Malawi is dotted with isolated outcrops of rock, or inselberge. It is part of the landscape’s charm, and much of the natural bio-diversity of the country is due to these elevated islands, offering unusual habitats, for plants and animals.
One can think of Mount Mulanje in almost the same way. It is an isolated granite massif, covering over 1000km2. From a distance, it’s hard to believe that Mulanje is not a range of mountains, it seems wide rather than high. Yet it is so high that it creates its own climate, and is known to be unkind, even lethal, to those who dare to take the mountain for granted. The summit, the highest in south-central Africa at 3000m, is called Sapitwa, which is said to mean ‘Don’t go there!”
The warning is a challenge to the determined climber. Sapitwa does require experience, though often testing endurance rather than technique. The west face of Chambe Peak is the real challenge, offering nearly 1700m of roped climbing and said to be the longest rock climb in Africa.
For the less dedicated, Mulanje offers equally great rewards. Spectacular views across tea plantations to Mozambique, sheer drops down gullies laced with waterfalls, glades shaded by forest trees where purple crested loeries and sun squirrels scuttle along the branches, montane grasslands dotted with ground orchids and gladioli and alive with butterflies, forests of fragrant Mulanje cedar trees. Jack and the bean stalk country, a true “island in the sky”.