Situated in a dense canopy of endemic forest bordered by rivers on all side, rests the little-explored West Lunga National Park of Zambia. The 1,700 square-kilometre park encompasses evergreen Miombo forest peppered with patches of grassland and floodplain.
The only way to access the interior of the park is to cross one of the rivers, making it a remote and relatively inaccessible destination. However, the pristine scenery is well-worth the intrepid adventure. There are limestone caves, rapids, waterfalls, and hot springs just waiting to be photographed.
Keen ornithologists have undertaken the journey to West Lunga in search of the endemic and extremely rare white chested tinkerbird. The allure of birding in West Lunga National Park is strong, and one of the main reasons for visiting the park.
West Lunga is ideal for the true adventurous spirit hankering for a wilderness expedition. Canoeing, mokoro and walking safaris are the only way to explore the extensive landscape. Zebra, wildebeest and elephant roam the flat interior, while pods of hippo guard the waters cocooning the park.
West Lunga National Park is a completely secluded region and difficult to access. The closest international airport is the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka, offers scheduled domestic flights to Solwezi Airport. The park is 10 kilometres north of the road that connects Solwezi to Kabompo.
West Lunga National Park is in an extremely remote and secluded region of Zambia. Visitors to the park should also be aware that the park lacks infrastructure and should be prepared for an off-the-beaten-track experience.
The Kabompo River is the ideal location for the catch-and-release of tiger fish and visitors are encouraged to rent a fishing charter for this activity.
Forest animals are abundant, in particular small creatures such as the bushpig, monkeys, and baboons. Bigger mammals such as buffalo and elephant are also seen from time to time.
Hippos and crocs guard the waters of the park and are plentiful. The honking of hippos reverberates through the park, a sound synonymous with safaris. Antelope like roan, sable and hartebeest are well-represented within the flat grassland interior.
West Lunga National Park is an important birding destination. Species like the exceptionally rare white chested tinkerbird and the Dickinson’s kestrel are found in these habitats. Other birds to spot include the Kurrichane thrush, western miombo sunbird, broad-tailed paradise-whydah and the great snipe.
West Lunga National Park is a high rainfall region and is best to avoid during the wet summer season. Like most safari destinations, the best to visit during is the dry winter season when the forested regions are slightly thinned out. Visitors should note that the dense forest is pretty much impenetrable year-round.
The dry season is from August to October, and the wet season is from November to April. The in-between season is from May to July and is the ideal time to visit.
West Lunga National Park is a completely remote and untamed region hugged by mighty rivers. There is no infrastructure in the park, so all activities are more sport-adventure based than geared towards mass tourism. This allows visitors to experience Zambia the authentic way.
Catch-and-release angling for tiger fish is popular in the Kabompo River. Visitors are welcome to bring their boat or arrange a fishing charter to explore the mystery of Zambia’s deepest river.
Canoeing and traditional mokoro trips are the perfect way of enjoying a water safari experience—this is the preferred method for birdwatching. Visitors can spot African fish eagles and wading birds on the banks on the river while gently gliding past on a mokoro.
There are also pre-arranged canoe trips to the Mabongo Hot Spring which include various photographic stops, lunch en route and sightings of hippos. Guided walks to the Mulongwanyimu Swamp introduce visitors to the plethora of birdlife. Visitors can also spot all types of wildlife en route to the swamps, including roan, sable and the ever shy sitatunga.
There's no accommodation within the park, apart from a few campsites on the banks of the river. The park lacks facilities and management, so most accommodation options are adjacent to the river.
Self-contained chalets, rustic tent set-ups and community camping spots are available just outside the park. There are also no major towns nearby, which means visitors really need to be prepared for an adventure.