The Kafue National Park is 22 500 sq km, one of the largest National Parks in Africa. In the extreme north of the Kafue lie the Busanga Plains – one of Zambia’s most significant wetland resources and one of the few areas in the world that remain untouched by development and human activity.
The deep and clear Lunga River is the largest tributary of the Kafue River and flows north to south through a mosaic of miombo woodland, riverine woodland and grassy dambos in the north east of the Park. Species like puku and impala are abundant while roan and Lichtenstein’s hartebeest occur in lower densities. Viewing of buffalo herd and elephant bulls is good while lion and leopard are regularly encountered. Additional interesting species in the form of yellow baboons and tree hyrax occur in the vicinity of the camp while a high density hippo population occurs in the Lunga River.
The Busanga Plains cover an area of approximately 750 sq km and Busanga Bush Camp is located in the centre of this wildlife paradise. The Plains are home to hundreds of red lechwe, ubiquitous puku, stately roan and the diminutive oribi. Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, herds of wildebeest, zebra and buffalo make for a full set of antelope. This wealth of game on the plains is also a big attraction for predators, including wild dog, cheetah and prides of lion.
Ngoma in the south is the headquarters of the park but this area together with the Nanzhila Plains are less visited and have become somewhat run down since the Itezhi-Tezhi Dam was built and more lodges were developed in the north. The reservoir cut the north-south track through the park and now it is necessary to detour outside the park to drive between Ngoma and Chunga.
The Lower Zambezi National Park covers an area of 4092 square kilometers, but most of the game is concentrated along 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 common. The park also hosts good populations of lion and leopard and listen too for the ubiquitous cry of the fish eagle.
The ecological unit of LZNP 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, elephant, buffalo, hippo, waterbuck, kudu, zebra, and crocodiles, impala and warthog. Occasionally, roan, eland and the Samango monkey. 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. Another unusual the red winged 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, Meyers parrot and Lilian’s lovebird.
The vegetation in the area is predominated by Acacia albida trees, a thorn species 10 – 30m high with the classical shady umbrella canopy. It is able to tolerate sandier soils than other woodland species and serves to stabilise infertile sandbanks and reduce erosion. Winterthorn pods are also remarkably nutritious to elephants who digest it leaving about 40% intact, thereby contributing to its proliferation.
The best time is mid season from June to September, but all lodges and canoeing operators are open from April to November. Kayila lodge is open all year. Fishing is at its best in September / October.
Experts have dubbed the 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 ox bow 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 9050km2. 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. 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.
Kafue National Park | Lower Zambezi National Park | South Luangwa National Park