Malawi’s Nyika National Park is a sight unlike any other. With its high-altitudinal rolling grasslands often shrouded in a layer of mist and lush green forests that line the riverways, it is a place surrounded by incredible beauty. As Malawi’s oldest and largest national park, Nyika comprises some of the most outstanding and representative habitats for biodiversity on the planet, including the ancient juniper forest.

From the coastal areas of Greenland to far-flung reaches of central Asia’s high-altitudinal mountainous regions, juniper trees and shrubs are abundant throughout many parts of the northern hemisphere. In southern Africa however, the Juniperus procera, commonly known as the African juniper tree, is the only juniper species to occur south of the equator.

Although more commonly renowned for being used as a botanical in gin which you can learn more about here, the juniper tree is commonly used in the construction of houses, poles and the making of furniture. Not only is the timber popular, but the twigs, wood shavings and berries of the tree are used to extract juniper essential oil, which is said to have many uses and benefits including relieving bloating, aiding healthy sleep patterns and helping with digestion.

Able to reach a height of up to 50 metres, these fine specimens seen in the video are hundreds of years old with their massively impressive trunks reaching for the blue skies above. Forests like these are vitally important for our survival, as they provide the air that we breathe and provide a habitat for species that live in and under them. To protect this precious and unique tract of land, this patch of juniper trees was declared a forest reserve in 1948. Peace Parks Foundation and partners have continued to ensure the protection of this species and the conservation of its incredible habitat.