Up until the 1970's Zambia
was considered to have had some of the highest game populations in
Africa; unfortunately, over-hunting and poaching have since decimated
the game in many areas. Recently however, this safari destination has
steadily recovering, with fresh government
controls over hunting and poaching. Today almost 30% of the country
is under game management.
Zambia has a relatively
undeveloped tourism infrastructure and a small but sophisticated safari
industry with excellent
lodges and seasonal
bush camps and some of Africa's best safari guides. Safaris in Zambia
are ideally suited for "old Africa hands" or those seeking
a remote and more exclusive safari.
A vast grassy plateau dominates
the country with the prime wildlife regions being concentrated around
the Luangwa, Kafue and Zambezi water
systems. While not sharing the game diversity of some of its neighbours,
Zambia's wildlife concentrations are impressive and it is ideal
for specialists seeking
specific African game species or birdlife on a brilliant scale.
is the home of the modern walking safari and without doubt offers
some of Africa's best traditional walking safaris, particularly
the Luangwa Valley. Night drives are a speciality in Zambia and
provide arguably the best means for seeing some of the more elusive
In 1904 the
Luangwa Game Park was declared on the eastern bank of the Luangwa
River, but the park
was not maintained. In May 1938 three parks were defined in
the Luangwa Valley: the North Luangwa Game Reserve; the Lukusuzi
Game Reserve; and the South Luangwa Game Reserve. In 1949 Senior
established a private game reserve on the Luangwa River’s
eastern bank, between the Mwasauke and Kauluzi Rivers.
This became the Nsefu Sector, which was
absorbed into the boundaries of the present park when new legislation
turned all game reserves into
national parks in February 1972. Situated at the tail end of the Great
Rift Valley, in the Luangwa Valley, the South Luangwa National Park is
wild and remote. It has an abundance of wildlife that is rarely seen
in other game reserves and is one of the finest wildlife sanctuaries
in the world. This huge area of pristine wilderness is home to a large
variety of game and birds, as well as the bigger predators.
The survival of the valley depends on the winding Luangwa River, crowded
with hippos, crocodiles and wading waterfowl. Few parks can match this
phenomenally high game density nor do they have the ability to show visitors
such remarkable wildlife in so remote and isolated a wilderness. There
are many excellent lodges in this park.
dubbed South Luangwa National Park as one of the greatest wildlife
sanctuaries in the world, and not
without reason. The concentration
of game around the Luangwa River and it’s oxbow lagoons
is among the most intense in Africa.
The Luangwa River is the most intact
major river system in Africa and is the life blood of the park's
9,050 km2. The Park hosts
a wide variety
of wildlife birds and vegetation. The now famous ‘walking safari’ originated
in this park and is still one of the finest ways to experience this pristine
wilderness first hand. The changing seasons add to the Park’s richness
ranging from dry, bare bushveld in the winter to a lush green wonderland
in the summer months. There are 60 different animal species and over
400 different bird species found in the park. The only notable exception
is the rhino, sadly poached to extinction.
Seasonal changes are very pronounced in Luangwa. The dry season
begins in April and intensifies through to October, the hottest
month when game concentrations are at their height. Warm sunny
days and chilly nights typify the dry winter months of May
to August. The wet season begins in November as the leaves
turn green, and the dry bleak terrain becomes a lush jungle.
The rainy season lasts up until the end of March and the migrant
birds arrive in droves. Each lodge stays open for as long as
access is possible, depending on its location in the area.
South Lunagwa Wildlife
hippopotamus is one animal you won’t
miss. As you cross over the bridge into the park there are usually
between 30 and 70 hippos lounging
in the river below and most of the dambos and lagoons will reveal many.
There is estimated to be at least 50 hippos per kilometre of the Luangwa
Crawshay's Zebra (Equus burchellii crawshyi),
a subspecies of Burchell's Zebra, can be seen running in small herds
of about a dozen. The difference between Crawshay's ’s
zebras and the more common (E. burchellii burchellii) species further
to the south are the stripe patterns. Here the patterns
are without shadow striping and
are thinner stripes extending down to the hooves and under the belly as
opposed to the more Burchell's broad light stripes with a faint
shadow stripe in-between.
Thornicroft’s Giraffe (Giraffa
camelopardalis thorncrofti) is unique to Luangwa Valley and therefore
a specialty of the region. Also
seen, but not common are Cookson’s wildebeest (Connochaetes taurines
cooksoni) - a subspecies of the Blue Wildebeest.
Luangwa has 14 different antelope species, most of which are easily
seen on day and night drives. Watch out for
the elusive bushbuck, preferring
to inhabit densely covered areas. The common duiker is not that common
near the Luangwa river but inhabits the back country of the Luangwa
Valley. The largest of the antelope is the eland, usually near the
Nsefu sector of the park. The most numerous antelope is the impala,
these gregarious animals can be seen in herds all over the park. Not
to be confused with the Puku, of similar size, but a much fluffier
buck with a rich orange coat and also prolific.
Perhaps the most beautiful is the Kudu,
with its majestic spiral horns and delicate face. Although fairly common,
not always easy to find due to their retiring habits and preference for
dense bush.. Reedbuck, roan, sable, hartebeest, grysbok, klipspringer
and oribi are all here but not prolific in the central tourist area of
the Park. They tend to stay deeper in the remote parts towards the Muchinga
Hyenas are fairly common throughout the valley and their
plaintive, eerie cry, so characteristic of the African bush can be heard
on most nights.
South Luangwa also has a good population
of leopard but they are not easily seen and tend to retreat
when they hear vehicles.
Many of the
Lodge’s game trackers are skilled in finding leopards on night
drives however, and often visitors are rewarded with a full view of a
Lions are as plentiful in the Luangwa as anywhere else in Africa, but
when a kill is made away from the central tourist area, the pride may
stay away for several days and may not be seen by visitors on a short
stay. Very often they roam in prides of up to thirty.
Other carnivores present but not often
seen include caracal, wild dog, serval and side-striped jackal.
The Luangwa river also has an extraordinarily high number of crocodiles.
It is not uncommon to see several basking on the riverbanks or even floating
down the river tearing at a dead animal.
Night drives are fascinating in the Luangwa. Not only for the chance
of seeing a leopard but for the many interesting animals that only come
to life at night. Genets, civets, servals, hyenas, and bushbabies as
well as owls, nightjars, the foraging hippos, honey badgers and lion.
superb in the Valley. Near the end of the dry season, when the river
and oxbow lagoons begin
to recede, hundreds
of large waterbirds can be seen wading through the shallows. The red
faced yellow billed storks move along with their beaks open underwater,
disturbing the muddy liquid with their feet until the fish flop into
their mouths. The pelicans tend to operate in lines abreast, driving
the fish before them into shallows before scooping them up into their
beak pouches. The striking 1.6m saddle bill stork makes quick darting
movements into the water. Then there’s the marabou stork, great
white egrets, black headed herons, open billed storks and the stately
goliath heron that can stand in the same position for hours before pouncing.
Of the most beautiful are the elegant crowned cranes, with their golden
tufts congregating in large flocks at the salt pans.
Around the same time, just before the rains set in, in November, the
palearctic migrants from Northern Europe and the intra-African migrants
arrive to exploit the feeding opportunities that the warm rainy season
brings. These include the red chested cuckoo, white storks, European
swallows. Swifts, hobbies and bee-eaters, as well as birds of prey such
as the Steppe eagles and Steppe buzzards that come all the way from Russia.
A special sight is the hundreds of brightly coloured carmine bee-eaters
nesting in the steep sandy banks of the river.
With about 400 of Zambia’s
732 species of birds appearing in the Valley, including 39 birds
of prey and 47 migrant
species, there is plenty
for the birdwatcher to spot, whatever the season.
North Luangwa National
Park is a remote
tract of land covering 4,636 square kilometres and is one of the
most spectacular and untamed wilderness
areas in Zambia, if not Africa itself.
It is not open to the public and there are no permanent camps in the
park. Access is only available through one of the few safari operators
granted permission to
conduct walking safaris in North Luangwa.
Two main rivers, the
Luangwa and Mulandashi, run through and along the park. The latter
cascades down in a series of rapids
and waterfalls before reaching the valley floor by means of the delightful
Chomba Waterfall. This cool crystal waterfall, in the heart of North
Luangwa Park, boasts some of the largest herds of antelope along
its river course.
The diversity of habitats in this
park leaves you feeling bewildered and dazzled. There are areas of
pure mopane forests, lush
and sausage trees laden with long dangling sausage-looking fruit. This
leads to an awesome variety of birds from the Pel’s fishing owl
to the purple crested turaco.
Although declared a wilderness area,
the North Park, was not open to anyone other than Game Department rangers
for more than thirty years. In 1984, Major John Harvey and his wife
Lorna sought permission to conduct walking safaris in the area and
for many years, they were the only operators in this remote wilderness.
South Luangwa park has always enjoyed greater attention in terms
and conservation efforts and consequently, the North Luangwa park suffered
- poachers shot a great many animals and the rhino population was
in 1986, an American couple of zoologists, Mark and Delia Owens,
famed for their book Cry of the Kalahari (about their
experiences in central Botswana), were granted permission to set
up a research station in the park. Mark
fell in love with the beauty of North Luangwa and over the next
couple of years, established a number of anti-poaching initiatives
within local communities. Their
efforts led to a virtual end to game poaching, to an improvement
in the lives of local villagers and general better conditions for the
wild animals as well as the people living in and around North Luangwa.
Through the Owens'
influence and as a means of helping to curb poaching in the area, the
to the park to a few more safari operators who bring limited numbers
into the park for guided walking safaris and game drives. The Owens'
efforts in the North Luangwa are documented in their book Survivors
Song, The Eye of the Elephant.
park now has some of
the most zealous game rangers in the country. If you are a traveller
looking for adventure rather than the run-of-mill safari, North
Luangwa National Park is "the corner of the earth that smiles on you above
The beauty of visiting this park is in
its truly remarkable opportunity to experience Africa as it was in
years past. It is
wild and untouched and you are
simply an unobtrusive witness to its natural beauty and drama. There
are very few roads and you’re
unlikely to see anyone else for the duration of your trip. Like the
South Park, it lies on the western bank of the Luangwa River bordered
on the other side by the dramatic Muchinga escarpment which
rises over 1000 meters from the valley floor. Its hazy outline can clearly
be seen from the Luangwa river.
There are a number of tributary
rivers running through the park and into the Luangwa which play an
important ecological role in the Area.
The crystal clear Mwaleshi river trickles down the escarpment in a series
of small waterfalls. It recedes in the dry season, leaving many pools
along the way, drawing the animals from the bush to its banks in search
of water. No game drives are permitted in the Mwaleshi area, access is
by organised walking safaris only.
North Luangwa Wildlife
The park is noted for its massive herds of
buffalo, a spectacular sight if they’re seen on the run, kicking
up dust for miles behind them. Large prides of lion inhabit the territory
and it is not uncommon to
witness a kill. Other common mammals are hyena, Cookson’s wildebeest
(Connochaetes taurines cooksoni) - a subspecies of the Blue Wildebeest,
bushbuck, Crawshay's zebra, warthog, baboon, vervet monkey, puku and
and leopard are also seen, but not as frequently as in the South Park;
however, you are more likely to see hartebeest, reedbuck and eland
All the birds in the South Luangwa have been recorded here as well.
Sighted regularly are the crowned cranes, purple crested louries,
Lilian’s lovebird, the carmine bee-eater, giant eagle owl and
fishing owl. Occasionally seen are the bathawk, black coucal and osprey.
Lower Zambezi National
newest Park and as such is still relatively undeveloped, but it’s
beauty lies in it’s absolute wilderness state. The
diversity of animals is not as wide as the other big parks, but the opportunities
to get close to game wandering in and out of the Zambezi channels are
spectacular. The Park lies opposite the famous Mana Pools Reserve in
Zimbabwe, so the whole area on both sides of the river is a massive wildlife
The Zambezi River's edge is overhung
with a thick riverine fringe, mostly diasporus, ficus and other riverine
Further inland is a floodplain fringed
with mopane forest and interspersed with winterthorn trees, the Acacia
albida. The hills which form the backdrop to the park are covered in
The Lower Zambezi National Park
covers an area of 4,092 square kilometers, but most of the game is
the valley floor. There is
an escarpment along the northern end which acts as a physical barrier
to most of the parks animal species. Enormous herds of elephant, some
up to 100 strong, are often seen at the rivers edge. ‘Island hopping’ buffalo
and waterbuck are quite common. The park also hosts good populations
of lion and leopard and listen too for the ubiquitous cry of the fish
Fishing is good along the Zambezi River
Tiger fish and bream catches
are common as well as vundu, a member of the catfish family, weighing
up to 50 kilograms. Strangely, cheap, strong smelling soap is an excellent
Canoeing is a must. The lodges
in the park provide day long canoeing trips. Float down the river
at your leisure and they’ll
pick you up in a speedboat at the end of the day to bring you back.
Several operators run 3 to 5-day trips,
overnighting at very comfortable bush camps on the banks of the river.
These are highly recommended. The
river has a strong enough current to take you easily down the river with
little effort. The river guides will take you down remote channels between
the islands where your opportunities to get close to game are very high.
Hippos are always in sight, and elephant, zebra, puku, impala, buffalo,
kudu and baboons can be seen browsing on the banks from the laid back
of your canoe.
The ecological unit of Lower Zambezi
National Park and the Chiawa Game Management Area support a relatively
large population of
mammals. The escarpment
and plateau regions are largely inaccessible and have not been formally
surveyed. The valley floor, although a small area, is host to many of
the bigger mammals, including elephant, buffalo, hippo, waterbuck, kudu,
zebra, and crocodiles, impala and warthog. Occasionally, roan, eland and the Samango
monkey are seen. Nocturnal animals here are hyaena, porcupine, civet,
genet and honeybadger.
The birdlife along the riverbanks is
exceptional. Many a fish eagle can be seen and heard for miles around.
Nesting along the cliffs are white
fronted and carmine bee eaters. Other species include the redwinged
pratincole, the elegant crested guinea fowl, black eagle, and vast
swarms of quelea.
In summer the stunning narina trogon makes its home here. Other specialities
are the trumpeter hornbill, Meyer's parrot and Lilian’s lovebird.
The best time is mid season from June
to September, but all lodges and canoeing operators are open from April
to November. Fishing is at its best in September / October.
Kafue is Zambia’s oldest
national park and by far the largest. It was proclaimed in 1950 and
is spread over 22,400 square kilometres - the second largest national
in the world and about the size of Wales.
Despite the Park’s proximity
to both Lusaka and the Copperbelt, it has remained underdeveloped
until the most recent
years. Despite the
depravations of poaching and lack of management, the Park is still a
raw and diverse slice of African wilderness with excellent game viewing,
birdwatching and fishing opportunities.
From the astounding Busanga Plains in
the North-western section of the Park to the tree-choked wilderness,
and the lush dambos of the south,
and fed by the emerald green Lunga, Lufupa and Kafue Rivers, the park
sustains huge herds of a great diversity of wildlife.
The lush grasslands are grazed by red
lechwe in their thousands. Fifty years ago, lechwe were almost extinct
in this area; however, the establishment of the national park has
seen a phenomenal recovery in their numbers and it is a sight of great
them wandering in such vast herds across the golden plains. During
the wet season they splash about in the shallow waters, and, interestingly
enough, lion, who usually dislike water, can be seen chasing them through
water at least a half a meter deep.
Other antelope found here are blue wildebeest,
Lichtenstein's hartebeest (frequently seen), buffalo, zebra, reedbuck,
oribi, puku and impala. Bushpig and warthog are also inhabitants of
the plains. The shy swamp-dwelling sitatunga is found here, its widespread
it to walk on the floating reedmats. Roan antelope are also seen regularly
in the northern sector as well as big herds of sable 30 to 40 strong.
The wealth of game on the plains are
a big attraction for lions and prides of up to twenty are spotted regularly.
Cheetah and Leopard also
roam the plains, the cheetah being able to exercise their famous turn
of speed. There is also a host of smaller carnivores
from the side-striped jackal, civet,
genet and various mongoose.
Birdwatching - especially on the
rivers and the dambos, is superb. Notables include the wattled crane,
purple crested lourie
and Pel’s fishing
owl. Over 400 species of birds have been recorded throughout the park.
The Kafue and Lunga Rivers offer superb fishing opportunities, especially
good bream, barbel and fresh water pike. Most lodges have fishing tackle,
rods, boats and bait available. Musungwa Lodge in the south, hosts an
annual fishing competition in September on Lake Itezhi Tezhi.
Lochinvar National Park, although
not abundant in the larger mammals, is nonetheless a park of exceptional
birding opportunities with over 420 recorded species in its 428
The Park is situated on the southern
edge of the Kafue Flats, a wide floodplain of the Kafue River between
Itezhi tezhi Dam in the west and
Kafue Gorge in the east. The area extends for 33kms from the Kafue River
in the north to low wooded hills in the south. It includes the large,
shallow Chunga Lagoon which fluctuates considerably in size with variations
in river levels. The varying vegetation makes it an interesting park
to visit with floodplains, woodlands and termitaria.
It is particularly well known for the large herds of Kafue lechwe, unique
to the Kafue flats. Other antelope are the blue wildebeest, kudu, oribi
and buffalo. Waterbirds are especially abundant.
The IUCN and WWF have designated the Kafue Flats a wetland
of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. A sponsored
management project for the area attempts to give local people an interest
in conservation through both redistribution of tourist revenue and controlled
harvesting of resources. The fishermen you may come across in the park
are very much a part of this unique ecosystem and in many ways the humans
and wildlife here are interdependent.
The Kafue Flats floodplain, in
the northern section, floods from the Kafue River, and here you’ll
find thousands upon thousands of the endemic Kafue lechwe, one of
three subspecies of lechwe
found in Zambia.
More than 30,000 of them make the flats their home and move seasonally
according to the flood level.
At high water, massive herds may be seen along the upper floodline and
in the open grassland further south. As the floods recede the herds move
north into the grassy floodplain. They feed on grasses and herbs in water
up to a meter deep and are often seen wading or swimming in the Chunga
Lagoon. Mating takes place mainly between December and January. Males
fight over small territories known as leks and then mate with several
In the Termitaria Zone, trees and
shrubs grow only on the large termite mounds with grasses and herbs
covering the rest of
the area, which often
becomes waterlogged during the rainy season. There are also many small
grey mounds which are always unvegetated. The magpie shrike is one of
the birds to be seen in the scattered trees of this zone and the surrounding
grassy plains are grazed by buffalo, zebra, wildebeest and oribi. Very
much in evidence is the ‘candelabra’ tree.
The southern area is mainly woodland dominated by Acacia albida and
Combretum trees and free from flooding. Bushbuck kudu, baboon, bushpig
and vervet monkey inhabit this area.
The Gwisho Hot Springs occur along
a geological fault here, surrounded by lush vegetation and vegetable
ivory palms. The
water rises by convection
from depths of over 1 km with temperatures ranging from 60° to 90° C.
There are high concentrations of sodium, chlorine, calcium and sulphates
in the water. A distinctive rock known as a ‘fault breccia’ occurs
along the line of the fault and can be seen at Gwisho or the Lodge.
Sebanzi Hill is an archaeological site which has been excavated. It
was the site of an iron age village, inhabited for most of the last century.
Look out for The Baobab Tree with a hollow trunk large enough for several
people to sleep in. Historically the tree was said to boast special powers
which would protect passing travellers from wild animals. There is a
curious rocky outcrop called Drum Rocks not far from the lodge, which
produces a resonant sound when tapped. They are also part of local superstition
in former times and passers-by had to stop and greet the rocks before
Wildlife and Flora at Lochinvar
There are no dangerous animals in the park, apart from buffalo and visitors
are encouraged to walk about. Cars however should not leave the roads.
Lochinvar is well renowned as a superb bird sanctuary featuring many
different waterfowl, raptors, woodland species and migrants; 428 species
have been recorded.
The floodplain is a wide almost
flat area, with black clay soils, sloping almost imperceptibly towards
the Kafue River. Vegetation
is made up of
grasses, sedges and herbs adapted to an annual pattern of flooding. Many
plants grow up with the rising waters to become emerging aquatics at
high flood. A few isolated winterthorns Acacia albida and palms Borassus
aethiopum occur on the river banks. Hundreds of wattled cranes can be
seen feeding on vegetable matter dug from the soft mud and the large
marabou stork scavenging for stranded fish.
Around Chunga Lagoon you’ll
find the greater and lesser flamingo, the pink backed and white pelicans,
African skimmer, Caspian tern, Baillon’s crake and the red knobbed
coot. Many species of duck are abundant in this environment; the black
duck, fulvous duck, whistling duck, pintail, garganey, southern pochard,
pygmy goose, yellow billed duck and the Cape and European shovellers.
Waders include avocet, the Mongolian, Caspian and Pacific golden plovers,
whimbrel, turnstone, sanderling, little stint, spotted redshank, black
tailed and bar tailed godwits and six species of sandpiper. Over 50
raptors occur in Lochinvar including the black sparrowhawk, osprey,
secretary bird, African
cuckoo hawk and the peregrine falcon to name a few. Other interesting
sightings include the white-bellied and black bellied korhaans, yellow
throated sandgrouse, narina trogon, and Denham’s bustard.
When to Visit Lochinvar
of the year is accessible although care is needed in the wet season
is not necessary
advantageous in the rainy season as road conditions vary according to
the last rainfall and when the roads were last graded. Peak floods are
reached in May at the end of the rainy season, while the water is at its
in October and November at the end of the dry season. The profusion of
birds is extensive during the wet season when migrants arrive from the
north. The game however is easier to spot in the dry season.
This 5,000 square
kilometre park in the south western corner of the country has been
completely undeveloped and rarely visited
until recently. It is surrounded by a 35,000 square kilometre Game Management
Area (GMA). The Park is unfenced allowing free movement of the animals
between the park and the GMA and allowing access to the Zambezi River.
and surrounding GMA form an important link in the migratory route of
elephants from the bordering national parks of Botswana and Namibia.
Although heavily poached, the park does offer a better refuge for elephants
migrating from Angola where poaching and illegal hunting is rampant.
There are no permanent facilities and
very few roads in the park. A few operators take guided safaris into
the park at the moment. There is only one tented camp in Sioma Ngwezi.
Alternatively one can take ones own vehicle in but the lack of roads
makes this a
difficult undertaking and a guide from the National Parks office in Sioma
is highly recommended.
The park is home to over 3,000 elephants
and several endangered species including roan, sable, wild dog and
cheetah. Several antelope species
are present, but quite shy - mostly puku, impala, roan, sable, zebra
and kudu. Due to the park’s proximity to Angola, it has suffered substantially
from poaching during the civil war. However, plans are afoot to open
the park to private management and hopefully the park’s wildlife
This remote park in the far
west of Zambia is pristine wilderness, which to the ardent bush lover,
makes it a huge attraction and the rewards are great. Liuwa Plain
is best accessed via one of three tour operators offering mobile
This is not a park one should tackle
without a guide as there are no visitor facilities or roads and it
is very easy to get lost. Going with a licensed tour operator to see
this Park has to offer is highly recommended.
If you do tackle it alone, make sure you take an armed scout/guide from the
Parks office in Kalabo. One can camp anywhere in the park but don’t attempt
it unless there are at least two vehicles and you are fully self sufficient
and prepared for all eventualities. This is the ‘real’ Africa,
and help is a long way away.
In November, with the onset of the rains, the massive
herds of blue wildebeest arrive from Angola, traversing the plains in
their thousands, very often mingling with zebra along the way or gathering
around water holes and pans.
Other unusual antelope found in Liuwa
Plains include oribi, red lechwe, steenbuck, duiker, tsessebe and roan.
serval, wildcat, wild dog as well as lion
and hyena are the predators of the area. Many birds migrate here during
the rains and massive flocks of birds can be seen as they migrate south.
Some of the more notables are the white bellied bustards, secretary bird,
red billed and hottentot teals, crowned and wattled cranes, long tailed
whydah, sooty chat, yellow throated longclaw, large flocks of black winged
pratincoles around the pans, fish eagle, tawny eagle, marshall eagle,
woodland kingfisher, pink throated longclaw. The plains are dotted with
woodlands which also make for excellent birding.
surrounding Lake Mweru in the far northern part of the country
is much the same as the swamps of the Bangweulu
in its profusion of waterbirds during the rainy season. The lake is surrounded
by local fishing villages. It is possible to ask them to take you through
the swamps in a dugout for a negotiable fee.
Mweru Wantipa National Park, adjacent
to the lake, used to harbour vast herds of elephant but poaching has
depleted most of the wildlife,
although there are still some small herds of buffalo. There are no tourist
facilities but it is possible to camp along the lakeshore.
Although not a national park, the Great Bangweulu
Basin is worth mentioning. The Basin, incorporating the vast Bangweulu
Lake and a massive wetland area,
lies in a shallow
in the centre of an ancient cratonic platform, the North Zambian
Plateau. The basin is fed by 17 principle rivers from a catchment
area of 190,000 square kilomtetres, but is drained
by only one river, the Luapula.
The area floods in the wet season between
November in March, receiving an average annual rainfall of about 1,200mm,
of the water entering the system is lost to evapo-transpiration. The
resultant effect is that the water level in the centre of the basin varies
between one and two meters, causing the floodline to advance and retreat
by as much as 45 kilometres at the periphery. It is this seasonal rising
and falling of the flood waters that dictates life in the swamps.
Man has inhabited the periphery of the swamp area for
hundreds of years as it has always provided a rich source of food. But
the area is so incredibly vast, it is largely left to the the multitudes
of wildlife that dwell of the rich resources. The current inhabitants
of the Northern Province are descendants of a series of emigrations from
the Congo Basin.
One of the best reasons for coming to this unusual watery
wilderness is the remarkable experience of this infinite flat expanse.
The views to the horizon seem endless and one imagines one can almost
see the curve of the planet. The birdlife is just magnificent and the
sight of thousands upon thousands of the endemic black lechwe, unforgettable.
Vast open floodplains, several kilometres
wide exist at the periphery of the permanent swamps. These may lie
under a blanket of water from
a few centimetres to a meter deep from 3 - 6 months a year depending
on the extent of the summer rainfall. These shallow waters provide ideal
feeding grounds for huge numbers of indigenous birds as well as numerous
summer migrants, many who will have travelled the length of Africa to
winter-over in the swamps. White and pink backed pelicans, wattled cranes,
white storks, saddlebilled storks, spoonbills and ibises in flocks
numbering in the hundreds, as well as many species of the smaller waders,
common but dramatic sight when the waters are rich in small fish, shrimps
One of the most rare and elusive birds
in Africa, the shoebill stork, Balaeniceps rex, which is in fact closer
to the pelican family than a
stork, favors the Bangweulu swamps as one of its last remaining habitats
and during the early months following the rains, this strange looking
bird can regularly be seen on the fringe between the permanent swamps
and the floodplains.
Until the early 1980’s there
were lions in the swamps that preyed on the lechwe and sitatunga.
Unfortunately, with the increase
in human activity around the edge of the swamps, they have
been eradicated. Although rarely seen, leopards
do exist, while hyenas and jackals are often heard at night and occasionally
encountered on night drives.
Later in the year, when the flood waters have receded, buffalo and to
a lesser extent elephant move into the area to feed on the plentiful
grasses. Numerous crocodile and hippo are found in the permanent water
channels or lurking in the papyrus reeds.
The swamps are a protected wetland, having
international importance under the ramsar Convention. The area is ecologically
very sensitive and great
care should be taken when driving around the floodplains in the dry season.
Stick to existing tracks and keep driving to a minimum.
Lying on the southern shores of Lake Tanganyika,
in the northern most tip of Zambia, Nsumbu National Park covers
an area of just over 2,000 square kilometers and encompasses
100kms of some of the most pristine shores of this vast Lake. Its
ranges from sandy beaches, vertical cliffs, rocky coves and natural
bays to the rugged hills and deep valleys of the interior. The
Lufubu River winds its way through a valley flanked by 300 meter
escarpments on either side.
The western boundary of Nsumbu National
Park is buffered by Tondwa Game Management Area, an IUCN Category VIII
Multiple Use Management Area of
54,000 ha. The much larger Kaputa Game Management Area (360,000 ha) is
also contiguous with the National Park to the north-west and south-west.
Nsumbu National Park and the two Game Management Areas thus form important
of a network of protected areas in Zambia.
The Park is dissected from west
to east by the sizeable and perennial Lufubu River, which also demarcates
the eastern boundary
of the Park
up to the river's discharge into Lake Tanganyika. The Nkamba and Chisala
Rivers are ephemeral and smaller than the Lufubu, draining Tondwa Swamp
into Nkamba and Sumbu Bays respectively, the former through an attractive
valley with abundant wildlife in relation to other parts of the Park.
Much of the park is covered by combretum thicket, but along the lakeshore
there are many strangler figs and ‘candelabra’ trees along
with the strange and interesting boulders balanced on top of one another.
numbers have declined, there is still a wide range of species present
in the park and numbers
although sightings are not guaranteed. Roan, sable, eland, hartebeest,and
buffalo are commonly seen, with zebra and occasionally elephant,
lion and leopard also present. Bushbuck, warthog and puku often frequent
the beaches. The
duiker, a small forest antelope, is one of the Park’s specialities
along with the shy swamp dwelling sitatunga. Other species seen here
are the spotted hyena, side-striped jackal, serval, impala, waterbuck
and reedbuck. The lake bordering on the park is teeming with crocodiles,
so swimming is obviously not advisable. Some of these crocs reach up
to six meters in length.
often emerge at night around the lodges to ‘mow’ the green
Birdlife in the park is still prolific with many migrants coming down
from East Africa and up from South African regions. The flamingo is one
of the more spectacular migrants while some of the lakeshore inhabitants
include the skimmer, spoonbill, whiskered tern along with many different
storks, ducks and herons. Commonly encountered species around the lake
include the grey-headed gull, lesser black-backed gull, white-winged
black tern, whiskered tern, African skimmer, and of course the ubiquitous
fish eagle. The palmnut vulture and Pel's fishing owl are also occasionally
The 1,684 km West Lunga National Park is situated
between the West Lunga and Kabompo rivers; both are perennial and
swamps are numerous along the latter. Several forest and woodland
types make up the vegetation, including Cryptosepalum on the kalahari
sand areas and limited areas of mixed miombo woodland. There are
also areas of open grassland and papyrus reed beds. Mammal species
are represented by elephant, buffalo, hippopotamus, warthog sitatunga,
puku, blue, common and yellow backed duiker, oribi, defassa waterbuck
and no less than 22 carnivores.
Mosi-ao-Tunya National Park
is divided into two sections; a game park along the riverbank and
the staggering Victoria
Falls, each with separate entrances. The
immense and awe-inspiring Victoria Falls are known to the local
people as Mosi-oa-Tunya - "Smoke Which Thunders",
and is the greatest known curtain of falling water in the world.
However you describe them, the
falls are a breathtaking spectacle which, "roar
as if possessed", and spew vast clouds of mist from a dark and seething
cauldon." They are one of the greatest natural wonders in the world.
This is a small wildlife sanctuary (only 25.5 square miles (66 square
kilometres) running along the north bank of the Zambezi, encompassed
in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. It is worth a short visit not only
for the sight of what are probably Zambia’s only remaining rhino,
but also for some other common species.
Within this park is the Old Drift cemetery where the first European
settlers were buried. They made camp by the river, but kept succumbing
to a strange and fatal illness. They blamed the yellow/green-barked 'Fever
Trees' for this incurable malady, while all the time it was the malarial
mosquito causing their demise. Before long the community moved to higher
ground and the town of Livingstone emerged.
Livingstone's main street is dotted with
classic colonial buildings, and while some are decaying, many others
have been restored. Victorian tin roofed houses with wooden verandas are a typical example
of the English settler architecture and there is also a distinct art-deco
influence. Livingstone is a quiet lazy little town with much charm and
a feeling of optimism in the air.
Baboons are frequently seen on the paths leading to the falls and small
antelopes and warthogs inhabit the rainforests that hug the edge of the
falls. In the wildlife reserve, the pastures and tall riverine forests
contain plenty of birds and a scattering of animals including some white
rhino, elephants, giraffe, zebra, sable, eland, buffalo and impala.
South Luangwa North
Zambezi Kafue Sioma
Floodplains Nsumbu West
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