Sumbu National Park

Sumbu National Park              
Lying on the southern shores of Lake Tanganyika in the Northern most tip of Zambia, Sumbu National Park covers an area of just over 2000 km2 encompassing 100 km of some of the most pristine shores of this vast Lake. Its beauty ranges from sandy beaches, vertical cliffs, rocky coves and natural bays to the rugged hills and deep valleys of the interior. The Lufubu River winds its way through a valley flanked by 300 meter escarpments on either side.
The western boundary of Nsumbu National Park is buffered by Tondwa Game Management Area, an IUCN Category VIII Multiple Use Management Area of 54,000 ha. The much larger Kaputa Game Management Area (360,000 ha) is also contiguous with the National Park to the north-west and south-west therefore, with the National Park, completely surrounding Tondwa. Sumbu National Park and the two Game Management Areas thus form important parts of a network of Protected Areas in Zambia.

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Sumbu National Park                 
The Park is dissected from west to east by the sizeable and perennial Lufubu River, which also demarcates the eastern boundary of the Park up to the river's discharge into Lake Tanganyika. Nkamba and Chisala Rivers are ephemeral and smaller than the Lufubu, draining Tondwa Swamp into Nkamba and Sumbu Bays respectively, the former through an attractive valley with abundant wildlife in relation to other parts of the Park. Much of the park is covered by combretum thicket, but along the lakeshore there are many strangler figs and ‘candelabra’ trees along with the strange and interesting boulders balanced on top of one another.

Although wildlife numbers have declined, there is still a wide range of species present in the park and numbers are recovering, although sightings are not guaranteed. Roan, sable, eland, hartebeest as well as buffalo and zebra and occasionally elephant, lion and leopard. Bushbuck, warthog and puku often frequent the beaches. The rare blue duiker, a small forest antelope is one of the Park’s specialities along with the shy swamp dwelling sitatunga. Other species seen here are the spotted hyena, side-striped jackal, serval, impala, waterbuck and reedbuck This side of the Lake is teeming with crocodiles, so swimming is obviously not advisable. Some reach up to six meters in length. Hippos often emerge at night around the lodges to ‘mow’ the green grass.

Bird watching
Birdlife in the park is still prolific with many migrants coming down from East Africa and up from South African regions. The flamingo is one of the more spectacular migrants while some of the lakeshore inhabitants include the skimmer, spoonbill, whiskered tern along with many different storks, ducks and herons. Commonly encountered species around the lake include the grey-headed gull, lesser black-backed gull, white-winged black tern, whiskered tern, African skimmer, and of course the ubiquitous fish eagle. The palmnut vulture and Pel's fishing owl are also occasionally seen.

The Balancing Boulders are shrouded in myth and are of great significance to the local Tabwa people. On the Nundo Head Peninsula a large boulder balances upon three smaller ones and is the scene of annual ceremonies in which a white chicken is sacrificed to honour the God Nundo. Further east at Kabwembwa, just outside the Park there is a sacred place where the Spirit of the Lake resides. Local fishermen throw offerings into the water here whenever they pass as a sign of respect.

Nsumbu is famous for it’s excellent angling off the shoreline and some of the better catches are the large Nile perch, goliath tigerfish, vundu catfish, lake salmon and the tasty yellow belly or ‘nkupi’. Occasionally the much sought after golden perch is caught. The Zambian National Fishing Competition takes place here every year around March or April and some world records have been set here.

Getting there
Access to Sumbu National Park and Nkamba Lodge is either by road via Mansa or Kasama to Sumbu and the Park Gate (1.363 Km and 1.188 Km respectively from Lusaka), by air from Lusaka (or Ndola) to Kasaba Bay / Nkamba Bay Airports (810 Km direct), or by boat from Mpulungu (no regular service). There are gravel tracks from Sumbu to Nkamba Lodge and Kasaba Bay, to the various scouts' camps and from Nkamba to the Lufubu River where a link with the Mbala road is planned but not yet completed . At present, most client transfers between the Lodges are carried out by boat.

Kasaba Bay Aerodrome is currently owned and operated by the Department of Civil Aviation.  Other laterite airstrips are at Kasama and Mporokoso. There are currently no aviation refuelling facilities in the area, the nearest being at Ndola on the Copperbelt. Chartered flights are availabe to Kasaba and Nkamba Bay.

Whilst the National road network is gradually being improved, journeys can be long and arduous to this corner of Zambia, particularly on the unpaved portions. The most direct route from Lusaka is via Serenje, Mansa and Kawambwa on paved roads, then to Mporokoso on a good gravel road, and finally from Mporokoso to Sumbu on a poor gravel road. A longer route, but with better gravel roads, is via Nchelenge from Mansa on a paved road, thence to Sumbu via Kaputa on a good gravel road which runs through Mweru Wantipa National Park. Finally, there is a route via Kasama to Mporokoso, but this is in poor condition. Access to the lake via Mbala and Mpulungu is by paved road all the way, but there is no link yet between Mbala and Sumbu. There are no reliable, regular road or lake transport services to Sumbu or the Lodges in the National Park. However, the Lodges have their own boats and vehicles available for short-distance transfers, and there are companies which have vehicles for hire. A ferry service between the major international ports on Lake Tanganyika is operated by Tanzania Railways, using the historical MV Liemba with a capacity for 500

The dirt road network in the northern province has undergone major reconstruction. Specifically the road from Nchelenge to Kaputa, Nsumbu on to Mporokoso and both roads from Mporokoso to either Kasama or Kawambwa are in excellent condition. The road from Kawambwa to Mporokoso crosses the Kalungwishi river as a bridge now. (no longer a pontoon)

The access road to Lumangwe has also been repaired and it is quite good all the way to Kabweluma falls. The Campsites at Lumangwe falls and Ntumbuchasi falls are clean with some basic thatched shelters and drop toilets. The caretakers at both are very helpful and knowledgeable, and will supply firwewood for a small fee.

The tar road from Kasama to Mbala/Mpulungu is quite bad but work has also started there. There are also plans to open the road from Sumbu to Mbala which is currently only passable by 4x4 in the dry season. Several loops within Sumbu park are also being worked on.

Where to stay
There are three lodges in secluded bays along the Park’s shoreline, Nkamba Bay , Kasaba Bay and Ndole Bay.  Camping is possible at Ndole Bay.

Nkamba Bay Lodge is an exclusive private lodge set in a stunning location on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. It is the only lodge in Nsumbu Game Park, one of the unspoilt, secluded treasures of Africa. The lodge offers outstanding sports fishing, bird watching, game viewing, canoeing, walking safaris and photographic tours or simply a relaxing getaway in one of Africa's undiscovered National Parks.

Ndole Bay is nestled amongst lush tropical vegetation opening onto its own exclusive beach, it offers visitors a singular African experience on the shores of a unique lake. A fleet of reliable, twin engine boats opens the secrets of Tanganyika, while shaded hammocks, sunset paddles and a library allows days to slip by. Situated just outside Sumbu National Park, the untouched  wilderness is only a step away. Accommodation is available in , thatched, en-suite chalets; through to a beachside campsite.  Meals are prepared for those not self catering and a fully stocked bar  is central to the dining area. Activities include fishing, game viewing, hot springs, waterfalls, isolated rainforest, lake cruises, snorkelling and cultural interactions.

Ndole Bay is the first recreational SCUBA diving facility in Zambia offering the latest equipment for hire and all PADI courses under our resident instructor and ecologist. Tanganyika’s crystal clear waters and brightly coloured fish are a delight in this mystical underwater paradise. 

Ndole Bay Lodge and Nsumbu National Park.Ndole Bay Lodge had undertaken to assist the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) in its own efforts to conserve and develop Sumbu National Park. The park has been nominated for funds from various sources for anti-poaching and road development. Ndole Bay has decided to take the lead and commit resources to the effort of conserving one of the most unique and diverse biological habitats in Africa. Regular lake patrols are undertaken to combat illegal fishing and poaching within the NP as well as providing logistical support for ZAWA land based patrols.

Ndole Bay has also undertaken the construction of a bush campsite within the National Park. Kapalwe beach is situated deep within Nkamba Bay area in one of the most picturesque coves on the Lake. Flanked by massive granite outcrops emerging from the water, a 500m stretch of beach and frequented by a sizeable herd of elephant, this paradise deep in Africa will leave you wanting more.  The immediate area is also excellent for angling. Currently the campsite is accessible by boat only and a ZAWA guard is required to accompany all campers. There are drop toilets, bench tables and firewood available.  The idea being to develop the site into becoming a permanent ZAWA patrol base as well as public campsite.

Being situated within the National Park means campers are subject to Park entry and camping fees, payable to ZAWA. Transfers can be arranged through Ndole Bay Lodge or alternatively through local fishermen from Sumbu township. Please note permission is required from ZAWA to enter the park. If you would like to know more about the conservation plans of Sumbu NP and the planned release of 300 relocated elephant in 2009 please contact Craig at Ndole Bay Lodge.