Day 8: Kabula Lodge to Liuwa Plains

370 km Kabula Lodge to Liuwa Plains NP – Kwale Camp
2 559 km Trip to date

We travelled north-west along the Zambesi through truly rural Zambia on a perfect tarred road with virtually no traffic. We crossed the Zambesi near the Sioma Falls.


Sioma Falls (Ngonye falls) is located some 70 km from Kabula Lodge and the Zambesi river is more deep and narrow with lots of black rock. The falls are spectacular with seven different streams tumbling down from 10 to 25 meters high. The height is not as impressive as the width. They built a new visitors center where foreign visitors pay double the fee of locals to visit the falls.

View from bridge over the Zambesi downstream from the Sioma Falls – narrow and deep
Main falls – Sioma
Some of the other falls – Sioma

Lots of thatch family villages line the road with several clinics, education centres and primary schools in between. Where there is a school next to the road, we had to reduce speed to 60km/h, then 40km/h and then 20km/h and according to the trip reports one can easily be fined for speed in the rural areas, so we complied.

Typical family village

At Mongu we stocked up at the local Shoprite, which was a pleasant surprise. Liquor dept in the store with anything you would want, bakery and all else we normally find in our grocery stores in RSA. Cold meats packed in Lusaka, and all the RSA brand names available. Also Nataniel steaks and proper braai chicken. (Not the long legged local chicken (werf-hoender) we saw at the butchery in Sesheke).

Mongu Shoprite

We travelled across the Barotse flood plains on a perfect tarred road with short bridges every now and then spanning the fingers of the river. People are farming with cattle and small gardens in these low areas, which were green and lush. Activities everywhere along the road, being it fishing in mokoros on the river, or washing clothes and swimming in the water pools, or tending to their gardens and cattle. Young locals were everywhere along the road with freshly caught bream for sale.

Barotse flood plains
Barotse flood plains
Zambesi crossing in the Barotse flood plains
Building supplies for sale

At Kalabo we had to cross the river with a hand drawn ferry. They pulled on a thick fixed rope to move the ferry with the heavy vehicle across the river. And a group of locals jumped on to join our ride across.

Ready to cross at Kalabo
Pulling the ferry across

On the other side the thick sand tracks started. To drive off the ferry, one has to go up the dune in 4×4 and with momentum. Once on level ground we relaxed and looked around and got stuck immediately with the diffs buried in the high sand middle ridge of the tracks. The winding deep sand tracks go all the way into the Liuwa Plains NP. The 25 km to the first campsite (Kwale Camp) took us much more than an hour, and we had to concentrate to keep our momentum. We never anticipated these road conditions, and will have to monitor our distances not to run out of fuel.

Deep sand tracks in Liuwa Plains

The Kwale campsite is beautiful with 5 large separate campsites under huge shade trees and basic ablutions with solar hot showers and even a small solar light in the ablutions. Water is from a well and hand-pumped into the tanks. We were the only campers for the night.

Kwale campsite
Ablutions at Kwale camp

The sand looks white, but is also mixed with a very fine black dust powder that covers everything – similar to graphite powder. Our feet (in open sandals) were covered in black moments after we showered – similar to walking in oil spills on a beach. We constantly had black marks on our bodies and clothes.

Next: Three nights at Katoyana Camp to see the wildebeest…

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