THE Northern Circuit is a term used to describe, identify and market the tourism endowments found in the northern part of Zambia (Luapula, Muchinga, Northern and parts of Central Province).
The circuit has a rich and diverse tourism product base; these include waterfalls, lakes, wildlife, animal sanctuaries, traditional ceremonies, unspoilt white-sandy beaches, cultural heritage and natural heritage sites in almost all the provinces.
The circuit has rich mineral deposits, especially gemstones, salt, and slate stone.
It boasts of an international port (Mpulungu), creating easy access to the Great Lakes region.
The Zambia Tourism Agency (ZTA), in collaboration with Zambia Association of Tour Operators (ZATO), organised a familiarisation tour of the Northern Circuit.
This initiative was in line with the Zambia Tourism Master Plan and Government’s desire to promote the Northern Circuit to both local and international tourists.
The aim of the tour was to orient local tour operators on tourism products spread across the Northern Circuit and to subsequently package the destination and open it up.
This tour also aimed at diversifying the Zambian tourism profile by shifting the focus to lesser-known but exquisite destinations that have great potential of becoming major tourist attractions in Zambia.
Among the tour operators that visited the circuit were Max Mas Travel and Tours, Chris Car Hire and Tours, Yawen Travel and Tours, Mimi Africa Media from Zimbabwe, Luciano Travel and Tours, Southern Savanna Travel and Tours, African Vacations, Smart Adventures, and Zambia Institute of Training and Hospitality Studies.
Waterfalls, rivers and lakes
The circuit commands 40 percent of all Southern African Development Community (SADC) water resources and has rivers and lakes.
It also boasts of hosting Lake Tanganyika, which is Africa’s second deepest freshwater lake, and its harbour, Mpulungu, is a gateway to the Great Lakes region, supporting commerce and trade for countries such as Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.
Lake Tanganyika also supports marine tourism.
Lake Bangweulu, simply put, is where the sky meets the waters.
It is yet another one of the world’s great wetland systems, comprising Lake Bangweulu, Bangweulu swamps and the Bangweulu floodplains.
It is crucial to the biodiversity of the circuit and to the birdlife of a much larger region.
The circuit is suitable for tourism development in terms of facilities and infrastructure such as lodges, resorts, shopping centres and hotels.
It is also home to inspiring waterfalls which make it ideal for adventure and marine tourism.
Starting from the Lumangwe Falls to Ntumbachushi Falls, Kabwelume Falls, Mumbuluma Falls, Mumbotuta Falls, Kundabwika, Chilongo Falls and the famous Kalambo Falls, all these form part of the rich natural heritage of the circuit.
The circuit is home to the Kapisha Hot Springs, naturally occurring sulphur-free, fed by three cold water springs which infuse down 6-7km to be super-heated and then forced back to the surface.
Unspoilt beaches in Samfya and Mpulungu also make the circuit an ideal place for holiday lovers and honeymooners.
Slave routes, battle war fields, First World War sites such as the Von Lettow Vorbeck Cenotaph, Moto Moto Museum, Mbala Old Prison, Niamikolo Church in Mpulungu, and Lake Chila, where First World War weapons were thrown, form a heritage and rich history of the circuit. The David Livingstone memorial site in Chitambo village in Serenje forms part of the circuit.
It also boasts of rock art paintings at Mwela in Kasama and Mungwi for the early bushmen.
Archaeological sites showing the earliest evidence of fire at Kalambo furnaces are the other marvel to watch as you indulge yourself in the age-old folklore.
The circuit has wild game parks offering unlimited game such as the pristine Nsumbu National Park, Kasanka National Park, where over 10 million fruit-eating bats migrate to Kasanka, North Luangwa National Park, home to the black rhino, Lavushimanda National Park, West Lunga National Park, Nsumbu National Park and a few game management areas and migratory bird sites on Bangweulu swamps.
Samfya: An emerging local tourist destination
Samfya is situated in Luapula Province. It is on the edge of the western shore of Lake Bangweulu, about 10km east of the main road between Mansa and Serenje. This is a small trading and lake-transport town and yet has quite a lot to offer visitors.
Samfya is the largest town on the shores of Lake Bangweulu.
The lake is more of a fish source than tourist potential, and slowly opening up for local tourism.
The main species of fish on the lake are bream, tiger fish, yellow belly and catfish. Thousands of tonnes of fish are harvested from Lake Bangweulu each year.
Samfya is on a tarred road which links the province to the Great North Road at Serenje.
This includes the longest bridge in Zambia, the Luapula Bridge in the far south-east corner of the district.
Accommodation in Samfya
Samfya has a few guest houses and lodges, and the white sandy beaches are used for recreation.
Another alternative to sleeping in lodges is camping, which is ideal for the Northern Circuit.
Camping is cheaper especially in waterfall areas where accommodation might be a challenge.
Activities in Samfya
The Kwanga festival of the Ng’umbo is held in Samfya annually in October.
One can do a boat cruise on both engine-propelled boats and man-paddled canoes. These resources provide a myriad opportunity for adventure and other playful yet invigorating activities.
When planning a trip, Samfya will be a good choice to include in your travels.
The Norther Circuit is mostly accessible by road on fairly good-condition roads suitable for self-drives.
Local tour operators can help you plan and package your Zambian adventure for an off-the-beaten-track experience.
Take a holiday, have it local.