• Trip Report Northern Zambia June/July 2016

    Finally home after 3 weeks of travelling in northern Zambia. A big thank you to all the forum members who contributed information and made planning easier. Hope this report will be of use to anyone else planning a trip to this area.

    Trip Itinerary and basic info:
    3 couples travelling in 3 vehicles with one roof top tent and 2 ground tents.
    We left Pietermaritzburg on Saturday 18th June and travelled to Groblersbrug where we overnighted at Klippan River Lodge. The Lodge is a self-catering lodge on the banks of the river right at Groblersbrug. It was a great place to stay - clean, comfortable and peaceful with very secure parking and a great view over the river. I can highly recommend it for anyone wanting to make an early start over the border.

    On Sunday we were up early and went through the border at around 8am. Quick and easy. One car was stopped by customs officers who relieved them of a bag of oranges and a bag of avocados - due apparently to some kind of fruit fly problem. Not sure if I believe that!
    Road north was not bad - a few potholes but generally in good condition and traffic was not too bad. We headed for Pandamatenga where we were booked in to Panda Rest Camp for the night. It has good basic accommodation in thatched rondavels which were clean and comfortable. There is a camp site as well and the grounds have a swimming pool and a restaurant/bar serving generous portions of good basic food. Pizzas are the speciality and were very good.

    Monday 20th we left at 7am to be at Kazangula by 8. Exit procedure was quick and painless but be warned: When you exit the office and get into your car to drive through the parking lot to the ferry area (about 50metres) be sure to wear your seat belts! We did not, assuming we were still in the parking area and that it was ok, and were fined P300. Had to drive back to the Kazangula Police Station to pay the fine. Very annoying but nothing we could do. Ferry crossing was easy (cost in Rand for 3l SUV - R220 or P200 or Kwacha 150) and then the fun began at Kazungula. From before we got on the ferry we were already approached by an "insurance agent" to assist with the processing and on arrival on the other side were bombarded by touts wanting to help us, look after our car etc. It's actually quite overwhelming. We opted to use the services of the insurance agent who had approached us on the ferry and were happy we did so as he was actually very helpful. The "tip" was Kw150 which we felt was well worth it as the whole process (including driving back to pay our fine) took about two and a half hours. There is an ATM at the border for drawing money.

    As our border crossing had been relatively quick, we opted to do brunch in Livingstone, visit the Falls and take the opportunity to buy a Zambian sim card. Cost to visit the falls is US$20 - so fairly steep. Watch out for the baboons, especially if you have anything on top of your vehicle. We had the lid of our laundry bucket stolen by a baboon. Also, do not get scammed by the "policemen" in the parking lot who offer to let you in - you need to go through the office and get a ticket. As we were to discover, Zambia has many scam artists on the lookout for naive tourists.

    From Livingstone we headed to Monze, just past Choma, where we were booked into Moorings Campsite. It has 3 chalets and camping facilities and we opted for the chalets. There is also a restaurant and staff will make you a dinner or breakfast from a basic menu (stews, lasagne etc) Nice secure, quiet stopover.

    Day 4 saw us heading north again towards Mkushi where my brother in law farms. It was a long ride but the road is not too bad. Lusaka traffic was absolutely hectic and here we got scammed by a traffic cop who stopped us for speeding. We were apparently doing 90 - 95ish in an 80km zone. If it had been SA we would never have accepted the fine as he stopped 3 cars at once off a radar gun, and couldn't show us what our exact speed was. Fine was 250Kwacha per vehicle and there was no ticket written up or receipt offered. Stopped at Fringilla Lodge, about an hour north of Lusaka, for lunch (delicious homemade pies). Great stopover with a very nice peaceful garden. They also offer accommodation.

    Finally reached Mkushi at around 4pm and stopped there for two nights. Mkushi has a nice butchery for those wanting to refuel. Good accommodation in the Mkushi area for those without a resident brother-in-law can be found at Forest Inn.

    After a couple of days rest, we hit the road again heading for Kasanka National Park. Accommodation here is either chalets at the lodge or camping at Pontoon campsite which has 3 sites - no 1 is the biggest. Newly built ablutions on each site offer showers and flush toilets. Hot water for showers is ordered and brought to the site at the required time by very pleasant local attendants. They also bring firewood and will make the fires for you. We loved Kasanka in spite of the fact there is very little game to see - we saw sitatunga, puku, hippos, monkeys and a few birds. It is a very pretty and peaceful park and was one of our favourites.

    After 2 nights at Kasanka, we headed for 2 nights at Nsobe Community Camp at the Bangweulu swamps near Shoebill island. The road is mostly terrible and the drive took about 5 hours to complete the 155kms. Av speed 30kph. Campsite is set on a wide plain which in summer is actually under water. There are a couple of sites set far apart each with a basic wood table under a tree. Ablutions are a flush toilet in a reed enclosure and a shower in a reed enclosure. As at Kasanka, hot water for the showers is ordered for a specific time and arrives on the back of a bicycle. Firewood is provided. We were lucky to see a Shoebill stork even though it was out of season for them, and also enjoyed a guided boat ride where we saw a number of other waterbirds and learned more about the community life and the Shoebill protection programme.

    From Bangweulu we turned west towards Mansa where we stopped at the Shoprite to buy provisions. There are banks/atms and fuel available in Mansa. After reprovisioning we headed to Mumbuluma Falls where we camped for the night. The campsite has flush toilets and basins but no shower facilities. For those brave enough it is possible to shower under the waterfall, but the ladies opted to basin bath.

    From Mumbuluma we travelled north on the new Chinese tar road to Mbereshi, stopping off to view the Ntumbachusi Falls, then to Kawambwa where we were lucky enough to find fuel (there is a fuel station but it is not always reliable). We arrived on the day the tanker was filling the tanks so hit it lucky. From Kawambwa the tar road towards Mporokoso lasts about another 20kms before petering out into a dirt road which again is in very poor condition and travel was back down to 30kph. We headed for Lumangwe Falls, the second largest waterfall in Zambia and got to camp right at the lip of the falls - amazing. Campsite is nice but ablutions very basic - flush toilets (no toilet seats, take your own loo paper) and one cold shower - nowhere to put your clothes, hang your towel etc). Firewood provided and attendant will make fire for you if you want him to. What a pity so little is put into road maintenance and decent ablutions because the waterfall is spectacular. Really worth a visit, but the attendant said hardly anyone visits due to the condition of the road. Quite sad.

    Day 12 saw us starting off early for the long drive to Ndole Bay on the tip of Lake Tanganyika. Though only 319 kms, the road conditions meant very slow travel for at least half of the trip. We were lucky that the road from Mporokoso towards Ndole Bay had been recently graded for about 100kms, but in spite of that the trip still took us 6 hours. The last bit of road towards Ndole Bay is particularly bad. We had originally wanted to stay in chalets at Ndole Bay but as prices are quoted in US$, the recent fall of the Rand made the 3 nights very unaffordable, so we opted to camp. The campsite is right on the beach with a stunning view of the lake. Ablutions are good with hot showers and flush toilets. Plenty of water activities on offer, but be warned these are also quoted in US$. We mostly just lazed by the lake and enjoyed the peace and tranquility (had the campsite to ourselves), but did enjoy a sundowner trip on a motorised dhow, which took us past some of the many fishing villages on the lake shore. The highlight was seeing the kapenta boats come out onto the lake after dark with a myriad lanterns shining across the black water.

    Day 15 we broke camp again and headed to Kasama where we stayed at Thorntree Guest House. Clean and comfortable accommodation on offer as well as very reasonably priced and generous meals. Kasama also has a Shoprite store and fuel, atms are available here.

    Day 16 we travelled to Kapishya Hot Springs for two nights - our last two nights of holiday before the return trip began. Again, a nice campsite with good ablutions. Lazing in the hot springs was fabulous - a great way to end our adventure. There is also a restaurant on site for those who don't feel like cooking, with a choice of either pub food (burgers etc) or a 3 course sit down dinner at a standard price.

    After 2 nights at Kapishya we packed up and headed for Mkushi and the looong trip home, finally arriving back on the 10th July. What an adventure!

    Have tried to post pics but am struggling with the new uploading system. Will keep trying and will post prices etc a little later for those who might be interested.

    PS: Finally figured out the picture uploading ! Will post more when I have processed more.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Trip Report Northern Zambia June/July 2016 started by Gillied View original post