The first Europeans to see the Nyika Plateau observed a fantastic scene for then large herds of some of Africa’s largest and most beautiful ungulates grazed the seemingly limitless montane grasslands. These large herds were mainly Eland and the elegant Roan Antelope, nowadays they are much reduced however the remaining herds are around the Chelinda area where they have more protection. Nyika also has the highest density of leopards in Malawi.
The Nyika is strictly a mosaic of grasslands cut by narrow strips of forest of varying types. The various forests support a rich flora however it is the montane grassland that will draw our attention as there are so many beautiful flowers here. Marshy headwater valleys known as “dambos” support numerous orchid species in the genera Eulophia, Habenaria, Satyrium, and Disa. Seven endemics include Disa praecox, Disperis bifida and Habenaria livingstoniana – in total the park hosts over two hundred species of orchid. Also growing amongst the varied sedges of the dambos is spectacular giant Lobelia mildbraedii. There are strange forests dominated by Juniperus procera, and in other areas we’ll explore Brachystegia woodlands, and Submontane Ocotea-Ficalhoa forest, confined to the Eastern Escarpments. There are endemic Charaxes and Papilio butterflies and given the wide range of habitats a great variety of birdlife with perhaps 370 regularly recorded birds species in the park including the regional endemic Red-winged Francolin, the elegant Wattled Crane, and both Blue Swallow and Denham’s Bustard. At this season a number of interesting palearctic migrants make the plateau their home, notably Pallid Harrier and Great Snipe
The tour will start with a brief visit to Kitulo, the first African park to be gazetted for its floral diversity. It is referred to by the locals as ‘Bustani ya Mungu’ meaning the ‘Garden of God’ and known to botanists as the Serengeti of flowers. There’s Gladiolus dalenii, canary-yellow Moraea tanzanica, white and purple Moraea callista, Protea humifusa, Impatiens rosulata and the striking pink orchid Disa ukingensis is one among a long list of orchids.
After travelling along remote and spectacular roads we’ll arrive at Igumbilo farm, a 4700 acre property on the Kipengere Plateau situated in an area of rolling hills between 2550m and 2830m, and bordering the Mpanga-Kipengere Game Reserve. The farm is owned by a conservationist who’s vison is to contribute (and already has done) to the protection of surrounding landscapes from the illegal orchid trade and poaching and to re-establish forest that has been lost through human induced intensive fire. The pristine montane grasslands are awash with orchids in January and February. Dianthus c.f zeyheri (a possible new species) is found on the rocky mountain tops along with range-restricted species such as Impatiens hydrogentanoides subspecies kituloensis, and Thalictrum zernyi. Game animals are returning to Igumbilo after many years of absence and we can see Side striped Jackal, Striped Weasel, Slender Mongoose, and small ungulates such as Grey Duiker and Steenbok. Igumbilo has a diverse and abundant rodent fauna including the wonderfully-named Pygmy Fat Mouse, and the Natal, Multimammate Rat. We’ll look for the fabulously patterned Painted Reed Frog and the gorgeous Goetze’s Chameleon. Shimmering long-tailed Malachite Sunbird & Scarlet-tufted Sunbirds visit the many blooms and we’ll see Amur Falcons and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters hawking insects above the grasslands. Walking through the flowers we might flush a Red-necked Spurfowl or a Fülleborn's Longclaw, and in the evening we should watch for both Cape Grass Owl and Marsh Owl
We’ll take some time to relax on the shores of picturesque Lake Malawi, where we can go canoeing, snorkel amongst the lake’s famous endemic cichlids, and where birds should include African Fish-Eagle, Black-collared Barbet, Square-tailed Nightjar, African Paradise Flycatcher and Burchell's Coucal. We’ll also visit the fascinating Livintstonia museum as well as some rather gorgeous hot springs during what promises to be an exciting and varied tour.
Flowers and Mammals. Also Birds, Butterflies, Reptiles and Landscapes.
In East African national parks one is normally restricted to vehicles seeing the wildlife on morning and evening game drives. This tour is different. We use 4wd landcruisers merely to get us to the best parts of these national parks, and in them all, we can walk as much as we require. The walking is easy to moderate and we cover three or four miles on most days, occasionally up to six or seven, always at a slow pace, perfectly suited to photographers. Occasionally steep and sometimes muddy paths.
Included in the Price
All flights. All transport, meals and accommodation in Malawi and Tanzania. Services of your leaders. Please note: drinks, tips and items of a personal nature including travel insurance, are not included.
The minimum is 3 and the maximum is 4.
We start the tour with a night at the fine Utengule Coffee Lodge situated on the slopes of the Mbeya Range, a bastion of comfort and elegance, with lovely rooms and a great restaurant. Next are four nights Igumbilo farm
We will be hosted here for a full 4 nights staying in comfortable farm buildings with home cooked food including fresh cows and goats milk from the farm. Next are two nights Matema Beach and a night at the comfortable but rustic Kazuni Safari Camp in Vwaza. High on the Nyika Plateau and within Nyika National Park, Chelinda Camp overlooks a small lake and has panoramic views of rolling hills, isolated ridges and high-altitude grasslands. We’ve three nights to enjoy the comfortable rooms and the bar/restaurant where there is a fine open fire. Lastly we’ve two nights at the Lukwe EcoCamp in Livingstonia. All rooms on this tour have en suite facilities except for some rooms at Igumbilo Farm.
UK return flights are from Heathrow and other regional airports* to Dar-es-Salaam via Amsterdam or Istanbul. An internal flight then takes us on to Mbeya in Southern Tanzania, returning from there to Dar at the end of the trip.
*These routes may incur a supplement.
Pleasantly warm for the most part though it can become quite hot in the middle of the day so relaxing siestas are certainly in order! Evenings are cool at higher altitudes. Rain can be expected during some of the afternoons and is sometimes prolonged.
How to Book
Contact us to check there is availability for the number of places you require. Download a booking form or contact us and we will send one to you. Complete and send to us. You will receive confirmation of your place and then a detailed information pack will be dispatched to you about twelve weeks before departure. This will contain up-to-date health information. Flower, butterfly, bird and mammal checklists are available.