The word ‘Nyika’ means Wilderness in the local language and it doesn’t get much wilder than up here. Early hunters and gatherers lived on the ‘Nyika Plateau’ up to 3000 Years ago, some cave paintings are proof for their existence. Scottish missionaries settled here by the turn of the 19th century, led by no other than English explorer David Livingstone. The settlement is still called Livingstonia.
There is no point in kidding yourself. Driving up the Nyika Plateau is a mission. Apart from usual off-road issues like corrugations, large gravel and washed out tracks, the main concern here is bulldust. Fine dust particles congested in certain pockets off the road, up to 50 cm deep.
Driving through these areas explodes the dust and covers you inside out, leaving a cloud trail for about 100 meters behind you. And there was a lot of bulldust.
Once you reached the Nyika Plateau the scenery changes completely. Rolling hills, green meadows and large boulders hinting similarities towards Northern England. Until you see a large herd of Antilope roaming the plains.
The attraction up here for wildlife lovers are the normally seldom seen Roan Antilope,
Reetbuck antelope also
and finally the Bushbuck antelope. A lot of different antelope.
Zebras are often seen too. Leopards are sometimes observed as well, but camouflage to well in the high grass. The wind blew strongly over the plateau adding a ‘windchill to the bone factor’ and bringing in Storm clouds from the southeast. It was chilly.
I spotted a herd of Roan Antilope first.
Distinctive markings on their head appears a cheeky smile.
Large horns curving backward makes them easily recognized from the distance.
I drove the longer route to my destination at Chelinde Camp, passing a few clear water lakes along the way.
Zimba’s cousin seemed perplexed by his sight.
Chelinde Campground has a large open green grass area, sheltered by pine trees from howling winds. A warden ensures an endless supply of firewood and even lights the fire early mornings if wished for. The water boiler is constantly under fire ensuring hot water for showers at any time. Pure bliss. There are also accommodation options in chalets or in the lodge, all catered for by typical friendly Malawians.
I warmed up in the afternoon sun by the lake for a while.
Malawian Park and Wildlife decided to burn off some patches off meadows for the coming fire season. The word was out, that a leopard makes his round in the afternoon at the airstrip. Good enough reason to check it out.
The sun rays shone through scattered clouds, making the landscape even more amazing.
A few Reetbuck were grazing on the airstrip,
at the end of the horizon it appeared.
Pumba and family appeared as well, no leopard though. It was a lively evening around the bonfire later, were South African Judy and Bridget and the crew from ‘Nhakata Safari Tours hosted young American’s Kelly and Bailey exchanged stories and adventures.
A leopard was heard growling the night before I arrived. I was hoping he would come to the camp again overnight. That didn’t happen, possibly too cold for these shy cats?
It was another chilly windy morning as a herd of Eland Antilope passed the campground. Despite being the largest of Africa’s Antilope, these shy animals are hard to spot and extremely cautious.
I was lucky to get a few photos in before they wandered off the plains.
With most animal sightings around the campground, I decided to hang out here, the sun tried to break through the clouds, with medium success.
A small group of Bushbuck grazed on the green grass at the campground.
Being used to people, they came rather close. The colourful markings on their fur are pretty to look at.
I had the opportunity to take a few close-up photos, pointing out seeds collected whilst grazing. Rather cute.
It cleared up a bit more early afternoon, a good time to go for a drive around. The wind still blew relentlessly cold air.
A herd of zebras were spotted along the airstrip, still looking in disbelief,
whilst a few Reetbuck enjoyed the open space, which makes it easier to spot predators. No leopard to be seen. A small plane was due to fly in these strong winds, making this a hairy adventure.
A herd off Roan Antilope roamed the nearby plains, looking rather suspicious towards Zimba.
Or were they smiling?
Road crossing for the young ones was practiced by some.
A Demon Bustard stalked the high grass too, which was nice to see.
So were the zebras, which have become a favourite photo model for me.
Back at camp, the Bushbuck had a bit of a family crisis it appeared.
The male buck sure is dominant over his females, smiling as he got his point across. Three Eland were approaching the campground and I snuck off into the pine tree forest around the campground.
Walking through in stealth mode was impossible and I was spotted before getting a few good photos.
They retreated to the other side of the campground. A Hyde in this forest would be great. The fire was lid early afternoon and I enjoyed a nice chat with the campground warden. They work 24 days straight, before getting 6 days off. He then walks to his home in Livingstonia on the eastern side of these mountains, a 7-hour journey one way. It was time for bed, it was chilly, chilly. Did I mention the strong cold winds before?
I was contemplating on staying another night up here, but looming storm clouds pushed by even stronger winds meant I skipped that idea entirely. Shame really, it really is a fantastic spot to take in nature in all its splendor. I dreaded the dusty track back and was hoping some rain might settle the dust particles. I had a quick chat with Kelley and Mike at reception, who have been managing the lodge/campground for about 5 months, dealing with usual African politics to get things moving forward. Patience is needed.
I was glad to be out of major dust issues, so was Zimba. Remote villages cultivate plenty of agriculture. Nice to see.
If you fancy a safari to either ‘Vwaza’ or ‘Nyika National Park’ and don’t have your own transport, please check out Nkhabay Safaris.