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Self Drive Safari Zambia and Zimbabwe

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Self Drive Safari, Zambia and Zimbabwe

My wife and I are planning an African self drive safari trip to Zambia and Zimbabwe for this July 2007 and in the sprit of sharing...

This itinerary was thought out, planned and assembled by Luangwablondes, a frequent, reliable and valued poster on Fodor’s

This will be the third African self drive safari trip Luangwablondes has planned for us in a row. All the trips he’s planned have been beyond spectacular and we are very grateful for his help.

Basically, we rent a fully kitted out, Land Rover Defender from, and then drive from Johannesburg, South Africa, though the Beitbridge Border post into Zimbabwe (2006) or through the Martins Drift border post into Botswana (2005) and head for the game parks.

NOTE: If you download Google Earth and select “Featured Content” in the LAYERS window, you can view some of the places mentioned by GPS coordinates.

At a crazy low price, Tracks4Africa
has the best computer bases travel maps, with features and waypoints updated frequently by the overland community.

No Reservations

In past years, making park reservations has been essential. The self drive campsites in Moremi and Chobe, Botswana fill up fast and choice places in Zambia and Zimbabwe are not much better.

This year, we’ve made two significant changes; the Bushlore camper will be delivered to us in Lusaka - thus avoiding driving the above mentioned 2,400 kilometer round trip from Johannesburg to the wildlife parks.

Not that we did not have adventures on the road, but, as it turns out, the cost is the same if we drive round trip from Johannesburg to Lusaka, (camper rental, diesel, hotel, and border fees) or have Bushlore transfer the camper to us in Lusaka.

Although the airfare is significantly more when flying into Lusaka instead of Johannesburg, the extra time saved, adds five extra days to the schedule, and we decided to pay for that luxury.

Luangwablondes has designed the entire trip around short jumps from one destination to the next. The plan allows for game or bush walks in the early mornings, (golden hour for photography and wildlife) then some rest up time before we begin a leisurely drive - often through remote and rarely visited villages not tainted by tourists (Msoro S13.634252 E 31.931290) - stopping often for village chats and photography, before we arrive at a new camp and begin preparations for a late afternoon safari.

The second change is the lack of reservations. For the most part, we have no reservations at all.

We do have a schedule to move the trip along, and an absolutely necessary and quite rare reservation for Chitake Springs, Zimbabwe that will give us one of the only two campsites that are ever available.

And we’ll visit North Luangwa National Park, (NLNP) where exclusivity takes on another word.

Exclusivity = My wife and I alone, in a remote area, walking, feet on the ground, with wildlife all around us.

North Luangwa National Park

This 4,636 square kilometer park, know primarily for its walking safaris, is only accessible through the six seasonal camp/safari operators granted permission to conduct walking safaris, so, reservations are necessary, especially, if you have some time restraints.

But, NLNP also has a community bases campsite (Chifunda Bushcamp) where we plan to stay. There, ex-poachers are happily available as your private bush walking guides

Chifunda Bushcamp

NLNP Poaching

Remote Tracks

We will take on some remote tracks traveling between North and South Luangwa National Parks (S12.091873 E 32.333364) and record them for Tracks 4 Africa so future self drivers can enjoy alternative routes and scenery.

These are old Hunters tracks, infrequently used and travel along side the Luangwa River. These tracks cut 20 kilometers off the trip through Chiwesa Village to South Luangwa Park

NOTE: We’re glad that some of our previous tracks have been included in Google Earth and Tracks 4 Africa. S16.102645 E29.488205

South Luangwa National Park

In South Luangwa National Park (SLNP), Luangwablonds has laid out a fantastic night drive between camps outside of the park.

This particular area, around Mfuwe (S13.10485 E31.78276) has great wildlife sightings at night.

As Luangwablondes puts it, “After having dinner in the Mfuwe area, drive down some tracks to retire for the evening at another campsite. A normal 20 minute drive could easily turn into 2 hours if one’s timing and luck is ideal”

The Luangwa River boarders SLNP and game drives are equally rewarding on either side of the river. Luangwablondes has previously taken this drive many times and guarantees it can be as good as any park in Africa, and has ZERO Fees.

Mutombuku Ceremony

Our first major stop out of Lusaka is the celebrated Mutombuku Ceremony.

We have a meeting set up with the Mata Kazembe, the chief of the East Luanda people, where we will bow, clap our hands and bring gifts.

NOTE: 80% of the land in Zambia is controlled by 600 chiefs

Later, we’ll camp at the Ntumbachushi Falls

Actually, we’ll plan to camp at a few waterfalls while in Zambia. Waterfalls are ubiquitous in Zambia; they’re beautiful and are often located in rugged, secluded areas surrounded by stunning geographical features and with free camping. What a deal.

Msoro Tracks

Msoro Track is another remote track that we will record for Tracks 4 Africa

Starting out near the Mfuwe International Airport (S13.260346 E 31.933752), Msoro Tracks could provide an adventurous short cut from South Luangwa National Park to Lusaka

These tracks will lead us to another meeting with a chief, Chief Msoro.
(Msoro S13.634252 E 31.931290)

Along routes where tourism increases, whether it be backpackers, overland trucks or up-market visitors, the lives of villages improves, and with that in mind, Luangwablondes suggests we feel out Chief Msoro and propose he build a campsite at the damn near his village. A campsite and overland route through this largely ignored area of Zambia could bring an economic benefit to the communities in route.

Along with the overland traffic, some shops or stalls offering local produce and goods could also motivate the local anti-poaching teams to move into the area and start up a program, similar to the hugely successful job they have been doing in North and South Luangwa National Parks.

This would be a prize for any community and in the long run, secure employment for many people.

And there are some major sights to see too, the oldest Cathedral in Zambia is near Msoro Village.

St. Luke's Cathedral (S3.590512 E31.886767)

It’s Not That Scary

This post has gotten a bit longer than I expected and few will read this through, but what you have to know, what I’d like to you understand, is that we started out looking for African wildlife by renting a cheap sedan car and traveling around South Africa (Aldo Elephant Park, Kruger) until we were told about Botswana and even then, we tried to do it in a sedan car until people on Fodor’s told us that was impossible – and not at all fun.

For many people, overland self drive safaris are a luxurious way to visit and enjoy wildlife parks. Offering freedom, solitude, much, much lower prices and for the most part, put you on the same exact tracks as the private camps.

Rental campers are easily accessible, and handily maneuver over all but the rarely use and isolated tracks.

And Africa is no different than any other place on the planet. Since people have been traveling, there have been places for them to eat and sleep and lodging around the wildlife parks is always abundant and well documented.

Zambia, as most other countries in Africa, is well known for its outgoing, smiling people and is a country that has proven to be quite safe for travel. All you need are Tracks4Africa maps a Garmin GPS, and some help from Luangwablondes.

The itinerary:

24-Jul Lusaka - Wonder Gorge S14.63387 E29.12677
25-Jul Wonder Gorge – Kasanka S12.54364 E30.26291
26-Jul Kasanka - Camping Water Fall
27-Jul Water Fall – Mwansabombwe S9.82190 E28.75731
28-Jul Mwansabombwe S9.85012 E28.94425
29-Jul Mwansabombwe - Camping Water Falls

The days at Mwansabombwe well be watching the Mutombuku Ceremony

30-Jul Water Falls - Kapishya Hot Springs S11.17125 E31.60093
31-Jul Kapishya Hot Springs - Buffalo Camp S11.92399 E32.25971
1-Aug Buffalo Camp
2-Aug Buffalo Camp
3-Aug Buffalo Camp - Chikfunda Camp S11.86056 E32.43396
4-Aug Chikfunda Camp
5-Aug Chikfunda Camp - Myanya Camp S12.75586 E32.07587
6-Aug Myanya Camp - Adorata Camp S13.15647 E31.74366
7-Aug Adorata Camp
8-Aug Adorata Camp - Wildlife Camp S13.10510 E31.75212
9-Aug Wildlife Camp
10-Aug Wildlife Camp – Flatdogs S13.10330 E31.77710
11-Aug Flatdogs
12-Aug Flatdogs
13-Aug Msoro Track - Msoro Track S13.63885 E31.92544
14-Aug Msoro – LZNP S15.36052 E29.64307
15-Aug LZNP - Lusaka
16-Aug Lusaka – Chitake S16.10304 E29.48739
17-Aug Chitake
18-Aug Chitake
19-Aug Chitake
20-Aug Chitake
21-Aug Chitake
22-Aug Chitake
23-Aug Chitake - Lusaka
24-Aug Lusaka

NOTE (again): If you download Google Earth and select “Featured Content” in the LAYERS window, you can view some of the places mentioned by GPS coordinates.

At a crazy low price, Tracks4Africa
has the best computer bases travel maps, with features and waypoints updated frequently by the overland community.

Cost break down US$

July 22 – August 25, 2007

35 Traveling days
31 Camper Rental Days
2 People


Land Cost
Camper Rental - $5,000

Lodging, Food, Wildlife Park Fees, Wildlife Camper Fees, Bush Walks
Private Game Scouts, Diesel, Border Crossing Fees, Fun Shopping, Gifts

Total land cost per person/per day


Air (x2)



You could get cheaper air when booking the tickets separately, ORD/JNB and then JNB/LUN, but we decided on the convenience of checked baggage, a non-stop from LHR and the huge amount of frequent flyer miles we will accrue by taking advantage of American Airlines Frequent Flyer Fast Track Program and attaining platinum status on our return flight over Africa on this trip.

AA Fast Track Program

Camper Rental

5,000 $USD

Bushlore is the best. Read our reference letter and believe it, we are so happy and lucky to have found this company.

A 31 day camper rental with a fully equipped Land Rover TD5 110 CSW, including extras, it is a beauty.

Bushlore equipment list

Here is a link to our Bushlore camper rental photos (Africa 2006 trip) on flickr

Thank you, to Luangwablondes and all the Fodor people that have helped us in the past.

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