Mweru Wantipa National Park includes Lake Mweru and it lies between Lake Mweru and Lake Tanganyika. The park lies mainly on the lake’s western shore but covers the lake surface, much of the marshes and part of the southern shore.The national park had a versatile wildlife population of lion, elephant and the black rhinoceros.
The black rhino is no longer found at this national park but it is hoped that it will one day be reintroduced. The swamp and lake edges are dominated by dense papyrus with some phragmites. Combretum thicket occupies the area close to the lake whilst the remainder of the park is mostly covered with miombo woodland. Large grassy, acid dambos are a feature of the lower lying areas of the miombo.
The Itigi-Sumbu thicket vegetation consists of dense bush which is simply impossible to penetrate. Typically it is made up of over one hundred plant species woven together so tightly that a person is unable to walk through them. Apparently, elephants forcing their way through these thickets barely leave tracks, as the shrubs spring back to their original positions. This vegetation variety is almost endemic to this region, the only other place which has the same variety of this vegetation is in Central Tanzania.The largest patches constituting the Itigi-Sumbu vegetation can be found in the north shore of Lake Mweru Wantipa. Another portion falls within Nsumbu National Park, although the extent of this thicket vegetation within these area is not known.
The Itigi-Sumbu Thicket is a unique but poorly understood eco region. While little research has been conducted, the Itigi-Sumbu Thicket’s vegetation is unique and contains a number of endemic plants. It was once vital habitat for the black rhino, although the rhino was eradicated from this region years ago. Sadly it it predicted that these thickets will disappear in the next twenty years if urgent conservation action is not taken.
This lake lies between its larger and more accessible neighbours, Lake Tanganyika, 25 kilometres east, and Lake Mweru, 40 kilometres west, with which its name is sometimes confused. Mweru Wantipa is a lake and swamp system that has been something of a mystery as its water level and salinity fluctuates so much it is not entirely explained by variation in rainfall levels. In fact it has been known to dry out almost completely.
There are some hot springs characteristics of a rift valley to the east. Mweru Wantipa has no outlet and forms an isolated river basin. Its water is muddy in appearance, at times appearing reddish and ‘slightly oily’. In the local dialect “wa ntipa” means “with mud”, hence “Mweru Wantipa” distinguishing it from its bigger neighbour Mweru with its clearer water. Lake Mweru Wantipa’s surface area of about 1,500 square kilometres.
Lake Mweru Wantipa’s fishery has been productive in the past but has been depleted in recent years. The lake supports a large population of hippopotamus and crocodiles. Except for birds and waterfowl, the wildlife on land and in the marshes, once extensive, has been reduced despite the existence of the Mweru Wantipa National Park.
The Mweru Wantipa National Park had a versatile wildlife population of lion, elephant and the black rhinoceros but since it has had no management and protection for several decades, its wildlife population has been much reduced. The lakeshore is made up of dense papyrus reed beds and the swamp-loving, rarely seen sitatunga antelope, is sure to live here. Mweru wa Ntipa has good variety of large mammals that includes bushbuck, puku, elephant, buffalo, sable, roan hartebeest, eland, waterbuck, reedbuck, common yellow backed and blue duikers, grysbok and warthog as well as the sitatunga and the klipspringer. Small numbers of lion, leopard and hyena occur throughout the park.
The swamp surrounding Lake Mweru Wantipa is renowned for its profusion of water birds. It is possible to ask local villagers to take you through the swamps in a mokoro (traditional dugout canoe).
The principal road serving the lake is from Mporokoso to its south-east shore. Here there was a ferry at Bulaya, but this has deteriorated. Now the main highway is from Lake Mweru along the western and northern shores to Kaputa.
Reach the park by taking the track running around Lake Mweru. Take the turning a short distance after Mununga that leads to Nkoshya. This way runs from Nchelenge.
If you are coming from the eastern part then take the turn after Mporokoso, Mukunsa and again at Nkoshya.
The only road that crosses the park leads to Kaputa, which lies at the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The main centre is the small town of Kaputa, which also forms an administrative district of the Northern Province.
All around the lakes there are villages of fishermen, who will take you through the swamps in a mokoro, (traditional dugout) for a fee which can be very well negotiated.
The national park had a versatile wildlife population of lion, elephant and the black rhinoceros but since it has had no management and protection for several decades, its wildlife population has been much reduced.