North Luangwa

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Apr 17th, 2006, 09:28 AM
  #1
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North Luangwa

Hi everyone,
I was just curious if anyone here has travelled to North Luangwa National Park in Zambia. I have been to South Luangwa and heard it discussed a fair amount on travel forums, but I have never heard anyone mention the north. Has anyone been there before? It looks like one of the most underrated spots in Africa to go on safari (understandable, given its remoteness), to me at least.
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Apr 17th, 2006, 01:50 PM
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Interesting question. Although I consider North Luangwa-open only from June to Nov- one of my favorite parks, it is difficult to recommend. Time is a factor because normally people commit to 3-4 days in the camps. A Luangwa Valley tour could take 7-12 days easily out of your Africa holiday. The cost of flying there is steeper because it is usually 6 seaters that fly in. The seasonal bush camps(22 beds total) in the park-3 open to date are committed to walking safaris nearly exclusively and have the reputation of seeing large herds of buf and excellent lion sightings on these walks. This is truely a park where you feel you are in a remote part of Africa. There is only a few tracks in this park, and in the safari area no selfdrive to muck up that feeling of remote Africa.

But things are changing. The North Luangwa Conservation Project has assisted in the opening of a local campsite near the North Gate and a separate track to traverse the park. A pontoon bridge to cross the luangwa from the East. This route for mobile safari operaters, self drive and people traversing from the Great North Rd to the North East part of Zambia is just getting out. It used to be that if you were driving from Tanzania for example, to get to SLNP, one needed to drive to Lusaka and then take the Great East Rd back towards Chipata to get there or even go through Malawi. Recently, a Spanish company has started construction on a semi permanant camp and a permanent lodge with 2 more camps anticipated also located at various points on the Luangwa. This will increase the number of beds 4 fold-. The good news is the NLCP has planned these new accomodations so that the increased number of tourists should not be noticable,if at all. Its a big park with few roads and controlled access to each area.

Having rhino reintroduced into the park also is a drawing card. When I was there, we had a rare wild dog sighting. With one of the most effective antipoaching units in Africa, game is doing well here.

Usual programs to go to North Luangwa are with Robin Pope and a Kutendala combo, John Copingers camps and Mwaleshi, Buffalo Camp is the most independent and probably the least expensive operator-owned by Mark Harvey. This bushcamp is located in the middle of 4-5 prides each season, and is one of the best places in the world to see lion everyday on walks. Extensions to Shiwa Ngandu, owned by Mark Harveys brother is common. Kind of an English Estate in the midst of Africa. These are mostly with flying transfers. Then there are the mobile safaris like Shiwa Safari that includes Banguela Swamp, Kasanka, Shiwa, Kafunta Safaris based in Mfuwe at SLNP, and Land and Lake out of Malawi. These 2 drive from SLNP-Luambe-and back with a few variations. All good tours.The tours are more what one would call moderate expense.

Now, with a new operator flying between Southern Tanz and SLNP, I expect we will hear in the next few years people flying from Mahale, Katavi,Ruaha, and the Selous into the Luangwa Valley.

As you can guess, I have been there a number of times, and each trip to Africa includes it as part of my itinerary.

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Apr 17th, 2006, 04:06 PM
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Thanks for the extensive reply, luangwablondes- very informative! I actually emailed Buffalo Camp last year and got a reply about three months later (I had made alternative plans by then)! I hear Mark Harvey is a great guide though. I'm sure someday a North/South Luangwa, Lower Zambezi trip isn't out of the question someday.
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Apr 17th, 2006, 05:17 PM
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The best way to make reservations at Buffalo Camp is with The Zambian Safari Company out of Lusaka. I usually get a response within 1-2 working days. Mark leads safaris to Kasaka and Banguelu Swamp early in the season and ususally Sept and Oct is your guide at Buffalo Camp. Mark is one of the best guides in Zambia. He is also a real character. Library of countless stories, fluent in Bemba, barefoot all day long, and extremely knowledgeble in flora and fauna.
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Apr 18th, 2006, 04:44 AM
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One of my favorite topics! In fact when a post asked for favorite lodge/camp, Kutandala in North Luangwa was my answer.

Here is a report on Kutandala in North Luangwa.

Mid July 2003

Kutandala—operated by Rod and Guz Tether

I always enjoy the variety of accommodations in the bush because they are all wonderful, but Kutandala (which means something like come stay with us and relax a while) has a charm and an appeal that makes it stand out, even among the wonderful.

Just getting there is a unique experience. After an hour’s game drive from the airstrip, you have to roll up your pants to cross the knee-deep, slow-flowing Mwaleshi.

The design of the huts, all done traditionally without nails or screws, is elegant and functional with a nice view of the river during the day and the stars and moon at night--all right from your bed. The huts have a dried mud floor and the ensuite bathroom has a sand-bottom floor.

Warm water is provided each morning through a flap in the bathroom wall and early morning coffee/tea is served through a flap in the main unit. The huts are beautifully decorated with shells, tree stumps, seedpods, and other natural materials.

The common areas for breakfast, tea, lounging, and dinner have all been designed to be completely open air. The surrounding trees provide the shelter for an appealing natural setting.

All of the camps have great food, but I have to say Kutandala’s has more of a gourmet touch, which would be the work of Guz. I honestly remember how good the food was at Tafika in South Luangwa when I was there in 1998 and Guz was the caterer; I found that the tradition continues. So even though this camp is one of the most remote, the dining was some of the finest.

There is a mature atmosphere of dedication and commitment at Kutandala with Rod and Guz managing, guiding, cooking, and doing many other tasks that guests do not see. The quality of the people behind the operation has as much to do with the camp ambiance as the physical aesthetics and the cuisine. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with each of them.

Kutandala is more than just a special place out in the wilderness. We saw great game and most of it on foot, thanks to the skill and effort of Rod. (Walking, as opposed to day or night drives, is the main activity and draw at Kutandala.) Highlights were:

Seven species all within a panoramic view, interacting with each other (and us): impala, puku, Cookson’s wildebeest, warthog, zebra, waterbuck, and 3 lions. There were 2 male lions and a female. We actually saw the lions before the other animals did, so it was interesting to see their delayed reaction.

A herd of about 300 buffalo stampeding past where I was drying my feet after traversing the Mwaleshi and putting on my boots—-all at a safe distance.

An encounter between a buffalo walking down the riverbank and a croc sunning itself on the back that refused to move. The croc opened its mouth real wide and the buffalo retreated.

Interesting bird of prey activity: a fish eagle with a rodent, a snake eagle with a snake, and a martial eagle’s failed attempt at flock of flying guinea fowl.

Getting growled at by a bush pig—not oinked or grunted—but growled.

A big bull elephant and a young male crossing the Mwalesi, picking up our scent running into the forest. (One note on this behavior: elephant used to be hunted here so they are fearful of people on foot. Our encounter actually served as teaching device for the elephant. Though they were fearful, they learned no shots were fired and we did not pursue them. As they encounter more benign walking safari participants, their fear should subside a bit. They were less fearful of us in a vehicle.)

The ride to and from the airstrip and one drive to another part of the park produced:

Herds of a dozen, relaxed elephant.

A courting pair of lions.

My best lilac breasted roller photo ever of a roller ruffling its feathers in the sun.

Herd of Cookson’s Wildebeest.

When I was there, the black rhino were just being introduced, so they should be running around now too.

A comment on logistics: I flew there from Mfuwe. I left North Luangwa and after several flights arrived in the Lower Zambezi in plenty of time for the afternoon activity.

Here is a link from the NY Times on best guides and Rod Tether is included. If for some reason this link has expired, you could email me for the article.

I am going back to Kutandala in 2008.

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Apr 18th, 2006, 01:08 PM
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We've booked 5 nights at Tafika and 4 nights at Mwaleshi in July so I'll be able to post some feedback in a few months. One of the things that attracted us to North Luangwa was the relative remoteness. We both like walking and did short walking trips from Chiawa and Nkwali a couple of years ago. You don't tend to see as much but the atmosphere and experience, for us, was unbeatable. And with 5 days at Tafika we should have plenty of time for 'close-ups' from the car (and microlight).
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Apr 18th, 2006, 01:49 PM
  #7
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luangablondes:
Who is the operator flying between S. Tanz and SNLP?
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Apr 18th, 2006, 05:06 PM
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Bat

That would be Sky Trails. Edmund Farmer of Kasanka Trust started this. It is based out of Mfuwe.

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Apr 19th, 2006, 05:49 AM
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Thanks luangwablondes.
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