Planning a Safari to Zambia

ZAMBIA is something of an emerging secret to most of the tourism world. It still has some amazing wilderness areas and spectacular wildlife to see.

Z  A M B I A   E X P E D I T I O N S
Kasanka-Bangweulu-Shiwa-South Luangwa
  April to July 2012 – 9 night safaris
Click here for detailed Itinerary

 

The Kasanka Trust specialises in arranging tours to the Northern half of the country including (but not exclusively), Kasanka, Bangweulu, North and South  Luangwa, Luambe, Shiwa Ngandu, Kapishya Hot Springs, Mutinondo Wilderness, Lavushi Manda, and all the local attractions in these areas such as Nsalu Caves, Kundalila Falls, Lake Wakawaka, The Livingstone Memorial. We can often advise you about other destinations in Zambia and neighbouring countries if you contact us.

 We are also well placed and equipped to arrange your transfers by road or by air between these destinations from the moment you arrive in Zambia to the moment you leave.

 On this page you’ll find information on How to reach Zambia, when to visit, suggested itineraries and routes, self driving, air charters versus road transfers, stopping along the way, health advice, packing information, and a link to contact us with any questions or to make a booking.

 

GETTING TO ZAMBIA

Most international visitors come to Zambia by air. There are a twice weekly direct flights by British Airways from London Heathrow, a KLM/Kenyan service from Amsterdam via Nairobi, and even a weekly service operated by Ethiopian Airlines from London via Addis Ababa. If not flying direct, then Johannesburg is a popular hub with routes worldwide. Regular regional flights link Lusaka and Ndola and Livingstone with Johannesburg, and there are services to Lusaka from Harare, Nairobi and other regional destinations.

 Regional visitors often choose to travel in their own cars. This gives them freedom to travel as they wish once in Zambia and to carry their own supplies and camping equipment. However they should check carefully first on the rules for temporary importation of vehicles, and be careful to comply with local traffic regulations as police always keen to “fine” foreign vehicles! The roads in Zambia are variable in quality and condition, but the main road from Lusaka to Kasanka, Shiwa, and the area is currently excellent. Having said this it would be very limiting to travel in anything less than a sturdy 4 wheel drive vehicle! Maps are available showing most of the roads and tourism attractions.

 VISAS  are required for most nationalities including British and American. Enquire from your local embassy or High Commission.

 

WHEN TO VISIT

MONTH

WEATHER and GENERAL

KASANKA

BANGWEULU

LUANGWA VALLEY


JANUARY
- FEBRUARY

Wet! Lots of rain but also usually some sun Moderte temperatures. Migratory birds swell species counts to around 400.

Accessible and open, but activities limited by weather and fast growing grass. Sitatunga viewing and river trips still good. Most park roads open. Flowers and insects abound.

Usually accessible by road with a short boat trip at the end, but difficult after heavy rain.  Waters starting to rise and birds returning with Shoebills coming back to the area in February. Black Lechwe slosh around the swamps in  their thousands.
 

The “Green Season”. Access to South OK but very limited park roads and walks. Many camps closed (inc all in North), but some offer birdwatching and still game to see.

MONTH

WEATHER and GENERAL

KASANKA

BANGWEULU

LUANGWA VALLEY


MARCH- APRIL-MAY
 


 

Still raining but rain subsides to showers in April. The Grass is now very long everywhere, rivers and floodplains full. Rain tails off in April leaving May mostly dry, but at the same time temperatures start to fall with the onset of Southern hemisphere winter. Being at high altitude (4000 ft) Kasanka and Bangweulu can get near to freezing at night but in  Luwanga at 1500 ft the cooler air is refreshing.

Open for visitors but usually very quiet apart from the Easter holidays! As rivers expand the animals move outwards into the woodland.

These are probably the very best months for the real purist! Water levels reach their peak in March but remain high through April and May. This attracts an incredible number of birds with Shoebills often seen in the camp! The camp is open, although getting there can be an adventure in March The birding rewards wold never be forgotten! Game animals are also around with Elephant and Buffalo complimenting the huge herds of Lechwe and Tsessebe. Access to the camp is still by boat, but by during May it usually becomes possible to do gamedrives as well.
 

The Luangwa River rises to its maximum and unlucky camps have building fall in with the soft sandy banks! Most camps still closed, a few remain open and some exciting river trips can be arranged.

MONTH

WEATHER and GENERAL

KASANKA

BANGWEULU

LUANGWA VALLEY


JUNE-JULY

This is the real start of winter in Zambia. There’s plenty of sun, no rain. Temperatures in the day are very pleasant but as the sun goes down they drop rapidly and can reach almost to freezing on a cold night in Kasanka or Bangweulu.

During June the grasses start to dry up and many of the plains are cleared by controlled burning. Animals start re-appearing as they return to their seasonally flooded pastures. Pukus are seen in big herds, Hippos are back to favourite spots. Sable antelope and hartebeast emerge from the woodland and  graze on the Chikufwe plain. Warthogs are scampering around with babies. Whether walking, boating or driving, this is Kasanka at it’s best,  but you have to be around the fire in the evening!
 

The water continues slowly retreating  towards the main swamps exposing the rich grasses of the chimbwi plain, which feed an incredible density of lechwe. Birdwatching is still superlative with Shoebills never far from the camp. It’s too wet to walk far, but boat trips and game drives by day and night. The “night life” is good with side-striped Jackals giving birth and civets, genet, and mongooses also common.

This is start of the main season in Luangwa. All the camps are operating including those in the North park and the big game is readily seen. The area is still fresh and green from the rains, and temperatures pleasantly temperate. Lions are heard most nights and seen by almost all visitors, often each day! South Luangwa is especially famous for leopard and again most visitors will see one during their stay.

MONTH

WEATHER and GENERAL

KASANKA

BANGWEULU

LUANGWA VALLEY


AUGUST- OCTOBER

Winter finishes and temperatures start rising. There is still no sign of rain, but the skies get hazy with heat and dust.

Kasanka continues to offer its best gameviewing with sitatunga and sable on offer every day and rarities like bushpigs often seen. Elephants, hippos and buffalos are all evident and the park is increasingly clear of grass and ideal for walking. The rivers are all perennial so there’s always water for the animals and boating for the visitors!

The Bangweulu plains dry up and water returns to the Lukulu river. Shoebill Island is no longer an Island and birdwatching is mostly done of foot around the many pools which remain with an appetizing stock of stranded fish and snails. The Shoebills storks withdraw to more distant areas and get progressively hard to find. However they can still often be seen by the more determined! Game drives are spectacular amongst the black lechwe, with Oribi becoming more visible.
 

As the bush continues to dry up, most of the tributaries to the Luangwa are dry so more and more wildlife congregates around the Luangwa and in North Luangwa the Mwaleshi. Pedators and prey are now confined close together with ever more dramatic results for the visitor to witness.

MONTH

WEATHER and GENERAL

KASANKA

BANGWEULU

LUANGWA VALLEY


NOVEMBER-DECEMBER

Skies darken and storm clouds appear. There’s usually a “phony war” of distant lightening and daily build-ups before the skies break and long drought is broken. The rain is a pleasant relief, lowering temperatures and freshening everything up. Every year is different but the rain is usually only occasional and showery in November becoming more intense in December.

BATS BATS BATS EVERYWHERE!! Kasanka becomes the host to one of Africa’s most amazing wildlife spectacles. Worth a visit on its own. Apart from the bats, the park is at its most beautiful with a carpet of green following only days after the first rain. Bright clear skies produce great photographic opportunities with migratory birds arriving, the bush still clear and wildlife very visible. By Christmas the bats may be going and the grass a little longer, but the park is still at it’s best with mushrooms and flowers appearing everywhere.
 

By the end of October even the lush Bangweulu floodplains are starting to feel the pinch of the dry heat, so that the breaking rains bring great relief and new grass. This brings back even more lechwe to the plains around Shoebill Island, now with their recently born young. Tsessebe, also with young,  come out of the termitaria woodland in herds of up to 2000 to share the new grass. The water levels are still very low, so birding is mainly around the pools and main river.

In Luangwa the onset of rains is a huge relief to the scorching temperatures of October. But being a huge ‘sump’ of  black cotton soil, the roads quickly become impassable and many camps are forced to close before they are stranded! Those that are still operating give an opportunity to see the huge plethora of migratory birds arriving or passing by, as well as enjoying the wildlife in the green setting  and with fewer other tourists around!

 

SUGGESTED ITINERARIES

CLASSIC FLY-IN SAFARI

 This is the most popular type of itinerary for visitors from overseas and it allows you to see a lot of Zambia without long drives: It works best from June to October.

  • Day 1 Arrive Lusaka, Charter flight to Kasanka

  • Day1-4 Spent in Kasanka exploring by foot, vehicle and boat

  • Day 5 Charter flight to Shoebill Island in Bangweulu

  • Days 5-7 in Bangweulu looking for Shoebills, experiencing the Lechwe and birdlife.

  • Day 8 Charter fly North Luangwa for 4 nights .

  • Days 8-12 Exceptional wilderness Game experience. 

  • Day 13 Charter fly to Mfuwe in South Luangwa

  • Days 13-17 In South Luangwa, possibly a walking trail.

  • Day 17 Fly by schedule from Mfuwe to Lusaka for 1 night in a hotel

  • Day 18 depart on BA back to Heathrow.

Variations on this safari would be 

  • Cut out North or South Luangwa and reduce by 4 days

  • Spend 2 days at the end in Livingstone seeing the Victoria Falls

  • Add a visit to Shiwa N’gandu, Kapishya, Mutinondo, Lower Zambezi, or Kafue National Parks

 

 

 

SELF DRIVE ITINERARY.

This is mainly for regional and domestic travelers with their own 4x4 car. However it is now possible to hire self drive cars in Zambia including equipped 4x4s. Livingstone is the best place to arrange this and we can advise on this.

 Not everyone has 26 days to spare, but it gives an idea of what is feasible. It’s not possible to give a costing as it depends on whether you carry your own food and do your own game drives etc. (where allowed). There are endless variation to this itinerary but that is the advantage of self driving.

 

  

Z  A M B I A   E X P E D I T I O N S
Kasanka-Bangweulu-Shiwa-South Luangwa
  April to July 2012 – 9 night safaris
Click here for detailed Itinerary

DRIVE OR FLY?

Kasanka is fortunate in being connected to Lusaka by an excellent tar road which takes about 6 hours to drive.  However most of the other destinations require a long slow drive along bumpy dirt roads. For some visitors this is a chance to see the scenery and local people at close hand. This is particularly true of the trip from Kasanka to Bangweulu. However many find the time wasted and that they arrive tried out by the drive. Air charters don’t cost much more than hiring a car (sometimes much less) and allow more holiday time to be spent in destinations than on the road!

 Driving does allow visitors to bring their own food and most camps will offer a substantial discount for this whilst still providing staff to help prepare meals.

 During the rains both roads and airstrips can become unusable so contact us for advice if you plan to visit in the rains (December to April).

 We can arrange all your road transfers, air charters, or car hire for you as part of your safari.

 

SELF DRIVING

This can be a great way to experience the country especially for those with more time on their hands. If you want to get into game parks you will need a good 4x4. Saloon cars, motorbikes, large vehicles will all limit you severely (although Kasanka is an exception where most vehicles can reach Wasa Lodge).

 Fuel stations are widely spaced, usually in the main towns so if you want to explore the bush I between you will need some extra capacity. There should be fuel always available at: Lusaka, Kabwe Kapiri Mposhi, Mkushi, Serenje, Samfya, Mpika, Kasama, Chipata, Mfuwe, Petauke, Nyimba,  but NOT in between these centres. Lodges will not treat you sympathetically if you ask them for fuel as they have to spend a lot of time and money bringing it in! As an example if you leave Serenje for Kasanka, spend a couple of days driving around, then drive up to Shoebill Island for another few days exploration before returning via Kasanka to Serenje, you will drive about 700 kms before refueling. Fuel is expensive in  Zambia compared to neighbouring countries, and the price rises fast as you move away from Lusaka. Currently petrol in Serenje costs about US$0.80 per litre and diesel a little less.

 There’s no formal assistance for breakdowns but therefore you should find passing motorists helpful for a lift to town. Don’t travel alone or you are in a fix when something goes wrong; abandoning the car by the roadside would not be a good idea!

 Police roadblocks can be a nuisance to travelers. They see you as an easy target to collect money from, and have been known to invent new offences bordering on the ridiculous. It is essential not to loose your patience but be firm, resolute and patient if you think you are in the right. “On-the-spot” fines must be accompanied by proper “admission of guilt” paperwork and only need to be paid within 7 days. Only a manifestly un-roadworthy vehicle can be impounded, not one accused of speeding! Approached the right way you should find Zambian policemen as friendly as everyone else you meet.

 Make sure you have a good Jack (or 2) a tyre pump and the means for fixing punctures. Tubeless tyres are a liability in the bush as they can’t usually be re-inflated even if they can be repaired. If your car has these it is best to carry some tubes for repairs. A second spare wheel is also very handy. Carry some tools – even if you don’t know what to do with them there will be others who do! Don’t put heavy things on the roof as it will destroy the car and make it unstable over bad roads. Put lightweight bulky items on the roof. Bullbars, winches etc are nice to have but not normally needed.

 

STOPPING ALONG THE WAY

This is always part of driving! Coming up from Lusaka to Kasanka  there are 2 nice guest houses in the Mkushi area about half way from Lusaka to Kasanka. The Forest Inn is about 260 kms from Lusaka on the right hand side and is open 24 hours for drop-in guests. About 75 kms further towards Kasanka is the Sweetwater guesthouse. Both of these are run by farming families and offer good clean accommodation and meals.

 Further along the road you reach Serenje. The town lies about 4kms off the main road, and as you enter you will find the Mapontela restaurant and Guest house. They have nice guest rooms and a restaurant with more variety than any other in town! (Even if you don’t stop in Serenje you will need to fill your fuel tanks here before continuing north as the next stations are Mpika or Samfya).

 Going further North, Mpika has decent accommodation at the DDSP guesthouse along the Kasama road. If you continue to Kasama you should look up Thorntree Lodge for a bed.

 Travelling between Lusaka and South Luangwa the only recommended stopping point is Bridge Camp near the bridge camp over the Luangwa river.

 We can make bookings for you to any of these establishments as part of your safari if you have fixed dates.
 
CONTACT US

 

HEALTH ADVICE

 As with most tropical countries, a visit to Zambia will require some precautionary inoculations, and perhaps most important of all anti-malarial Prophylaxis. You should get advice form your doctor on these as each person has different requirements.

 It is essential that you take out travel insurance or are fully covered by health insurance for evacuation and treatment in case or accident or sudden illness. The Kasanka Trust is registered with a Zambian Helathcare company who specialise in emergency evacuation and who can help arrange this should it become necessary.

 

PACKING INFORMATION

 Whether flying or driving there are some items you will need to make your holiday enjoyable. The list will depend on where and what time of year you are visiting.

NOTE THAT FOR AIR CHARTERS YOU ARE USUALLY ONLY PERMITTED 10KGS OF LUGGAGE EACH UNLESS EXTRA IS SPECIFICALLY PRE-BOOKED.

  • LAUNDRY - most camps have a daily laundry service (included in the charge) so that whenever you spend 2 or 3 nights in the same camp you should be able to get clothes washed, dried and ironed.
     

  • SHOPPING  - You are unlikely to have any chance to buy things apart from some local crafts on safari, so bring everything you need with you!
     

  • BATTERIES  - Some camps have 220/240V electrical supplies for recharging video and digital camera batteries, but others do not.  Either bring a good supply of batteries to keep you going at the camps where you can’t charge, or better, obtain a 12 volt charger which can be used from vehicles.
     

  • MONEY - If you are on a fully inclusive pre-paid safari you shouldn’t need much more than for bar bills, tips and souvenirs. US Dollars or Zambian Kwacha are the preferred currency, but UK pounds can usually be negotiated. Other currencies are nearly impossible to use or exchange. US$ Travelers cheques should be accepted by most lodges but neither lodges NOR BANKS will exchange them for cash! If arriving at Lusaka airport, the bank agency changes money for kwacha quickly and at a good rate. You can usually even change back unused kwacha when you are leaving.
     

  • CREDIT CARDS  AND CASHPOINT MACHINES  Credit cards are not accepted very widely in Zambia. None of the lodges mentioned in this site can accept them. This is because of the limited banking facilities in rural Zambia. Neither can you buy fuel with credit card. VISA cards (usually no other type) are accepted by major hotels, restaurants and big shops (including the chain of Shoprite supermarkets) in Lusaka, Livingstone and the Copperbelt, but expect a delay when paying. Barclays bank can give limited cash advances against cards, and Some ATMs (cashpoint machines) in towns will allow limited Zambian Kwacha withdrawal from foreign VISA cards only.
     

  • THINGS TO BRING WITH YOU

  • Clothes for warm weather

  • Long sleeves and long trousers to deter mosquitoes

  • Clothes for cool weather  (especially between May and August when temps can be near freezing)

  • Waterproof coat (November to May only)

  • Stout footware for walking

  • Footware you don’t mind getting wet for crossing streams and walking in the swamps

  • A sun hat

  • Sun cream (high factor)

  • Lip balm

  • Medicines including anti-malarials

  • Binoculars (one pair each as sharing doesn’t work when something appears suddenly!)

  • Camera with film and spare battery

  • Torch and spare batteries

  • Passport with VISA, Tickets, vouchers

  • Enough Money preferably in US$ cash (or Zambian Kwacha )

  •  

  • THINGS YOU DON’T NEED

  • A mosquito net - unless you plan to sleep in small guest houses/camp, as all lodges will have them

  • Waterproofs between June and October

  • Bedding  -unless camping etc

  • Towels – provided by all lodges

  • Soaps etc  - unless you have a strong person preference

  • Travelers cheques - except to settle hotel/lodge bills as you can’t encash them in Zambia

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