North Luangwa National Park, Luangwa Valley, Zambia
At a Glance
Explore the wild North Luangwa, a pristine, exciting and remote wilderness pierced with perennial tributaries
Experience Rod Tether's expert guiding
Enjoy Guz's excellent and varied cooking; she is a trained cordon bleu chef
Ask Rod to tell you about stories of the North Park as you relax around the camp fire
Spot the black rhino which have recently been relocated to the North Luangwa
Best time to Visit
Good time to visit
Average time to visit
Zambia has a moderate to sub-tropical climate with three distinct seasons: from November to March is the Emerald, or the rainy season, April to July is Zambia's winter, when the weather is cool and dry, and August to October is summer, when the weather is hot and dry. In terms of game-viewing, the drier months, meaning a higher concentration of game at the permanent water sources, are a superb time to visit. Alternatively come for some superb bird-watching at the end of the rains.
Call us on to start planning your holiday to Kutandala Camp or take a look at our itineraries to Luangwa Valley
Sadly, Kutandala Camp closed at the beginning of 2012 and there are no plans to re-open in the forseeable future. If you wish to visit the wilds of North Luangwa, please telephone us and we will be delighted to make recommendations for you.
Kutandala is Zambia’s smallest owner-managed camp, set on the banks of the Mwaleshi River in the heart of the North Luangwa National Park. The camp offers the ultimate safari for those seeking a pure and remote wilderness experience. Whether you want to track large mammals, from elephant to the endemic Cookson’s wildebeest, or identify some of the 350 bird species recorded, at Kutandala you will be in the company of people who know and love this area.
The North Luangwa National Park is the smaller sister of South Luangwa. Bordered on the east by the Luangwa River and on the west by the Muchinga escarpment, the park stretches for 4,600 km sq, and is criss-crossed by a number of tributary rivers which eventually trickle into the Luangwa. The Mwaleshi river is the lifeblood of the park; streaming down from the escarpment in a number of waterfalls (which can be visited on foot) the river weaves its way through the park. During the dry season, the river recedes, leaving a number of pools along the way which attract large numbers of game. The vegetation in the park is varied, including acacia thickets, open savannah grasslands, mopane woodland and riverine forest. In contrast to South Luangwa, the North Luangwa is wild and untouched, with large herds of elephant, enormous herds of buffalo (sometimes seven hundred or more strong), and a good population of lion.
Rod and Guz, the owners, care passionately about what they do and about the restoration work which has brought the North Luangwa back from the brink. In camp, Guz manages, against incredible logistical odds, to produce meals of the highest quality and variety. Rod is an outstanding guide and holds the record as the youngest person to qualify as a walking guide in Zambia, having passed his exams when he was just eighteen. His depth of knowledge and enthusiasm for all things ecological means that the guiding experience is always informative and fresh.
The three guest rooms are spread out along the river bank, giving ample space and privacy, and each has an en-suite bathroom with a flush loo and hot shower.
All the rooms have an unrestricted view of the Mwaleshi River and its flood plain throughout the day.
Children under the age of 12 are not accepted at Kutandala Camp, as this is the minimum age for walking.
The dining area, bar and library are under the shade of a huge Natal Mahogany, deliberately and delightfully low key. There are iced drinks, but thankfully no generator, and therefore no noise - lighting is provided by rechargeable solar lanterns and hurricane lamps.
With such small groups at any one time, exclusivity and flexibility is the key, with every safari tailored to the interests of the guests. The majority of game-viewing will be done on foot, there are limited game drives as there are not many roads in this remote wilderness area.
This six-room camp is neither luxurious nor set in the most game-rich area on earth. But, located on the Banks of the Mwaleshi River in the North Luangwa National Park, Kutandala is miles from anywhere, without another soul about. Its charm is its isolation, its simplicity and the passion of its owners, Rod and Guz Tether, who live, breathe and worship the bush. Rod, the youngest guide to qualify in Zambia, takes guests out daily on foot - often past hyena, buffalo and lion - knowledgeably bringing the wilderness to life. And Guz somehow manages to whip up gourmet meals under the stars, although the nearest shop is seven hours away. It's so remote that you have to wade through a river to get there.
Let me tell you about the North Luangwa valley, Zambia’s best-kept secret. Mention Zambia in safari-going circles and the cognoscenti wax merrily on about the charms of the South Luangwa valley, how its legendary guides Norman Carr (now dead), Phil Berry and Robin Pope, both still very much with us, have made it the world-famous home of the walking safari.
But speak to those who live there, who know every corner of the vast and varied country, and they’ll tell you that northern Zambia is the place to go. And because they told me it was the place to go, I went. I found there the Africa that one dreams of in the cold winter nights back home, an Africa that today is disappearing fast, that is vast and wild, where designer camps and their fancy cushions have yet to arrive. It’s a raw and empty wilderness and these days that is something to be savoured. In 4,600 sq km of the North Luangwa National Park there are just three small and simple, rustic bush camps with no more than 28 beds between them. They’re spread far apart so that as you sit at sunset, your feet dangling in the clear and shallow waters of the Mwaleshi river, a glass of Pommery in hand, you have the illusion that you and your little group have all Africa to yourselves. Up in the North Luangwa valley there are no cars, other than the four-by-fours owned by the guides and anti-poaching guards, and it’s home to quite another sort of walking safari, one where you will see nobody else at all and you can walk wherever your guide and the fancy takes you. The game is skittish and you don’t see a lot but what you see is wild and glorious. The lions do what proper lions should always do, which is to growl and threaten and let you know that if you don’t disappear sharpish, there’ll be trouble. North Luangwa lions don’t do posing for tourists.
The only way into the park is to fly into one of the three camps and while all have their followers, for us Rod and Guz Tether’s chic and simple little camp, Kutandala , seemed quite perfect. Guz is a phenomenal cook (she trained at Ballymaloe), which whilst not strictly speaking essential turned out to be an enormous plus. But the real magic lies in the place, in its simplicity, in the sense it gave of privacy and peace, in the rustic reed and thatch cottages sitting right on the banks of the Mwaleshi river and in the river itself, where in the dry season all the animals tend to come down to drink. With Rod, a phenomenal guide who knows the Zambian bush intimately, we spent three magical days doing as we pleased – a freedom long gone in the busier, more heavily regulated parks. We walked and we walked. We came upon buffalo and lion, elephant, eland and hartebeest, wildebeest and a million thrilling birds. At night we sat under a great big mahogany tree, lanterns in the branches, Guz’s extraordinary food on the table. Kutandala is, above all, a bush experience. It’s for people who love the smell and the sound of the African bush and want to feel in and of it. If you want to tick off the big five in super-quick time, go somewhere else.
Game Drives in the South Luangwa
Game drives are the most common way of exploring the African bush. A vehicle allows you to cover distance quickly and comfortably and offers visitors the best opportunity of getting very close to wildlife in a safe and controlled way.
Green Season Game Drives
The Green Season, Rainy Season, Emerald Season, Secret Season - what ever you decide to call it, this is a beautiful time of year to be on safari. Activities are rarely disrupted by weather and the bush is full of life.
If you get the opportunity to head out after sunset you should take it. The bush transforms under the cover of darkness as the nocturnal wildlife gets going. Using a spotlight your guide will scan the bush for eye-shine picking out some great action.
Location & directions
North Luangwa National Park, Luangwa Valley, Zambia
Kutandala Camp is set on the banks of the Mwaleshi River in the heart of the North Luangwa National Park.
How to get there
10-hour international flight to Lusaka followed by a 1-hour domestic flight to Mfuwe and a further 45-minute by light aircraft, flying over the park then 1-hour by road (game drive).