Eben Delport feels privileged to be based in the centre of the Namib and to have a large variety of off-road destinations close by. Recently he ventured outside his comfort zone and explored the western part of Zambia with Andre van Vuuren of Explore Africa Adventures.
The new border post at Singalamwe in the Caprivi Strip, near Kongola on the Kwando River, opened up new possibilities for “off the beaten track” routes, and triggered my interest in the area.
Zambia is amazing in many ways. The people speak good English, and they wave and greet you with really big smiles. Alarming, however, is the deforestation taking place on a huge scale, due to a very active charcoal trade and the use of the exotic woods, such as teak and rosewood, for general construction and carving.
The Chinese have arrived in numbers and the construction of new roads in these remote areas is going ahead at a rapid pace.
Travelling to Katima Mulilo via the Caprivi Strip (recently renamed the Zambezi Province of Namibia) reinforced my appreciation for this area as a tourist destination. Various lodges and campsites make it possible to embark on a very comfortable trip and experience a diversity of wildlife equal to that found in neighbouring Botswana, but in a much quieter and less congested manner. Khaudom, Mamili and Horseshoe Bend come to mind. On this trip we just skipped past these amazing places on our way to Zambia.
After stocking up with supplies in Katima, we crossed the border and were pleasantly surprised by the new border post on the Zambian side. We were ushered through quite effectively in a nice air-conditioned environment. The next surprise was the tar road between the border and Ngonye Falls.
On the first night we camped at Kabula Tiger Lodge on the banks of the stunningly wide and beautiful Zambezi.
Still going north, we continued on a sandy road along the edge of the Barotse Plains towards Kalabo, on what we called the Mango Route.
At Kalabo we crossed the river just 12km short of the Luiwa Park on a two-car, hand drawn ferry. Having crossed the river, you encounter deep sand and the going is quite slow – but hey, this is what we came for!
Liuwa Plains National Park is one of Zambia’s wildest wilderness areas. It is situated in Barotseland on the upper Zambezi flood plains, covering an area of 3660km² of vast grassland and wooded islands. There are three campsites neatly tucked away at the edge of the woodland “islands” in the vast grassy plains.
Blue wildebeest covered the horizon, stretching as far as the eye could see. It was early November, and the herds had gathered on the southern plains. This spectacular sight is the culmination of Africa’s second largest wildebeest migration.
The wildebeest begin their journey some 200km away in Angola before eventually emerging from the woodland and gathering in the north-west regions of Liuwa Plains during the early part of the dry season. Tsessebe, zebra, lechwe, oribi, lion and hyena accounted for the rest of our sightings, along with prolific bird life. We spotted crowned and wattled cranes, vultures and much more.
The park is really big, open and outright beautiful. We spent three nights there before, sadly, it was time to turn back for home.
This remote and vast wilderness is a truly unique and untouched treasure. Imagine taking the Mara and Serengeti, combining them with the Okavango Delta, and then evacuating all the tourists. This is an “off the beaten track” experience that will leave you in complete awe.
We travelled east to Lusaka, passing through the Kafue Park. From the outside it also seemed to be an exciting destination, but being on the main route it did not qualify in our books as being “off the beaten track”.
Zambia is well known for its variety of parks and these undoubtedly warrant a visit.
Lusaka is a typical African city with a nice vibe, busy traffic and well organised shopping centres, boasting all the big-names chain stores.
Eureka Camping on the southern edge of Lusaka is a well-maintained campsite catering for the typical overland tourist.
We ventured east to Siananga to experience the Kariba Lake, where we once again had a nice surprise. There were facilities for both the self-drive and self-catering tourist as well as upmarket lodges, including some run by Protea Hotels.
The biggest surprise and discovery came on our way back to Livingstone, in the form of Camp Ngwazi (www.campnkwazi.com) just 20 minutes outside the town. The self-catering luxury tented chalets on the banks of the Zambezi, opposite the Zambezi National Park of Botswana, were picture-perfect.
From a camper’s point of view, this is heaven. Each campsite has its own ablutions, braai, kitchen and scullery, set in beautiful riverine forest and with “wall to wall” lawns to camp on. A true gem!
It’s a good base from which to explore Livingstone and take part in the various adventure activities (helicopter rides, white water rafting, bungee jumping and much more). Alternatively, you can just relax and enjoy the scenery and the variety of wildlife and, of course, the birds.
The trip met my expectations. There is still a lot to see and do here, so I will definitely be back.
PS: The Nissan Patrol is at the top end of the 4×4 choices in Zambia!
A round trip of 6500km, starting at Walvis Bay via the Caprivi Strip, Zambia and Botswana.
In off-road conditions (mostly sandy tracks where we had to deflate tyres to one bar) we averaged 4 km/litre. (25l/100km) For the rest, the roads were good, including relatively new tar roads on which we travelled close to 120km/h. The average on these stretches ranged from 5 km/litre (in heavy wind and rain) to the more general 5.5 km/litre (18l/100km).
Taking into consideration that the roof rack, water tanks and other paraphernalia on the roof added almost 400mm to the wind resistance, the figures weren’t too bad.
On this typical long haul expedition, one would have preferred a bigger capacity fuel tank!
Best attribute of Patrol on this trip:
Although roads are being built at an amazing pace, there are various older stretches that are either very uneven and/or full of potholes. The excellent brakes, hardy suspension, and high profile all-terrain tyres passed this test with flying colours. On the uneven surfaces and in off-road conditions, the rugged and hardy suspension was up to the challenge, without sacrificing the comfortable ride.
The new roads would have justified a steady 120km/h, but there was always the danger of stray animals that put the brakes to the test!
Worst attribute of Patrol on this trip:
We were heavily loaded, and the standard suspension would not have been up to it. We fitted air suspension and kept it at the maximum recommended pressure of 3-bar to help carry the load.
What I took along:
We had enough supplies to be self-sufficient for four weeks. That included groceries, a complete set of camping gear (tents, shower, cooking and braai equipment), 60 litres of drinking water, a 120-litre fridge/freezer packed to the brim and three days’ supply of braai wood and charcoal. Quite a load!
Exploring the northern parts of the Namib. The desert merges into Damaraland and Kaokoland, and this area offers some of the most exciting off-road destinations one could wish for.