It dawned on me why I love travelling in Africa so much while I sat on the deck at Mukambi Safari Lodge, enjoying another awe-inspiring sunset over the Kafue River. The sky was painted hues of pink and orange while the soft ripples flowing past soothed my soul. What better place than wild Africa to satisfy the human need to be in touch with the five elements: earth, water, fire, wind and sky?
Until now only the filthy rich and a few brave hardcore travellers had the privilege of fully enjoying the Kafue National Park in Zambia. Because of bad road conditions and a lack of proper maps parts of the Kafue National Park were inaccessible to self-drive travellers.
That has changed with the upgrade of the Spinal Road that runs from the M9 to Itezhi-Tezhi Dam further south. It is now an excellent all-weather road. Also, after a recent visit by Tracks4Africa the road map of Kafue has grown significantly.
The park is only 270 km from Lusaka on an excellent tar road. The M9 between Lusaka and Mongu cuts through the park, dividing it in a northern and southern section. As long as you stay on the tar road you don’t have to pay park fees.
We got the impression that the lodges and camps in and around the park mainly cater for the high-end market. Only a few of them have camping facilities at the moment but, partly due to the road upgrade, new camps have been opening along the Spinal Road. However, if you want to include the Busanga Plains in your itinerary you must be willing to spend at least one night in an expensive tented camp. It is not possible to drive to the plains and back in one day.
The Kafue National Park still offers an amazing fly-in experience as all the lodges are keen on transferring their guests from the airport. Charter flights from Lusaka to Kafue are also available. If this is the option for you, we strongly recommend that you contact Mukambi about a package deal.
There are a number of lodges to choose from but Mukambi offers a really good deal.
Mukambi Safari Lodge is situated in the Game Management Area (GMA) on the bank of the Kafue River in the central part of the park while Mukambi Plains Lodge is a tented camp on the Busanga Plains inside the park. Both are upmarket lodges that offer their guests just the best in terms of luxury and wildlife. The staff is friendly, efficient and extremely knowledgeable. They spoil their guests with excellent service, sundowner cruises, game drives and guided walks in the park.
Mukambi offers a choice of safaris. The ideal one week African safari getaway is a five night package deal to stay at both the Mukambi Safari Lodge and the Mukambi Plains Camp. The lodge on the plains consists of a tented camp that is annually rebuilt after the rainy season on a huge termite hill under a magnificent fig tree.
Facts about the park
- The park is almost the size of Wales therefore you may drive a whole day and only see one or two other vehicles.
- Kafue has a huge variety of antelope (sitatunga, klipspringer, puku, bushbuck, oribi, steenbok, grysbok, duiker, reedbuck, waterbuck, lechwe, kudu, impala, sable, roan and eland) that roam the grasslands and the plains.
- Kafue boasts one of the highest populations of wild dog. Other predators include lion, leopard, cheetah and hyena. On top of that the park hosts herds of elephant, zebra, hippopotamus, crocodile, buffalo, etc. The only big animals that you won’t find in the park are rhino and giraffe.
- With close to 500 species listed, Kafue is a bird lover’s paradise.
- TheKafue River is the lifeline of the park as it runs through the park for approximately 250 km. All camps are situated close totheKafueorLufupa (a tributary oftheKafue) Rivers.
- None of the lodges in the park are fenced which means they regularly have the wild animals passing through the grounds.
- The park has a diverse landscape and vegetation. The central and southern parts have dense Miombo and Mopane Woodlands while Busanga in the north and Nanzhila in the far south are open plains. Busanga Plains is a grass plain during the dry season and flooded during the rainy season.
- Along the Kafue and Lufupa Rivers Riparian Forest provides welcome shade to humans and animals alike. Teak Forests are found in the drier southern section of the park.
- TheItezhi-Tezhi Dam in the southern section of the park offers a whole different experience. With its dead tree stumps and abundance of life around the lake it reminds me of Kariba Dam in Zimbabwe, obviously just on a much smaller scale.
- The Kafue River also offers some exciting fishing options. Do not expect trophy tiger fish, but there are plenty of bream and pike which offers lots of excitement and the chance to explore the river by boat. Just keep an eye out for those hippos.
- All the lodges and camps in the Kafue National Park are run by private operators under concession from ZAWA (Zambian Wildlife Authorities).
Best time to go
Many of the roads in Kafue are inaccessible during the rainy season which is from December to March. Even if you enjoy the challenge of driving your 4×4 in black cotton soil, you have to be extremely careful where you venture. During this time all the camps on the Busanga Plains in the north of the park as well as a few of the camps in the south close down. During the dry season (April to November) the animals flock to the river to drink which means that your chances of spotting animals are bigger. This is the best time to visit the park.
After the upgrade the Spinal Road is an excellent all-weather road and there are many game drive loops leading from the Spinal Road.
The Boundary Road south of Itezhi-Tezhi is a good road but it is overgrown in places and has many patches of deep sand which means that you have to make provision for extra fuel.
On the Busanga Plains you have to be careful of black cotton soil. You definitely need a 4WD to explore Kafue.
There is no fuel in the park so you have to fill up in the surrounding towns as you approach the park. Approaching from Lusaka the last fuel stop will be at Mumbwa town just off the M9. There is also a fuel stop at Itezhi-Tezhi town.
Lodges and Camps
We recommend the following camps but for more accommodation options have a look at the latest Tracks4Africa maps or the T4A website.
North-west Kafue: Mukambi Plains Camp
North-east Kafue: McBride’s Camp
You will find all these places on the latest Tracks4Africa GPS map (version 14.10) which has undergone a lot of changes based on a recent trip by T4A staffers.
Kafue is malaria area therefore you must take prophylactics. The tsetse flies are unpleasant but other than spraying insect repellent in and around your vehicle when you stop there isn’t much you can do about them.
The park entry fee is 35USD per person per day. This includes a camping levy and vehicle entry fee but not your accommodation (camping or lodging).