Hillwood and Nchila
Hillwood Farm is an improbable place. It's an oasis of peace and order in a corner of Zambia which the world's media might expect, given its position between Angola and the DRC, to be under permanent siege. What's more, within its bounds, Hillwood has a very special reserve, Nchila, which has flora and fauna that are unique to Zambia: it contains a slice of equatorial forest that's been preserved and nurtured. The family who own this farm, the Fishers, have been working in close partnership with the local communities here for generations.
In short, although it's exceedingly 'out of the way' by anyone's standards, Hillwood is a totally fascinating place that's delightful to visit and contains some amazing wildlife. If you're anywhere near here, don't miss it!
Getting there and away
To reach here from Mwinilunga, continue through town on the main road, past the turn-off to the airport. After about 7km, the road changes from tar to well-maintained gravel road. Over its course it then crosses a series of rivers, and you'll drive over four bridges. (Whilst you don't need a 4WD for this in the dry season, there are several steep sections that could become tricky in the wet season.) In sequence, the rivers include Luakela, the Chitunta and the Kaseki.
About 47km from Mwinilunga there's a right turn that is clearly marked (GPS:TUZAMB). After about 4.6km, this leads to the source of the Zambezi. Then about 3km after that turning, you cross the final river, the Sakeji River. About 9km after this there is a clear signpost to the right (GPS:TUHILL) proclaiming that Hillwood Farm and Nchila Wildlife Reserve are about 7km away. This final road felt a little like a local footpath through a village to us, but eventually you do reach Hillwood Farm (GPS:HILLWO) – an oasis of order.
Note that on the way from Mwinilunga to Hillwood you pass (although may not notice) the Luakela Forest Reserve and later Chitunta Plain, both of which have some of the birds which attract ornithologists to this corner of the country. Luakela Forest Reserve is noted for lots of bar-winged weavers, whilst Chitunta Plain is very important for many species, including the Angola lark, Grimwood's longclaw, the dambo (black-tailed) cisticola, the black and rufous swallows and short-tailed pipits. Venture several kilometres up the stream there, and you've a good chance of seeing another very uncommon bird, Bocage's weaver.
Hillwood is about 68km from Mwinilunga and, if you don't stop for any birdwatching, will take a bit less than two hours to drive. Alternatively, Nchila can be reached by a short (though not very cheap) charter flight from Lusaka or (marginally less costly) from Lunga River Lodge in northern Kafue.