The Mosi-O-Tunya National Park is situated along the upper Zambezi stretching from and including the Victoria Falls for about 12kms up the Zambezi River above the Falls.
It is only 66 square kilometres but there are plans to extend the park further up river. Because the park is small, it affords a wonderfully relaxing drive alongside the river for much of the circular route and the wide variety of species can be easily seen.
The Park provides a home for numerous antelope species, zebra, giraffe, warthog, a variety of birds and smaller animals.
Elephants cross the Zambezi and freely walk through the park and the surrounding area.
There are several white rhinos, who are breeding successfully in the park. These are the only rhinos to be seen in Zambia as its previously large population has been completely eliminated through poaching.
One can take a pleasant drive around the park in a couple of hours and all the species there should be seen at close range. Since there are no predators, they are very relaxed and afford some excellent photo opportunities.
Visitors can drive their own vehicles through the park or go on organised open vehicle game drives and recently elephant back safaris have been introduced.
This remote park in the far west is pristine wilderness, which to the ardent bush lover, makes it its biggest attraction and the rewards are great.
The game is spread out across the plains and takes some driving around to find. But to come upon a vast herd of blue wildebeest, a prowling wild dog, a dozing pride of lion in this forgotten piece of Africa is especially fascinating because of its completely natural and uncommercialised state. The birdlife is abundant and the very dramatic storms and lightning rising up on the horizon, contrasting with the green and gold grasslands create views of spectacular magnitude and fantastic photographic opportunities.
In November, with the onset of the rains, the massive herds of blue wildebeest arrive from Angola, traversing the plains in their thousands, very often mingling with zebra along the way or gathering around water holes and pans.
Other unusual antelope found include oribi, red lechwe, steinbuck, duiker, tsessebe and roan. The Jackal, serval, wildcat, wild dog as well as lion and hyena are the predators of the area. Many birds migrate here during the rains and massive flocks of birds can be seen as they migrate south. Some of the more notables are the white bellied bustards, secretary bird, red billed and hottentot teals, crowned and wattled cranes, long tailed whydah, sooty chat, yellow throated longclaw, large flocks of black winged pratincoles around the pans, fish eagle, tawny eagle, marshall eagle, woodland kingfisher, pink throated longclaw. The plains are dotted with woodlands which also make for excellent birding.
August to December. In November as the rainy season begins, dramatic cloud formations erupt as the storms build, creating spectacular skylines and with the onset of the rains, carpets of flowers explode around the pans. This is also the time when large herds of blue wildebeest migrate across the plains from neighbouring Angola.
Liuwa Plain is best accessed via one of three tour operators offering ‘mobile safaris’.
Private access demands at least two 4WD vehicles, complete self sufficiency in terms of fuel, catering and camping supplies as well as a healthy degree of offroad driving experience. Permission for private entry can be obtained from the National Parks and Wildlife Services office at Chilanga (near Lusaka) or Kalabo, the closest town to the plains. Kalabo is also the place to hire a guide. This is essential as it is very easy to get very lost.
The road from Katima Mulilo to Kalabo is fine up to the Nangweshi/Senanga ferry. From that point to Kalabo, estimate two days to do the 180 kilometres - low range driving over very sandy roads. There is no fuel available at Kalabo so carry extra supplies.
Accessing Kalabo from Mongu depends on the seasonal levels of the Zambezi - enquire at Mongu’s port office for available options which range from the Post Boat to two ferries.
The Great Bangweulu Basin, incorporating the vast Bangweulu Lake and a massive wetland area lies in a shallow depression in the centre of an ancient cratonic platform, the North Zambian Plateau. The basin is fed by 17 principle rivers from a catchment area of 190 000 kms2 , but is drained by only one river, the Luapula.
The area floods in the wet season between November in March, receiving an average annual rainfall of about 1200mm, but 90% of the water entering the system is lost to evapo-transpiration. The resultant effect is that the water level in the centre of the basin varies between one and two meters, causing the floodline to advance and retreat by as much as 45 kilometres at the periphery. It is this seasonal rising and falling of the flood waters that dictates life in the swamps.
Man has inhabited the periphery of the swamp area for hundreds of years as it has always provided a rich source of food. But the area is so incredibly vast, it is largely left to the the multitudes of wildlife that dwell of the rich resources. The current inhabitants of the Northern Province are descendants of a series of emigrations from the Congo Basin.
The earliest settlers were known as the Ba-twa or Wild Men by the more recent arrivals. Formerly they occupied the islands around the confluence of the Chambesi with the Luapula Rivers and lived by fishing and hunting from temporary shelters. Today they have become assimilated into the surrounding tribes building permanent villages, cultivating and speaking the same Bemba language.
The higher ground surrounding the Bangweulu is dominated by miombo woodland intersected by numerous dambos. The floodplain itself is dominated by grasslands varying in composition according to the depth and duration of annual flooding. For the most part, the swamps consist of areas of open water surrounded by permanent dense stands of Papyrus grass and Phragmites reeds which are only accessible by shallow canoe via an intricate network of narrow channels.
In contrast, the temporarily inundated floodplains, grasslands and woodlands provide for a greater range of vegetation types and as a consequence a greater diversity in the bird an animal species who inhabit these areas at various times of the year.
Numerous termite mounds are scattered over a wide area. They are such a feature of this environment that Livingstone once described the Bangweulu floodplain as "a world of water and anthills." These raised mounds act as small islands safe for any flooding and allow the survival of various tree seedlings. Over time these trees have become well established with the result that a woodland has developed and contains good examples of water berry, Syzygium cordatum, sausage tree Kigelia africana and several figs, to name but a few.
The drive to the southern edge of the swamps where Shoebill and Nsobe camps are, takes about 12 hours from Lusaka, the last stretch of 140kms taking six hours. Take the Great North Road from Lusaka, turn right just after Kapiri Mposhi towards Mpika. Take the Samfya/Mansa turning left after Serenje. Turn right 10kms after the Kasanka turnoff, towards the Livingstone memorial and remain on this track, keeping right at the memorial fork, for 70 km, towards the village of Chiundaponde.
Another route is to go directly to the Lavushi Manda turnoff on the Great North road, just below Mpika, which leads straight to Chiundaponde. From the village, make your way to Chikuni Island and then straight ahead to Shoebill Camp or left to Nsobe Camp. You can ask for directions at the WWF camp at Chikuni, as it is very easy to get lost after you leave the village.
If driving, make sure you have adequate fuel and spares as this is an extremely remote part of the country and help is a long way off. It is advisable to let someone know when you are leaving and when you expect to arrive or return. There are radio facilities at Shoebill camp and a National Parks & Wildlife Services office at Chiundaponde.
Access is also by small charter aircraft to an airstrip just on the edge of the swamps.
During the rains (November to March) the insects are more prolific but the birdlife is phenomenal. All trips in and around the swamps are by boat. The Chimbwe floodplain will be inundated and to attempt to drive to Shoebill Island Camp will be impossible. There is a raised causeway leading from the last village before the floodplain, Muwele, to Chikuni. A small banana boat is used to reach the Camp from Chikuni, a trip of 4 kms through tall grasses and reeds.
Depending on the extent of the rain during the summer, the floodplain dries out sufficiently to allow the passage of 4x4 vehicles by mid to late April. It is then possible to observe the black lechwe at close quarters and also to reach another raised causeway that leads to Shoebill camp.
By June/July, much of the floodplain is dry and the lechwe have moved closer towards the permanent swamp and Shoebill Camp. It also becomes possible to take walks from the camp and experience the strange sensation of walking on the floating mats of vegetation which grow on the surface of the once open water. While the number of birds around at this time of year is still extensive, the number of species drops with the departure of the summer migrants.
August is very much the middle of winter in the swamps, and although the daytime temperatures are pleasant it can be extremely cold at nights with temperature dropping to freezing.
One of the best reasons for coming to this unusual watery wilderness is the remarkable experience of this infinite flat expanse. The views to the horizon seem endless and one imagines one can almost see the curve of the planet. The birdlife is just magnificent and the sight of thousands upon thousands of the endemic black lechwe, unforgettable.
Vast open floodplains, several kilometres wide exist at the periphery of the permanent swamps. These may lie under a blanket of water from a few centimetres to a meter deep from 3 - 6 months a year depending on the extent of the summer rainfall. These shallow waters provide ideal feeding grounds for huge numbers of indigenous birds as well as numerous summer migrants, many who will have travelled the length of Africa to winter-over in the swamps. White and pink backed pelicans, wattled cranes, white storks saddle billed storks, spoonbills and ibises in flocks numbering in the hundreds as well as many species of the smaller waders, are a common but dramatic sight when the waters are rich in small fish, shrimps and snails.
One of the most rare and elusive birds in Africa, the shoebill stork, Balaeniceps rex, which is in fact closer to the pelican family than a stork, favours the Bangweulu swamps as one of their last remaining habitats and during the early months following the rains, this strange looking bird can regularly be seen on the fringe between the permanent swamps and the floodplains.
Other fairly rare birds that are reasonably abundant in the area include the swamp fly-catcher, marsh tchagra, marsh whydah and the white cheeked bee-eater. The ground hornbill and Denham’s bustard are also a common sight as they patrol the grassland for large insects.
The floodplains simply teem with birds including pratincoles, ruff by the thousand, crowned cranes, Montagu’s and Pallid Harriers. The shallow waterlines abound with ducks, geese, jacanas, spoonbills, pelicans and occasionally flamingos. Other notables are the slatey egret, black egret and goliath heron. Watch out too for the swamp fly catcher, white cheeked bee-eater and the rosy breasted longclaw.
With wetlands, grasslands and woodlands in such close proximity, a great diversity of birds can be seen in a relatively small area and to date nearly 400 species have been recorded here.
Unique to the floodplains of the Bangweulu swamps is the water loving black lechwe (Kobus lechwe smithemani), which can gather in herds of up to 10 000, following the floodwaters as they recede during the year.
The shy but attractive sitatunga, Tragelaphus spekei, is associated more with denser vegetation and has hooves especially adapted for walking on the thick mats of floating vegetation. These antelope are good swimmers and can spend the greater part of the day immersed in water and when disturbed, can submerge with just their nose visible.
Course grasslands are found bordering the floodplains where the land is imperceptibly higher and not subject to such extensive flooding. The Oribi, a shy and petite antelope, enjoys the long grasses and can frequently be seen in the late afternoon when small family groups stand up to feed.
The areas surrounding the termite mounds, characteristic of the swamps is an environment much favoured by the tsessebe, the world’s fastest antelope, which can be seen in herds of over a hundred strong.
Also seen in the woodlands are common duiker and reedbuck. Less frequently roan, wild dog and vervet monkeys, as well as smaller more nocturnal mammals such as mongooses and bushpigs.
Until the early 1980’s there used to be lions in the swamps that preyed on the lechwe and sitatunga. But with the increase in human activity around the edge of the swamps, they have unfortunately been eradicated.
Although rarely seen, leopards do exist while hyenas and jackals are often heard at night and occasionally encountered on night drives.
Later in the year, when the flood waters have receded, buffalo and to a lesser extent elephant move into the area to feed on the plentiful grasses. Numerous crocodile and hippo are found in the permanent water channels or lurking in the papyrus reeds.
The swamps are a protected wetland having international importance under the ramsar Convention. The area is ecologically very sensitive and great care should be taken when driving around the floodplains in the dry season. Stick to existing tracks and keep driving to a minimum.
This peaceful sanctuary, situated on the south western edge of the Lake Bangweulu basin, is one of Zambia’s smallest national parks. It's 450 km2 however, are so well endowed with rivers, lakes and wetlands, forests, lagoons, meadows and dambos that it supports a uniquely wide range of animals and abundant birds and fish. Do not expect to see large herds of animals round every corner, but it is surely one of the most picturesque parks in Zambia with superb birdlife.
About ten years ago Kasanka was in danger of becoming yet another defunct national park due to rampant poaching. David Lloyd, a British expatriate, who had lived in Zambia for many years visited the park in 1985 and heard the crack of gunshots. He concluded that if there was still poaching there must still be animals there and set out to save the park from total depletion. He teamed up with a local farmer, sought funding and along with much of their own resources applied for official permission to rehabilitate the park. They built tourist camps, roads and bridges and set up the Kasanka Trust to raise funds for this community based project.
Slowly it began to earn a little money from tourists to help cover costs. Three years later the National Parks and Wildlife Services Department were sufficiently impressed to sign a 10 year agreement with the Trust allowing full management of the park in conjunction with National Parks & Wildlife Services and to develop it for tourism in partnership with the local community.
Today, although there is still none of the heart-stopping walking safaris amongst elephant herds or any lions brushing past your open vehicle as in the larger parks, there are some of the rarest birds and animals in the country found in the beautiful miombo woodlands, swamp forest, grasslands, floodplains and riverine bushveld, to be enjoyed in leisurely walks and drives. There are ample opportunities for fishing tigerfish, bream and barbel in the beautiful Luwombwa river. Boats are available for hire but you should bring your own tackle.
Recovering from depletion are hippo, sable antelope, and Liechtenstein’s hartebeest. The Puku, once reduced to a few hundred, today exceed 1500. There are fairly big herds of the swamp dwelling sitatunga, reedbuck, waterbuck, Sharpe’s grysbok and the rare blue monkey. Elephants also appear from time to time, and their numbers are expected to recover. Together with Kasanka’s noted birdlife, the animals can be seen on guided walks through the grassy plains, mushitu forests, large tracts of miombo woodland, riverine fringing forest and papyrus swamps.
Over 330 bird species have been recorded including such rarities as Pel’s fishing owl, the Pygmy goose, Ross’s loerie, osprey and the wattled crane. If you’re lucky you’ll catch a glimpse of the rare Shoebill stork.
Take the Great North Road from Lusaka, turn right just after Kapiri Mposhi and left after Serenje on the road to Samfya. Turn left at the 54km mark into the park at the Malaushi gate.
Not to be missed is the unique platform hide, 18m high in a giant mululu tree with a panoramic view over the Kapabi Swamp. The rare and elusive sitatunga aquatic antelope feeds in the swamps below in the early mornings or late afternoons. A startling site from the hide in November and December is the evening flight of around a million fruit bats leaving their roosts in search of food, darkening the sky for a few moments. The Chisamba Wamponde pan attracts large herds of puku, spur winged goose and saddle bill storks and hosts many hippos and waterbuck. Duiker are often seen in the woodlands fringing the pan. Lake Ndolwa is a beautiful and secluded spot where the shy shoebill stork has been seen in the papyrus reeds flanking the lake. Chikufwe Plain is particularly rewarding in the early hours of the morning during the dry season. The plain is the favourite haunt of the sable and also attracts large numbers of hartebeest, reedbuck and occasionally a few zebra and buffalo. This is an excellent birdwatching site too, especially for raptors such as the black breasted snake eagle.
Kasanka ia open all year round. Birding is especially good in the wet season from November to March when migrants arrive from the north. Game viewing is best in the dry months from May to October.
This 5000 square kilometre park in the south western corner of the country has been completely undeveloped and rarely visited until recently. It is surrounded by a 35 000 square kilometre Game Management Area. The Park is unfenced allowing free movement of the animals between the park and the GMA and allowing access to the Zambezi River. The Park and surrounding GMA form an important link in the migratory route of elephants from the bordering national parks of Botswana and Namibia. Although heavily poached, the park does offer a better refuge for elephants migrating from Angola where poaching and illegal hunting is rampant.
There are no permanent facilities and very few roads in the park. Three operators take guided safaris into the park at the moment. Maziba Bay Safaris being the only one with a tented camp there. Alternatively one can take ones own vehicle in but the lack of roads makes this a very difficult undertaking and a guide from the National Parks office in Sioma is highly recommended.
The park is home to over 3000 elephants, and several endangered species including roan, sable, wild dog and cheetah. Several antelope species are present, but quite shy - mostly puku, impala, roan, sable, zebra and kudu.
Due to the park’s proximity to Angola, it has suffered substantially from poaching during the civil war. However, plans are afoot to open the park to private management and hopefully the park’s wildlife will recover.
There is a brand new road all the way from Livingstone to Sesheke and Katima Mulilo.
There is a good tar road to Senanga and the last opportunity for fuel before Livingstone. Ten kilometres beyond Senanga is the Mangweshi ferry. Somewhat unreliable and pricey. but its the only viable route to Sioma and Katima Mulilo via a fairly good, if somewhat slippery, gravel road.
Nyika plateau, a beautiful montane highland area, lies on the Malawian border at the eastern most tip of Zambia. The park is actually an extension of the National Park on the Malawian side which incorporates the rest of the plateau.
Sitting 2000 metres above sea level, the views from the plateau are spectacular and with dramatic cloud formations on the horizon, this is surely one of the most beautiful places in Africa.
The higher elevations are open undulating grasslands with incisive valleys, creating panoramic views. Slopes with masses of wild flowers, rolling green hills and green protea bushes, rocky outcrops or koppies and small tropical forests. Due to the height it’s pleasantly warm during the day as opposed to the intense heat of the Valley in early summer.
Gameviewing on the plateau is enhanced by the varying vegetation and panoramic views. Some of the larger animals include zebra, roan, eland, bushbuck, reedbuck, warthog and leopard. Nyika is also known for its duiker, including the rare red duiker, but they do tend to be quite skittish.
Night drives offer much in the way of nocturnal activities; honey badgers, bushpigs, servals, civets, genets and bushbabies along with the nightjars who take up their nightly position in the middle of the dusty roads using the open space as a hunting ground for insects.
Walking is a delight in Nyika because of the views and the great variety of wildflowers. In October, there are masses of yellow Belichrysums or everlasting flowers, delicate pink and blue Gladioli, Pelagoniums, tiny Hibiscus and orchids like the spectacular blue disa that grows among exposed rocks. Dissotis shrubs give splashes of purple to the rocky outcrops. In November the proteas and giant lobelias come into bloom.
There are small patches of forest with huge buttress rooted trees, yellowwoods, ebony, red barked Hagenia trees and many others, some of which are draped with monkey vines of Lianas. Often blue monkeys can be heard calling in the woods.
The Chisanga Falls are a short hike down through the brachystegia woodlands with their new spring leaves emerging in rich burgundy colours, reminiscent of autumn. The falls vary from dry season to wet but there’s always a good rush of water falling no matter the season.
Birdwatching is excellent all year round but best between October and January, when migrant birds are present. The most challenging birds to see are the forest birds such as the bar tailed trogon, moustached green tinkerbird, mountain greenbul and yellow-streaked bulbul, the starred robin and Cape batis as well as the white tailed crested flycatcher and the eastern double collared sunbird among others.
Anytime of the year is good. The warm season (not exceeding 21 degrees C due to elevation) is from September to May, rains fall between December and March. When the sun goes down, even in summer, it can get very chilly. The cold season is from June to August and frosts may occur. Lots of warm clothing is essential at this time. The best colours occur from November to March after the rains have come, the rolling brown hills turn into carpets of green and flowers spring up everywhere. Migrant birds also expand the bird population dramatically. Game viewing however is better in the dry season.
Access to the park is only from the Malawian side which is open from 0600 to 17h00. Entrance fees can only be paid in Malawian Kwacha at the gate. There is also a Zambian entrance fee that can be paid at the resthouse. There are various ways to get to Nyika depending on which season you go and what kind of vehicle you have. In the dry season (April to October) the park can be reached in a normal 2WD from Chipata, via Lundazi. Cross over the border into Malawi via Mzimba and Mzuzu and then onto the Plateau. One can also approach from Mpika in Zambia then on to Isoka, (last stop for fuel in Zambia). On to Muyombe where you clear Zambian customs, then over to Katumbi in Malawi, clearing Malawi customs and to the plateau. In the wet season, if in 2WD, one should approach from Lilongwe in Malawi via Mzimba and Mzuzu. If you’re approaching from Zambia in the wet season, a 4WD is necessary to get up to Lundazi from Chipata, through the border with Malawi at Lusuthu then on to Mzimba, Mzuzu and the Plateau. 4WD is recommended for the less accessible areas in the park, but a 2WD is adequate for most roads in the park in the dry season. Extra fuel supplies also recommended, otherwise be sure to fill up in Rumphi in Malawi, just before the plateau.
Lochinvar, although not abundant in the larger mammals, is nonetheless a park of exceptional beauty and outstanding birding opportunities with over 420 recorded species in its 428 square kilometers.
The Park is situated on the southern edge of the Kafue Flats, a wide floodplain of the Kafue River between Itezhi tezhi dam in the west and Kafue Gorge in the east. The area extends for 33kms from the Kafue River in the north to low wooded hills in the south. It includes the large, shallow Chunga Lagoon which fluctuates considerably in size with variations in river levels. The varying vegetation makes it an interesting park to visit with floodplains, woodlands and termitaria
It is particularly well known for the large herds of Kafue lechwe, unique to the Kafue flats. Other antelope are the blue wildebeest, kudu, oribi and buffalo. Waterbirds are especially abundant.
The Kafue Flats floodplain, in the northern section, floods from the Kafue River, and here you’ll find thousands upon thousands of the endemic Kafue lechwe, one of three subspecies of lechwe found in Zambia. More than 30 000 of them make the flats their home and move seasonally according to the flood level.
At high water, massive herds may be seen along the upper floodline and in the open grassland further south. As the floods recede the herds move north into the grassy floodplain. They feed on grasses and herbs in water up to a meter deep and are often seen wading or swimming in the Chunga Lagoon. Mating takes place mainly between December and January. Males fight over small territories known as leks and then mate with several females.
In the Termitaria Zone, trees and shrubs grow only on the large termite mounds with grasses and herbs covering the rest of the area, which often becomes waterlogged during the rainy season. There are also many small grey mounds which are always unvegetated. The magpie shrike is one of the birds to be seen in the scattered trees of this zone and the surrounding grassy plains are grazed by buffalo, zebra, wildebeest and oribi. Very much in evidence is the ‘candelabra’ tree.
The southern area is mainly woodland dominated by Acacia albida and Combretum trees and free from flooding. Bushbuck kudu, baboon, bushpig and vervet monkey inhabit this area.
The Gwisho Hot Springs occur along a geological fault here, surrounded by lush vegetation and vegetable ivory palms. The water rises by convection from depths of over 1 km with temperatures ranging from 60° to 90° C. There are high concentrations of sodium, chlorine, calcium and sulphates in the water. A distinctive rock known as a ‘fault breccia’ occurs along the line of the fault and can be seen at Gwisho or the Lodge.
Sebanzi Hill is an archaeological site which has been excavated. It was the site of an iron age village, inhabited for most of the last century. Look out for The Baobab Tree with a hollow trunk large enough for several people to sleep in. Historically the tree was said to boast special powers which would protect passing travellers from wild animals. There is a curious rocky outcrop called Drum Rocks not far from the lodge, which produces a resonant sound when tapped. They are also part of local superstition in former times and passers-by had to stop and greet the rocks before proceeding.
There are no dangerous animals in the park, apart from buffalo and visitors are encouraged to walk about. Cars however should not leave the roads. Lochinvar is well renowned as a superb bird sanctuary featuring many different waterfowl, raptors, woodland species and migrants. 428 species have been recorded.
The floodplain is a wide almost flat area, with black clay soils, sloping almost imperceptibly towards the Kafue River. Vegetation is made up of grasses, sedges and herbs adapted to an annual pattern of flooding. Many plants grow up with the rising waters to become emerging aquatics at high flood. A few isolated winterthorns Acacia albida and palms Borassus aethiopum occur on the river banks. Hundreds of wattled cranes can be seen feeding on vegetable matter dug from the soft mud and the large marabou stork scavenging for stranded fish. Around Chunga Lagoon you’ll find the greater and lesser flamingo, the pink backed and white pelicans, African skimmer, Caspian tern, Baillon’s crake and the red knobbed coot. Many species of duck are abundant in this environment; the black duck, fulvous duck, whistling duck, pintail, garganey, southern pochard, pygmy goose, yellow billed duck and the Cape and European shovellers. Waders include avocet, the Mongolian, Caspian and Pacific golden plovers, whimbrel, turnstone, sanderling, little stint, spotted redshank, black tailed and bar tailed godwits and six species of sandpiper. Over 50 raptors occur including the black sparrowhawk, osprey, secretary bird, African cuckoo hawk and the peregrine falcon to name a few. Other interesting sightings include the white-bellied and black bellied korhaans, yellow throated sandgrouse, narina trogon, and Denham’s bustard.
The IUCN and WWF have designated the Kafue Flats a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. A sponsored management project for the area attempts to give local people an interest in conservation through both redistribution of tourist revenue and controlled harvesting of resources. The fishermen you may come across in the park are very much a part of this unique ecosystem and in many ways the humans and wildlife here are interdependent.
Anytime of the year is accessible although care is needed in the wet season after heavy rains. A 4WD is not necessary although advantageous in the rainy season as road conditions vary according to last rainfall and when the roads were last graded. Peak floods are reached in May at the end of the rainy season, while the water is at its lowest in October and November at the end of the dry season. The profusion of birds is extensive during the wet season when migrants arrive from the north. The game however is easier to spot in the dry season.
Lochinvar is only a three hour drive from Lusaka and is also accessible by charter aircraft. The access road is via the town of Monze on the Livingstone - Lusaka road. Monze is 282 kms from Livingstone and 186kms from Lusaka. Just north of the grain silos at Monze, turn west along a gravel road signposted at Namwala, then after about 25kms turn right at the signpost to Lochinvar, a distance of about 48 kms. The park gates are open between 6h00 and 18h00 and park fees are payable on entry.
Lying on the southern shores of Lake Tanganyika in the Northern most tip of Zambia, Sumbu National Park covers an area of just over 2000 square kilometers encompassing 100kms of some of the most pristine shores of this vast Lake. Its beauty ranges from sandy beaches, vertical cliffs, rocky coves and natural bays to the rugged hills and deep valleys of the interior. The Lufubu River winds its way through a valley flanked by 300 meter escarpments on either side.
The western boundary of Nsumbu National Park is buffered by Tondwa Game Management Area, an IUCN Category VIII Multiple Use Management Area of 54,000 ha. The much larger Kaputa Game Management Area (360,000 ha) is also contiguous with the National Park to the north-west and south-west therefore, with the National Park, completely surrounding Tondwa. Sumbu National Park and the two Game Management Areas thus form important parts of a network of Protected Areas in Zambia.
The Park is dissected from west to east by the sizeable and perennial Lufubu River, which also demarcates the eastern boundary of the Park up to the river's discharge into Lake Tanganyika. Nkamba and Chisala Rivers are ephemeral and smaller than the Lufubu, draining Tondwa Swamp into Nkamba and Sumbu Bays respectively, the former through an attractive valley with abundant wildlife in relation to other parts of the Park. Much of the park is covered by combretum thicket, but along the lakeshore there are many strangler figs and ‘candelabra’ trees along with the strange and interesting boulders balanced on top of one another.
Although wildlife numbers have declined, there is still a wide range of species present in the park and numbers are recovering, although sightings are not guaranteed. Roan, sable, eland, hartebeest as well as buffalo and zebra and occasionally elephant, lion and leopard. Bushbuck, warthog and puku often frequent the beaches. The rare blue duiker, a small forest antelope is one of the Park’s specialities along with the shy swamp dwelling sitatunga. Other species seen here are the spotted hyena, side-striped jackal, serval, impala, waterbuck and reedbuck This side of the Lake is teeming with crocodiles, so swimming is obviously not advisable. Some reach up to six meters in length. Hippos often emerge at night around the lodges to ‘mow’ the green grass.
Birdlife in the park is still prolific with many migrants coming down from East Africa and up from South African regions. The flamingo is one of the more spectacular migrants while some of the lakeshore inhabitants include the skimmer, spoonbill, whiskered tern along with many different storks, ducks and herons. Commonly encountered species around the lake include the grey-headed gull, lesser black-backed gull, white-winged black tern, whiskered tern, African skimmer, and of course the ubiquitous fish eagle. The palmnut vulture and Pel's fishing owl are also occasionally seen.
The Balancing Boulders are shrouded in myth and are of great significance to the local Tabwa people. On the Nundo Head Peninsula a large boulder balances upon three smaller ones and is the scene of annual ceremonies in which a white chicken is sacrificed to honour the God Nundo. Further east at Kabwembwa, just outside the Park there is a sacred place where the Spirit of the Lake resides. Local fishermen throw offerings into the water here whenever they pass as a sign of respect.
Nsumbu is famous for it’s excellent angling off the shoreline and some of the better catches are the large Nile perch, goliath tigerfish, vundu catfish, lake salmon and the tasty yellow belly or ‘nkupi’. Occasionally the much sought after golden perch is caught. The Zambian National Fishing Competition takes place here every year around March or April and some world records have been set here.
Access to Sumbu National Park and Nkamba Lodge is either by road via Mansa or Kasama to Sumbu and the Park Gate (1363 Km and 1188 Km respectively from Lusaka), by air from Lusaka (or Ndola) to Kasaba Bay / Nkamba Bay Airports (810 Km direct), or by boat from Mpulungu (no regular service). There are gravel tracks from Sumbu to Nkamba Lodge and Kasaba Bay, to the various scouts' camps, to the balancing rocks, and from Nkamba to the Lufubu River where a link with the Mbala road is planned but not yet completed . At present, most client transfers between the Lodges are carried out by boat.
Kasaba Bay Aerodrome is currently owned and operated by the Department of Civil Aviation. Other laterite airstrips are at Kasama and Mprokoso. There are currently no aviation refuelling facilities in the area, the nearest being at Ndola on the Copperbelt. Chartered flights are availabe to Kasaba and Nkamba Bay.
Whilst the National road network is gradually being improved, journeys can be long and arduous to this corner of Zambia, particularly on the unpaved portions. The most direct route from Lusaka is via Serenje, Mansa and Kawambwa on paved roads, then to Mporokoso on a good gravel road, and finally from Mporokoso to Sumbu on a poor gravel road. A longer route, but with better gravel roads, is via Nchelenge from Mansa on a paved road, thence to Sumbu via Kaputa on a good gravel road which runs through Mweru Wantipa National Park. Finally, there is a route via Kasama to Mporokoso, but this is in poor condition. Access to the lake via Mbala and Mpulungu is by paved road all the way, but there is no link yet between Mbala and Sumbu.
There are no reliable, regular road or lake transport services to Sumbu or the Lodges in the National Park. However, the Lodges have their own boats and vehicles available for short-distance transfers, and there are companies which have vehicles for hire. A ferry service between the major international ports on Lake Tanganyika is operated by Tanzania Railways, using the historical MV Liemba with a capacity for 500.
Kafue is Zambia’s oldest park and by far the largest. It was proclaimed in 1950 and is spread over 22 400 square kilometres - the second largest national park in the world and about the size of Wales.
Despite the Park’s proximity to both Lusaka and the Copperbelt, it has remained underdeveloped until the most recent years. Despite the depravations of poaching and lack of management, the Park is still a raw and diverse slice of African wilderness with excellent game viewing, birdwatching and fishing opportunities.
From the astounding Busanga Plains in the North-western section of the Park to the tree-choked wilderness and the lush dambos of the south., fed by the emerald green Lunga, Lufupa and Kafue Rivers, the park sustains huge herds of a great diversity of wildlife. From the thousands of red lechwe on the Plains, the ubiquitous puku, the stately sable and roan antelopes in the woodland to the diminutive oribi and duiker. The solid-rumped defassa waterbuck, herds of tsessebe, hartebeest, zebra and buffalo make for a full menu of antelope.
Large prides of lion, solitary leopards and cheetahs are the prime predators. There is a host of smaller carnivores from the side-striped jackal, civet, genet and various mongoose.
Birdwatching - especially on the rivers and the dambos is superb. Notables include the wattled crane, purple crested loerie and Pel’s fishing owl. Over 400 species of birds have been recorded throughout the park.
The Kafue and Lunga Rivers offer superb fishing opportunities, especially good bream, barbel and fresh water pike. Most lodges have fishing tackle, rods, boats and bait available. Musungwa Lodge in the south, hosts an annual fishing competition in September on Lake Itezhi Tezhi.
Spread over such a vast area, the Kafue National Park encompasses a variety of landscapes.
The spectacular Busanga Plains in the north is a vast flat expanse that stretches in all directions as far as the eye can see - one of Zambia’s most significant wetland resources and one of the few untouched by development or human activity. This vast watery wilderness, flooded in the wet season by several rivers and streams covers an enormous 750 square kilometres. It drains into the Lufupa River, a tributary of the Kafue River. The floods reach their height from March to May, after the rains and large herds of hippo are stranded in the shallow pools left as the water recedes in the dry season.
The lush grasslands are grazed by red lechwe in their thousands. Fifty years ago, lechwe were almost extinct in this area. The establishment of the national park has seen a phenomenal recovery in their numbers and it is a sight of great beauty to see them wandering in such vast herds across the golden plains. During the wet season they splash about in the shallow waters, and, interestingly enough, lion, who usually dislike water, can be seen chasing them through water at least a half a meter deep.
Other antelope found here are blue wildebeest, Lichtenstein's hartebeest, (frequently seen) buffalo, zebra, reedbuck, oribi, puku and impala (frequently seen) . Bushpig and warthog are also inhabitants of the plains. The shy swamp-dwelling sitatunga is found here, its widespread hooves enabling it to walk on the floating reedmats.Roan antelope are seen regularly in the northern sector as well as big herds of sable 30-40 strong.
The wealth of game on the plains are a big attraction for lions and prides of up to twenty are spotted regularly. Cheetah and Leopard also roam the plains, the cheetah being able to exercise their famous turn of speed, reaching up to 125 kilometres an hour. They are often seen on the plains.
In the south the Kafue runs into the Itezhi Tezhi Dam covering an area of 370 square kilometres. This vast inland sea is surrounded in parts by grassy plains, often ‘mowed’ by hippos. Rocky bays and stretches of submerged trees provide perfect perches for the many waterbirds inhabiting the area - fish eagles, cormorants, spoonbills and the stately goliath Heron. Elephant. buffalo, zebra and wildebeest frequent the dam. Itezhi is also an angling paradise and home to an annual fishing competition.
The waters of the Kafue River are home to large numbers of hippopotamus, crocodiles and water monitors.
Other species found in the Park include the rare and secretive yellow-backed duiker, common duiker, kudu, grysbok, warthog, bushpig, serval, hyena, jackal, baboon, vervet monkey, porcupine, civet, genet and many species of mongoose.
Unusual features are the knobbly termite mounds scattered across the plains. There are teak forests, large numbers of the striking ‘candelabra’ tree, and many large black boulders often looking deceptively like a herd of elephant. Much of the park is covered by ‘Miombo’ Woodland opening out into large grassy dambos. Hartebeest, wildebeest, buffalo and zebra are often found frequenting these areas.
Game is best sighted in the dry season from April to October, but the beauty of the park is at its best after the rains in the first half of the year. Many of the parks internal roads are inaccessible between November and April.
The roads are not well graded and the Park is best visited by air charter or robust four wheel drives. There are light aircraft airstrips at Ngoma, Puku Pan, Chunga, Hippo, Moshi and Lunga camps.
By Vehicle, Kafue can be reached from all four sides of the country.
From Lusaka take the road to Mumbwa, about 60 kilometres of which is due for resurfacing. If planning to visit the northern camps such as Hippo Camp, or Lunga Cabins, take the northern road out of Mumbwa. A 4WD is recommended on this route.
To reach the southern section of the park, continue through Mumbwa on the main road. Sixty six kilometres from Mumbwa is a left turning to Itezhi Tezhi Dam and the southern lodges. This previously appalling, once tar road has recently been graded back to gravel and is a lot better. It still requires a strong vehicle, although not necessarily a 4WD.
To reach the Busanga plains and nearby camps, take the road that goes through the park until you reach the Kafue River Bridge, shortly after the bridge is a gate on the northern side. This leads to Kafwala and Lufupa camps. There is no private camping allowed in the Busanga area. One must access the plains through an operator. It’s very easy to get lost here. Lufupa and Chunga are accessible without a four wheel drive in the dry season only. But 4x4 power is necessary for most other areas. Note that the road indicated on the map from Chunga to Ngoma on the left side of the River, clearly indicated on all maps, is no longer in existence and should not be attempted under any circumstance.
From the west, take the Mongu-Lusaka road which dissects the park.
From the north, coming from the Copperbelt , take the road to Solwezi and then to Kasempa. (It may be useful to note there is a very good hospital at Kasempa). From here, a reasonable graded track for 98 kilometres will take you to the Lunga Pontoon. To reach the northern Kafue gate, take the left turning 16 km before the pontoon.
From Livingstone travel to Kalomo on the road to Lusaka and turn left, shortly after this take a left turn towards Ndumdumwense gate at the southern edge of the park.
This remote tract of land covering 4636 square kilometres offers one of the finest wilderness experiences in Zambia, if not Africa itself. It is not open to the public and there are no permanent lodges there. Access is with one of the few safari operators granted permission to conduct walking safaris there.
The beauty of visiting this park is the truly remarkable opportunities to experience Africa as it was. It is wild and untouched and you are simply an unobtrusive witness to its natural beauty and drama.
Although declared a wilderness area, the North Park, was not open to anyone other than Game Department rangers for more than thirty years. In 1984, Major John Harvey and his wife Lorna sought permission to conduct walking safaris in the area and for many years were the only operators in this remote wilderness.
Then in 1989, Two scientists, Mark and Delia Owens, famed for their book ‘Cry of the Kalahari’, were granted permission to set up a research station in the park. Through their influence and as a means of helping to curb poaching in the area, the authorities allowed entry to the park to a few more safari operators who bring limited numbers into the park for guided walking safaris and game drives. Their efforts in the North Luangwa are documented in their book ‘Survivors Song / The Eye of the Elephant’.
There are very few roads and you’re unlikely to see anyone else for the duration of your trip. Like the South Park, it lies on the western bank of the Luangwa River bordered on the other side by the dramatic Muchinga escarpment which rises over 1000 meters from the valley floor. Its hazy outline can clearly be seen from the Luangwa river.
There are a number of tributary rivers running through the park and into the Luangwa which play an important ecological role in the Area. The crystal clear Mwaleshi river trickles down the escarpment in a series of small waterfalls. It recedes in the dry season, leaving many pools along the way, drawing the animals from the bush to its banks in search of water. No game drives are permitted in the Mwaleshi area, access is by organised walking safaris only.
Vegetation ranges from mopane woodland to riverine forest, open grasslands and acacia thicket, the beautiful sausage trees, vegetable ivory palms, red mahogany and leadwood.
The park is noted for its massive herds of buffalo, a spectacular sight if they’re seen on the run, kicking up dust for miles behind them. Large prides of lion inhabit the territory and it is not uncommon to witness a kill. Other common mammals are hyaena, Cookson’s wildebeest, bushbuck, zebra, warthog, baboon, vervet monkey, puku and impala. Elephant and leopard are also seen, but not as frequently as in the South Park. You are more likely to see hartebeest, reedbuck and eland here, however. All the birds in the South have been recorded here as well. Sighted regularly are the crowned cranes, purple crested loeries, broad billed roller, Lilian’s lovebird, the carmine bee-eater, giant eagle owl and Pel’s fishing owl. Occasionally seen are the bathawk, black coucal and osprey.
Although this park was officially opened to the public in 1984, the infrastructure in and to the park is not sufficiently developed to cater for the independent traveller. Special permission to enter it must be obtained from the Dept of National Parks and Wildlife Services in Chilanga or Mpika. This is not advisable due to its remoteness should anything go wrong with your vehicle. The best way to experience this park is with one of the operators running safaris here. One can fly in to either Mfuwe International Airport, about four hours away and be picked up, or be brought in from the Mpika side of the escarpment. There are two airstrips that are open for charter traffic.
See Package Tours in the index for pre-arranged trips in Zambia including North Luangwa
There are no lodges open to the public in the North Park but several operators run prebooked, organised safaris there.
Shiwa Safaris have two bush camps and their safaris begin at the Shiwa Ngandu estate over the western side of the escarpment.
Zambia's smallest owner-operated camp, Kutandala Camp catering for only six guests on each safari. All the rooms have an unrestricted view of the Mwaleshi River and its flood plain throughout the day.
Mwaleshi Camp situated on a scenic bend of the Mwaleshi River, a beautiful river within the North Luangwa National Park. It comprises of 3 attractive reed chalets, each with stunning views over the river. Game viewing is on foot, in a remote area renowned for its lion, huge herds of buffalo and endemic Cookson’s wildebeest.
See Package Tours in the index for pre-arranged trips in Zambia including North Luangwa
Operators in this region conduct safaris in the dry season from June to October when animal sightings are at their peak. Access in the wet season is virtually impossible.]]>