Getting there by 4WD
Chunga and Mukambi are very near the main road, and so are clearly signposted around the main bridge over the Kafue in the centre of the park. To reach the heart of the southern section of the park you must either take the road through the GMA, which leaves the Great West Road about 65–70km west of Mumbwa, or alternatively approach from the south from Monze, Choma or Kalomo on the Lusaka–Livingstone road.
Only the first of these approaches is practical in the wet season, and all require a 4WD throughout the year.
From the Lusaka–Mongu road – west of Lake Itezhi-Tezhi
Despite a fiction perpetrated by distant cartographers, the 'road' south from Chunga to the Itezhi-Tezhi dam, which follows the western bank of the Kafue, is not passable any more. It was built sometime before the 1920s, and then improved in 1976. It was said to be a lovely road, with many bridges (as it crossed 11 rivers). Most of these seem to have been intact when the Itezhi-Tezhi dam was built in 1978, and some were repaired in 1979. However, in the 1980s it seems to have been totally neglected and now, having fallen into disuse, it's simply unnavigable.
When approaching from the north, the only way into the southern section of the park is through the Mumbwa and Namwala GMAs, east of the lake. Both of these have safari camps, where the game is increasingly good.
The country's worst road?
Before 2004, the road through the GMA was certainly a contender for the title of 'Zambia's worst tar road'. Paradoxically, it would also have had a good shot at the title of 'Zambia's worst gravel road'. In short, it was difficult to tell if it was really a very bad tar road dotted with patches of gravel, or a very bad gravel road dotted with some old tar. Certainly the wide, deep pot-holes in both surfaces, combined with stretches of very bad corrugations, would have helped it compete!
In 2004, as this book goes to press, I'm told that the first 60km on the north end of this have been graded, and that it will soon all be a smooth and comfortable gravel road. If true, and it is maintained, this will make southern Kafue much more accessible – and help the lodges and the park considerably. Until then, always ask local advice before venturing this way.
From the Lusaka–Mongu road: the 'GMA road'
Heading west from Lusaka, Mumbwa is almost 150km away. by-Pass Mumbwa and continue for about 37km until you reach Nalusanga Scout Post (GPS: NALUSA), the entry gate to the Kafue National Park.
The turning (GPS: TUTZTZ) into the south of the park leaves this Lusaka–Mongu road about 28km west of this, or 65km from Mumbwa. If you're approaching from the west, that's a fraction more than 51km from the main Hook Bridge over the Kafue River. It is clearly signposted to Itezhi-Tezhi.
In recent years this road here has been appalling: see box above: The country's worst road? The 120km of poor, pot-holed road took 5–6 hours in a good, sturdy 4WD, even in the dry season, and sections of the road were popular with tsetse flies – making air conditioning a really valuable accessory for your vehicle. However, in 2004 work started to grade this road from the north end, and should be complete somewhere in 2005, making it a good smooth gravel surface.
Whatever the surface, about 45km after turning, you will pass the Mwengwa Scout Post (GPS: MWEENG) which is a game scout checkpoint. You must stop here to sign in. About 2km south of that, there's a turning clearly marked for Kaingu Lodge and Puku Pans (GPS: TUKNGU).
About 39km from the scout post you'll stop at a Veterinary Control Post; then a further 22km and you reach the crossroads at Itezhi-Tezhi village (GPS:). This is about 106km from the main Lusaka–Mongu road. Continue across the junction for about 5km to pass a police post, post office and school, by which time you're high up and overlooking the lake. From here you cross the dam wall (GPS:) to get to the lodges, which are well signposted on the right-hand side of the road. Then it's just a couple of kilometres further to Musa Gate (GPS: MUSAGA), to continue back into the southern section of Kafue National Park.
From Kalomo to Dumdumwenze Gate
There's a BP station in Kalomo, and you should fill up there. From Kalomo (which is about 126km from Livingstone on the way to Lusaka), there is an old sign to Kafue and Musungwa pointing roughly north. You will drive past the Kalomo Hotel and turn left at the next T-junction. Within 20 metres the road becomes a dirt track. Continue on this to another T-junction, turn right and follow the road as it curves left (ignoring right-hand turn-off).
Continue over a railway bridge, and shortly afterwards a river bridge (GPS: KALBRI), and then take the next left fork. Continue following the main track, ignoring any turnings and keeping left at forks. After a few kilometres you should be travelling northwest. About 40km after the main road, you will start leaving the rural villages behind to climb through some hills. Eventually, after about 74km, you drop down gradually to Dumdumwenze Gate (GPS: DUMDUM), where the game scouts will sign you into the park. (Note that Dumdumwezi is the local spelling and pronunciation.)
North from Dumdumwenze
From here, you should always ask the scouts for advice – if only to determine how wet the roads are, and so if it's safe to go on the much more interesting Nanzhila River route.
Between about December and May, there's little choice: you will have to take the Cordon route, which skirts around the southwest side of the park through woodlands. This gets to Ngoma without crossing any substantial rivers, and so while it does have the odd sticky dambo, an experienced driver with a 4WD should be able to get through even in the rains.
For this you go into the park, heading north for about 2.3km, and then take a left turn at your first junction (GPS: J20). From here you proceed about 40km, through fairly thick forest, heading slightly north of west, until you reach a junction (GPS: KAFU01), which indicates the southwestern tip of the park. There you turn right, to head north and slightly east on a basically straight road that passes through the heart of the southern end of the park. This ultimately meets other roads near Ngoma at junction (GPS: J10).
During the dry season, consider taking the Nanzhila River route, which is much more interesting. This shadows the river north, crossing it several times and skirts around the eastern edge of the Nanzhila Plains. For this go to the junction (GPS: J20) 2.3km north of Dumdemwenze, then continue straight ahead. I first tried this route in June 2001 and the vegetation was exceedingly thick – so best wait until at least July drive along here.
From that first junction it's about 19km until you cross to the east bank of the Nanzhila River at (GPS: NANRV2). Although the river isn't very deep, its banks are steep and can be slippery, so if there's any danger of you getting stuck, make sure that you have a back-up plan. Continue north, and after about 19km you may spot a very faint track heading west, to your left, at (GPS: J19). There might be a concrete sign marker still there.
In 2003, this track had virtually disappeared – but don't let that put you off. Turn left as if it were there (it should be!), across the vegetation if necessary! In about 800m you'll reach a river crossing (GPS: NANRV2). Continue over this and for a further 2km on a better track until you meet a road junction (GPS: J18). Turn right to take a really lovely road north. It passes the Nanzhila Plains, and bends east at the Chelenje Pools, and then leads to Kalenje Scout Post. If you didn't go west at J19, then continuing straight would also bring you to Kalenje.
From Kalenje there's a variety of game drive roads which will lead you slightly west of north to Ngoma.
From Monze on the Lusaka–Livingstone Road
From Monze take a turning on the north side of town towards Chongo, heading northwest towards Lochinvar National Park. You may need to ask local directions to get on the right track, but it passes through waypoint n TULOCH: 16º15.465'S; 27º28.632'E. After 7–8km you will pass Chongo – keep left there as the track divides after the village. About 8km after Chongo the road forks (GPS: T2LOCH): right leads to Lochinvar National Park; left leads to Namwala and thence the Ngoma area of Kafue.
About 35km later, on a dusty (or, if wet, muddy) and rather pot-holed track, you will reach Chitongo, and a T-junction. Here you find an implausibly good tarred road! (If you turn left on to this, you would find the tar turn into poor gravel about 60km before Choma.)
For the Kafue take a right turn at Chitongo on to the tar, and follow this as it turns from heading slightly west of north, to heading due west. About 50km after Chitongo you will reach the larger village of Namwala, on the southern edge of the Kafue's floodplain. (Where, incidentally, there's a pontoon over the Kafue.) From there, the track leads about 60km west, into the park. This is bumpy and pot-holed gravel, but is passable during the rains. It enters the park past the site of the old Nkala Mission, joining the road network at (GPS: TUNAMW), about 2km north of Ngoma.