Zambia :: Luangwa Basin
Category: Protected Areas :: Protected Area
This was declared a national park in 1972, and thanks to the concerted efforts of conservationists Mark and Delia Owens in the 90s and the ongoing support of the Frankfurt Zoological Society, wildlife numbers have gone from strength to strength. This park is located on Luangwa River’s western banks and includes the Muchinga Escarpment; this makes for a higher diversity in habitat and species than its counterpart, South Luangwa NP, even though the landscapes are pretty similar.
The Mano Entrance Gate, on the park’s western border, is situated on top of the Muchinga Escarpment; here, the tall afro-montane woodland is decidedly different from that found in South Luangwa. As you descend towards the Luangwa River, it gradually changes to miombo woodland, similar to South Luangwa. South of Mwaleshi River you can find red mahogany, ilala palms, leadwood, and acacia thickets interspersed with open grasslands.
Both the Luangwa River and the Mwaleshi River are perennial, providing year round water for wildlife and it’s not uncommon to see large herds of buffalo in the park. The availability of game draws predators, and the lion prides here are huge. There are also elephant present but fewer in number than in South Luangwa. Eland and hartebeest occur more often than in South Luangwa, but there are no giraffe here.
The wildebeest seen in the park is Cookson’s Wildebeest, (a subspecies of the southern African blue wildebeest) which only occur in the Luangwa valley. It’s much bigger than the blue wildebeest and generally a slightly lighter colour, with a black face and long mane.
Similarly, the zebra here is Crawshay’s Zebra, a subspecies of the plains zebra of southern africa, which only occurs in Eastern Zambia, Malawi, southeast Tanzania and Mozambique, from Gorongosa NP northwards. It differs from the plains zebra in that it lacks the brown shadow-stripe, and the stripes are much narrower, giving it a darker appearance; plus, its stripes run all the way down underneath the belly and down to the hooves. There is a slight difference in the teeth structure too, but let’s not get too complicated…
Black rhino was reintroduced into the park in 2003 with a further 10 added in 2006; they’re difficult to spot in the dense vegetation that they favour.
Bird watchers can be on the lookout for crowned cranes, Lilian’s Lovebird, broad billed rollers and Pel’s Fishing Owl, to name but a few. Some East African migrants venture into North Luangwa (but won’t be seen in South Luangwa), e.g. yellow-throated longclaw, white-winged starling and chestnut-mantled sparrow weaver.
|Cellphone Reception :
|Gate Opening and Closing Times :
|Subject to Seasonal Operation. :
|Open May to November access impossible in wet season December to April. When leaving or entering the park crossing the Luangwa (at Chifunda) there is a pontoon who will operate +/- till end off august (depending on the waterlevel). Once this pontoon is out of service you have some river-driving in front of you. The stretch to the pontoon coming from the park is very sandy: many 4wd vehicles get stuck over there. Moreover, the whole track from Chifunda till Nsefu (over Luambe) is impassable in wet season because of large parts of black cotton soil.
|Updated for :
|(Rate info updated Apr-2019)
|Park Entry Fees 2019: Citizens: ZMK33.60 pp per day; Residents/SADC Nationals: USD15 pp per day; International: USD20. Self drives (Residents/Non-residents) USD25. Vehicles under 3 tonnes: Local: K25.50 per vehicle; International: USD15 per vehicle.
|Lodging, Camping, Airstrip
|Game Viewing, Game Drives, Hiking Trails, Guided Walks, Fishing, Swimming, Bird Watching
|Game to View :
|Elephants. Hippo. Crocs. Baboons. Vervet Monkeys. Impala. Kudu. Puku.
|Notes on Activities :
|The Malweshi hippo pools are a magnificent walk and the falls upstream a perfect place for a cool swim. (Some activities may be offered nearby).
Trail Guides are available, but not obligatory
If you’re travelling from Mpika to North Luangwa NP, just north of Mpika you’ll find a small track heading east which leads to Mano Entrance Gate. But this track isn’t recommended, as it’s in very poor condition and overgrown. Rather continue in a northwards direction for approximately 55 km and then take the graded track leading to the gate. It’s further but will take less time.
The park is roughly divided in two zones, northern and southern. The southern section is a true wilderness and is virtually inaccessible to vehicles; it’s renowned for the walking safaris run by lodges here. This is one of the few places in Africa where you can still experience true wilderness, on foot. The northern section is more accessible, although a fully-equipped, self-sufficient off-road vehicle is still required to explore here. Specific routes must be adhered to, and due to anti-poaching measures you’ll be accompanied by a game scout in your vehicle throughout your visit (who must be collected and returned to Mano Gate); vehicles are only admitted upon presentation of a confirmed accommodation booking in the park. If you’re not overnighting in the park, you’re only allowed to travel the direct route between Chifunda and Mano Gates; this is by no measure the most interesting route, so a couple of nights in North Luangwa NP is recommended, rather than a day visit.
In the rainy season, the park becomes inaccessible and is closed from November until May. There are no shops or fuel stations in the park so travelers must plan carefully and be self-sufficient for the duration of their stay.
In the dry season it’s possible to access North Luangwa from the Great North Road (T2) and exit across the Luangwa River by making use of the Luangwa Pontoon. From there you can continue south towards South Luangwa National Park (with a detour via the charming Luambe NP - road conditions permitting) and enter South Luangwa at Mfuwe.
This road is often impassable during the rainy season. But regardless of when you plan to drive it, you’re strongly advised to make enquiries about its condition before your departure. Some prefer to take the detour via Lundazi instead.
Motorbikes may possibly not be allowed in the park. Check with North Luangwa NP. Their transit track is not much of a game viewing route, and they may allow it. Besides, the hunters tracks near the Luangwa River that time of year North of Luambe NP would be a lot of fun on bikes.
If heading to the North Luangwa NP around November, beware of a lot of (dry) black cotton soil. Note that in the rainy season, December when the rains start, the roads are not always passable.
SHOPS & SERVICES:
Note, the only fuel and basic food shops are at Mfuwe and Mpika.
Tow-in services: Try: +27(0)97 473 7848 / +260(0)96 676 1647 (Based in Lusaka).
North Luangwa is the only Zambian park where it’s possible to see the Big 5, but note that the rhinos are restricted to a central area in the park and seldom seen.
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