Zomba is a small town in Malawi about 1 hr from Blantyre. It was the capital of Malawi until Hastings Kamuzu Banda, the first president, moved the capital to Lilongwe. Most travellers visiting Zomba are coming for the Zomba Plateau.
The town has little for tourists but the people are welcoming, and there is a large market in the centre, where you can buy almost anything.
There are several car hire companies in town that offer a reasonable range of saloons and 4x4s of varying quality and price. 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 minibuses around town, and a taxi rank on the main Blantyre road.
A tarmac road runs from Zomba town to the Ku Chawe Inn at the top of the plateau. The best way up if you do not fancy a 1,5 hour uphill hike is by taxis, which you should be able to haggle to around 7000 MK (kwacha) each way. Another option is to ride a motorbike taxi, which is cheaper but less comfortable and more dangerous. Remember to take a number for your taxi driver if you want to be driven back down the plateau, but the walk back is beautiful and strongly recommended.
The walk down is quicker as it is quick down hill pace on tarmac. If you are happy to, large trucks which act as a bus service to those who live on the remote villages of the plateau, several times a day descend and ascend the plateau. If your going up the plateau wait up the road side away from the very center of Zomba (close to the police station/prison - not as scary as it sounds!)
If going down the mountain, stay near the Ku Chawe Inn and ask the curio boys when the last truck left. Make sure you leave plenty of time to catch a lift down!
The Zomba Plateau is infamous for the guide boys who are generally reliable and very knowledgeable. They will be able to show you the beautiful waterfalls, streams, dams and take you up the mountains to all the spectacular view points overlooking Zomba town and Southern Malawi.
The boys will try to sell you crystals from the mountains, and other small curious and lots of berries from the mountains. Due to the remote location of the plateau, which is rarely properly explored the guide boys are keen to talk and find out about you.
You can ask at your accommodation to recommend a guide. Cost should be approximately 5000 MK for a day with a guide. It is very easy to get disoriented in the forest.
- Go to the stunning waterfalls, in particular Williams Falls.
Visit the large model of the plateau near the Ku Chawe Hotel to gain an idea of where you are.
- Go to the top of Chawe mountain, or Queens View or Emporers view for a stunning look across Southern Malawi.
- Climb the Chawe mountain, which is possible in an hour if up for a good hike.
- Visit the viewpoints for breathtaking views.
- Visit the man made and natural dams.
- Visit (and swim under!) the waterfalls.
- 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.
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 supermarkets including a Shoprite, and a Peoples Supermarket that sell most things you will need - although 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 post office is situated opposite Standard Bank.
- Shoprite Usave Supermarket., Namiwawa Road (opp Zamba bus depot).
- Standard bank, Kamuzu highway. Has a Master Card/Visa Card ATM.
There are a lot of curios available at the top of the plateau outside the Ku Chawe Inn.
- Casa Rossa (On the road to the Plateau, approximately 1.8 km from the main road), ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. It has good Italian food and is a Skyband wifi hotspot.
- Hotel Masongola. Has a good traditional menu and the chicken kawawa is an excellent dish. A little expensive.
- Sunbird Hotel (At the top of the Zomba Plateau). Western restaurant / bar with magnificent views over Zomba. Has a buffet Sunday lunch / BBQ.
- Annie's, Mulunguzi Road. Two kitchens at Annie's Lodge cater to mid-market business clientele, civil servants, and travelers. The downhill location near the National Statistics Office on Mulunguzi Road has reasonably priced lunch specials (rice, nsima, stew, and so forth). The location up the hill (toward Masongola) offers a similar menu, a casual outdoor bar area, and has facilities for meetings and conferences.
- Dominos. Bar and pizzeria signposted from the town centre, just off the main road towards the plateau. Service tends to be a little slow. Shows live sport with a projector on a wide screen.
- Annie's Lodge. Two kitchens at Annie's Lodge cater to mid-market business clientele and travellers. The downhill location near the National Statistics Office on Mulunguzi Road has reasonably priced lunch specials (rice, nsima, stew, and so forth). The location up the hill (toward Masongola) offers a similar menu, a casual outdoor bar area, and has facilities for meetings and conferences.
In Zomba town
- 1 Annie's Lodge. single/double rooms, Globe wifi hotspot. $30/36.
- 2 Pakachere, backpackers & creative centre (at the end of the golf course), ☏ . Pakachere is a backpackers run by local people not far from the city centre. Also has a bar, restaurant and cyber bar. hot water. wifi. dorm bed $10 pp camping $5 pp.
- Casa Rossa, Mountain Road 5 Zomba., ☏ . 4 rooms, camping 7,500 MK with breakfast 38,000 to 65,000 MK.
- Peters Lodge (2 km from downtown). single/double rooms $20/25.
On the plateau
- 3 Sunbird Ku Chawe Inn, ✉ email@example.com. Clearly signposted from Zomba town. Situated at the top of the plateau with stunning views. US$80-100 for a double room including breakfast.
- Zomba Forest Lodge, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A beautiful, friendly and well-run place, with a fantastic chef. All 5 rooms are en-suite with hot running water. There's a garden with views down towards Zomba town, and a large residents lounge with a library and a log fire in the evenings. Price includes dinner and breakfast. From US$40 per night.
- 4 The Trout Farm. A budget option, cabins cost about US$10/cabin/night. Each cabin sleeps two people in single beds and as well as lovely log cabins there are hot showers. The paths leading out around the plateau pass by the camp, and although no food is available at this farm, it is only a short walk to the Ku Chawe Inn. It can be fairly chilly at night, so wrap up.