Nestled in mountain foothills a sugar lump’s throw from Thyolo, the tea capital of Malawi, the Satemwa Estate was first established in 1923 by Maclean Kay, a Scottish immigrant from Ayrshire.
Boasting wonderful views, rolling tea gardens and pristine mahogany forest within the estate grounds, it remains one of Malawi’s oldest and most respected tea producers, currently managed by third generation members of the Cathcart-Kay family, who have transformed two of the original homes on the estate, Huntingdon House and Chawani Bungalow, into comfortable accommodation for travellers keen for a taste of times past.
Re-opened in September 2009, the former family residence of Maclean Kay was originally built in 1928 and is one of Malawi’s most historic homes. Recently refurbished to offer 5 suites (sleeping a maximum of 12 guests), the House (which comes with a team of professional staff) is full of colonial flourishes and character. The historic cosmetics include a grand lounge with roaring wooden fireplaces, a resident priest’s quarters, silver service dining room and a wrap-around veranda with archways framing the tropical garden. The House is available for stays on a bed & breakfast, half board or full board basis.
Another historic tea planter’s bungalow set in well-tended gardens with great views of the Mulanje Massif on a clear day, Chawani has been sensitively refurbished and offers 4 bedrooms (1 of which is en suite), sleeping up to a maximum of 8 guests. A fully-equipped kitchen means the house can be booked exclusively as a self-catering option or alternatively meals can be prepared on site by local staff using fresh produce from the estate, on a bed & breakfast, half board or full board basis.
Activities available from both houses of Satemwa compromise of inviting walking trails, horse riding, mountain biking and excellent bird watching opportunities (the nearby forest reserve is home to the rare Alethe Choloensis, White-winged Apalis and Greenheaded Oriole.) Also on offer is quad biking, clay pigeon shooting, tea and coffee tasting and cultural visits to local community projects. At the adjacent Thoyolo Sports Club, guests from the estate can enjoy a 9 hole golf course, tennis, squash, bowls and a swimming pool. A ‘must’ during a visit at Satemwa is a trip to the picnic point on Mt. Thyolo (complete with braai facilities) with panoramic views towards Mulanje in the southeast and the Shire Valley to the west – a wonderful spot for sundowners.
As part of Satemwa’s social responsibility program, they provide a number of welfare services, which are available to both staff and their immediate dependants. As the Estate’s management team further illustrate:
“The Satemwa Clinic is under the able hands of Mr. Charles Mwale (Clinical Officer) and continues to provide professional medical services to all employees, and their immediate families and to all students at the Satemwa Primary School. There is a 3 bed antenatal facility and an under 5 clinic on Mondays that is provided in partnership with Government and is accessible to all the communities on and around Satemwa. A 24 hour ambulance service funded by the company takes any referrals to hospitals within the district of Thyolo.
Satemwa supports divisional sporting activities which give workers a breather after a week’s hard work in the fields.
The Satemwa Primary School seats (around) 900 pupils. Education is provided in partnership with government who provide the teachers, learning materials and curriculum, whilst Satemwa provides land, buildings and other structural needs such as teachers housing. This year, Satemwa sent 19 pupils to various secondary schools. The school also recently benefited from tea Charity tea Fund which saw construction of a new school black last year.
Environment is one of the issues that top the agenda of our CSR (Corporate and Social Responsibility) program and deforestation has long reached crisis point in Southern Malawi. Other than regular tree planting on Satemwa, we have a program aimed at training workers and members of the community on the use of stoves that use less firewood. The next phase of the project will see the introduction of these stoves into all workers housing.”
In 2004 Satemwa signed up to the nine principles of the UN Global Compact.