Zambia Travel Guide
Zambia Travel Guide
Northern Zambia
Sumbu National Park
Sumbu Township
Getting there

Zambia Travel Guide

Getting there

Access has always been the main problem for visitors to the Lake Tanganyika area. It's either difficult, or very time-consuming, or both to reach here.

By air

There is a fully tarred airstrip (1,500m long) at Kasaba Bay Lodge, which is currently used by all the lodges for visitors arriving by air. Limited amounts of AV-Gas are usually available, but there are no customs or immigration facilities. Ndole Bay and Nkamba Bay collect their passengers from this strip by boat, which takes about 30 minutes to each of the lodges. Unfortunately there are no scheduled flights here, so the only way to reach here by air is on a chartered aircraft. It's over 500km from Mfuwe or about 800km from Lusaka, and so this is an expensive option.


By road, Sumbu National Park can be approached relatively easily in a 4WD via Kaputa or Mporokoso. There is also a very difficult track from Mbala to the park's eastern boundary – but it's not for the faint-hearted or ill-equipped.

From Mporokoso
The easiest approach to the park is from Mporokoso, from where you head north. This road continues roughly northwest. Keen birdwatchers should note that just north of Nsama there's a patch of miombo woodland where the relatively uncommon white-winged starling is easily spotted.

Eventually the road turns northeast and passes close to the eastern shores of Lake Mweru Wantipa, before turning to the right, to go southeast. The map shows that you pass through Bulaya, which is nothing more than a dot on the map. Don't expect a town here.

About 140km from Mporokoso and 45km before Sumbu, you'll reach a game check point called the Mutundu Gate. This marks the beginning of the national park, and is also where the road from Kaputa (the area's administrative centre) joins the road from Mporokoso to Sumbu.

From there the road runs along the northwestern edge of the park, deteriorating as it goes. It deteriorates as it enters the park and continues to Sumbu Township. Past this there are no local villages, and Sumbu finally feels like a game park! Here youfind the Sumbu Gate entrance, where you'll have to pay park fees if you want to continue into the park. This road then continues to Nkamba Bay and Kasaba Bay.

About 5km before Sumbu Township 39km after the Mutondo Gate, there's a left turn to Ndole Bay Lodge. The lodge is 7km down this road.

From Nchelenge via Kaputa
Taking the Chinese Road turn-off and then going via Mansa, Mwense and Mbereshi, you'll reach Nchelenge about 584km after turning off the Great North Road. About 3km beyond Nchelenge the tar runs into gravel at a place called Kashikishi and the road turns more northeast as it shadows the edge of Lake Mweru towards the small town of Mununga. There you take a right and later a left to Kaputa, driving through Mweru Wantipa National Park. On reaching Kaputa, head straight through to join the road from Mporokoso to Sumbu.

Note that on some maps this road passes through a place called Bulaya, which is sometimes credited with having a ferry or pontoon over an arm of the lake. Years ago there was a ferry here, which took people over the eastern portion of Mweru Wantipa. It was the only way to get through to Kaputa. However, now there is a road that passes along the edge of this lake, and no ferry. As noted above, Bulaya is simply a dot on a map rather than a town.

Similarly, be aware that the road shown on many maps which runs from Mununga beside the south side of Lake Mweru Wantipa to Nsama is very bad and becoming impassable.

Cross-country from Mbala
Strictly for adventurers, there is a very poor track (on some maps it's a veritable highway, confirming that the cartographers have never been here!) from Mbala to Nkamba Bay Lodge. To find the start of this, look for a left turn about 5km after the Mbala/Mpulungu T-junction. There may be a sign to the Lufubu River there. The presence of the Lufubu River, which marks the park's southeastern boundary, helps to ensure that this is totally fictional during or just after the rains.

Even in the height of the dry season, you're going to need a 4WD with lots of spare wheels, a winch and a lot of patience. Gerard, from Ndole Bay, commented that 'intrepid drivers may want to do the journey for the sheer experience – as the countryside is wonderful and the drop from the escarpment into the Yendwe Valley is breathtakingly beautiful – but it is no short cut. The track is about 90km long, but it takes at least six hours in a good vehicle.' This road is allegedly used regularly by poachers, and there is no access to the western side of the Lufubu River.

By boat

Though a long way away, the lodges in Sumbu are easily and commonly reached by boat from Mpulungu. All three lodges use the harbour facilities of Samaki Fishing. To get there turn left down the gravel road opposite BP's North Wind service station, which is about 500m before the Caltex Station. (Samaki is run by the friendly and helpful Jeanne and Chris Blignaut, who can be reached on tel: 04 455103; fax: 4555008; email:

You need to arrange the transfers in advance with the lodges. Each lodge has different speeds and sizes of boat available, at different costs. A 'banana boat' (a long, thin chug-chug motor boat) will take about six hours to Sumbu, whilst a speedboat will arrive in less than two hours. If you arrive with your own vehicle, or even towing your own boat, then you can usually park your vehicle and trailer/boat safely at Samaki whilst you go to Sumbu. A launching ramp is available, and there's usually no charge for this, though you must ask permission from Samaki's staff and security guards. They're usually very helpful, and it's strongly recommended that you tip them for this very useful service.

Transport boats
If you don't want to hire a boat for the trip, then transport boats do ply up and down, but they're very crowded. Ask around at Samaki, and expect to pay about US$5/Kw12,000 per person for the trip, which takes about ten hours. If you want to hire your own, then ask water taxis at the main market, and expect to pay around US$130–140/Kw320,000–350,000 one way. (You can always check the current rates with the Samaki staff, and then bargain from a position of knowledge at the market.)

Getting around

With the growth of the new privatised lodges in the area, the network of roads in the park has been extended and improved vastly in the last few years. Kasaba Bay Lodge have put in good roads around the Inangu Peninsula, Nkamba Bay Lodge have improved the roads in the Nkamba Valley, and Ndole Bay Lodge (and a helpful local couple who live here, the Blignauts) have developed those around the Chisala River, putting in various game-drive loops. Plans are even afoot to develop further roads within the Nundu Headland area. However, note that many of these areas still cannot be accessed during the rains.

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