Fort Mangochi (originally called Fort Johnston) was built in 1895, in the hills close to Namwera, by the British to suppress the slave trade. It was inhabited by an Indian Sikh regiment and Yao soldiers with a sizeable village growing around it – up 25,000 people. The fort was used as a prison from 1907-1910 and as a training camp during World War 1 by the King’s African Rifles. Today significant ruins remain and the walls of the fort, a metre thick and several metres tall, clearly display the layout of the fort.

MCM is planning a camping trip to the fort on the weekend of 21/22 April. We will hike up through forest to the fort from Skull Rock Estate (on the Saturday morning). The hike will start at 9am so we will gather at Skull Rock from 8.30am. It will be a pretty hot and dry walk and will take about 3 hours. We will hire a local guide and porters are available to carry tents and other luggage. Water is available at the fort from a spring for drinking and cooking and we will collect firewood for a camp fire. On Saturday afternoon there will be time to explore the fort. Carl Bruessow will give a campfire talk on the history of Fort Mangochi on the Saturday evening. For those with sufficient energy on Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning we will hike further to the rain forest on a neighbouring ridge. Elephants, leopard and aardvark have been recently caught on camera traps in this forest! Although we are unlikely to see them the forest itself is spectacular. Children are welcome as long as they can make the climb!

A communal chilli (meat and veg options) meal will be prepared on Saturday evening on the campfire. We will share the costs of this. Bring a plate and a spoon! You should bring all other food for lunches, breakfast, snacks, drinks. The spring water is clean but you may wish to bring purifying tablets.

This entire area is within the Mangochi Forest Reserve which is contiguous with Liwonde National Park. It is likely that Africa Parks will soon be awarded a concession to manage the forest reserve so freedom to wander into the reserve unaccompanied may not be available for much longer!

We will return to Skull Rock on Sunday afternoon in time to drive back to Blantyre/Lilongwe etc.

Skull Rock Estate is reached from the town of Majuni on the scenic Liwonde – Mangochi road that passes through Namwera . If driving from Blantyre drive through Namwera and Majuni is reached after another 7-8km. If starting at the Mangochi end (e.g. if coming from Lilongwe) Majuni is 30km after the bridge in Mangochi. In Majuni there is a dirt road (off to the left if coming from the Liwonde end, and off to the right if coming from the Mangochi end) that heads down to Skull Rock Estate where parking is available at the tobacco barns  – approximately 7-8km.

If you would like to take part in this trip please let Maggie know by email on maggie.otoole@africa-online.net  by Friday 13th April. Please indicate whether you will need a porter (or more). Depending on interest we may have to limit numbers so book fast!

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