Zambia Safari Guide | Liuwa Plains Safari

Wildebeeste in the Sunset. Norman Carr Safaris

At Liuwa Plain National Park you can see the second biggest Wildebeest migration in Africa. This beautiful but remote park in Zambia offers an amazing adventure in a forgotten wilderness. It's known as the ‘Small Serengeti', but there is nothing small about the safari experience at Liuwa Plains.

This is an adventure for the real die-hard safari adventure fanatic. If you do not fit this description - this is definitely not for you.

Access

If you are not travelling with Siyabona Africa - this important information applies to you.
To enter Liuwa Plain National Park you need to go with a licensed tour operator on a fly-in safari, or obtain a private entry permit from the National Parks and Wildlife Services office in Kalabo, the nearest town to the park or from Chilanga which is near Lusaka. Liuwa airstrip in the park has been built and certification is in the process of being obtained.

Self-drivers should be completely self-sufficient with at least 2 fully stocked 4x4 vehicles in convoy. If travelling from Katima Mulilo, the sandy road from the Nangweshi / Senanga ferry crossing to Kalabo will take days to drive and there is no petrol station in the town.

There are no roads in Liuwa Plains and no facilities - it is advisable to hire an armed scout / ranger from the park office in Kalabo. You need a guide to navigate this park as it is extremely easy to lose your way and there is no help nearby if anything should go wrong. A sketch map of the park is available from the main gate, which indicates certain features with GPS co-ordinates.

Best Time to Visit Liuwa Plains

During the dry months from August to December, wildlife concentrates around water sources, and vehicle access is easiest.
The rains begin in November with mostly late afternoon storms, causing the pans to burst into flower and herds of blue wildebeest arrive on their annual migration from Angola.
December to April, the plains are in flood, and vehicle access is ranges from extremely limited to non-existent.

Airfield

If you are not flying in with Siyabona Africa, this information will mean nothing to you.
There is a small airfield in the town of Kalabo located just south of Liuwa Plain National Park which is currently being used on fly-in safaris. Another new airstrip has been constructed in the park itself, but it is not yet ready for certification. The nearest airport for commercial and charter flights is Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka.

Regions

Matamanene Camp. Norman Carr SafarisMatamanene Camp.
Liuwa Plain National Park is situated in a forgotten part of Africa on the far western border between Zambia and Angola. Bordered by 2 rivers, it covers just over 3 000 square km /1 158 square miles and consists of extensive grassy plains, pans, the odd tree island and some raffia palms.

There are woodlands in the north but for the most part you can often look around whilst on safari and see nothing but a flat landscape to the horizon. The pans are found in the centre of the plains and in the southern region. These become lagoons in the wet season and can hold water for a while into the dry season.

This park is a work in progress, with the reappearance of certain animals after many years of absence seen as good sign. Conservation and anti-poaching efforts that have been applied for a number of years are paying off and animal populations are on the increase.

Highlights

The Liuwa Plains display the perfect combination of wide blue skies and golden grasslands for as far as the eye can see. It's a breathtaking sight and when it is teeming with great herds of Wildebeest, you can be forgiven for thinking you are on the Serengeti.

Overlooked for years, it is wild and isolated but that is really what makes it so appealing for intrepid safari enthusiasts who long for wide open spaces. Apart from game viewing and the sheer adventure of it all, visitors will be blown away by the beautiful sunsets, simply brilliant birding and dramatic thunder storms in the rainy season.

The most well known resident of this national park is Lady Liuwa, a Lioness made famous by a National Geographic documentary. Her attempts to form a pride and produce cubs have been widely followed on Facebook and by the African Parks Foundation - it's a fascinating real-life story that is unfolding at this moment.

Activities

viewing and game drives, wonderful birding and community campsite activities such as cultural interaction, dance displays and village tours, boating and traditional fishing.

Climate

Plain National Park can only be accessed during the dry season which is between April and October. The wet season is from November to March and the park becomes inaccessible once the heavy rains set in and the pans fill up - most of the park is completely cut off and covered in shallow water from January to April. Currently May, June, November and early December are proving to be the very best times to experience the park. The months of May and June will be warm in the day but the temperature drops right down at night. November and December will be hotter and more humid.

The Experience

Visiting Liuwa Plain National Park is a huge adventure and a great expedition. It will not be easy to get there but the wildness of the park and its beauty will surpass any travel weariness. Liuwa Plains currently receives just a few visitors a year, so you will have the place to yourself which is truly rare and special on the safari circuit.

You will be able to explore the immense open plains in search of wildlife and stop at lagoons and waterholes along the way. Safari activities are conducted in the early morning and again in the late afternoon, with a return to camp in between to rest and relax in the heat of the day. Highlights include spectacular photographic opportunities and sundowner drinks on the plains.

Safaris are conducted in May and June once the flood waters have receded north. Wildebeest and other herbivores in the southern section start to venture north as the pans slowly dry up, eventually the animals disperse into the surrounding woodlands. From August to October the herds move out of the woodlands and start to gather on the plains before congregating in their thousands at the southern pans with the start of the rains. Safaris in November and early December will see this migration which is the second biggest in Africa.

These great herds are made up mostly of Blue Wildebeest, Tsessebe, Zebra and Buffalo. You could also see Red Lechwe, Lichtenstein's Hartebeest, Eland and Roan. The main predators are Hyena and Wild Dog, also some Cheetah. Lion prides have been poached out but a reintroduction project is in place to build up a pride again starting with Lady Liuwa, the last surviving Lioness from the original prides.

You can expect fabulous birding especially in November and December once migrants arrive. You could spot Wattled Cranes, Pelicans, Grey Herons, Saddle-Billed and Marabou Storks, Pygmy Geese and even Slaty Egrets in groups. Others to keep a look out for include Rosy-Breasted Longclaw, Pink-Billed Lark, White-Cheeked Bee-Eater, Martial Eagle and Fish Eagle, also the threatened Black-Winged Pranticole.

Accommodation

Currently, fly-in safari guests will enjoy a bushcamp in the heart of Liuwa Plain National Park. Self-drivers can stay in 4 basic community campsites with a shaded area, cold water showers, flush toilets and basins (except for Sikale campsite)which are maintained by camp attendants on a daily basis.
Firewood is available for a small fee.
The brackish water needs to be boiled.

What you need to know

This is a very remote destination and the nearest medical help is in Kalabo at a mission hospital, which is a few hours bumpy drive from within the park. Liuwa Plains is a malaria area and you will need to take precautionary measures.
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