The Notherwestern province of Zambia has very little tourism. When I talked about the idea of visiting Chingola and Solwezi, most people gave me a strange look and asked, “Why?!”
Its known for mining and dust. Dust is almost synonymous to Solwezi so I was surprised to see so much greenery and beauty! We took a 4 day trip to some of Northwestern province gems and here’s how we did it!
Just outside of Chingola, we stopped here on our way to Solwezi. Akabashi campsite and bar…it says it all in the name. It has beautiful scenery but is simply just a place to camp with almost no activities. We went to see the lions, which was underwhelming since they are locked up in a small enclosure with no space to roam. If you don’t go at a feeding time, they will likely just sit there and not move. It’s most similar to a zoo with only 3 lions.
The bar is stocked and the shelter is a nice place to chill. It was extremely hot when we went there in October! Overall, if you’re obsessed with lions, but don't mind seeing them caged, go for it. Otherwise, I’d say skip it. There is a game drive with zebras and ostriches that we did not take, although we did see ostriches by chance while driving out.
Chimfunshi is the world's largest chimpanzee sanctuary in the world! It is also known as one of the oldest, dating back to 1983 - 36 years of saving chimps. It is closer to Solwezi but was still a nice stopping point on the way between Ndola and Solwezi.
There are other activities to do apart from viewing the chimps, but we only stayed a couple hours to eat our picnic lunch and to see the chimpanzees. They have a nice shelter with tables for bringing your own food. If you want to order form their restaurant, you must call ahead for any meals as they don’t keep their kitchen stocked.
The tour guides and signs were informative. I had mixed feelings being there as the chimpanzees are not native to Zambia so on one hand it’s great that they were rescued, but now they are stuck here and the original rescues and their off spring can't be reentered into the wild. Or if they can, they aren’t taking measures to have them enter. I’m not sure if they are still studying them or why exactly they are there except that they don’t really have any other options or aren't willing to take them.
They live on a vegetarian diet which lengthens their life span. They have caretakers and live in an enclosure with no predators. At least they open up the cages and allow them to roam in many, many acres of land. But when viewing during the day, they all hang right by the fence so it also feels like a zoo.
Arriving in Solwezi, it seemed a little bigger of a town than I had expected. There are a few options of grocery stores, restaurants and bars. Our first night we bought groceries from Choppies grocery store and cooked from home. We stayed with a friend, so it was four of us girls on this trip!
Most of our meals were eaten out on this trip as we did different day excursions and only came back after dinnertime most evenings. For breakfast we only went to the rooster cafe, it was a good option and they do have an early breakfast starting at 6hrs (which is unheard of in Ndola, everywhere only opens at 8am, after I’m already at work).
Mutanda falls (rapids) are beautiful. Georgie’s is the most popular place to go to experience the beauty but I would highly recommend Mutanda lodge. We experienced both which was a great way to do it.
Mutanda lodge is a little closer to Solwezi and very close to the road. It was quiet, only saw two other people there, prices were more affordable and the place was lovely. The rapids are right there off the bar and restaurant. We spent our time just in the rapids, swimming, relaxing, taking photos and having drinks. They also have impala on the property!
Georgie’s was busy but has a more updated feel to it. The pool was very crowded so we decided not to swim. The tables were very full so we moved a couple times to get a good spot eventually. The rapids are also swimmable here but not in a private and relaxing way. The customer service was quite bad, maybe because they were so busy. It took 2.5 hours to get our food and drinks also took a very long time.
So we played around in the rapids for a long time while waiting! April and I had some yoga fun.
I found the caves fascinating as it’s just 5km from downtown and all of a sudden you’re in peaceful nature. The road is dirt but very smooth and short. It is easily accessible for a small car. The entrance fee is just K8 caves ($15 non residents). There is a k5 to drive your car in. Caves might be a loaded name for the place as it’s mostly a river with rapids and hiking and there are rock formations with carvings that date back to prehistoric times, but don’t expect huge caves with swimming or anything extravagant.
Kansanshi Golf Club
A great place for an evening out in Solwezi. It is a member only club and a member can sign in up to 3 guests. If you do have the option of going here I highly recommend it. Being a golf course, already the surroundings are beautiful. The food and drinks are very affordable and quite delicious! The atmosphere and decor of the place is lovely and really stands out.
Trident Garden Estate is definitely worth a visit if you have the opportunity! We were fortunate to go in through the Wellness Coordinator who had set up a yoga class for April to teach and we all got to attend. It’s two hours from Solwezi and it is very easy to spend the whole day (or longer) there.
After yoga class, we went over to a friend's house and she told us a little more about living on the estate. We went kayaking on the dam which was such a fun experience! The restaurants atmosphere is relaxing.
We loved having lunch, cocktails and desserts for a long, relaxed afternoon time, while looking out over the beauty of the golf course and dam.
Much later on, we went for a golf cart ride around the estate golf course, close to sunset.
You do need to know someone who lives there to get in, security is very strict so theres no way around this. Everything runs on a membership card so if you are looking to do any activities and eat/drink from the restaurant, you'll have to use the card. For the pool and gym, the member must be with you or use is not allowed. Everyone was friendly and welcoming. They were excited to see new faces as it is definitely a bubble community.
Here is our trip itinerary. Feel free to save for yourself! Tag me if you use it.
And since I always promise budget travel - I'll share the breakdown! Overall, I will say this trip was very affordable because we stayed with a friend, split fuel costs, and most activities were free or cheap. So really the main cost was just on food & gas! The four day trip is very doable for K1,000 (less than $100).
K183 Akabashi, Chimfunshi, Caves entrance fees & Kalumbila activities
K535 food & drinks
K410 gas + tolls
Here is the list of activities we did in and around Solwezi:
Akabashi lion viewing
Chimfunshi chimpanzee orphanage
Kansanshi Golf Course
Kalumbila - Trident Estate
What would you add?