To explore northern Zambia properly, and to visit the national parks here, requires some determination, or at least advance planning. All of the area's three main national parks have suffered from neglect over the years. However one, Sumbu, is hanging on with a handful of small lodges which could lead to a promising future. This large reserve is bounded by GMAs and Lake Tanganyika, and promises fishing and diving as well as more traditional safari pursuits.
Tanganyika is one of the largest lakes in East Africa's Great Rift Valley, and has a rich aquatic life found nowhere else. Even outside the park small lodges are springing up for casual visitors – the snorkelling and fishing are good and it's a pleasant place to relax.
The north's other two parks, Mweru Wantipa and Lusenga Plain, may take more to get them back on the map, as neither has organised facilities for visitors, or good roads within it. Years of poaching have reduced the populations of game animals within them, and what animals are left remain shy and understandably wary of mankind. Outside of the national parks, this part of northern Zambia is a fascinating area, and there are numerous sights and waterfalls at which to stop and wonder.
Finally, a word about Nyika: a high plateau that straddles the Malawi border and provides the Luangwa with many of its tributaries. There are national parks on both sides of the border. Nyika Plateau National Park, on the Zambian side, is unlike anywhere else in the country: high mountains clothed in rolling heathlands and often draped with mist. It's a great walking destination, a cool respite after the heat of the Luangwa Valley and home to numerous endemic species. However, it's easiest to access from the east, from Malawi, and so it's often forgotten when talking of Zambian national parks.