The Shire Highlands is a 7 300 sq km plateau situated in southern Malawi, east of the Shire River. It is bound by the Shire River valley in the north west and south west. Its average elevation of 610m to 1 220m rises to more than 2 750m in the Mulanje Mountains. It is an important agricultural area in Malawi, while Thyolo Mountain is the most prominent feature of the Shire Highlands and a great location for bird watchers.
The Thyolo district is undeniably the most picturesque region of Malawi and forms the heart of Malawi's tea producing region. The area is characterised by rolling hills of beautiful lush, green plantations and some of the oldest estates in the country, including the Satemwa Tea Estate, which is where our recommended accommodation is.
The area offers spectacular views of Mount Mulanje and the Lower Shire valley to the west. The mild climate of the Shire Highlands makes it the ideal holiday destination. Visitors can experience a time from a bygone era with its colonial flair and diverse scenery and magical sunsets.
Situated in southern Malawi and east of the Shire River, the Highlands is a large plateau covering approximately 7 300 sq km. It is located between the town of Blantyre and the Zomba Plateau.
The huge, isolated Malunje Massif claims the longest sheer rock face in Africa and is irresistible to rock climbers. We recommend our experienced climber guests give it a try.
Nearby, the vast forests, tumbling waterfalls, and placid lakes of the Zomba Plateau offer visitors activities such as angling at the trout farm and horse riding.
Be overcome by the picturesque green plantations and some of the oldest estates in the country, many producing tea for export, but not before offering visitors a taste, of course.
The Shire Highlands' diverse scenery embodies tropical evergreen forests and riverine thickets, as well as rolling hills, which make for incredible birding. The lodges we recommend in the area are situated in the Satemwa Tea Estate, which is a working tea estate where guests are invited to visit the factory for tea tasting and enjoy a tour of the factory that produces some of Malawi's finest, export-quality tea.
Activities in the Shire Highlands include horse riding, quad biking, mountain biking, guided birding walks through Thyolo Forest, bass fishing, croquet and lawn bowls, village tours, tea and coffee tasting, and gold on a 9-hole course. Guests can also enjoy tennis and squash, should they like to expend some holiday energy.
There are various excursions that we recommend embarking on, which include day trips to Mount Mulanje, Zomba Plateau, Blantyre City and Lake Chirwa. Each of these locations have something exclusively Malawian to offer.
Malawi’s climate remains at moderate temperatures for most of the year, only getting quite cold in the chilliest winter months of June, July and August. Early morning and evening game drives will require some bundling up, but by midday the sun is out and the skies are clear.
Summers are obviously much warmer and after the season starts changing in September and October, the temperatures start to climb and the clouds prepare for rains. The mountainous topography of the country means that the low-lying areas around Lake Malawi get a lot hotter than the higher levels.
November brings the rain, some years, while other years the rain abates until December. During December, January, February and March, Malawi receives its rainfall and the vegetation begins to grow until it is wonderfully green and lush. It is not the best season for game viewing, though, as the game spreads out and becomes more difficult to see. April and May see the return of the dry weather and the temperatures drop.
Satemwa Tea Estate in the Shire Highlands is one of Malawi's most cherished and established tea and coffee producers. Guests can enjoy a mild climate of the Shire Highlands and friendly and informal ambiance of a by-gone era. Accommodation we recommend in the area include:
Chawani Bungalow is a historic tea planter's bungalow, offering comfortable accommodation in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere surrounded by beautiful, subtropical rainforests on Satemwa Estate. Chawani offers a rustic charm; a long time favourite amongst guests visiting this beautiful region.
Huntingdon House is a family-run estate that was built in the 1920s and has been in the same family for generations, still producing tea and coffee. The elegant, old, colonial-style house is surrounded by magnificent gardens, beautiful old trees and offers breath-taking views of Mount Mulanje and the Lower Shire Valley.
Malawi is primarily a driving destination and there is very little use of light air transfers. The country is very small and the roads have been well maintained, making for efficient and enjoyable road transport.
The primary international airport is in Lilongwe, the capital city, which is located in more or less the centre of the country. Sun Safaris will fly their guests into Malawi at Lilongwe International Airport from where they will connect with an arranged road transfer that will take them to their wildlife destination.
In other cases, Chileka International Airport, located 16km out of Blantyre, can be used as a domestic terminal for guests choosing to fly as close as possible to their destination in the south of Malawi.
The Shire Highlands are located near Zomba, in the southern region of Malawi. It is not far from Blantyre, in which case Sun Safaris might make use of Chileka Airport for guests travelling to the Highlands.