Lying in the far west of Zambia, Liuwa Plain National Park is a pristine wilderness composed of wooded islands on a flat grassy plain. This plain floods from late December through until early May each year, during which time the 100 metre wide Zambezi River becomes a 40 kilometre wide stretch of water, swamp, reedbeds and islands – an astonishing sight from the air.
Liuwa Plains extend from horizon to horizon, and under these vast skies the reward is a wealth of wildlife, among the various antelopes are oribi, eland, red lechwe, steinbok, tsessebe, duiker and roan, many of which are rare elsewhere. African Parks Network, who took over the management of the park in 2003, are working hard to control poaching and have reintroduced species such as buffalo and eland, whose numbers are now rising. The main predators include large numbers of hyena, some packs of wild dog and a few cheetah along with side-striped jackal and serval. Thanks to a successful reintroduction programme, lion have made a comeback and a new pride has begun to develop. Sightings of interesting species such as porcupine and huge python enhance many a day’s game viewing.
With the onset of the rains at the end of October many thousands of blue wildebeest arrive from Angola across the border and head to the centre of the plain. This is not a single mass migration, but individual herds of up to a thousand animals mingled with zebra and occasional tsessebe. By December the skies present a dramatic sight with the build-up of fantastic cumulo-nimbus cloud formations and amazing electrical storms passing through. The plains come alive again, with flowers blooming profusely, wildebeest dropping their young, and the arrival of migrant birds. By May and June the rains are over, but the abundant water left in the shallow depressions provides succor for the animals. The skies are clear and blue, there are birds everywhere, and wild flowers add a splash of colour to the lush grassland This is a wonderful time to visit as the abundant wildlife gives rise to many superb photographic opportunities.
Liuwa is famed for its prolific birdlife, as the mix of plain and woodland habitats means a wider species diversity that makes for excellent birding whatever the time of year. Among the more unusual birds are red-billed, and Hottentots teal, long-tailed whydah, sooty chat, flocks of black-winged pratincole, African fish eagle and woodland kingfisher. Large groups of crowned crane, sometimes numbering several hundred at a time, mingle with the wattled cranes that are never far from view. Bustards are common, and secretary birds stalk the plains. The variety, and sheer number of water birds is staggering: egrets, spoonbills, yellow, and open-billed storks gather on the seasonal pans, which are often covered by a white carpet of water lilies.
Ideal for viewing: African wildcat, serval, steenbok, tsessebe, wild dog
Where: Western Province, Zambia
is featured in the following itinerary:
Led by renowned wildlife guide and expert birder Robin Pope, this one-off tour to Zambia explores the remote and seldom-visited wilderness of Liuwa Plain National Park for an exclusive safari experience, and Kasanka National Park to see the phenomenal migration of millions of fruit bats.
When to go: Nov
Duration inc. flights: 12 days
Price inc. flights: From £9,995 pp
Trip type: Group tour
Suggested accommodation options are shown below.
for further recommendations.
Located on the Upper Munde Stream in Liuwa Plains National Park, King Lewanika Lodge is due to open in April 2017 and will comprise of six luxury villas (to include a two-bedroom family villa), accommodating a maximum of 15 guests. Liuwa is home to a wealth of wildlife including its famed lion pride and over 300 bird species.
Located in the heart of the Liuwa Plains National Park, Matamanene Camp provides simple, yet comfortable tented accommodation. Set in a true wilderness, guests can enjoy an array of birdlife, herds of wildebeest, and even follow cheetah as they hunt in the surrounding plains.