Lying on the southern shores of Lake Tanganyika, in the northernmost tip of Zambia, Nsumbu National Park covers an area of just over 2,000 square kilometers and encompasses 100kms 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. Nsumbu National Park and the two Game Management Areas thus form important parts of a network of protected areas in Zambia.
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. The 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, and buffalo are commonly seen, with zebra and occasionally elephant, lion and leopard also present. Bushbuck, warthog, and puku often frequent the beaches. The rare blue duiker, a small forest antelope, is one of the Park’s specialties along with the shy swamp-dwelling sitatunga. Other species seen here are the spotted hyena, side-striped jackal, serval, impala, waterbuck, and reedbuck. The lake bordering on the park is teeming with crocodiles, so swimming is obviously not advisable. Some of these crocs reach up to six meters in length. Hippos often emerge at night around the lodges to ‘mow’ the green grass.
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 palm nut vulture and Pel’s fishing owl are also occasionally seen.