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One of your first impressions of Zomba Forest Lodge is that it feels like a home… because it is! The house was originally built as a private home, and was later converted into the small lodge that it is today. There are only 4 rooms (though they are working on remodeling to have a 5th now that the owners have moved out of the dining room and into their own home next door), and each room has an en-suite bathroom. The rooms are all clean and cozy, with warm duvets for winter and bottles of water by the bed.
Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by the friendly owners, Tom and Petal, and their equally friendly dogs, Loki and Saxon.
The first thing I always notice is how quiet it is. There is no city noise, no hum of electrical devices or fans, nothing but the songs of the birds. It is SO peaceful.
The entire lodge is completely off-grid. Tom will explain how to use the solar lights, and you’ll see the cool all-weather charging station they’ve made in the yard. Gas is used for cooking and powering the fridge and freezer, and lots of candles and oil lamps are used in the living room at night. I’m always amazed by how normal not having electricity is there, but if you want your phone charged, you’d better bring a portable charger. We have these Anker ones, and love them.
All meals are included in your stay, and they are really, really fantastic. I (Stacy Leigh) am gluten and dairy free, and the recipes and alternatives they come up with always amaze me. The last time we were there, a woman was also staying who was vegetarian and kosher. Together, we did not make things easy for them in the kitchen, but they handled it like it was nothing, and the food was amazing!
Lunch is served (weather permitting) on your own at various picnic tables throughout the garden. Supper is served in the house at the long table, and is eaten family-style together with the other guests.
Breakfast is a generous offering of muesli, fruit, baked goods (even GFCF muffins and cinnamon rolls for me), eggs, and toast with coffee or tea.
Eating a family-style meal with people you don’t know can be intimidating, but we have so enjoyed getting to know new people in this way. We’ve met some really interesting people and had really great conversations thanks to our suppers at ZFL.
Things to Do
Our favorite thing to do while staying at ZFL is hike. There are so many great hiking options for all ages and abilities, all of which start out from the lodge. If you don’t want to go far, you can meander for a mile or two around their wooded trails and alongside the stream that runs through the bottom of the property. Much of the plateau has sadly been deforested, so the shade of the tall trees on the ZFL property is really nice, especially when the weather is warm.
If you’re up for longer hikes, there are tons of options around the plateau. The last time we went, we did a 4 mile loop hike to a spot called hyena rocks and back. The views were AMAZING, and the hike was easy. Josh has done a 10 mile hike from ZFL before, and one guest we met did an all-day 7 hour hike all over the plateau with a hired guide (Tom and Petal can assist with this) and a packed lunch.
Our second favorite thing to do there is just rest. We take naps in the afternoon, which is not something we have the luxury of doing in our normal life. We also love just sitting around on the porch or in the garden reading or hand-sewing.
Nights are so peaceful and quiet as well, with a fire going in the living room during the cold season. There is a small library of books, mostly about Malawi, and a few games that guests can play. I just can’t adequately put into words how peaceful and restful it is, especially if you are a parent and visit without your kids, like we do.
Lastly, I feel like I would be doing a disservice to Tom and Petal if I didn’t also share about Zomba Treez and their hearts for the protection and reforestation of the Zomba plateau. They work tirelessly with the local community to protect the forests from fires and illegal logging, replant trees, and educate people on alternative fuels. You can learn more about it by following the link.
If you visit ZFL, they are always happy to tell you more about this great work that they’re doing for the plateau and the people who live around it. The picture above is the kids and me at the first Zomba Treez Run 4 Reforestation, which is an annual fundraiser they put on to support their work.