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.

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