Remote Africa Safaris
Remote Africa Safaris operate the park's only river safaris, which take place during February and March using Tafika as a base. (John, Carol and most of their team live there all year round anyhow!) These are a little more adventurous than your average dry-season trip, utilising dinghies and canoes during the Luangwa's flood.
A typical trip would start with a couple of nights on arrival at Kapani, or one of the (few!) other lodges open in the Mfuwe area. This gives you a chance to acclimatise, and go on some game drives around the park's limited network of all-weather roads. Then you'll be collected for a journey up-river on a six-man inflatable dinghy, which takes about three hours (including stops for game viewing and birdwatching).
Tafika then becomes the base for about four or five days of exploration on the river and its tributaries. You'll usually use three-person canoes, always with a guide or paddler at the back of each, to explore the main river and its larger tributaries. This is typically 100m wide and the hippos in it are safely dispersed. Crocodiles are numerous, though not usually a threat, leaving you free to watch the birdlife and the game on the river's banks.
Then you'll used motorised dinghies to explore the side-channels and lagoons, which are often stunningly beautiful. For ten months of the year most of these are sand-rivers, but for just a few months they fill with water. Often they are lined by tall old hardwood trees. (I had my best sighting ever of the much-hyped Pel's fishing owl in the flowing Chikoko Channel during the rains.)
In a few areas the trees open out on to wide, shallow floodplains, usually dotted with egrets, waders or geese. In the middle of two such floodplains, in the Nsefu sector of the park, are a couple of nesting colonies for storks and herons. These rely on a high water-level, and the birds won't nest unless the area is flooded. (This is probably a protection mechanism against nest raiders who would be deterred by the water at the foot of the trees.) The main one of these is a huge colony for yellow-billed storks. These take on a beautiful, delicate pink hue when breeding and collectively make for an amazing sight.
When possible, a microlight flight with John is included as part of the 'activities', and doesn't cost extra at this time of year. These not only add a different dimension to your view of the park, but also allow you to spot game in areas of otherwise impenetrable vegetation.
Finally, the trip draws to a close with a boat ride back to the Mfuwe area and a night at Kapani before departing. Such a trip is the only way to take a good look at the park during the rainy season, when the heronries and other bird colonies are at their most spectacular.