Nyika is Malawi’s largest park with an area of no less than 1250 sq miles (3200 sq km). It extends across the great plateau which is essentially a granitic dome and its environment is like none other in the whole of Africa. The name, Nyika, means "where the water comes from" and it is, indeed, one of Malawi’s most important catchment areas.
The rolling scenery is at its best in the rainy season when over 200 types of orchid are in flower. The grasslands of Nyika are rich in wildflowers in other seasons. Nyika is wonderful for trekking and mountain biking and, as well as more conventional 4x4 excursions. The horse riding safaris that were once a highlight look set to return shortly. 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. For the birdwatcher, the park has a lot to offer: over 400 species have been recorded. The rare Denham’s bustard and the wattled crane are among those to be seen, as is the red-winged francolin - endemic to Nyika. There is such a lot to see in the vast park: waterfalls, a neolithic rock shelter, trout pools and even a ‘magic lake’ are just some of the attractions.
By Road: There are various ways to get to Nyika depending on which season you go and what kind of vehicle you have. In the dry season (April to October) the park can be reached in a normal 2WD from Chipata, via Lundazi. Cross over the border into Malawi via Mzimba and Mzuzu and then onto the Plateau.
In the wet season, if in 2WD, one should approach from Lilongwe in Malawi via Mzimba and Mzuzu. If you’re approaching from Zambia in the wet season, a 4WD is necessary to get up to Lundazi from Chipata, through the border with Malawi at Lusuthu then on to Mzimba, Mzuzu and the Plateau. 4WD is recommended for the less accessible areas in the park, but a 2WD is adequate for most roads in the park in the dry season. Extra fuel supplies also recommended, otherwise be sure to fill up in Rumphi in Malawi, just before the plateau.
Activities at the camps and lodges in Nyika National Park conduct a diversity of activities that truly offer guests an experience of this beautiful landscape. Horse riding, mountain biking, forest walks and fly-fishing are available, alongside the more conventional 4x4 game drives.
The summer months offer a vibrant display of wildflowers, orchids, as well as incredible bird-watching, which tickles any twitcher's fancy with almost 400 recorded species in the park. These include the wattled crane, Denham's bustard, bar-tailed trogon and Auber buzzard, while the red-winged francolin is endemic.
Wildlife that can be seen in Nyika National Park includes eland, roan, zebra, warthog, hyena, leopard (of which it has the highest number in Central Africa), jackal and serval cats. About 100 mammalian species have been recorded in the park. Elephants and buffalo have been seen in the lower lying areas in the past, however, recently there have been sightings of lions and elephants up on the plateau.
Malawi’s climate remains at moderate temperatures for most of the year, only getting quite cold in the chilliest winter months of June, July and August. Early morning and evening game drives will require some bundling up, but by midday the sun is out and the skies are clear.
Summers are obviously much warmer and after the season starts changing in September and October, the temperatures start to climb and the clouds prepare for rains. The mountainous topography of the country means that the low-lying areas around Lake Malawi get a lot hotter than the higher levels.
November brings the rain, some years, while other years the rain abates until December. During December, January, February and March, Malawi receives its rainfall and the vegetation begins to grow until it is wonderfully green and lush. It is not the best season for game viewing, though, as the game spreads out and becomes more difficult to see. April and May see the return of the dry weather and the temperatures drop.