Inselbergs of Mutinondo Wilderness

These massive majestic domes of granite, also called whalebacks, are a spectacular feature of the Mutinondo Wilderness Area. They are extremely rewarding to climb, offering great views for just a little effort - or some light clambering - and are a dominant feature of the beautiful views from the lodge, campsites and hiking trails. The steeper faces offer a challenge for brave and well-equipped rock climbers - at their own risk!

Mutinondo's extraordinary landscape is a product of its geology. The exposed Irumide belt is a Mesoproterozoic (1-1.6 billion-year-old) crustal province which runs northeast from central Zambia towards the Tanzanian border, spanning approximately 900km. To the East of the belt is the Muchinga Escarpment, which drops down into the Luangwa Valley, an extension of the Great Rift Valley. Around 1 billion years ago, magmatic intrusions into the Irumide Belt led to the formation of a series of plutonic rocks which crystallised below the surface. Some of these rocks now outcrop as large granitic inselbergs, following erosion and subsidence of the surrounding country rock.

The highest of these granite Inselbergs (also known as whalebacks - so at Mutinondo you can go whale-watching with a difference) is called Mayense, which rises to 1684m above sea level - about 240m above the surrounding plateau. On a clear day, from the top of Mayense you can see into the Luangwa Valley, over 30km away, or just enjoy a horizon to horizon view of unspoilt bush.

The inselbergs and the area around them are also archaeologically rich, which you can read about on our Archaeology Page

The following is a charming description of our inselbergs from 'Mutinondo - An example of miombo for the visitor' by Paul Smith reproduced with permission from Plant Talk, the quarterly periodical on plant conservation worldwide (

"Perhaps the most striking feature is the inselbergs. These granite leviathans dwarf the woodland and dambo below, and by night or day their great amorphous forms conjure up weird and wonderful creatures in the mind's eye. 'The caterpillar' seems to crawl through the miombo mulch, and Mayense peak rears its head like a lion calling after rain."