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South Malawi – visit tea plantations, go hiking, see beautiful mountainous ranges

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Mount Mulanje and Zomba Plateau – One thing that everyone agrees with about Malawi is its scenery and fantastic trekking and walking opportunities.

The areas of southern Malawi certainly have great scenery with the Zomba Massif in the Shire highlands to the northeast of Blantyre and Mount Mulanje to the south east of Blantyre.  Both are fabulous for hiking.

The Shire, which is one of the most densely populated areas of the country and the most agriculturally intense, has elevations form 2000 to 4000 feet and the Zomba Massif has a height of 2087 metres (Mount Mulumbe), which is covered in pine forests and covers around 130 square kilometres. On a clear day one can possibly see Liwonde National Park.

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There is so much on offer in this area besides the landscape and panoramic views, walking trails, rock climbing and hikes with local guides into the forests. There is horse riding and mountain biking too which are great activities.

There is fishing in the dams and streams in mountainous crystal clear waters. The bird watching is also good here, with long-crested eagle and augur buzzard often seen, as well as vervet monkeys, duiker and bushbuck. There is indigenous riverine forest, scrub and woodland.

The town of Zomba is the centre for a vast agricultural zone – maize, rice and fruit. Timber is also harvested in these fertile lands. Covering 22 x 26 kilometres, the Mulanje Mountain lies in a range of inselbergs that stand tall (3002 metres at Sapitwa Peak), out of the plains near Blantyre.

Mount Mchese is another peak rising to 2289 metres.  Because of the sheer size and to some degree the shape and location, rainfall differs from one side of the mountain to the other and four times more rain falls on top than the south lower levels. Rivers that begin from this point feed almost all of the southern part of the country.

Mulanje’s lower levels have densely forested gorges and open grasslands, hence different species of birds can be spotted depending on their preferred habitats. Mulanje Mountain Forest Reserve covers the mountain and is home to beautiful butterflies, a dwarf chameleon and birds such as the white winged apalis, white-tailed crested flycatcher, Bertrand’s weaver , white necked ravens, buzzards and and a rare skink species.

It is also the last refuge of the endangered Mulanje cypress (Widdringtonia whytei). Mulanje is again popular for hiking and mountain huts and guides are available for those wishing to discover this beautiful area.  

Staying on a tea plantation is something we really recommend when visiting Malawi and our families in particular love to see this and show their children how tea is grown, picked and made. This adds another element to Malawi’s broad diversity alongside going on safari and staying on the lake. Tea and coffee are grown in the Shire highlands and one of the estates that has been growing tea for almost 100 years produces black, white, oolong and dark teas.

Rest and relax in beautiful surroundings in a colonial atmosphere staying at a wonderful colonial house that has been opened to travellers and furnished in style. Experience a tea tasting with the experts, tasting green and white tea, and explore the forests with its indigenous vegetation and montane evergreen forests. You may even spot the Thyolo Alethe, one of the rarest birds in Southern Africa.

Images by courtesy of Malawi Tourism

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