On arrival at Zomba Forest Lodge it was clear we had arrived somewhere very special indeed. Zomba Forest Lodge run by Tom & Petal is set within 20 acres of mixed woodland towards the top of the Zomba Mountain and it feels like you’re arriving at an exclusive retreat. It’s a 35 minute drive up to the lodge from Zomba village itself so I was definitely hoping it was going to be.
Why not check out our full post about our 14 nights Malawi Family Holiday with Responsible Safari Company!
We arrived late afternoon after our journey from Mount Mulanje; the rain had just stopped which left the flowers and trees twinkling from raindrops. It was a spectacular setting and I challenge anyone not to be impressed by the vivid colour and size of the poinsettias as you drive towards the garden of the lodge.
You can’t arrive at Zomba Forest Lodge without being heard and so Tom was waiting for us as we got out of the car. We had without realising it just driven past Petal taking their dogs out for a late afternoon walk.
Zomba Forest Lodge has 4 bedrooms all with en-suites which are all set off a corridor just of the dining area. If you are travelling with kids like we were you don’t need to worry about them being far away from you once they are in bed, as all the bedrooms are probably closer to the living space, than they would be at home.
Tom explained that there was no electricity at all at Zomba Forest Lodge save for that generated by solar power. Solar Powered lights would be put in our rooms just before dark and these would last all night if we wanted to keep them on, in the bathroom for example. There was also candles and matches in our room but these were sensibly removed from the childrens’ room. “All guests need to bring their lights back out a breakfast time so that they can be recharged for the next evening” Tom explained. “Breakfast won’t be served until they are brought out” I’m not sure he was joking. The rooms were cosy but comfortable and the shower warm, just follow Tom’s instructions and you’ll be fine. Turn the cold on to get the pressure through the system and then add the warm water slowly until you have it just right.
Dinner was to be served at 7pm promptly so there was plenty of time to explore. The kids found the hammock, some statues, chopped down logs to play on and seats and swings hidden in the trees. There are countless paths around Zomba Forest Lodge and I can imagine that you could stay for a week and still find different routes.
We dragged the kids out to the clearing to look at the sunset and the clouds and mist in the distance which was spectacular. It felt magical and it was only the kids wanting to play on the hammock that made us return.
Zomba Forest Lodge is a very intimate setting and we were pleased to see that the other guests staying in the other two rooms on our first night had a young baby. Everyone eats together round the table at 7pm, so seeing that the family had children meant I wasn’t going to be as worried about the children over dinner than I might have been have been had we been sharing the table with two couples looking for a peaceful time. My children are actually very good and polite it has to be said, but quiet they are not.
The food at Zomba Forest Lodge is what’s talked about most consistently on their Tripadvisor reviews and rightly so. The food descriptions are quirky and written up on a blackboard in the morning. You don’t quite know what’s going to arrive but when it does it is very very good. A clever use of local ingredients made with European flare meant over the course of two days we ate meals including Moroccan Tagine, stuffed breads, quiche, chicken and sweet potato surprise. Matt and I loved the food and ate everything that was lovingly prepared. The quality of the ingredients and the way it was cooked really was quite exceptional. It was also nice to sit around a table with people and discuss everything and anything.
For the children the fantastic menu didn’t work quite so well as mine aren’t really that adventurous. They tried their best with the dinner on the first evening but gratefully had children’s tea (tomato pasta) at 6pm the next evening with the Lynn children too (yes we bumped into them again). If your children are a little fussy like mine it’s something worth considering.
From Zomba Forest Lodge you can take part in some community activities and we took the opportunity to visit YODEP arranged by Responsible Safari Company. We attended a local church and took part in some mill grinding.
The grinding was a lot harder than it looked and the women giggled at Jenny and I trying to do it. The kids (and the women) also loved their photos being taken and I’ve sent these onto the organiser of YODEP so he can hopefully share them with the kids.
Our church visit took a little longer than expected (close to 2 hours!) so we sadly didn’t get to learn all about how to make bricks and have a dancing lesson from some of the local kids, but you know there is always next time. The passionate preacher and the wonderful uplifting singing from the women in the village will stay with us for a long time.
You can see some of the activities we did, in our video too.
Our two days at Zomba Forest Lodge were fabulous and I’d highly recommend it as a place to stay and to put on your Malawi Itinerary. It’s quirky and unique and I’m quite sure we will never stay anywhere quite like it again. Check out their website for booking details.