Lavushi Manda National Park is one of Zambia’s most coveted regions. The isolated park is relatively unknown and is hidden from the tourist route. It is, arguably, one of the most spectacular places in the northern reaches of Zambia.
Lavushi is a jungle paradise covering an impressive 1,500 square kilometres of contrasting terrain comprising open dambos, miombo woodlands, riparian vegetation and rolling hills.
The eerie Lukulu River cuts through this diverse landscape and forms an impressive series of cascading waterfalls (Kapandalupilli Falls). Avid fisherman will be pleased to know that the brutish Congo yellowfish dwells deep within these river waters.
The heavy vegetation surrounding the river is excellent for birdwatching and delivers the ideal habitat for the distinct palm-nut vulture. Lavushi Manda National Park is widely recognised for providing a natural refuge for biome-restricted and threatened species of birdlife.
Aside from birdwatching, discovering the park on foot is the most popular way of soaking up the wilderness. Intrusive rocky outcrops and an escarpment fringing the park provide the perfect terrain for hiking.
Lavushi can be tricky to access because it’s such a waterlogged, verdant landscape. Visitors would need to take a charter flight to one of the many airstrips within the park or self-drive in a 4WD. The closest international airport is the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka.
A varied ecosystem means an array of fauna sightings in the park. There are a total of 50 mammal species in the park, six of which are threatened.
Leopard, elephant, hippo, lion, puku and the straw-coloured fruit bat are just a few of the rarer species to spot. Frequently sighted animals include baboon, warthog, sable and duiker.
Lavushi Manda National Park is recognised as an important birding area and provides the perfect habitat for 11 threatened species. The shoebill, crowned eagle, martial eagle, Augur Buzzard, bateleur and southern ground hornbill are a few of the residents to spot.
There are over 30 species of fish in Lavushi, including the greenhead tilapia, Bangweulu killifish and the Congo yellowfish.
The park is open year-round. However, the animal count during the dry season is always higher. In the dry season, the vegetation thins outs and water sources become scarce. Wildlife tends to flock to available water sources, making it easy to predict where they’ll congregate.
The dry season is in June/July, but the floodplains dry out in April, which is also an excellent time to visit. November to March is the wet season and is good for birding, but many of the paths and routes within the park are impassable.
Tourism in Lavushi Manda National Park is still in its infancy, which means visitors will be rewarded with untamed and uncrowded landscapes.
Game drives are commonplace in Lavushi, but the landscape is best explored on foot or in the waterways. The only way to take in all that the park has to offer is to indulge in all activities.
Guided bush walks and birding tours open up a world of wonder with visitors. Trails meander their way through floodplains, up rocky outcrops and to the magical falls. Exquisite vistas of rich landscapes await.
Canoeing and fishing along the Lukulu River offer an adventurous way of game viewing. The Lukulu River is a tributary of the Congo River and is unexplored. Sightings of birdlife hovering on the banks of the river and freshwater fish brimming beneath the surface, add a different dimension to the standard safari experience.
There are three rustic campsites inside the national park, each located in prime scenic destinations. Campsites hold great appeal to the adventurous visitor who doesn't mind being completely self-sufficient. Campsites are mainly used by 4x4'ers who bring all of their camping equipment.
There are a few mid-range thatched lodges and self-catering units on the outskirts of the national park, but within the park, there are no permanent accommodation options.