This is a 3 hour round hike from the Likhubula park gate area to the Likhubula Waterfalls. I provide details that include maps, costs, logistical requirements and facts as well as links to additional details, photos and videos. This is a self-guided adventure on a shoestring. Follow the links to dig deeper into the adventure.
From the Likhubula park gate area (we parked our car at the CCAP Guesthouse but the Likhubula Forest Lodge is also a good option for this hike). The route follows the left fork in the road from the gate (leading to Likhubula Forest Lodge). The road snakes its way up the side of the Likhubla river gorge. There are a few points to cut corners but these are steep and dusty. This road becomes progressively rougher as it gains altitude. You can drive to the first water point (a tiny side tributary that crosses the road) and park a non 4WD here at your own risk (or hire a boy to watch the car).
A few more bends of the road and then the falls is off the road to the right. You will need to follow a foot path along a second tributary valley to reach the main river and falls. There is a large and deep swimming hole at the base of the falls. There is also a second smaller falls with a pool (mostly ignored) to the right of the main falls. And note that there is now a catchment area just below the pool for the new water project (see below for details).
Likhubula Waterfalls Total Cost Range of this Activity is: $
The only cost is the car day fee (500 Mk) and day per person day park fee (1000 Mk each). See Mulanje Maps & Facts for more details.
Note that this is a weekend picnic favorite for locals so it can be crowded (and covered in trash) on weekends. Also, no guide is required but you will be pestered aggressively by potential guides before the town of Likhubula, in the town and before the gate. Once beyond the gate you will be propositioned more quietly but still persistently.
The local “guides” ask US $25 to take you to the pool which is ridiculous. Pay nothing and ignore them or pay 1000 Mk at most.
Likhubula Waterfalls – A Better Swimming Pool
If you are willing to walk another 30-60 minutes up the road you will reach a much better and totally secluded swimming hole. I have marked the map with this second spot. The road ends at the foot of the Chapaluka tributary (a rocky foot river area crossing that is the Chapaluka Route. The map doesn’t show the road going that far, but it does. Simply follow the road to the end (just after a large boulder on the right).
At the river foot crossing, find a hidden path on the other side under some trees. It leads up the Chapaluka, over boulders, about 30 meters and ends in a small totally enclosed pool with a small waterfalls.
A word about Guides
One of the biggest problems with the Mulanje area is the constant offers of guiding or car watching services. The young men will try to flag your vehicle down well before reaching the trailhead with offers. At the time of this writing the road to Likhubula was under construction with numerous bypasses. Many of which had youths running along with the car and pitching their services.
Once we reached the Likhubula park gate it got easier. The overt offers stopped at the gate. However, a more low-key approach was used within the park or at the lodges. The asking rate is US$ 20 per day. Just to stop the pestering and the kids from following us we paid US$ 2 for a young boy to walk us to the Likhubula Falls and then dismissed him.
Likhubula Waterfalls Project
When we visited the falls area there was a lot of construction in process (lots of digging and dust). The government of Malawi has decided to take water from the Mount Mulanje watershed and pipe it down the mountain (from below the falls due to local protests rather than above the falls thankfully), across the plains and then up to the Blantyre area. This is an aggressive on going project.
There are two very good lodging options at the Likhobula park gate. The CAAP Cottages (cottages, rooms, dorms and camping) and the Forestry Lodge (a small house with rooms and camping). These are good places to stay before or after treks starting or ending on the western side of the park. They also both provide day parking (at a fee). The CAAP charges 600 Mk per day. We also stayed at the Africa Wild Truck lodge in the Lujeri Tea Estates area and drove over to the gate to hike.
Need a Guide? Goster is my recommendation.
This trek is included in the Trekking Nepal App download data packs.
Checkout Mulanje Maps & Facts for more logistical details.
Visit Malawi Outdoors on a Shoestring for more adventures