Kafue National Park
Kafue National Park is the largest national park in Zambia, covering an area of about 22,400 km² (similar in size to Wales or Massachusetts). It is the second largest park in Africa and is home to over 55 different species of mammals.
The park is named for the Kafue River. It stretches over three provinces: North Western, Central and Southern. The main access is via the Great West Road from Lusaka to Mongu which crosses the park north of its centre. Seasonal dirt roads also link from Kalomo and Namwala in the south and south-east, and Kasempa in the north.
In recent years the Park has seen a well-managed growth in the number of Safari Camps and Lodges that operate in and around the Park. This new interest has brought with it more visitors and investment to the area, notably in infrastructure with a number of well-graded roads and airstrips.
As a consequence of the increasing interest and benefits in terms of investment this brings, the wildlife is beginning to enjoy an increased level of protection by the Zambian Wildlife Authority (ZAWA), always aided and supported by the operators in and adjoining the park.
History of Kafue National Park
Kafue National Park was established in 1924 after the British colonial government moved the traditional owners of the area, the Nkoya people of (King) Mwene Kabulwebulwe, from their traditional hunting grounds into the Mumbwa District to the east. Dissatisfaction with the pace of development in Central Province and a lack of benefit from tourism in the park have led to calls from Nkoya leaders to establish a new province in the area which they have proposed to call Kafue Province.
How to Get to Kafue National Park
Kafue National park can also be accessed from the tourist hub of Livingstone in the south, again on well graded road, reaching Dundunwezi gate after 3 or so hours. The park is also accessible by plane, with many airstrips, some all weather, such as Ngoma, Chunga, and Lufupa.
- From Lusaka – take the main M9 tar road due west to Mumbwa. If you plan to visit the north-eastern camps (Hippo Lodge, McBrides, Leopard Lodge, Kafue River Camp or Mushingashi) then go into Mumbwa town (124kms from Lusaka) and takt the left turn at the roundabout by the filling station (last fuel before Kasempa). Continue on this road out of Mumbwa on the D181 gravel/graded road to your destination.
- To reach the Central and Southern sectors of the KNP using the spinal road – After passing the turn off for Mumbwa, stay on the main M9 road, heading west for 38kms to the Nalusanga Entrance Gate. Continue on the M9 for another 80kms, drive over Hook Bridge and after a further 7kms turn left on to the 21K road (ignore the 17km road turn-off). The Spinal Road is reached 14kms south of the 21k road and continues to Lake Itezh-Tezhi, a further 130kms. Mawimbi and Kasabushi Camp are accessible from the Spinal Road and Konkamoya at the southern end of the road. Roads connect to the southern sector of the park and Nanzhila Plains Camp. The Spinal Road is a good gravel road and driveable year-round. Seasonal river crossings can flood from time to time in the wet season.
- To reach the southern section of the Kafue – After passing the turn off for Mumbwa, stay on the main M9 road, heading west. 66kms from Mumbwa you pass the Nalusanga Entrance Gate to the park, after this gate (approx 20kms later) is a left hand turn, well signposted for Itezhitezhi town and the dam. Following the Itezhi-tezhi D769 road allows for access to Puku Pan, Kaingu Camp and the various lodges on the lake itself. This road is gravel but does require a good strong vehicle, as it is long and bumpy.
- To reach the Busanga Plains – It must be noted that there are no camping of self-drive facilities at or even near the Busanga Plains (closest is apprx. 160km away), as such self-driving on the Busanga is not advised. Driving from the Hook Bridge Gate will take you approximately 5 to 6 hours, this is a bush road and only accessible when dry. When reaching the Busanga Plain be advised that there are no sign posts and it is exceptionally easy to get lost, as such seek local advice before travelling (Mukambi Lodge have a camp on Busanga as do Wilderness Safaris).
- From the west – take the Mongu to Lusaka tar road (M9), entrance is at Tateyoyo gate.
- From the north (Copperbelt area) – Take the road from Solwezi and then to Kasempa (it may be useful to note there is a good hospital at Kasempa). From Kasempa follow the graded gravel D181 Kaoma road and branch of it to reach the Kabanga Entrance Gate to the park. To reach the Kabulushi Gate (and nearby camps) take the left fork off the Kaoma road onto the D301 towards Mumbwa, follow this road to the Lunga river pontoon (after apprx 98kms) and then onwards again until the Lubungu river pontoon, after crossing and another 86kms you reach Kabalushi Gate. As always local advice at the time of travel is essential.
- From Livingstone – Travel 124kms to Kalomo on the excellent tar road, or T1 which heads to Lusaka. At Kalomo turn left through the open air market, taking the D714 graded road for 74kms to the southern Dundumwezi Entrance Gate. This gate leads to Nanzhila Plains Camp, Ngoma and Lake Itezhi-tezhi further north. Recent grading of the Dundumwezi road means that a trip from Livingstone to the Kafue is very doable, even within a relaxed half a day. The Kobil station at Kalomo is the last fuel before the park
When to Visit Kafue National Park
Temperature-wise the Kafue is wonderfully mild due to it’s altitude, averaging 1100m above sea level; it is generally cooler compared to the Luangwa or Zambezi valley’s in October and November and in fact the Kafue goes sub-zero in winter (June-August) in some areas. The park is well serviced by a number of all-year-round airstrips, notably at Chunga, Ngoma and Lufupa- these enable tourists to make the most of the park in any of it’s ever changing seasons.
The dry season runs from June to October, with most of the park being inaccessible during the wetter months of November through to April. Inaccessibility however need not be a deterrent to those wanting to visit the Kafue in the ‘green’ season, as it is a spectacular time of year and the lush greenery of the bush is something really to behold. The trick is visiting the camps that do stay open for 12 months (or as close as possible to), Mukambi Lodge, Mayukuyuku and Musekese Camp being some in the central/northern section of the park.
It is possible to reach Itezhi-Tezhi all year round too. The dry season does however enable easier driving and game is generally easier to view in the dryer months.
The Busanga Plains area is still strictly only accessible from (water-level dependent) early July until early November, this area is a floodplain and unless you enjoy swimming then unfortunately you must visit in these months! There is a new airstrip at Busanga which should be operational for 2013, which will facilitate access to one or other of the camps operated by Wilderness safaris which do operate in some of the wet months.
What to Do in Kafue National Park
Over 45 mammal species have been recorded in the Kafue so even regular safari goers can find wildlife that is new to them – Aadvark, Pangolin, Caracal to name but a few.
Sadly there are no longer any Black Rhino, but our Big Cat viewings are excellent.
Birdwatching is excellent here, we have raritiessuch as the African Finfoot and Pels Fishing Owl.
Nocturnal wildlife are leopard, porcupines, genet mongoose, civet and jackals, to name a few.
We take time to show you both big and small mammals and often the tiny delights like butterflies and busy spiders and beetles. There are lots of things to do in Zambia when on safari to Kafue National Park. They inlclude:
Early morning and sundowner game drives in open vehicles. The sundowner drive turns into a night drive that reveals the nocturnals.
Walking at a leisurely pace through the bush, with a guide and armed scout affords the opportunity to get closer to nature, we concentrate on both fauna, flora and spoor.
A very relaxing experience in the beautiful surroundings of the blue green Kafue River, for viewing game coming to the river to drink, hippos and crocodiles bird watching and fishing.
Self Drive with a Guide
You can hire a wildlife guide who will accompany you in your own vehicle for a game drive, for the day, or longer trips if booked in advance.
If you have your own fishing gear, you can fish on the river’s edge or take the boat with a guide down the Kafue, or into the channels.