Getting to South Luangwa
During the main safari season, from June to the end of October, Mfuwe is one of the easiest places in Zambia to reach by air. Currently it is regularly serviced by Zambian Airways (formerly Roan Air) and Airwaves. By road
Driving from Chipata is long and tedious, but not usually difficult in the dry season if your vehicle has a good suspension. Coming from the north, or Mpika, is a totally different story: it requires a small expedition of at least two well-equipped 4WD vehicles, driven by experienced bush drivers with a high degree of self-reliance.From Chipata
Approaching from Chipata is by far the easiest way to reach the park if you are driving. As you enter Chipata from Lusaka, you pass under a 'Welcome to Chipata' arch spanning the road (the independence memorial archway). Instead of going under this, turn left before it. The turn-off is marked with many small signs for local companies, but there are probably still none to Mfuwe or South Luangwa. That said, the route is fairly obvious, even without the waypoints points noted here.
This road winds down from the high escarpment and into the valley. The views are spectacular, and you will pass many local villages on the way. Keep the windows open and you will feel both the temperature and the humidity rise as you descend.
After around 45km you will pass over the first hill (GPS: HILL1), and then about 20km later, you'll reach the Chisengu turn-off (GPS: TUSLNP) where the right-hand road becomes a rough track leading to the Kauluzi and Chikwinda gates. (This is part of an old district road which used to connect Chipata and Lundazi, though sections of it further north have not been passable for more than ten years, so it's unlikely to be re-opened.)
For Mfuwe keep left; the road leads to Jumbe after about 16km, before forking left again over a bridge. After this there's a short stretch of tar over Mpata Hill (GPS: HILL2); if you're driving in the wet season, you'll appreciate the need for this tar. Some 15km further on, after passing a small catholic church, the road forks again. Keep left. Shortly there's a tarmac T-junction. Turn left for 3–4km to reach Mfuwe Airport (GPS: MFUAIR), or right for Mfuwe Bridge (GPS: MFUBRI) and the park. From Chipata by this route it's about 95km to Mfuwe airport, or about 115km to the main bridge into the park, over the Luangwa River.From Petauke
Fully-equipped 4WD vehicles coming from Lusaka might be tempted to take an earlier turn off the Great East Road, and approach the south side of the park, via a turn-off from Petauke. I haven't driven this road; it's very rarely used and is much slower and more difficult than the Chipata road (above), though also more scenic and interesting. It takes about 150km to reach the park's southern gate at Chilongozi, then a further 40km to Mfuwe; you're unlikely to see any other vehicles on it.
For those who have the backup and want to try this, some old directions and GPS waypoints (with special thanks to Ed, Claire and Flatdogs) are as follows: turn off the Great East Road to Petauke (GPS: PETAUK) next to the BP filling station (last fuel up before Mfuwe). It's 4km until you pass the police station, on the right. Then turn left and then continue up the hill, taking a left fork after about 200m (GPS: PETS01). Head for Ukwimi which is about 50km of ungraded track.
This brings you to the Chilongozi area and the Nyamaluma Pontoon (GPS: NYALUM– if it's still running). Cross this to reach Bilimungwe, Chendeni and the camps on the west of the Luangwa River. The easiest way to the Mfuwe from here is probably not across the pontoon into the park, although you can go that way; better to continue roughly northeast, shadowing the east bank of the Luangwa, and you'll eventually emerge into Mfuwe just east of the bridge.
If you're aiming for Luamfwa Lodge, then at Ukwimi village, a boom gate crosses the road; and you should turn immediately left after this. You will pass Chief Malama's village, and continue until you reach Lusangazi village. Here you turn left, crossing the Lusangazi River – which is only possible in the dry season, from about June to October. (The road to your right here is the road to Mfuwe.) You have now entered the South Luangwa National Park, and it is a further 20km to Luamfwa Lodge. From Mpika via the Corridor Road and '05
Driving south from Mpika, down into the Luangwa Valley between the North and South Parks, and then crossing the Mupamadzi into South Luangwa, is possible only in the dry season – but it's probably the trickiest of the ways to get here.
See the section on getting to Luambe National Park, entitled From Mpika via the Corridor Road, under Luambe National Park, Getting There, By Driving, From Mapika via the Corridor Road
, for the start of the route.
After turning east from the Great North Road (GPS: TUBATE) about 40km south of Mpika, you pass Nthunta Scout Camp (GPS: NTHUNA) and then drop over the escarpment and eventually reach the Mutinondo River. About 8.8km after crossing this, there's a left turning which leads to Nabwalya village and the pontoon across the Luangwa (though this is dependent on the hunting community, and it hasn't operated in any of the last three years).
However, if you continue straight on and don't turn left to Nabwalya, then after a further 7.3km you will reach the Chifungwe Game Scouts' Camp (GPS: CHIFUNG), just before the Mupamadzi River. This is the boundary to South Luangwa National Park, reached about 73km from the Great North Road. Crossing the Mupamadzi (which should only be attempted when low) is tricky, but then it's a simple, if long, journey to head due south.
About 3.4km after the Mupamadzi crossing you reach a junction: to the left is a small road to the private Mupamadzi Walking Area, to the right is the '05' road which is very little used but will take you right across the heart of the park, skirting the western side of Zebra Pans. About 55km after the Mupamadzi, you will reach the Luwi River (GPS: 05LUWI) near Nsolo Bushcamp (just deep sand), and then some 10km after that you join the network of all-weather roads in the Mfuwe area, just north of the 'Big Baobab' and Mfuwe Lodge.From Luambe
See under Luambe National Park, Getting There, By Driving, From South Luangwa
for details of this route in reverse, and backtrack.Hitchhiking
With plenty of water and stamina, getting to Mfuwe from Chipata is possible. Start hitching early at the turn-off, or outside the Chipata Motel. (You can always sleep there if necessary.) Don't accept local lifts going just a few kilometres, there's no point – better to wait for a vehicle going at least to Mfuwe airport. Some of the camps have trucks doing supply-runs to Chipata, there are occasional tourists (though fewer with space to spare), and there is a small amount of local traffic. I took five hours just to get a lift from here one October morning, so expect a long wait.
That said, with an increasing population in Mfuwe there are now small minibuses which ply between Chipata and Mfuwe. These cost under U$10 per person one way, but usually won't leave until full. Small groups of travellers may be able to hire a vehicle for a reasonable rate; make sure you agree on the airport as the drop-off location.