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Biosearch Expeditions Responsible Wildlife Research Expeditions in Nyika National Park, Malawi

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Nyika is in the north of Malawi lying approximately 10 degrees south of the equator. It covers an area of 3134 km 2 and ranges in altitude from below 1000 m in the extreme northeast, adjacent to the shore of Lake Malawi to over 2600 m at Nganda Hill on the northern edge of the plateau. The central plateau is virtually the only part of the park known to visitors and represents only around one third of the whole area. It consists of rolling grasslands. In the folds of the landscape small streams arise and work their way to the escarpments along relatively flat marsh areas known as dambos. Many of these areas feature evergreen forest patches, which appear as fragments all over the plateau and are a distinctive habitat with their own flora and fauna. They are also often nearly impenetrable and create quite a challenge to an explorer.

Once inside they provide a sheltered habitat which ameliorates the sometimes very cool conditions on the open grassland and the heat of the sun in the middle of the day. They are therefore, not surprisingly popular shelters for the park's wildlife and for the occasional human visitor; provided care is taken not to sit on the occasional swarm of red ants.

The escarpments of the plateau plunge down steeply in all directions but especially so to the east to Lake Malawi and to the west on the Zambian side. Below about 2000 m you leave the open grasslands and the cool conditions, especially during the colder months of June and July, and descend through the magnificent landscape, through the Protea scrub zone and into the woodlands, dominated by six species of Brachystegia tree. These woodlands are generally open and easy to walk through, especially if you can pick up one of the many animal paths that run off the plateau and down to the lowlands. There are many good camping places along the streams, which flow vigorously throughout the year.

The climate in the park is determined not just by altitude but by location too. Since a prevailing south easterly wind brings moist air from the very large Lake Malawi , most of the rain falls on the eastern escarpment. This part can be very green, even in the dry season and has a distinctive character as a result. Low cloud, which usually disperses early in the day, may persist in the eastern park and make for difficult walking, navigating and wildlife observation. Travelling further west and north it becomes increasingly dry. In the extreme north of the park it is important to keep a good supply of water to hand, since many of the small streams dry up by July and may not run again for six months.

Exploring the Nyika National Park (continued)

Exploring the Nyika National Park