Northern Zambia, north of the Northern Kafue and the Luangwa Valley, covers a vast but relatively rarely-visited area – and includes some magical, very remote spots. Game generally isn’t prolific here, but visitors are even rarer, so it is a perfect experience of rural Zambia and some spectacular individual sights.
Kasanka National Park is a gem of a park. Though small, it encompasses a wide variety of vegetation zones from dry evergreen forests, to permanent papyrus swamps and moist forests – close in ecology to rainforests of central Africa.
This park doesn’t have huge herds of big game, but it does have some unusual species, like the rare slender-snouted crocodile. It also has a superb tree-hide where the agile can have their best chance in Africa to observe one of Africa’s shyest antelope: the sitatunga. Kasanka is great place for birdwatching, and from mid October to mid December you can see an enormous gathering of up to 15 million fruit bats.
There are two places to stay in Kasanka National Park: Wasa Lodge and Luwombwa Lodge.
The Bangweulu Wetlands is an enormous flooded wilderness of islands, reed-beds and lagoons – surrounded by game-rich short-grass floodplains and forests. Its home to lots of wildlife and also many local fishing communities. Bangweulu’s main attraction is its prolific birdlife, including the amazing shoebill stork, although they’re rivalled by the sight of tens of thousands of endemic black lechwe on the plains around the wetlands.
Bangweulu is fascinating for wildlife enthusiasts and Africa-philes, but travel here is not always easy, so it’s not ideal for a first safari. Shoebill Island Camp is only practical place to stay here:
In the area between the Bangweulu Wetlands and the Luangwa Valley are a number of places that experienced Africa travellers will seek out. Most are most easily visited as part of a trip which travels from the wetlands to the Luangwa Valley.
For example, the Livingstone Memorial marks the spot where, in 1873, David Livingstone’s African explorations finally ended, in the village of Chitambo. A simple stone monument marks the spot where his heart was buried. If you’re lucky, the present Chief Chitambo, great-grandson of the chief who welcomed Livingstone, will guide you from his village to the memorial, which is moving in its austerity. It’s easy to come here on a day-trip while based at Kasanka, and it is sometimes possible to drop in as part of a two-day 4WD transfer from Kasanka to Bangweulu, via Lake Waka Waka.
Similarly, the Kundalila Falls are one of Zambia’s most beautiful waterfalls (Kundalila are means ‘cooing dove’). It’s set in forests where the clear Kaombe River drops off the Muchinga Escarpment. There are spectacular views of the water cascading into the valley below, and you’ll almost never see anyone else here.
North of Kundalila, Nsalu Cave is a huge, gaping arch halfway up a 100-metre-high granite outcrop, in the middle of nowhere. The rudimentary paintings, made by late Stone-age and Iron-age settlers, form a giant curved mural, perhaps twenty metres wide. Geometric lines and swirls, ladder-shapes and sun images overlapped in red, white and buttermilk yellow.
If you’re being driven to Shoebill, then overnight here to break your journey. Beside the shores of the clear lake Waka Waka is a small, rustic rest camp with long-drop toilets that also makes a good base for a morning walk to enjoy some excellent views of the lake and its surrounding hills.
Shiwa Ng’andu Manor House is a destination in its own right; a magical English manor house overlooking a picturesque lake, that’s steeped in history. Since 2002 it has been carefully restored and it’s one of the continent’s most original and fascinating places to stay. It’s easily reached as an add-on to any safari which visits the Luangwa Valley, or as part of an adventurous trip around Northern Zambia.
Reached by a short flight from the Luangwa, the Mutinondo Wilderness is a private 100km2 reserve near the edge of the Luangwa escarpment, this pristine area protects verdant woodlands and wetland areas sprinkled with granite whalebacks (large smooth hills), crystal-clear rivers and stunning waterfalls.
Visit the rustic but beautiful Mutinondo Wilderness Lodge to explore on your own, or we can arrange for a guide to accompany you.