For me, traveling is definitely a highlight of being an expat in Zambia, but there is one major flaw; no beach. A couple of years ago we went on a road trip to Lake Malawi and were amazed at how it partially ticked the beach box. With this in mind, we decided to head up to Lake Tanganyika with a couple of friends.
It is a 1327km journey from Mazabuka to Lake Tanganyika, so we broke it up with two nights each at Kapishya Hot Springs and Mutinondo Wilderness. Both these spots have been on my must-see-list since moving here, so we figured we would get a quick preview of each place before doing separate trips there in the future.
If you are in Zambia and longing for wide open natural cool water, that you can actually dip into, make the trip up north to the lake. Keep reading to find out about the first part of our trip, which was to Kapishya Hot Springs.
We set off, in convoy, from outside Mazabuka at 3am which got us to a much-needed cup of caffeine and a hot breakfast at Fig Tree Cafe outside Kabwe. I highly recommend you plan your journey around Fig Tree, it was the best pit stop on our route. The roads were surprisingly trouble free as far as police stops and potholes go and we arrived at Kapishya around 4pm. That was with some fuel stops, bush wees and roadside coffee breaks. There is beautiful scenery along the way, so between taking that in, messing around on the walkie-talkie radios, snacking and yacking, the journey was great.
The owner and manager of Kapishya Hot Springs is Mark Harvey, one of the grandchildren of Stewart Gore-Browne. In 1914, Gore-Browne discovered the land at Shiwa and eventually returned to start the project around 1920.
Kapishya Hot Springs offers either full or self-catered chalets and camping. The campsite is grassy with lots of trees and shrubs which offer shade and privacy, it really is beautiful. There are a couple of sites right alongside the river, but we chose to camp further up near the lapa (thatched shelter with open sides) and ablutions to shelter from the imminent rain. There are little grass lapas at each site and then a larger one which has a huge table with benches and a washing up area. If you plan on having some meals at the restaurant, I have heard the food is delicious, there are some great choices, and I think most, if not all the ingredients are grown or produced locally, but it is also very pricey, so might not suit all budgets.
We started our first day with a dip in the Hot Springs; it really is idyllic and lived up to all the pictures I had seen. The pool has white sand and a few rocks and clear, pale waters which at times actually look blue and even some small fish. It is surrounded by overhanging trees and shrubs and at night you can view the stars and moon from your natural outdoor bath. Imagine what it would have been like when this little paradise Gore-Browne first discovered this spot, I bet he couldn’t believe his luck!
We had a relaxing, slow breakfast and coffee in camp before heading off to Shiwa N’gandu nearby. But I’ll tell you more about that another time.
There is a lot of lush thick bush around the campsite with a couple of short trails, so we did some birding around camp. We had a fleeting sighting of a Spotted Eagle Owl, and we also saw a couple of Ross’s Turaco. A Little Greenbul was a first for us, and my friend spotted a Mantled Fly-catcher but I unfortunately missed it while trying to keep my eye on a movious (it’s a word) sunbird. If you have more time you could definitely do some longer walks or even a rafting trip down the Mansa River.
It absolutely poured with rain in the evening; we had a stream developing beneath our tent and trailer, whilst our friends had managed to pitch their ground tent under the lapa. It is not often I am envious of a ground tent. Our men folk managed to get a fire going underneath two umbrellas – what a debacle! Who camps in March?! A quick night dip in the springs warmed us up once the rain had passed. We also had a drama with what turned out to be our overfilled gas bottle, and our friend managed to slice open his finger while opening my bottle of Savannah. Marvellous memory makers!
The next morning was our 6th wedding anniversary, which we had forgotten until our friend cheerily announced – ‘happy anniversary’. Another year, another friend reminding us, will we ever learn?
I had another quick soak in the hot springs, whilst Erik hitched up the trailer. Just before we set off, we had the wonderful anniversary gift of the most beautiful sighting of a sunbird, which was flittering about on top of our friends car! With some delicious guavas I had quickly pilfered from the campsite trees, we set off to Ndole Bay on Lake Tanganyika.