To travel to Malawi but not visit the Zomba and the Zomba Plateau would be almost unthinkable. The plateau, just forty mile north of Blantyre is an incredible sight; a great slab of a mountain rising to 6000ft (1800m) it has vast tracts of cedar, pine and cypress but elsewhere the vegetation is wild and mixed. The plateau top is criss-crossed by streams and there are tumbling waterfalls and still lakes. There are driveable tracks right round the top from which are views of such splendour that they were described in colonial times as “the best in the British Empire”. Whether walking or driving, there is always something to see. Wildlife includes leopards, although sightings are rare. More in evidence are giant butterflies and, on the lower slopes, baboons. Birdlife includes the long-crested eagle and the augur buzzard.
At the base of the Zomba Plateau is the town of Zomba, formerly the capital of the country and seat of government; the first settlement of the colonial administration. It has some interesting buildings and monuments; the Cobbe Barracks are home to what were the King’s African Rifles (now the Malawi Rifles) and a clock-tower serves as their World War I memorial. The Gymkhana Club and old Residency of the first commissioner of Nyasaland are wonderful relics of the town’s colonial past. Zomba is also home to the University of Malawi, the old parliament buildings and one of the country’s State Houses. A small botanical garden and wonderfully sited golf course make the most of the lush low slopes of the plateau. Some 9 miles or so outside Zomba is the notorious Mikuyu Jail, where Dr Banda incarcerated many of his political prisoners. There is simple accommodation in the town but the Zomba Plateau is often the choice of tourists.
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