OK, try to follow: The tarmac road from Lusaka was built with Japanese aid and it’s straight as an airport runway for 265 km. You drive to westwards, towards Mongu. Well into the national park, you’ll make a left just before the Kafue river and then battle the mud for about 2 km. Not too hard, huh? Welcome to the Mukambi Lodge, which is probably the most accessible lodge if you’re landing in the Zambian capital (you most likely will).
The Mukambi Lodge is under the management of Edjan and Robyn van der Heide, both are Dutch. And the view from the bar is making a large downpayment of the bill. From the bar, there’s merely a stone’s throw to the Kafue River. On the other side, the national park begins. It’s one of the largest parks in the world. 22,500 square kilometers. It’s about half the size of Holland.
Some parks have more in common with a zoo than with what I would call a safari. Not here. The size of the park makes it less crowded and many of the animals are still very shy and… wild. Elephants usually give the strange noisy four-wheeled things a tired glance and not much more. Here a bull wanting to protect its herd makes numerous mock charges. Humans go home! When me move out of the way of the grumpy fellow we find the road blocked by 300 buffaloes not knowing exact how to react…
So, is this good? I never like to disturbe any animal, but this is way more interesting than cruising around in a park where everything is served on a silver plate and you feel blasé after the second tribe of lions. Another bonus with the Kafue park is the fact that it’s open all year, which is not anything to take for granted in a country where the emerald season makes roads impossible to drive on. The best season to go is during the European fall.
The Mukambi is not a posh lodge. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not of low standard. It’s clean and functioning but you don’t get (and you don’t pay) for any luxury amenities. All the chalets have a shower with water heated by solar cells. The lodge earns its stars thanks to a very skilled chef, especially when he grills the meat… And when going on a game drive, insist on having the head guide as your guide and driver. He is very good and he makes the difference between a good safari and just driving around in the bush. His assistants are no guides, even though they claim to be.
It’s the proximity to Lusaka that makes the lodge a potential location, especially if you don’t want to take a domestic flight. And again, it’s a great bonus that Kafue actually offers some wildlife that is wild. This is probably what game drives in Africa was like before the Disney era.