Zambia with Zambian Ground Handlers
Certainly in the UK, despite our current lockdown, there has been exciting news of vaccinations, quarantines being reduced and more efficient testing processes being put in place to open up international travel, so hopefully we will start to see consumer confidence returning again everywhere.
We are incredibly passionate about Zambia here at Honour Way, so we really wanted to share Nick’s presentations with you. They are incredibly helpful in terms of general areas and grasping a true understanding of the well and the lesser known National Parks. It shows a side of Zambia many don’t know so well or sell much, but also shows options for other times of year in Zambia outside of the main dry season.
The South Luangwa National Park
The South Luangwa and The Lower Zambezi are two very different river valleys. We’re going to start by looking at their geography and why they are so good for safaris. The singularly most important element of the Luangwa Valley is the oxbow lagoon system which is caused by the meandering of the river. The Luangwa River snakes backwards and forwards and eventually cuts off the corners creating an oxbow lagoon. For a couple of kilometres the lagoons are are littered on both sides of the river. These lagoons create a belt of land either side the river that is rich in alluvial soil, which is brilliant for flora, trees and forests. This habitat is perfect for wildlife meaning that the animals live close to the river in these areas. The annual flooding of this undammed river during the rainy season then adds to the richness of the habitats close to the river.
Norman Carr was instrumental in establishing the South Luangwa as a destination. Petitioning the government to build an airport and the bridge into the Mfuwe area of the National Park. The special elements of the safari has earned itself the reputation as being home to the walking safaris pioneered by Norman Carr back in the 50s. The key difference to the way we walk in Zambia and the Luangwa what we’re doing is trying to do our game viewing on foot, sneaking up on big game on foot – up close and personal to the game. It’s a very exciting and thrilling way to see game and you are part of the whole experience. That is the singular important difference.
The majority of the camps and lodges are located in close proximity to the Luangwa River. Most camps are in close proximity to the Luangwa River. The Eastern boundary of the National Park is 60/ 70 miles long, so although on a map they may look close together they are really spread out. There is a great variety of camp experience enough to satisfy any needs and demands of any of your clients. To larger lodges simple or luxurious to rustic simple remote bush camps and then everything in between.
The main dry season runs in the Luangwa runs from the end of May through until the end of October. During the Green Season Time and Tide (Kakuli) and Robin Pope Safaris (Nsefu) operate one of their bush camps. The Bush Camp Company keep one of their camps open until middle of January and then the BCC close February and March and then open all April, so you can do a bush camp 12 months a year.
The Lower Zambezi
The Luangwa and the Zambezi are completely different. The Luangwa is a natural flowing river where the Zambezi River has been dammed at Lake Kariba and as a result creates a different style or river. The Kafue River comes into the Zambezi River and flows into the Lower Zambezi. In the Zambezi there are beautiful little islands and sandbars rather than oxbow lakes. The park extends up into the hills and most of the game is found on this flat stretch of rich land between the river and the hills.
The Zambezi is navigable all year around and you are able to get out on boats 12 months of the year. The wide variety of activities in the Lower Zambezi makes it really interesting addition to a Zambian itinerary with safari boating, canoeing, tiger fishing, walking and game drive activities all on offer.
The South Luangwa and the Lower Zambezi are such a different experience – that the combination is phenomenal and they are often considered the two National Parks to visit. The game viewing used to be richer in the South Luangwa however, over recent years the game sightings have improved dramatically in the Lower Zambezi so they are quite comparable. There are fewer operators in the Lower Zambezi however, like the Luangwa you have a variety of camps and lodges to fit any of your clients needs. The in-between ground is often what we go for and there are so many options.
The main rains fall in the Lower Zambezi between November and March/ April however the Royal Zambezi is open 12 months a year however during the main rains activities are quite boat based.
The Kafue National Park
Zambia’s largest and oldest National Park covering an area of 22,400 square km. The Kafue is the longest river lying wholly in Zambia and is the biggest tributary to the Zambezi. The Kafue is best place and the very few places to come across cheetah in Zambia and it has a huge species of antelope species including Roan and Sable. The Kafue is the only place in Zambia where you can get a balloon ride from Wilderness Safaris’ Busanga Plains.
You can easily split the Kafue into three different sections the southern, the central and the north in the Busanga Plains. The southern part of the Kafue doesn’t offer an awful lot. Most international guests focus on the central areas and the Busanga Plains. The central part is easily accessible by road and is about three and a half hours from Lusaka. In the central areas you have Green Safaris’ Ila Safari Lodge and Mkambe Camp. These camps can be a spring board to the northern Kafue. Typically people drive in and spend a couple of nights in the central area before heading up to the Busanga Plains before flying onward. The Busanga Plains is the jewel in the crown of the Kafue National Park. There are beautiful open plains and it is great for wildlife viewing. Wilderness Safaris have two camps, Green Safaris are opening Chisa Busanga Camp next season and Mkambe Plains Camp. In between the northern and central section you also have Jeffrey and McKeith. Typically we would get guests to finish their safari in the Busanga Plains so that we can fly them onto their next destination.
The North Luangwa
The North Lunagwa lies upstream from its sister park the South Luangwa. It is accessible by light aircraft from the South Luangwa (Mfuwe). The only international operator in the North Luangwa are Remote African Safaris and their camps are Mwaleshi camp, on a tributary of the Luangwa, and Takwela camp, on the confluence of the Mwaleshi River and the Luangwa. They are both very rustic mostly walking safaris – Mwaleshi is walking only and Takwela you can do walking and driving. It is very wild and remote here meaning there is very little footfall in the North Luangwa, so it is unlikely that you would see anyone else during your safari. North Luangwa is the only place in Zambia where you will have the chance to come across black rhino, as there is a big re-introduction programme.
Luambe National Park
There is only one camp here, Luambe Camp on the Luangwa River. Accessed by road from the main area of the Mfuwe area. Very similar habitats to what you might find in the South Luangwa however, you would get the whole National Park to yourself.
Kasanka National Park
Kasanka is a relatively small but wonderful National Park. in the north west area of Zambia and. Between the Luangwa and Kasanka is the water shed which is often referred to as the back bone of Africa. That line is interesting from an ecological perspective as you get a variety of different species north of this line especially from a birding perspective that you can’t find in the Luangwa. Here you will find sitatunga antelope during a stay here. Here is Wasa Lodge is not the most luxurious of accommodations but it is really the only option in Kasanka. You don’t visit for this reason you typically go to see the fruit bat migration from November through until most of December. It is the largest mammalian migration on the planet with 15 million straw coloured fruit bats arriving in a relatively small mashatu forest and it really is a stunning phenomenon.
Kasanka is often combined with the Bangweulu Wetlands, which is just to the north. Typically one would private charter into Kasanka and then onto Bangwuelu. There is a camp there called Shoebill Camp which has been built by the parks. The great news is that the Copingers from Remote Africa Safaris have taken over the running of the camp. That was supposed to happen this year but they will hopefully be running it in 2021. They have their own fixed winged plane, so it will be easy to combine the South and North Luangwa very easily. It is the only place in Zambia that you can find the Shoebill and from a birding perspective is a special tick. Because of the wetlands the birding up there is incredible and you will see a lot of species there that you will not find in Zambia.
Luiwa Plains National Park
In the West province, west of the Zambezi River, Luiwa Plains National Park. Vast plains and savannah area that floods seasonally and there is something really quite different about this National Park. It has been more recognised recently with Time and Tide King opening Lewanika camp. There are two short seasons in Luiwa from May to June and then November to December. The camp is open longer than that but these are two times that game viewing is at its best. In November the wildebeest are calving, wandering across the plains in a mini migration. There are lions and wild dogs here but the apex predator really is hyena. It is remote as it is an expensive two hour caravan flight to get out to Luiwa and then Time and Tide normally operate a helicopter to camp.
Livingstone – Victoria Falls