Details about our visit to two Chongoni Rock Art sites (Namzeze and Mphunzi). I provide details that include maps, costs, logistics as well as links to additional details, photos and videos. This is a guided adventure on a shoestring. Follow the links to dig deeper into the adventure.
Rock Art Locations
The Chongoni Rock Art area consists of 127 rock faces and shelters over 2,000 yrs old (most of which is in the Chongoni Forest Reserve). We used the Pottery Lodge as our base (camping) and from which we hired a guide (see below for details).
Bradt Site Map
Chongoni Rock Art – Namzeze Shelter
Very poor dirt roads lead to this site. Not strictly 4×4 but you must have a high clearance vehicle around the rainy season due to washouts, deep ruts and rocks. We drove it in my tiny Nissan March and the trip took us forever and we constantly bottomed out the car.
Our route took a round-about direction to the village parking spot to avoid some of the worst road areas but that isn’t saying much. We parked at a village about 3 km short of the trail head, just before an impassable little bridge. We then walked to the trail head, at another village and then followed a farm track though corn fields until reaching the foot of the large hill. From there the path (goat track) wound up the hill to the huge open shelter/cave. There are two cement benches on the goat track to the shelter for rest stops. It’s not a very difficult hike and it took us a leisurely hour to complete one-way.
The shelter/cave is a large opening just before the ridge line with spectacular views of the farming valley below. The art is vivid and interesting, however, it is clear that local idiots have been adding their own graffiti and even local goat herders use the cave for shelter and make fires in it occasionally. I suspect the art will not last another 2,000 years.
There are numerous other art spots in the area (7 of which our guide said are worth visiting) but we decided to return to the car and drive to the Mphunz area. This was a mistake. It took us a long time to reach the Namzeze site and we should have stayed to explored the other locations.
I also recommend that you take a guide. We used Christopher Samuels (0995946889). He was very knowledgeable and also kept the constant stream of children at a distance by explaining that we wished to walk alone and without a dozen noisy children in tow.
Pottery Lodge Guide Package Cost Details:
|1/2 day guided (your own car) $pp
Full day guided (your own car) w excellent packed lunch $pp
1/2 day guided (they provide car & driver) $pp
Full day guided (they provide car & driver) w packed lunch $pp
The GPS gpx files and hike meta data are available in this namzeze file.
Chongoni Rock Art – Mphunzi Site
It is a much easier drive to the Mphunzi site trail head (following easy village dirt roads of M1) from the Pottery Lodge. We parked at the 1912 church and then walked the 3 km to the end of the dirt track trail head. There is a building and parking area at the trail head (end of dirt road) and a local fellow who claims to be working for the Ministry of Tourism that asks for a payment to visit the area. Our guide said it is not true and that there is no fee to visit the area, but he does give the fellow a tip just to prevent drawn out arguments. I recommend taking a guide to avoid noisy children and enterprising hustlers.
The walk to the main site is about 300m to the right of this building, along a small corn field. The art is in a tall cleft in the rocks. There is also a second site just around the bend of the cleft (20m). There are also 2 other good sites within easy walking distance and more further out. The guide or a ‘local guide’ can show you the way.
Mphunzi Site Photos
I recommend this location for people doing a half-day trip or that don’t want to sit in a bouncing car for a long period.
The GPS gpx files and hike meta data are available in this mphunzi file.
Chongoni Rock Art Accommodation
We camped at the Pottery Lodge and arranged a guide with them. They offer 1/2 day and full-day Rock Art options as well as self-drive or provided driver and vehicle packages. See the above for cost details. They also offer guided local walks in the nearby mountains and reserves, Slave Trade & Historical tours, and a Mbewa Village tour, to name a few other options.
After visiting Dedza we did a long drive-day north (on our way to Mkhata Bay) to stay at the Ngala Bech Lodge for 3 days of comfort, good food, great camping and lets not forget, the infinity pool. Located off the M5 about 2 hours south of Nkhata Bay. It’s an isolated chill-out place.
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