Zambia

Luangwa

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Wetland wildlife wonder

Wetland wildlife wonder

Wetland wildlife wonder

Liuwa Plains is an uncommercialised park situated in the Western Province in Zambia. It boasts an annual wildebeest migration second in size only to that of the Serengeti. Jackie Peel of Zamag Tours & Safaris sent in this report.

I was recently lucky enough to be on board a Cessna Caravan for a two hour flight from Lusaka to Kalabo, on the western side of the Zambezi River. The flood waters had rapidly receded and the Liuwa plains were beckoning.

Robin Pope and Jason Alfonso were there to meet us, and we crossed the river and headed off on a two hour drive towards Matamanene Bush Camp in the middle of the Plains, where an occasional clump of raffia palms on the horizon breaks the great emptiness. Liuwa Plains is a National Park managed by African Parks and covers an area of 3,660 square kilometres. Nothing can prepare you for the vast open plains.

Once we’d had tea and been refreshed we set off for sundowners, passing herds of blue wildebeest and zebra. We arrived to the sun setting over lagoons filled with white water lilies and teeming with bird life: Crowned and Wattled Cranes, Saddlebilled Storks and Spoonbills; the bird watching was incredible, over 90 species in five days. At night we were lulled to sleep by the occasional roar from Lady Liuwa, the last lioness on Liuwa plains, and by hyaena.

The first morning we were up early to look for the cheetah family, a mum and her four, eight month old cubs. Through binoculars we spotted them in the long grass. We followed them at a distance, watching as they attempted a kill, gave up, and then eventually settled down under some trees at midday. The next day, following the vultures, we came across their kill; a young wildebeest that they were walking away from, their tummies full and their faces covered in blood.

Every day was just as exciting; a visit to a hyaena den where we saw them emerging from holes in the ground and the adults interacting with cubs. All of them were inquisitive and came up to inspect us at close range!

The next day, after finding a group of wild dog, who were intent on getting home as fast as possible, we saw Lady Liuwa with her freshly killed wildebeest. Later that day, a few kilometres away from Lady, we saw two young lions, which were too sleepy to even pose for the camera.

Our final treat was the boat trip from Kalabo to Mongu. It was a two hour ride down the Luanginga river to the Zambezi, a few kilometres along the Zambezi and then up the channels of the flood plains to the large bustling harbour at Mongu. Life on and around the river, on the flood plains is something unique to the people of Barotseland, and was well worth the journey.

Read more articles from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (Issue 11, Dec 2012)

Read more about the region in our destination guide:
Luangwa