Malawi has a range of small forest reserves throughout the country several of which have excellent bird watching and walking trails. These reserves offer a rare insight to Malawian rural life and plenty of natural history.
The easiest to reach from Lilongwe is Dzlanyama Forest Reserve which is a beautiful forest reserve in the hills just off the main road south west of the city about 50km away. The reserve borders the top of inland Mozambique. Silamwezi is the highest point at 1713m and most of the hills are covered in miombo forest. The name means 'place of meat' but the range of animals that once roamed the forest and provided the meat have been hunted to nearly nothing. There are still some small antelope here and sometimes hyena or leopard but hardly ever seen. There are lots of lovely walking trails here and the birdwatching is great. You can day trip from Lilongwe here or there is a small forest lodge which is basic but comfortable.
Dedza Mountain Forest Reserve has a good network of hiking paths and it takes about 2-3 hours to reach the summit of 2198m from the golf club. This area is mostly pine forests with patches of indigenous vegetation. There is a good pottery and coffee shop on the edge of Dedza village which is worth a stop.
Ntchisi Forest Reserve is north of Lilongwe about 80km away. There is a large village of the same name which is the turn off point to the centure of the reserve at Ntchisi Mountain which has great views of the region. There is evergreen forest on high slopes and some huge buttressed trees. The birdlife is varied and there are a few species of monkey, bush pigs and small antelope. There is a resthouse (Ntchisi Lodge) which has been renovated in recent years and has quiet gardens from where you can take various hiking trails through the forest and see fascinating plants, butterflies and birds.
North from Ntchisi towards the lake shore is Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, an area of rivers and forests heading towards the Viphya Plateau in central Malawi. This is an excellent area for birding, walking and now game drives too with elephant populations on the rise and other large mammals being re-introduced. Nkhotakota is a large area of mainly miombo woodland with nearly 300 species of birds and new accommodation being built.
Around Blantyre in southern Malawi are a few good forest reserves. Ndirande Forest Reserve is not often visited, the best location for hiking is Michiru Forest Reserve to the north west of the city which has a good Forestry and Wildlife Departments cenure and several marked walking trails from the education centre. A small forest reserve is Soche Forest Reserve where it only takes about one hour to reach the top of the mountain from the local school.
Time: GMT +2 hours
International flights to Malawi are either with Kenya Airways (via Nairobi) or South African Airways (via Johannesburg) then to Lilongwe or Blantyre.
Language: English is the official language but not widely used in rural areas. Chichewa is commonly used.
Not needed for most nationalities but check with your embassy. You need a Mozambique visa for Nkwichi Lodge.
No vaccinations are compulsory but some are recommended. Yellow Fever certificate required for Nkwichi Lodge (Mozambique). See your GP for advice.