Nyika National Park

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Things to do


Date of travel

September, 2017

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Nyika National Park is Malawi’s largest and was established in 1965. Although it no longer has cheetah or lion, it has the largest concentration of leopard in Central Africa and we had high hopes for a sighting whilst staying at “Chelinda Camp”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/accommodation/177117-review-chelinda-camp.

We arrived relatively late in the afternoon and an early dinner followed by an unexpected evening game drive were suggested. We set off at 7.30pm with our guide Blessings, and Pedros, whose job was to stand with his head poking out of the open vehicle and shine the spotlight. Despite a full moon, it was a quiet night and sightings were limited to night jar birds on the ground, including two performing a courtship dance, scrub hare and bushbuck.

Unlike many of our safari experiences, morning game drives started at a civilized 9am and, after a full English breakfast. Exploring the park’s south west area, we spotted eland, bush buck, reed buck, roan antelope, zebra, common duiker and warthog. We saw a group of six vultures circling overhead looking for carrion and when they swooped, we set off on foot and eventually found the remnants of a baby bushbuck. We drove on up to a high point with a stunning outcrop of rocks for morning coffee and cake. It was a cold and windy stop.

Evening drives were from 4pm to 7pm, and the first time we headed northwest, stopping at Lake Kaulime, said to be the home of a serpent that guards the animals, before moving on for our sundowners, a pre-ordered G&T. We came back after sunset with Pedros using the lamp but again, it was a quiet evening. However, we saw an incredible red moon rising, which Blessings told us was due to the colour of the soil.

Our second evening drive was more eventful. On route to the high point of Chelinda Hill, Blessings spotted two poachers in the distance and quickly mobilized the anti-poaching team: he tracked the poachers with his binoculars, whilst we tracked the AP team’s cloud of dust as they raced towards us. The six, armed men were briefed by Blessings and dispersed in different directions on foot and by jeep. Excitement over, we had sundowners in the 4WD as it was blowing a gale and very cold. Our only sightings were a white snowy owl, and in total contrast a small black mouse. We passed the receptionist from the lodge returning home on his bicycle obviously not worried about being eaten by a leopard. Just as we were nearing the camp, we had a flat tyre and as the right tools weren’t to hand, reinforcements were summoned from the camp.

We also took the opportunity for a morning walk at 8.30am and set off uphill, and across rolling hills: the landscape is often compared with that of Scotland. We could see the devastation caused by forest fires, although controlled burning also takes place to stimulate new growth. In the distance, we spotted various antelope and a jackal and saw part of the tractor tyre which a hyena had dragged up from the village. The weather was lovely: sunny but with a strong wind which keeps day-time temperatures down to around 25 degrees. Wild flowers abound, and we were lucky to spot a blue orchid which doesn’t usually appear until much later in the wet season when the park is said to be a riot of colour.

Despite not spotting the elusive leopard, Nyika’s scenery was spectacular and as Chelinda is the only accommodation in the isolated park, it is very rare to see another vehicle, let alone a person.

Helen Jackson

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