By Eutychus Yamikani:
Located to the south of the capital city Lilongwe, Dedza Mountain rises almost 2200m above the Great Rift Valley.From the summit, a glorious view of Lake Malawi is possible.
The area is accessible, almost to the very top, by a 4 x 4 track. Dedza is a bird watcher’s delight. Pockets of indigenous mountain forest tucked into gullies between rolling grasslands provide a wonderfully varied habitat.
Make it a full day’s outing from Lilongwe, and have lunch at Dedza pottery’s garden tea-room in the village below. Here is Malawi’s biggest pottery where items may be designed to customer’s specifications and shipped anywhere in the world.
To the west of Lilongwe travelling just less than 50km about a two hour drive, lies Dzalanyama; a working forestry area, with both pine and gum plantations. There are also wonderful areas of unspoiled forest and bush, with plenty of scope for mountain biking and hiking, or simply enjoying the fresh mountain streams and waterfalls.
Dzalanyama has great significance for many of the people of Malawi who believe that it is the site of creation.The footprints of the very first man are still they say to be seen in the rocks where God set him down. This forest range is the catchment area for most of Lilongwe’s water supply.
The name “Dzalanyama” is a Chichewa word which means (full of animals) and this is what makes the areas spectacular to visit, because one is immersed in the Chewa tribe version of the creation story and other mythical stories.
The Ntchisi Reserve includes one of the few true relic rain forest areas in Malwi.Cathedral-like glades of buttressed trees are hung with lianas, and butterflies dart like fish in the leaf-filtered gloom.
The call of a green bulbul or the hollow “chonk” of a samango monkey echoes through the mossed stems. Not long ago elephants used to wander around the Lodge, and leopards still prowl among the rocky outcrops making the Chewa (tribe) district of Ntchisi a unique nature’s crater.
Background of Malawi’s conservation
Malawi’s conservation efforts started with Forest Reserves.Today, much of the country’s Land has been cultivated that only by looking at such protected areas is one able to appreciate Malawi’s original wooded state. Many Forest Reserves produce commercial timber, while others protect water catchments.
Malawi is a country that seems almost to run on wood.
Wood is the basic framework of every house, and bricks are fired in wood-burning kilns; wood or charcoal fuels household cooking fires; wood is sawn and transported to earn cash,(Malawi’s fuel-wood bicycle carriers are a unique sight) or carved into curios for appreciative tourists.
One entire tree will go to make a dugout canoe or two or three “chief’s chairs”. Ceremonial drums and the surreal masks for the Gule wankulu (a local dance) are also carved from wood.
This is what makes Malawi beautiful. To put into E.F Schumacher famously claimed that “small is beautiful” nowhere is this more true than of Malawi.