The 75 sq km Ntchisi Forest Reserve is one of southern Africa’s last remaining tropical rainforests. Perched on the side of Mount Ntchisi and with superb views across the valley below, this little known and little visited reserve is an undiscovered corner of paradise.
Ntchisi is home to a number of rare birds, but most visitors come to experience the cool of the rainforest, which lies at between 1,500 and 1,700 metres above sea level. Ntchisi also has populations of Samango monkey, baboon, hyena, various antelope, civet and serval. The reserve has a network of tracks, while guides are on hand to take visitors into the forest.
Located 80 km from Lilongwe, and with an elevation of between 600 and 1,550 metres above sea level, Thuma Forest Reserve covers a rugged area of 197 sq km.
Thuma had formerly been under threat from poaching and deforestation, but since 1996 the Wildlife Action Group has worked hard to restore the reserve to its former glory. Today, it is arguably the best run and best protected forest reserve in Malawi. Unusually for a forest reserve, there are elephant and buffalo plus leopard, spotted hyena, greater kudu, bushbuck, klipspringer, Sharpe’s grysbok, common duiker, baboon, vervet monkey, bushbaby, genet and civet, honey badger, warthog, bushpig, porcupine and other smaller species.
Run by the Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust, the Mulanje Mountain Forest Reserve covers about 500 sq km including the Mulanje Massif, which rises to 3,002 metres.
Rainfall levels are high during the wet season and this, combined with the altitude, creates an unusual ecosystem with many rare and endemic creatures and plant species. These include birds such as the white-winged apali, the white and rust coloured thyolo alethe and reptiles such as the dwarf chameleon, the squeaker frog and the unusual burrowing skink.
Located in the far north, the two Misuku Hill Forest Reserves cover an area of 310 sq km, are a magnet for birdwatchers and botanists.
The two reserves are Mugesse and Wilindi-Matipa. Mugesse comprises montane rainforest, while Wilindi-Matipa consists of lower-level forest. The Misuku Hills are Malawi’s most diverse in terms of flora, with over 150 species of trees.
Located in the North Viphya mountains, at between 1,600 and 1,700 metres above sea level, Uzumara Forest Reserve lies close to the shore of Lake Malawi. Uzumara contains over 100 species of birds, many of which are also resident in nearby Nyika National Park.
These are, perhaps, the most interesting of the reserves, but there are at least 10 others dotted throughout Malawi. Some of these have suffered from deforestation and the impact of growing local populations, resulting in cleared woodland.
Most other reserves are of more interest to bird watchers, while opportunities for game viewing are limited. These reserves are no less delightful to visit. If time allows, why not seek out some of the lesser-known spots and enjoy having an entire reserve to yourself.
Information courtesy of Destination Malawi: http://www.destination-malawi.com/