Road transfer from Lilongwe to Luwawa Forest Lodge
You drive northwards from the capital city, Lilongwe, through the Kasungu area. After Kasungu Town the landscape changes from Brachystegia (Miombo) woodland to rolling open hills as you steadily climb in altitude. Luwawa Forest Lodge is a delightful lodge situated on a clearing in one of the largest forested areas in central Africa at 1300m above sea level. The scenery is spectacular and the air crisp and clear. Afternoon walking along streams within the forest gives you the opportunity to look for one of southern Africa’s rarest and most sought-after birds, the African Broadbill. For the more adventurous, mountain biking can be arranged. Dinner is served at the lodge around a warm, comforting log fire.
Proceed by road from Luwawa Forest Lodge to Kazuni Safari Camp
Today you continue driving northwards and the landscape changes dramatically as you near Rumphi. The massif of the Nyika looms ahead, and as you near the Zambian border, the altitude dips somewhat. Vwaza Marsh Game Reserve is one of Malawi’s best-kept secrets. It boasts a mosaic of landscapes and biomes and is about 1000 square kms in size. Highlights are the varied types of biomes, from Brachystegia and mopane woodland to large rivers which feed the Kazuni Swamp. During the dry season there are large herds of elephant and buffalo, impala, kudu, puku and warthog. Hippos are always present in the lake, and lion and leopard are occasionally seen. Birding, particularly at the end of the dry season and during the early rains, is exceptional with many waterfowl species not easily seen elsewhere on this safari. Activities include morning and afternoon game drives and walks.
Proceed by road from Kazuni Safari Camp to Chelinda Lodge
You head northeast on one of the most dramatic drives in central Africa. Leaving the dry and low-lying Vwaza marsh behind you move steadily up in altitude to where the Brachystegia gives way to heath and, around lunchtime, to true rolling grasslands. You will have reached the famed Nyika Plateau and you then check in to the warm, cosy Chelinda Lodge. This lodge is situated in the middle of the high grasslands (around 2100m above sea level) and experiences a pleasantly cool climate (sweaters and jackets a must!). There is much to do in Nyika National Park (Malawi’s largest). Game drives are successful, with highland game abounding – it is possible to see mixed herds of over 200 eland, zebra, reedbuck and roan antelope. Leopards are also fairly common, and peculiarly diurnal because of the cool climate. Elephants are also sometimes encountered. Birding is exceptional with over 400 species recorded. Walking in the afro-montane forest remnants is a must, where specials such as Fűlleborn’s Black Boubou, and Bar-tailed Trogon and blue monkeys can be seen. During the early summer months Nyika boasts one of Africa’s best orchid viewing opportunities. Horse riding, fishing and overnight camping in the remote corners of this extraordinary reserve are also available.
Continue by road from Chelinda Lodge to Chintheche Inn
The destination for the next three days is clearly in sight, but nearly 1700m below – it is the shimmering blue of Lake Malawi. Descending the massif, you stop over at the northern region’s capital, Mzuzu and view tropical rainforest remnants, rubber plantations and spectacular scenery as you near the lake. You arrive at Chintheche Inn, situated on a private, pristine white sandy beach with the Viphya Mountains and rainforest as backdrop. The inn is situated in one of the Lake’s best and most tranquil settings. Activities include relaxing at the lake, guided walks, snorkelling, canoeing and village visits. For the more adventurous, a full range of water activities are offered, including nearby scuba diving (at extra cost).
Proceed overland from Chintheche Inn to Domwe or Mumbo Island
You depart Chintheche for one of the most spectacular day transits, driving around 350km southwards along the eastern lakeshore and surrounding countryside. You drive through the Nkotakota Game Reserve and visit Mua Mission, one of Malawi’s finest handcraft skills development schools. After lunch you drive eastwards through beautiful countryside on the southern edge of Lake Malawi. Accommodation is on one of two Islands off Cape Maclear – namely Kayak Africa’s Domwe and Mumbo. Each consists of 5 tents on raised platforms with incredible views of Lake Malawi. The tented bedrooms offer tasteful furnishing and whilst not en-suite, nearby "enviroloos" and al fresco bucket showers ensure every comfort is provided. Located at the tip of the Cape Maclear Peninsula this company operates kayak safaris around the glorious islands of this part of the lake. Guests paddle themselves in state-of-the-art sea-going klepper kayaks, supported by a motorised wooden fishing boat. All kayaking is done on a leisurely basis and cold drinks are taken on board the kayaks. This is a great experience, enjoying a little more action than the traditional beach holiday.
Continue by road from Domwe or Mumbo Island to Ku Chawe Inn
You leave Kayak Africa and drive southwards to the Zomba mountain massif. Zomba was the former colonial capital of Malawi and retains some of its former architecture. This juxtaposed with one of the best local markets in Malawi make for a fascinating visit. Behind the town, the plateau rises to over 2000m and you wind your way up this massive mountain. The air becomes cooler as you enter plantations and rainforest remnants and you near your final destination, Ku Chawe Inn. The inn boasts incredible views, and is a short distance away from clear-running streams and a trout farm.
Leaving after a leisurely breakfast and possibly a last visit to the market, you travel northwards to arrive at Mvuu Wilderness Lodge in time for an afternoon activity. Liwonde National Park is Malawi’s premier wildlife viewing destination. A wide variety of mammals occurs in the reserve and it also boasts an astonishing biodiversity of birdlife. On a three-night stay in this reserve, the record has been 300 bird species! The centre stage of the reserve is the Shire River, the only river that flows out of Lake Malawi. A myriad of species make the river their focus and it is on this river where one is able to take part in unusual, but hugely productive game viewing. Mvuu boasts “game boats” constructed locally out of Mulanje cedar wood. These comfortable boats enable game to be viewed in the heat of the day, when animals emerge out of the bush to drink at the river’s edge. They also allow for exciting night boat trips to find rarely seen animals such as civet, large spotted genet, large grey mongoose, White-backed Night-heron and Pel’s Fishing Owl. Game drives and walks as well as visits to a hide overlooking the river are also offered. Large mammals occurring in Liwonde include sable, roan, kudu, large herds of elephant, buffalo, large numbers of crocodile (reputedly the largest in central Africa) and hippo. Bird specials further inland include Bőhm’s Bee-eater, Brown-breasted Barbet and Livingstone’s Flycatcher.