KAFUE NATIONAL PARK
Kafue National Park is very large (over 22,000 sq km); it is almost twice the size of Chobe National Park in Botswana and larger than Kruger National Park in South Africa.
The wonder of the park is its rivers. The Kafue River runs from the north of Zambia into the Kafue National Park in the east. It meanders from there to the Hook Bridge where it turns south to Lake Itezhi-Tezhi. Between the Hook Bridge and Lake Itezhi-Tezhi it forms the border of the park. At Lake Itezhi-Tezhi (a man-made dam) the river turns east towards the Kafue Flats, thereafter draining into the Zambezi River near Lower Zambezi National Park.
The Lunga and Lufupa, two rivers, run from the north and join the Kafue River in the northern section of the park.
In the south, the Nanzhila River runs through the park and then into the Kafue River downstream of the dam.
The park is dominated by two major floodplains – Nanzhila in the south and Busanga in the north. The Nanzhila River floods over much of the southern section of the park during the rainy season; the Lufupa River, as it enters the park from the north, spreads out over Busanga Plain during the rains. Both plains start to dry up in May, with camps opening in June.
- The Wild Stuff
Kafue National Park has a major claim to fame; it has more mammal species within its borders than any other park in southern Africa. There are huge herds of buffalo, wildebeest, hartebeest, roan and sable.
The park has all the predators – lion, wild dog, leopard and cheetah, with many of the smaller ones like serval and genet seen on night drives.
The bird species number over 500, specialities being the endemic Zambian barbet, black-cheeked lovebirds, pelicans, crowned and wattled cranes.
Being such a large park the landscape and flora vary throughout the park. The floodplains are grassland with islands of trees. The floodplains are edged by woodland with some large fig trees – an attraction for the birds. Along the Kafue River the trees are water-loving trees like waterberry (Syzygium cordatum) and Musikili (Trichilia emetica). There are forests of mopane trees (Colophospermum mopane), especially on black cotton soil. The black cotton soil also has areas of termitaria. And, in some areas, the termitaria can be seen like sentinels guarding the road.
As a bit of a warning, there are tsetse fly in the park. They mostly inhabit areas along the tree lines – they do not like open plains. Keep some anti-histamine in the medical kit for use. We have found, as a temporary measure, that a solution of dettol will keep the tsetse off for a while. Keep a flannel in a plastic bag with the dettol solution to use when necessary. Lodge owners will often be seen with an mbaula (metal brazier) in the back of the car burning elephant dung. This too seems to keep the tsetse away. Other people have different deterrents but the best is to keep the windows of the car wound up when going along a tree line.
- Getting Around
The roads within the park are all dirt but are generally in good condition during the dry season except for those in the floodplains which have to be graded each year. The new spinal road to the west of the Kafue River is all-weather as is the cordon road from the south of the park to Ngoma. The other roads are seasonal.
Distance between destinations can be far and the speed limit is 40 kph, so all trips should be planned so that you arrive at your destination in daylight; there is no night driving for private vehicles in Kafue.
Book your accommodation ahead of time. Most lodges are on the internet and will happily book or confirm a reservation for you. There are no toilets or picnic sites in between lodges. If you do need to pee between stops, make sure you have a good look around before you do.
A variety of lodges/camps are dotted throughout the park and in nearby GMAs. They range in facilities and prices, from budget to luxury. There are campsites too.
Some lodges are open throughout the year; others close during part or all of the rainy season.
Game Rangers International
Game Rangers International was started in 2008 with its main focus on protecting wildlife especially the elephant in Kafue National Park. Since those early days the organisation has expanded to provide community support in human-wildlife conflict and community education.
Game Rangers International runs the elephant orphanage at Camp Phoenix in the park. It also supports a primate project to return vervet monkeys and baboons back into the wild.
To find out more:
The park is large and each section has its own attractions. For this reason we are showing each section separately. Click on the maps below for more information in each area.