Zomba is a small town in Malawi about 1 hr from Blantyre. It is the former capital of Malawi until Hastings Kamuzu Banda, the first President, moved the capital to Lilongwe. Most travelers visiting Zomba are coming for the plateau. The town itself has little for tourists but the people are welcoming, and there is a large market in the center, where you can buy almost anything.
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There are several car hire companies in town that offer a reasonable range of saloons and 4x4s of varying quality and price. Be warned that the police set up frequent road blocks, and it is not uncommon to be stopped several times a day and be asked to present your driving licence and allow them to perform a cursory examination of the car looking for faults. There are frequent minibusses around town, and a taxi rank on the main Blantyre road.
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The Plateau - See separate entry for 'Zomba Plateau'. The top is a 5-7 hour hike from the base at the Kandodo junction. There is a fine hotel, the Sunbird "Ku Chawe" Hotel at the top. There are other cozy and charming cottages for visitors for a very cheap price. Contact the local Catholic church or CCAP for details (call this no.0888699742). There are many sights to see at the top. You can begin with a hike on the Potato trail from the main road that winds up. Most local wood gatherers take this route up through the pine trees and potato farms. Along the way are scenic views of the valley and Zomba itself. If you follow the tarmac, about 7 km of easy to moderate climb, you will reach the Dam. Around and across the dam through the causeway are picnic and hiking trails. You have to pay a minimal amount of K100 for picnic ground use at the Water board station itself, look for Mr. Henderson, the in-charge and a local friend of me, the Doctor! Horse back riding is also available just across the dam for a substantial fee. Rides go through the trails and back. Further up on the tarmac to the right on a dirt road is the Trout farm. There is a signboard. Not well maintained as picnic or camping ground but a good base to park cars and start your hike up. The road is rocky and needs a 4wd but smaller SUVs can pass with some care and good driving skills. Place to go from here is the Chagwa dam, a natural lagoon, serene and peaceful. Continuing up the trail leads to Queens view and Emperor's view. Both are on top at the edge of the plateau offering a panoramic view of the whole valley including the small lake Chilwa. The trail continues around the top to Chingwe's hole. A natural abyss that drops to a seemingly bottomless pit with all kinds of gruesome history and supernatural folklore of spirits. Back to the main road/tarmac, it continues to the left to Ku Chawe hotel. An impressive structure with a romantic garden behind where tables are set amidst the trees for a nice cup of brewed filter coffee or even a complete meal. Prices are in the upper mid range but the food is good to excellent. If you are lucky, the baboons will entertain you non-stop all around. On the roofs, treetops and even on the ground picking up morsels of food, catching butterflies and competing with the Ravens (Magpies/Crows) and they will not hesitate to run up your table and snatch your food. you have been warned! From behind the hotel itself is another trail to the old road. A small hill, quite steep is also a challenge for the younger ones. From the hotels parking area, the tarmac ends and continues as a dirt road to the cottages and some private ones like the US embassy, National Bank and other homeowners. It winds down to the horse stables and back to the dam itself.
Next is going to town and experience the warm hospitality of Zomba.
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There is a small golf course and driving range on your left as you head out of town on the Lilongwe road. There is a swimming pool that is sometimes open to the public at the school.
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There are several banks (including Standard Bank), and easy access to ATMs and bureau de change. Paintings by local artsts and carved wooden curios are for sale in a small compound just off the main road about 30m up the hill from Standard Bank. There are several spuermarkets including a Shoprite, and a Peoples Supermarket that sell most things you will need - although is is all more expensive than in other cities like Blantyre due to transport costs. There is also a good choice of hardware stores, clothes shops and pharmacies all along the main street. Fresh fruit, vegetables and meat can be bought cheaply at the large market that is behind the bus station. Zain mobile has a shop down from the bus station and MTL has an office just down the hill from Standard Bank. The postoffice is situated opposite Standard Bank.
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If you are looking for a more expensive upmarket stay - checkout the Sunbird hotel a 20 minute drive out of town at the top of the plateau. Magnificent views down over Zomba town.
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