Hiking on Mt Mulanje is controlled by the Likhubula Forestry Office, at the small village of Likhubula, about 15km north of Mulanje town centre. Entry fees payable at the gate are MK1000 per person, MK500 per vehicle, and MK1000 per day for parking. Register here with Macdonald and the friendly staff, and make reservations for the mountain huts (or call in advance). The office can also advise day-trippers about short hikes on the lower slopes.
Also excellent for information and bookings is the Mulanje Infocentre. Emmie and the knowledgeable staff provide all pertinent information about hiking on the mountain and have a good reference library of books and maps.
Mulanje measures about 30km from west to east and 25km from north to south, with an area of at least 600 sq km. On its northeastern corner is the outlier Mchese Peak, separated from the main massif by the Fort Lister Gap. The massif is composed of several bowl-shaped river basins, separated by rocky peaks and ridges. The highest peak is Sapitwa (3001m), the highest point in Malawi and in all of Southern Africa north of South Africa and Lesotho's Drakensberg range. There are other peaks on the massif above 2500m and you can reach most of the summits without technical climbing.
Guides & Porters
Porters are not obligatory, but they make the hiking easier, especially for the first day’s steep hike from the Likhubula Forestry Office. Guides are definitely recommended to help you through the maze of paths.
Arrange guides and porters at Likhubula or the Mulanje Infocentre, as they keep a registered list, which works on a rotation system.
Standard guide fees are US$25 per day for groups of up to 10, and US$20 per porter. The total fee for the whole trip should be agreed before departure and put in writing. Fees are paid at the end of the trip, but guides and porters are expected to provide their own food, so about 25% may be required in advance. You may want to tip your porters and guides if the service has been good; a rule of thumb is to pay something around an extra day’s wage for every three to five days. The maximum weight each porter can carry is 18kg.
There are about six main routes up and down Mulanje. The three main ascent routes go from Likhubula: the Chambe Plateau Path (also called the Skyline Path), the Chapaluka Path and the relatively easy Lichenya Path (aka the Milk Run). Other routes, more often used for the descent, are Thuchila Hut to Lukulezi Mission, Sombani Hut to Fort Lister Gap, and Minunu Hut to the Lujeri Tea Estate.
Once you’re on the massif, a network of paths links the huts and peaks, and many permutations are possible. It takes anything from two to six hours to hike between one hut and the next.
Rock Climbing & Mountain Biking
Chambe’s 1700m West Face is Africa's longest vertical rock wall. Equipment rental is not available locally, but visit the Mountain Club of Malawi website for climbing and mountain-biking routes and contacts.