Kafue National Park
Due to the vast area, Kafue National Park remains largely untouched and underdeveloped. There are relatively few roads traversing the area, although with the growth in a number of safari camps and lodges, there has been an increase in the number of well-graded roads and airstrips.The Park gets its name from the Kafue River which flows through the entire length. This large river is the mainstay of the Park, bringing much needed water to the area.
The Kafue National Park is generally divided into two areas – the North and the South. The dividing line is the national road linking Lusaka and Mongu.
The northern section of the park has many tributaries of the Kafue River flowing through it. In the far north, the Lufupa River flows out into the Busanga Plains. During the rains, this area becomes flooded and is impassable. As the water recedes and the plains dry out, the rich vegetation comes to life, affording much needed nutrition for the many herbivores living there.
The southern section of the Park has been largely ignored for many years. There are fewer animals here due to the less lush vegetation. Lately, there has been an increase in wildlife around areas that have been protected and there are now a few more lodges as well. This presence has made a difference to the wildlife.
What can you expect to see?
The flat grassland plains, with the odd islands of wild date palms and fig trees of the Busanga Plains make for fabulous game viewing. With the many herbivores, such as red lechwe, puku, wildebeest, buffalo, zebra, kudu and eland as well as many other smaller antelope, come the prides of lion, hyena, and wild dog, all in search of food. This area is certainly the best area for game viewing with its prolific wildlife.
In the South the wildlife is not as prolific, however there is still much scope for game viewing.
Leopards are common in the forested areas of the Park, whilst cheetah are very rarely seen.
Birding in the Kafue is very good with about 500 species having been identified. This rich birdlife is most likely due to the wide range of habitats found in this vast area. The wetlands have a wide variety of water birds, from geese, herons, storks, ibises and cranes. Barbets, woodpeckers, turacos and apalis all seem to thrive in the riverine vegetation, while in the miombo woodlands, hornbills, thrushes weavers and barbets abound. On the Nanzila Plains in the South the black-cheeked lovebird is fairly common. This is almost endemic to southern Zambia.
When to go?
Many parts of the Northern Park are closed from November to May.
The Southern part of the Park is open all year round.
How can we gat there?
From Lusaka the road is good, and it takes approximately 3 hours to get to the Hook Bridge. There is a fuel station at Nangoma (+/- 100km from Lusaka) but there is not always fuel there. There is usually fuel at Mumbwa.
To reach the southern part of the Park, turn left off the main road about 60km after Mumbwa onto the Itezhi Tezhi Dam road. This gravel road is slow and a 4 x 4 is advised. It will take you about 4 hours to get to the dam from Lusaka. Alternatively, one can reach the southern areas via the newer spinal road. This is the second road to the left after the Hook Bridge. This road will also eventually take you to the dam. This gravel road is in a far better condition than the first, but it is much more remote.
To reach the northern part of the Park, continue along the tar road until you reach the Kafue River Bridge (Hook Bridge). From here you will right onto a dirt road. The game scouts at the gate will ask you for your receipt for your park fees. This road will eventually lead to the Busanga Plains.
There are light aircraft airstrips at Ngoma, Mufungashi, Chungu and Hippo Camps. There are no scheduled flights, but aircraft can be chartered for your visit.
Where can I stay?
There are various private lodges around the park. Prior bookings are essential.
No private camping is allowed in the Park, although there are a few campsites attached to but separate from some of the lodges in the south.
A 4 x 4 is necessary as the road is not always well maintained. It is very easy to get lost on the plains, so it advisable to make use of a tour operator.
The Kafue National Park is well worth visiting. Due to its vast size, there is much to see. From Lake Itezhi Tezhi with its rocky bays and wonderful fishing in the South, to the astounding beauty of the Busanga Plains with its diversity of wildlife in the North, and the magnificent Kafue River running through it all, with its fabulous fishing experiences, the Kafue National Park has much to offer the traveller. Its close proximity to Lusaka makes it an easy weekend getaway.