Lake Waka Waka
If you're looking for some relatively untouched bush and a quiet setting, where you're very unlikely to encounter anyone else, then this lake is a lovely tranquil spot. It's good for walking, makes a convenient camping stop on the way to Bangweulu Wetlands, and provides a pleasant lunch spot if you're not staying. The views from the surrounding hilltops are panoramic, and I'm reliably informed that the lake is safe to swim in with no bilharzia, hippos or crocodiles – though I haven't done this myself. There are few settlements around here, and hence a scattering of game is present, including sitatunga and roan antelope, though both are skittish and scarce.
However you approach, you're really going to need a high-clearance 4WD once you leave the main tarred roads – and even then you'll find travelling in the rainy season is a challenge. From the west
Take the road to Mansa and Samfya for about 65km, turning right 10km after the sign to Kasanka National Park. (See the directions to the Livingstone Memorial.) Continue past Chalilo School for about 30km, before turning left (GPS: TUWAKA) at a sign for Lake Waka Waka. Note that you'll need a 4WD for this track at any time of year; it doesn't get much traffic.From the south
There's a wonderful track from the Great North Road to Lake Waka Waka, but the more northerly sections of this are seldom used. Start off by turning north at the signpost for Nsalu Cave (GPS: TU1NSA), 30km northeast of Kanona.
After 14km you'll pass the left turning to Nsalu Cave (GPS: TU2NSA), and you continue heading north-northwest. This track basically follows a watershed, with the Lukulu to the east, which drains into Bangweulu, and tributaries of the Kasanka to the west, which drain into the park. Thus with no rivers crossing it, it should be passable even during the rains. When I journeyed in late May, this road was particularly beautiful, though I don't think that more than half a dozen cars had been through since the previous December. The grass was high, the miombo woodlands apparently untouched, and there were very few villages around here.
About 22km north of the Nsalu turning, the track bumps over a very rocky hill (GPS: WAKHIL), and becomes quite indistinct in places. Carry on, and aim for the junction of this track with the 'main' track from Kasanka to Chiundaponde, at (GPS: TUWAKA). This is barely a kilometre from the lake.
As this book goes to press, in late 2004, I'm reliably informed that this whole track, from the Great North Road to Waka Waka, has (inexplicably!) just been graded – so with little traffic should now be one of the country's better bush tracks.
Where to stay
Considering how remote it is, Waka Waka is an amazing little camp – due to the very helpful staff who live and work there. It's very simple, and you have the choice of camping or staying in basic thatched huts. In either case, you will share clean long-drop toilets and bucket showers (hot water is heated for you, and brought on request). They'll also draw delicious fresh water for you from the middle of the lake.
You need to be self-sufficient and bring all your own food, but there is firewood here and the staff will light a fire. When cooking, there's a handy box with cutlery, crockery, pots and pans that you can use. Short boat trips on the lake are available, and someone will usually volunteer to guide you on a short walk up the hill behind camp which has lovely views of the valley and lake. Although the team from Kasanka have helped to set up this campsite, it's run by people who live here. It's a lovely spot with tremendously helpful staff who deserve your support if you're passing this way. Do stop for a night – and if you know the date in advance, then make a booking through Kasanka National Park.
Rates: US$10 per person for a chalet; US$5 per person camping