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Protected Area Kafue National Park

ID: w149357 View large map

Located in Zambia :: Kafue
Category: Protected Areas :: Protected Area


Established in 1924, Kafue National Park is Zambia’s oldest and largest park. Ever since the Spinal Road, connecting the southern and northern sectors, was reopened it’s been increasingly popular with self-drive travellers. Kafue offers diverse experiences. You can choose between a northern, central or southern trip, or combine the lot if you’ve got the time for an extended visit. And don’t forget, no visit here is complete without a boat cruise on the Kafue river.

Several rivers flow through the park, creating different vegetation types to form a patchwork of swamps, floodplains and woodlands, with stretches of forests and river thickets.

The Kafue River enters the park in the northeast and is soon bolstered by one of its major tributaries, the Lunga River. From the northwest the Lufupa River drains the Busanga Swamp - a permanent feature in the northern section of the park, one surrounded by floodplains. This large but shallow expanse of water is dotted with small islands covered in trees, grass and termitaria, providing shelter and grazing for wildlife. Enormous sycamore figs thrive in the wet environment, attracting fruit-loving birds and wildlife.

The Kafue River forms a large horse-shoe bend which was named The Hook by early prospectors. It’s here that the tarred M9 highway, which stretches between Mongu in the west and Lusaka in the east, enters the national park and crosses the river by means of The Hook Bridge. The Kafue River continues in a southerly direction after this and enters the Itezhi-Tezhi Dam; it exits the dam in an easterly direction to cross the Kafue Flats before joining the Zambezi River near Chirundu.

Between The Hook Bridge and the Itezhi-Tezhi Dam, both the Kafue River and dam’s shores form the park’s eastern boundary. Kalahari sand is typical of this central section of the park, and combined with a lower rainfall than the north, the vegetation is typical of the Kalahari, dominated by the silver cluster leaf trees (Terminalia sericia) and bushwillows (Combretum species), with the occasional patch of teak forest. A case in point is the beautiful Ngoma Forest just south of Itezhi -Thezi Dam, on the river. The mopane trees grow particularly tall in this section of the park.

The southern section is dominated by the Nanzhila Floodplains which are fed by the Nanzhila River before it narrows and drains into the Kafue River east of the Itezhi -Thezi dam. With fewer rivers, the floodplains consist of small islands of jackalberry and baobab trees surrounded by vast expanses of grasslands which become submerged during the rainy season.

The Busanga Plains in the northern part of Kafue NP are a beautiful place to visit and you may be lucky to spot Sitatunga here. However, there are no camping options, only some very expensive lodges. The next best thing would be to base yourself at Mapunga and do a day visit to Busanga. Start very early from Mapunga and pack a lunch, it’s roughly 2.5 hrs from Mapunga to the Busanga Plains.

Traveller Description

This vast park’s varied vegetation supports a diverse range of wildlife; in fact, with 158 species of mammals recorded no other park in Zambia comes close. Only giraffe and rhino are absent.

The shy, water-loving sitatunga can be found in the permanent waters of the Busanga Swamp in the far north of the park, which is also the breeding ground for the endangered wattled crane. Lechwe prefer the adjacent Busanga Floodplains which dry out after the rains. This section of the park is impassable by vehicle in the rainy season; it only dries out from around May, this draws other antelope like the puku, impala, roan and sable who move in to feast on the soft grass left behind by the seasonal flooding.

Elephant roam mostly in the central parts of the park, feasting on bushwillow and mopane, while buffalo enjoy the grasslands south of the Itezhi-Tezhi Dam and the area just south of Hook Bridge too.; blue and yellow-backed duiker can be found in the river thickets. There are several prides of lion throughout the park and while leopards confine themselves to the forested areas during the day, they are frequently seen on the plains during the night drives offered by the park’s lodges. Self-drive visitors are not allowed to do night drives on their own. Cheetah love the open plains throughout the park; at the time of writing, this predator was only found here and in the Liuwa Plains National Park.

The vast size of the park makes it suitable for wild dog which prefer extensive home ranges, but although this is the best place to see this animal in Zambia, sightings remain rare. Hippos and crocodile frequent the permanent rivers throughout the park, and vervet monkeys, warthog, bush buck, Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest, Defassa waterbuck, kudu, wildebeest, zebra and other common game occur throughout the park.

Keep an eye out for baboon; Kafue is home to the yellow baboon (Papio cynocephalus). Smaller in size than its well-known cousin, the chacma or cape baboon, but bigger than the baboons found in Kasanka National Park, these primates have lean bodies with yellowish-brown body hair, and a shorter muzzle framed with white sideburns.

With its diverse vegetation, Kafue National Park is home to more than 500 bird species, and is listed as an Important Birding Area (IBA) by Birdlife International. Birders should be on the lookout for the endemic Chaplin’s Barbet, and specials such as pale-billed hornbill and the vulnerable black-cheeked lovebird whose distribution is limited to southwestern Zambia.

Address :  Kafue, Zambia
Website :  Click Here
Host Website :  Click Here
Cellphone Reception :  Intermittent

Time Information
Best Time to Visit :  Green Season - January to March
Subject to Seasonal Operation. :  January is the green season in Kafue and provides incredible wildlife viewing opportunities, as well as access to the Busanga Plains. A large portion of the park is inaccessible due to the rising waters. However, there are a handful of camps that remain open throughout the year and are spectacular to visit in the green season. The dry season runs from June to October, with most of the park being inaccessible during the wetter months of November through to April. Kafue goes sub-zero in winter (June-August) in some areas. The dry season does however enable easier driving and game is generally easier to view in the dryer months.

Rates and Payment
Updated for :  2021
Comments :  Park fees only payable in cash. (Rate info updated Mar-2021)
Payment Methods Accepted :  Cash
Fee/s :  Park Entry Fees 2019: Citizens: ZMK33.60 pp per day; Residents/SADC Nationals: USD15 pp per day; International: USD20. Vehicles under 3 tonnes: Local: K25.50 per vehicle; International: USD15 per vehicle.

Destination Information

Game Viewing Game Drives Tours and Excursions Hiking Trails Fishing Swimming Boat Trips Bird Watching
Scenic Flights
Game to View :  Huge variety of antelope. High population of wild dog. Puku. Elephant. Hyena. Hippo. Crocodile. Zebra. Blue Wildebeest. Buffalo. Serval. Cheetah. Lions. Leopards. (ie. No Rhino & Giraffe). 500 listed species of birds.
More Activities :  Private Safaris.
Notes on Activities :  (Some activities may be offered nearby).

Travelling Information
Closest Main Route :  M9

Self Drive Access :  Yes

Due to its rivers, swamps and floodplains (these consist largely of black cotton soil), the northern sector of the park is usually inaccessible between November and April each year. The southern and central sectors are accessible via the Spine Road but game drive loops may be wet depending on the rainy (Nov - March) season so you’ll need to plan your trip accordingly. The whole park and all its game loops are only accessible by off-road vehicle from around May (unless you fly in and undertake game drives with one of the lodges). Self-drive is allowed throughout the park from sunrise to sunset.

The Spinal Road runs from the north of the park through the central sector following the western bank of the Kafue River down to the southern shores of Lake Itezhi-Tezhi; it remains dry throughout the year although there may be some flooded river crossings after excessive rains. Some lodges in this central region remain open the rainy season.

The Spinal Road is most easily accessed west of Hook Bridge (for the North and Central sectors) and Musa Gate at Lake Itezhi-Tezhi. There are also gates at Dundumwezi Gate in the south of the park (from Livingstone), Nalusanga in the east (from Lusaka) and Tateyoyo coming from the west (Mongu and Liuwa Plains). There’s a fairly new gravel road on the park’s eastern border, between Itezhi and Dundumwezi, which allows for faster travel to Livingstone.

The Itezhi-Tezhi Dam has had a significant impact on Kafue Flats ecological system.

No fee is needed to travel across the park on the M9, you only pay if you divert into the park itself.

If you’re staying in a GMA, close to the Hook Bridge Entrance Gate, it’s possible to travel into the park with your off-road vehicle and do a self-drive game drive. If you’re staying further south in the GMA, it’s time-consuming to drive to the entrance gate so you’ll be better off doing a game drive with your accommodation venue; they will typically transfer you across the river with a boat and take you on a drive in their game drive vehicle. Should you wish to do a self-drive game drive from a lodge in the GMA, it’s recommended that you ask how long it would take to get to the park entrance gate when you’re making your reservation

Most lodges offer game drives and/or guided walks, while the lodges along the Kafue River also offer boat cruises and fishing trips on the river. For the more adventurous, Mawimbi Bush Camp offers day trips or overnight trips with canoes.

Some of the accommodation listed on the following pages is located inside the Kafue National Park while some is found in the adjacent Game Management Areas. If you’re staying inside the park, you can do self-drive game drives in the park, or alternatively take part in the guided activities offered by your lodge. If you do self-drive, it is requested that you respect the privacy of the park’s lodges and stay away from their private grounds.

There are a few campsites in the northern section of the park but none in the Busanga region - the nearest campsite to Busanga Plains is Mapunga Bush Camp, some two and a half hours away. Here, you can also sign up for day excursions to the plains at a cost of US$100 per person, inclusive of drinks and meals.

Kasabushi Campsite, inside the park, is easily accessible from the Spinal Road. This beautiful venue on the banks of the Kafue River is open year round (note, the tented chalets are only open April - December). This is a particularly scenic and interesting sector of the Kafue River, with granite boulders and islands covered in Ilala Palms, well worth exploring!

The average temperature in Kafue is milder than the lower-lying Luangwa and Zambezi Valley, and in winter the nights can be downright freezing. Tsetse fly does occur in the park and can be a great irritation during the day as they tend to follow vehicles. Mosquitoes may be bothersome at night. Neither is prevalent in all areas but pack sufficient quantities of insect repellent to deal with these pesky insects.

Tow-ins: Try: +27(0)97 473 7848 / +260(0)96 676 1647 (Based in Lusaka).

Visitors to Zambia are advised to have their own personal travel insurance. Local police, hospitals, clinics etc. cannot be relied upon.
Please note that any emergency numbers indicated on our data will be for the local police, hospital, clinic etc. and most of the times, don't work. Many tourism sites show the numbers like 999 for police, they often don’t work.

If you have a medical problem when in Zambia, Specialty Emergency Services has a Call Centre (24 hours). Phone them on 737. This company has offices in Livingstone, Lusaka and Kitwe. But they will fly anywhere to assist if visitors have the right insurance. If you want to check your insurance, contact SES on [email protected]. (

Are only payable in cash.

There’s no fuel or shops in Kafue National Park so your last stops for restocking on fuel and supplies are:
From the west, at Kaoma & Mongu;
From the north, at Kasempa;
From the east, at Itezhi -Tezhi (but both fuel and supplies are limited), Namwala, Mumbwa & Lusaka;
From the south, at Choma, Kaloma & Livingstone;

In Itezhi-Tezhi a few small shops supply basic non-perishables but don’t expect too much in the way of fresh produce. There’s an ATM and a couple of guesthouses - but the lodges along the shores of Itezhi-Tezhi Dam provide better accommodation with most offering camping too. Lodge activities include boat cruises and fishing on Itezhi-Tezhi Dam and the Kafue River, game drives in Kafue National Park, and a visit to the nearby Iyanda village and Longola Hot Springs. Here, the water can reach temperatures of over 80º C but note that there are no facilities.

Fuel isn’t readily available in town, but can be obtained from the ZESCO fuel station by purchasing a voucher from the nearby ZESCO office during office hours.

 Travel Tip!

If you are simply passing through Kafue you could do a lot worse than to stay at Roy's camp in the GMA. Here, you won’t pay park entry fees but you’ll still experience abundant wildlife… in fact, watch out for lion in camp!

Comments [ leave a comment ]

“Kafue National Park offers a true and wonderful wilderness experience. For me the only downside is the tsetse flies. ” - Karin Theron, 2014/09/09

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