chef and marshmallows on the fireplace were definitely another high light of their stay. Not to mention the homemade chocolate cookies and falling asleep next to the fireplace wrapped in warm duvets.

Why you don’t want to miss this place

The Nyika plateau is really something else in Malawi, and something you won’t experience anywhere else. It has some game but since the plateau is so big, chances of seeing them are minimal. However, the views are just stunning and probably even more breathtaking than any game. The nice and cozy cottages with their own fireplace makes your stay really worthwhile.

Mozambique highlights – our top 5

Mozambique has long been on our bucket list and after spending one month in this beautiful country with the most amazing stretch of coastline ever, we know why! Mozambique has been in the news a lot lately, and unfortunately that hasn’t done this country any good. Yes there is a conflict going on in the North of Mozambique but do you know how big this country is !? Although we would have loved to visit this northern part of the country too, there was enough left to see and do. So here’s our top 5 of things you should do in Mozambique, most of them with kids.

  1. Swimming with dolphins

This has to be our number one! What an amazing experience to swim with dolphins in their natural habitat in the Mozambican waters of Ponta do Ouro. A big part of the coastline of Ponta do Ouro is a marine reserve protected area, so there’s no mass fishing. The dolphins of Ponta, as they are called by Dolphin Encounters Research center, are researched by Angie and her collegians for over 25 years. Therefore, this company is in our opinion the best one to go with for a swim with dolphins, making this an edutourism activity. They know where are the best chances of finding them and how to behave when in the water. Being in the water with a big group op dolphins was an experience we can’t even describe. We were in the water with all our kids (age 9, 7 and 3) and they all loved it. And so did the dolphins! They really liked the presence of kids in the water and kept coming back to us. We could stay in the water with the dolphins as long as we wanted, but we have to admit that after one hour of playing with the dolphins, we all got a little tired.

2. DAYTRIP TO BAZARUTO ARCHIPELAGO

When you really want to experience the whitest beaches and clearest waters you’ve ever seen, then a boat trip to the Bazaruto Archipelago is absolutely something you don’t want to miss. From the city of Vilanculos, there are several operators that offer day trips to this little group of islands. We went with Bazaruto Encounters and spent a full day on a very fast speed boat that brought us to various places. Our first stop was two mile, a famous reef for snorkeling. Although it was a little choppy, we were all able to go in the water and see some great fish and amazing coral. The kids sat in front of the speed boat and really loved this part of the trip where the boat cruised over the waves and splashed the kids faces. After snorkeling, we stopped at the first island and climbed a big sand dune, from where we had great views over the archipelago. With no other people around, we felt on top of the world and ran down to dive in the clear blue waters. The boat picked us up again to have lunch at another amazing beach. The lunch is freshly prepared by a chef on the beach. After lunch, we spent a few hours exploring more of the island and ofcourse we soaked ourselves in the warm Indian Ocean. On the way back to the mainland, our guide dropped us of at the famous red dune for a beautiful sunset.

3. CAMPING IN MAPUTO SPECIAL RESERVE

Just an hour south of Maputo, lies this beautiful national park. It was taken over by Peace Parks a few years ago and has since then undergone major developments in restoring wildlife, as well as in accommodation facilities. The park is a beautiful mixture of thick bush and grasslands with never ending horizons. Our private camp was situated right next to the beach and had two brand-new bathroom facilities. Although we weren’t very lucky with viewing any game, we enjoyed being in this beautiful piece of nature, that our experience still made it to number three. Sleeping in an area where wildlife just grazes around your tent at night is always very special.

4. DIVING WITH SHARKS

Ponta do Ouro is not only a great place for dolphins, but also one of the view places in the world where you can dive with sharks in their natural habitat without using bate to get their attention. This sure was one of the most thrilling things we ever did. First you dive in the big blue on a depth of 30 meters. Then you just relax and wait….. The anxiety of being very deep in the ocean without seeing anything but blue around already got our adrenaline pumping. Only a few minutes after we were down, the first curious bull shark came swimming up to us to check it out. After this we saw more bull sharks, white tip sharks and a hammerhead shark. Realizing that there’s absolutely nothing to protect you makes this experience very thrilling. At the same time, we never felt unsafe with our dive instructor, who has numerous years of experience diving with sharks. When you’re looking for a once in a lifetime experience, this is definitely it!

5. SWIMMING WITH WHALE SHARKS

Thinking back about this moment gives us goosebumps again. We went on an ocean safari in Tofo. Our main aim was to see the great and majestic whale shark. The guide from Peri Peri Divers explained to us how to look for whale sharks. Keep a close eye on the water and when you see a massive dark shadow, you probably found one. Meaning you have to be ready to get in the water any time as you don’t want them to disappear in the deep without being able to swim next to them. We were so excited when one of the boat men saw the big dark shadow! It’s hard to expect anything when you’ve never so close to an animal of that size. When we went down in the water, and we’re able to swim next to this beautiful and giant whale shark, we could only just think how small we are.

Things we didn’t mention but are definitely worth it:

  • Learn kite surfing in Tofo!

As described above, Tofo is a great little beach town with a very laid back atmosphere. Good restaurants and stunning blue waters. We had a great afternoon with Chris from Kite Surf Tofo. Chris is a certified IKO instructor, so we felt very safe and secure to have our first lessons in the lovely warm waters of the bay in Tofo. Kite surfing is a sport everybody can learn, all you need is some wind.

  • Nkwichi beach lodge

Bordering Lake Malawi but as it is Mozambique, it does deserve a spot on this list. Nkwichi is a halcyon paradise hidden on the pristine Mozambican shores of Lake Malawi. More than a lodge, Nkwichi is a complete experience, offering a unique taste of Africa with exquisite lakeside scenery and unparalleled tranquility. With 8 secluded beaches set on four km of Rift Valley coastline, Nkwichi is the perfect setting to discover a lost world; a fresh-water oasis and an Africa untouched.