Looking east from Fort Mangochi
Skull Rock and Fort Mangochi
These two splendid locations share the same access route and is our favourite walking destination outside of Namizimu Forest.

Skull Rock or “Mwale wa Kopi” is a truly amazing example of nature as artist, with a perfectly proportioned rocky outcrop overlooking the Rift Valley that resembles a huge human skull hundreds of feet high.

Fort Mangochi meanwhile is the work of man, but a fine bit of work it is, and built in one of the finest locations possible for a defensive fort in this wild bit of Africa.

This is an easy day walk, but the location warrants more, and we encourage those with time to consider making a high camp at Fort Mangochi.

Walking to Skull Rock
Leaving Namizimu by 4x4 vehicles early in the morning, we drive towards the dawning sun along the main Mozambique road until we turn off at Jalasi and turn south on a dirt track and head south towards Mangochi Forest Reserve.

The approach from the village of Jalasi is undoubtedly the best route to enjoy Skull Rock from a distance, as it grabs one’s attention as soon as it comes into view. From miles away the huge stone wall with its weirdly sculptured human face, stares down at all who approach, with its ancient cavernous eyes and stony grin.

Parking up at Skull Rock Estate, we find the correct trail (some times not easy) and head up the ancient track. The day’s effort is felt in the first hour of steep ascent, which slackens off as the wooded coll is reached and we leave the track that goes to Fort Mangochi.

The direct route starts with a rough scramble up the approach flank until we gain access round the “back of the neck” to the massive rocky shoulders. The huge skull itself looks unclimbable to most walkers and climbers and perhaps still is? All one can do is traverse the shoulders to take in the spectacle.

Descent down to the coll is quick, offering a choice of either a swift descent to the vehicles, or onward to Fort Mangochi.

Walking to Fort Mangochi
At the pass where the route up skull rock bears off right, the route to the fort heads south east for a couple of miles. At some time of the year the elephant grass is so thick that much time can be lost if this is tackled without local knowledge.

Camping at Fort Mangochi
The beauty and splendour of this high plateau and the surrounding peaks close by means that there is a very good reason to make a camp within the protection of the fort’s 10 foot high walls. Evidence of wild elephant is clearly visible along the trails and water can be found at the fort.

History of Fort Mangochi
Fort Mangochi is one of the finest settings to find such a large enclosed fort. Built rapidly by a team of British and local soldiers in 1896-7. This is an ancient monument within the Government Forest Reserve so the normal rules of appropriate cultural and environmental behaviour apply.

Interesting Book
Mangochi: The Mountain, the people and the Fort, by P.A. Cole-King, Malawi Dept of Antiquities Publication no. 12
Skull Rock
Looking East from Fort Mangochi. Skull Rock - a true 'Wonder of Malawi'.
Strong walls
Defensive walls at Fort Mangochi. The old colonials always knew how to pick a good spot.
Skull Rock from afar Fort Mangochi Main Entrance
Skull Rock as seen from starting point. Fort Mangochi - Main Entrance.
Fort Mangochi chimney. Fort Mangochi outer doorway.

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