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Nyika National Park

Related subjects: African Geography

Background Information

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Nyika National Park
IUCN category II ( national park)
Afromontane grassland of the Nyika Plateau
Afromontane grassland of the Nyika Plateau
Map showing the location of Nyika National Park
Location Malawi
Coordinates 10°40′S 33°50′E Coordinates: 10°40′S 33°50′E
Area 313,400 ha
Established 1966 extended 1978

Nyika National Park is Malawi’s largest national park, with an area of 3200 km² (1250 mile2).

Location and road access

Lake Kaulime inside the park

The park covers practically the whole of the Nyika Plateau in northern Malawi, about 480 km north of Lilongwe and 60 km north of Rumphi by road. Access is by a single dirt road which branches north off the road from Rumphi to the Katumbi border post, and winds its way up the south-western scarp of the plateau, continues over the top, where it forms the border with Zambia, then descends the north-west scarp in a series of bends, and continues north to the Chisenga border post. On the top of the plateau, a spur goes east to Chelinda, the headquarters of the park nearer the centre. Although the park boundary comes within 35 km of Livingstonia there is no access from the eastern side.


The name, Nyika, means "where the water comes from" as the plateau's elevation makes it wetter than surrounding areas. The top is frequently in cloud in the rainy season which brings over 200 types of orchid into flower. The grasslands of Nyika are rich in wildflowers in other seasons as well.

Miombo forest inside the park

Nyika is recommended for trekking, mountain biking and horse riding safaris, as well as more conventional 4x4 excursions. The montane vegetation attracts large numbers of antelope from the diminutive duiker to eland and roan. Zebra are common. The park has one of the highest densities of leopard in Central Africa and there are a number of species of smaller mammals such as warthog and bushpig. Elephants and buffalo usually keep to the lower ground on the northern edge of the park but lions and elephants have recently been seen on the high plateau.

Typical landscape on the plateau

Over 400 species of bird have been recorded in the park. The rare Denham’s bustard and the wattled crane are among those to be seen, as is the red-winged francolin - endemic to Nyika.

Other attractions include waterfalls, a neolithic rock shelter, trout pools and even a "magic lake". The recently refurbished Chelinda Camp and the brand new log cabin lodge provide excellent accommodation and facilities. There is an airstrip for fly-in safaris.

The lower-lying Vwaza Marsh Game Reserve is only 50 km south of Nyika National Park and some visitors take in both on one trip.

The adjacent Zambian park

The land west of the plateau road as it traverses the top is in Zambia, which also calls its portion Nyika National Park, comprising just 80 km². As there is no other road, Zambians can only reach it via Malawi. The Zambian park includes a colonial-era resthouse with splendid views west. Once it was the only accommodation in either park, in those days people from Malawi staying there did not have to pass through any border formalities, but paid a "Zambia entrance fee" along with their accommodation bill. The rest house closed in 1998, but re-opened as the "Nyika House" in 2006, available only to pre-booked tour groups.

World Heritage Status

This site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on May 17th, 2000 in the Mixed (Cultural + Natural) category.

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