Africa & the Middle East Forums

Start a new topic Change Forum
Advanced search

Route suggestions for 35-day Zambia self-drive

Jump to last reply

Seems like there are a lot of Canucks travelling in Zambia! We are another couple of Canucks who are planning our second self-drive trip in Southern Africa from mid-June to end of July 2011. Our last trip in 2009 found us driving and camping our way through South Africa, Namibia, Caprivi Strip, Zambia (around Livingstone/Victoria Falls only), Botswana, and a bit of Mozambique. This time, we are concentrating on Zambia only. We will have approximately 35 days in Zambia (not including drive time from and to Joburg where we are picking up and dropping off our truck) and are planning on mostly camping in our roof-top tent, with the occasional stay in a low-mid range lodge/inn.

We are hoping to cover Kafue NP, Lower Zambezi NP, South Luangwa NP and North Luangwa NP and are thinking of doing a somewhat circular route, starting in Livingstone (we will be entering Zambia at Kazungula), then heading west and north, hitting Ngonye Falls, Mongu, then over to Kafue. We haven't decided whether to spend our time in the north or south of Kafue NP. From Kafue, we are then thinking of heading north-east up the Great North Road past Mpika, then entering NLNP at the Mano Gate. We'll exit NLNP on the eastern side of the park and will then head south to SLNP, and then finally to LZNP. We'll then exit Zambia at Kazungula again and take the truck back to Joburg.

We'd appreciate any feedback regarding our tentative route - will this be too much to cover in 35 days? We don't want to be driving all of the time and would like to spend 4 - 5 days in each location if possible. Any suggestions for alternative routes? Suggestions for campsites or self-catering camps along the way and in the parks? (I know camping/self-catering options in NLNP and LZNP are limited!)

Looking forward to hearing your suggestions!

  • Report Abuse

    Hello to a fellow Canadian!
    If you've been reading the Zambian threads, then you have no doubt already seen our October/November 2011 self-drive itinerary for Namibia, Botswana and Zambia, so I won't outline it here again. That same thread offers the link to a wonderful 3-part report on a self-drive through Kafue. Here is the link in case you missed the thread:

    http://www.fodors.com/community/africa-the-middle-east/zambia-178602-2.cfm

    Having not been to Zambia yet, I can't comment on your route. However, I am certain that lungwablondes will offer input.

    The above links also offer campsite advice for LZNP and SLNP. We are staying at Mvuu's campsite in LZNP and at Track and Trail in SLNP - we were looking for the smaller, quieter campsites.

    I'll be interested to hear about your trip. I hope you'll post a report. What part of Canada are you in? CR

  • Report Abuse

    Hi,

    I have a Zambia trip on my long list and a few destinations that I'm happy to share.

    Shiwa N'gandu for a taste of the colonial life, http://www.shiwangandu.com/ and the nearby Kapishya Hot Springs http://www.shiwasafaris.com/kaishya.html are recommended for self-drivers by Namibian friends of mine who also speak highly of Mutinondo http://www.mutinondozambia.com/

    Happy planning,


    Pol

  • Report Abuse

    This is the quick version:
    To start with, download the Tracks4Africa digital map to your computer. Its inexpensive and a great tool for planning your trip.

    I suggest you cross the border from Botswana into Namibia, then crossing into Zambia at Katima Mulilo. It is quicker and without all the touts and hassles of the Kazugula crossing. Then heading North to Liuwa Plains for a few days. Then head to Kafue – North Section. Game viewing is much better in the Northern part of the Kafue. Camp at Mukambi Safari Lodge at least one nite before going North into that sector . The managers are extremely helpful and well informed. I suggest you head for Lufupa, their campsite. From there you can do a day trip to Busanga Plains or if in your budget, stay at Busanga Plains Camp for a couple days. McBrides Camp has a great reputation also if you want to swing around that way.

    From Kafue, head towards the Great North Rd. Fringilla’s is a great place to camp and you can re-stock up on meat. Then on to Mutinondo. Next stop at Shiwa Ngandu for a tour. You can camp at Kapishya Hot Springs. I suggest also a couple days at Buffalo Camp in NLNP. Mark Harvey, who also owns Kapishya is a great host. Buffalo Camp requires advance reservations. To get to Buffalo Camp, you drive through the Rhino Sanctuary- however few actually see rhinos in transit.
    From NLNP, a good stop is Luangwa Wilderness Camp in Luambe. Depending how long it takes you to get to the Luangwa river ferry, you may want to stay overnite at the Its Wild bush camp close to the ferry crossing outside the park. You can also choose to stay at the Its Wild camp- Mwanya Bush Camp- but that maybe a bit long day for you. Much cheaper and no Luambe park fees- you don’t pay park fees if you tell the gate you are in Transit of Luambe NP. Same with Nsefu part of SLNP. From Mwanya, its only a few hours to Mfuwe, SLNP, but I suggest that once in Nsefu you make it a game drive to take advantage of the in transit exercise. The T4A map could be much better here.

    Once at SLNP, the usual campsites are Wildlife Camp, Flatdogs may not be open to campers at this time, Croc Valley is very good, not on everyones radar, quiet, and camping is close to the river. Another might be Marula Lodge – heard rumours there maybe camping this year. All have wildlife periodically passing through their camps. It’s a matter of personal preference. Leaving SLNP, do not take the Petuake route. Its only till around sometime in July that the route becomes feasible. Suggest driving through Chipata. Look at Tikondane in Katete as a place to stay if Chipata seems to go by quickly. Bridge Camp is not so good for camping near Luangwa River Bridge.

    You should be able to make Lusaka and restock at Manda Hill on your right on the way into Lusaska. I suggest Eureka Camp(south side of Lusaka) to overnite if there is no time to head south from there. My preference would be to cross over to Zimbabwe and go to Mana Pools instead of LZNP. IMO, it is one of the best parks in Africa for the self drive. I suggest making reservations for a few days at Chitake Springs – about 30 kms from the river and then camping at the river for a couple more. LZNP has no camping in the park.

    I would check to see if your itinerary matches the Kariba Ferry schedule to Binga. Its overnite and gets you to Vic Falls the next day. Then you could stop at Hwange on the way back to Joburg. By pass Beitbridge and re-enter Botswana near Francistown and return to Joburg. You may want to stop at Matopos on the way from Hwange. They have rhino – black and white in the park.

  • Report Abuse

    Thanks for the info everyone! A lot of those camps/lodges were already on our radar - good to have confirmation.

    canadian_robin - we are in Vancouver - grey and rainy! Don't know where our spring weather is! We will try to get something posted on our trip upon our return in early August.

    Treepol - we were considering Kapishya Hot Springs and their Buffalo Camp in NLNP - thanks for the input.

    luangwablondes - good suggestions, but I have a few questions for you. If we are driving up from Joburg, wouldn't it really be going out of our way a lot to drive across Botswana to enter Namibia and then cross into Zambia at Katima Mulilo? Seems like a lot more driving and time wasted in transit than going north from Joburg and crossing into Zambia at Kazungula? On our last trip, we crossed both border points - Katima Mulilo when we entered Zambia from Namibia and then Kazungula when we left Zambia for Botswana. I agree that Kazungula was a bit "hairier" than Katima, but it was still manageable (even with all the touts!). Although I suppose the Katima route would work if we decided to skip Livingstone and just go directly up towards Kafue along the western side of Zambia from Katima.

    I've already been checking out a lot of the camps/lodges you've suggested for NLNP and SLNP - emailed a number of them a couple of nights ago and am starting to get responses. Definitely considering Buffalo Camp in NLNP and was considering either Wildlife or Track and Trail or CrocValley in SLNP. Haven't emailed Marula yet, but their website says only full board or self-catering, no camping. Also just looked at the Luangwa Wilderness Camp in Luambe last night - how does the game there compare to NL and SL?

    Good to know about avoiding the Petauke route from SLNP - we were considering that (although you note that it becomes feasible sometime in July and we will likely be leaving SLNP sometime around mid-July).

    Question for you - do I understand correctly that NLNP does not allow self-drivers to do any game drives in their own vehicle, but SLNP does?

    Interesting that you suggest Zim Mana Pools instead of LZNP. I was wondering about that, since it didn't look like you could do self-drives or camp in LZNP. Also, from other entries on this forum, sounds like a lot of people love Mana Pools and Hwange. What about danger (political unrest, etc.) in Zim? Are these areas currently safe for tourism?

    Cheers,d_and_d

  • Report Abuse

    This is why you need to get the T4A map. It is quicker and more direct to drive via Katima to Mongu. You can visit Vic Falls/Livingstone on the return because it will enroute.

    Luambe is slowly developing, but not as good as the other parks mentioned. Luangwa Wilderness is a good place to overnite, do some bushwalks, etc.

    NLNP only allows self drive for driving to and from the bush camps. Once there, the camps primary safaris are bushwalks. They do occasionally include some gameviewing from vehicles and driving to some special spots- near the water falls, hippo pools, sundowners, etc. I managed a bush camp there one season. Having said that, you can get creative about how you go to and from those camps.:-)

    LZNP camps are all upmarket. They don't take campers. You can enter when the gates open in the AM, but you must leave before the gates are locked. Similar to SLNP. Mana Pools is a great park and should be on your radar. Especially when the wildlife experience is as good if not often better then what you can get at many of the upmarket camps. You are just camping on your own. You can arrange to hire a game scout to lead you on bush walks, among the other activities. There is a Full Moon(at nite) bush walk too. Check your calender to see if you will be there at that time. Wild dogs are denning in June and July. Sightings are common.You just need to know where to look. If you want to stay at an upmarket type camp, a couple of them actually keep tabs on the dogs denning locations near their camps. If you were thinking of including lodges or bush camps during your self drive, this is another good place to splurge.

    There are a lot of people self driving in Zimbabwe. People just don't see the political unrest that you read about in the paper. It is generally safe if you use common sense,like any other country in Southern Africa. Around Beitbridge area there are a few dos and don'ts, but you aren't going that way.

  • Report Abuse

    This is why you need to get the T4A map. It is quicker and more direct to drive via Katima to Mongu. You can visit Vic Falls/Livingstone on the return because it will enroute.

    Luambe is slowly developing, but not as good as the other parks mentioned. Luangwa Wilderness is a good place to overnite, do some bushwalks, etc.

    NLNP only allows self drive for driving to and from the bush camps. Once there, the camps primary safaris are bushwalks. They do occasionally include some gameviewing from vehicles and driving to some special spots- near the water falls, hippo pools, sundowners, etc. I managed a bush camp there one season. Having said that, you can get creative about how you go to and from those camps.:-)

    LZNP camps are all upmarket. They don't take campers. You can enter when the gates open in the AM, but you must leave before the gates are locked. Similar to SLNP. Mana Pools is a great park and should be on your radar. Especially when the wildlife experience is as good if not often better then what you can get at many of the upmarket camps. You are just camping on your own. You can arrange to hire a game scout to lead you on bush walks, among the other activities. There is a Full Moon(at nite) bush walk too. Check your calender to see if you will be there at that time. Wild dogs are denning in June and July. Sightings are common.You just need to know where to look. If you want to stay at an upmarket type camp, a couple of them actually keep tabs on the dogs denning locations near their camps. If you were thinking of including lodges or bush camps during your self drive, this is another good place to splurge.

    There are a lot of people self driving in Zimbabwe. People just don't see the political unrest that you read about in the paper. It is generally safe if you use common sense,like any other country in Southern Africa. Around Beitbridge area there are a few dos and don'ts, but you aren't going that way.

  • Report Abuse

    If your starting from Livinstone why don't you hit it off with some excitement...do some white water rafting, bungee of the great Victoria bridge or do some awesome Abseiling in the Gorge. Livingstone a great adventure town!!! For more info I would suggest you contact African Horizons who organises such trips and activities!! (http://www.adventure-africa.com/activities.php) Have fun!!!

  • Report Abuse

    Hi Luangwablondes (or others) - further questions for you:

    1. What route would you suggest for entering Zim and Mana Pools NP from Zambia? Chirundu Bridge?

    2. What route would you suggest for travelling from Mana Pools to Hwange NP? You mentioned the Kariba ferry. It looks like we could take that from Kariba all the way down to Mlibizi (if we chose to skip going to Vic Falls) and then from there, it looks like we are quite close to Hwange?

    3. If we wanted to drive from Mana Pools to Hwange, is there a route you could suggest and do you have any idea what the drive time would be from Mana Pools to Hwange NP?

    Thanks!

  • Report Abuse

    1)Chirundu. The border post and customs is all at one facility now on the Zimbabwe side.

    2)Yep. If your timing worked out, and you could take the Kariba ferry across the lake, you would be close to Hwange. The ferry is scheduled to arrive in the morning and that allows you drive to Hwange the same day....if it arrives as scheduled.

    3)Bypass Harare. On the Tracks4Africa map, you can head south at Karoi to Chegutu. Then Gweru(Antelope Park is a good place to overnite if you are running late)and Bulawayo(Matopos is close by as the next alternative- there are black and also white rhino in the park). From there you head for Hwange Main Gate. The Wild Dog Project is on that road past the Hwange Airport, if it interests you.
    To be honest, I never drove that complete route. Too much tarmack and zero off road driving. I drive via the route south of Kariba so I can enter Matusadona. No tarmack between Kariba and Binga. I tend drive the more adventurous routes with little traffic and less tourists. The route I outlined for you is all tarmack, so you should make good time. It is roughly 1000kms, so overnite along the way.

10 Replies |Back to top

| Add a Reply

Sign in to comment.

Recent Activity

  • Announcements:
  • Writers Needed for Mexico
    by Emily_D Fodor's Editor | Posted on Jul 24, 14 at 12:19 PM
  • Writers Needed for Georgia Coast
    by Emily_D Fodor's Editor | Posted on Jul 18, 14 at 03:12 PM
  • Writers Needed for Rwanda and Uganda
    by Emily_D Fodor's Editor | Posted on Jul 18, 14 at 03:12 PM
View all Africa & the Middle East activity »
  1. 1 Egypt, Israel and Jordan safety concerns.
  2. 2 Help please! Trying to plan an African trip!
  3. 3 Trip Report 2 Weeks In Iran: So Far Away From The Clichés!
  4. 4 Questions about Chobe
  5. 5 Trip Report 15 days, 5 walks, 4 medinas, 3 gal of mint tea, 2 camel rides, one Morocco!
  6. 6 FS: 2013 Toyota Sequoia PLATINUM / Evoque 2012
  7. 7 Mala Mala Luxury Suite or Sabi Sabi Mandleve Presidential Suite?
  8. 8 What camera to use on safari
  9. 9 Wildlife camps in Kenya and Tanzania
  10. 10 Staying out all day vs coming in for lunch in Botswana parks/concessions?
  11. 11 Lamu or Zanzibar?
  12. 12 India
  13. 13 Tanzania (Ruaha): Trip Report for Mwagusi Camp
  14. 14 Ideas about the trip.
  15. 15 Israel/Jordan -- other trip options to bypass Israel?
  16. 16 3 days in Teheran
  17. 17 CAMEL TREK IN MOROCCO
  18. 18 Trip Report trip report s africa, victoria falls & Botswana Zambezi Queen
  19. 19 Draft itinerary - Portugal, Spain, Morocco
  20. 20 Some advice re driving from Durban to Capetown via Umtata
  21. 21 Oman - moderate priced hotel near souks
  22. 22 Taxi - Casablanca Airport to El Jdidh
  23. 23 Ethiopian Air - Horrible
  24. 24 Botswana vs Namibia in May
  25. 25 Discover Namibia Tours & Safaris - Gemma Dry
View next 25 » Back to the top