A gentle breeze plays with the red and orange leaves of the endless miombo woodlands. High up in the October clouds a vulture soars over a calm stream, crystal clear water flowing as if in pursuit of the bird. Not much longer now until the rainy season breaks through and the dambos, hidden behind rocky outcrops, flourish in flashy greens. Mutinondo Wilderness might not offer the wildlife spectacle of nearby National Parks (like North Luangwa NP), yet the tranquillity is unforgettable. Extensive forests, wide grasslands and granite kopjes make up a unique landscape, to be discovered by keen bird lovers (yes, even the bar-winged weaver can be seen), courageous adventurers or families looking for a relaxed stay in the woods. A well-maintained network of tracks (more than 70 km) guides you on foot or bicycle, through the 10,000-hectare conservation area.
For a real taste of the Wilderness, organize a multi-day hike up to the Muchinga escarpment and visit the spectacular waterfalls cascading into the Luangwa valley. Make sure to climb the highest inselberg, the majestic Mayense, and visit the ancient rock art at Hyrax Hill, featuring paintings traced back to the Batwa people. After your hike, the streams and pools invite you for a dive and a swim. A canoe or kayak offer yet a different exploration possibility to roam Mutinondo wilderness. Did you know that Mutinondo was named after one of the two streams gently traversing the landscape?
Do not hesitate to order yourself a drink at Harry's Bar, while owners Lari and Mike entertain you with stories of their experiences, when they first visited the area in 1994. They might tell you about rare lion encounters, transient hunters from the valley, or about the community projects they are engaged in. As Mutinondo is a rare treat for plant enthusiasts, ask Lari about her crowning achievement of her botanical passion: two books documenting more than 1000 species of flora encountered in Mutinondo, including new species to science. At night, after a braai with your friends or a cosy dinner served by the lodge, gaze up at the brilliant milky way. Back at your tent at the campsite, or from the comfort of a tastefully decorated chalet, rest your head while listening to the hoots and calls of the owls, nightjars and the occasional hyena echoing through the Zambian forest.
Mutinondo is a rare gem that offers the real African wilderness feeling, which won’t let you go home disappointed. The day when I moved to Zambia, I started frequenting Mutinondo. Time and again this place relaxes my spirits. Being there awakens my urge to keep exploring this beautiful country. As the sun sets above the untouched miombo plains, I am moved by Mutinondo, a magical place that reassures me that the wild Africa I imagined, still exists.