highlights and main attractions of liuwa plains national park

Situated in the flood plains of western Zambia, in the upper Zambezi, the 3,660 square kilometre Liuwa Plains National Park is considered one of the most amazing wildlife parks in the whole of Africa. Relatively untouched, this pristine wilderness had no roads until recently and still remains just as wild and remote as ever, bordered by Luambimba and Luanginga Rivers. Looking out over the vast flat plains, which appear to stretch straight into the horizon, it is not hard to picture the history of the park before you. In the 1880s it was proclaimed by the King of Barotsland and used as his royal hunting ground. The Lozi people, which now live around it, were placed within by the Litunga (the King) and used as gamekeepers. It was officially made a national park in 1972, becoming part of the African Parks project in 2003.

This land of abundance and diversity offers huge honey-coloured grassy plains which, in the rainy season make a stark and powerful contrast to the dramatic, electric blue of the sky. The occasional small tree islands pepper the landscape and you will sometimes come across clusters of raffia palms. 

In the centre there is a scattering of flat open pans which can hold the heavy rains well into the dry season, wonderful areas of interest to safari-goers.

where is liuwa plains national park?

tips and advice

In the dry season, thousands of Wildebeest gather in the north west, grazing their way southwards to await the rains. Considered by some to be the second largest wildebeest migration in Africa, compared to the Mara-Serengeti Migration, and thought by others not to be a migration at all, this truly is a sight to behold. Thousands of animals crowded into the expansive flat plains, spreading as far as the eye can see. The wildebeest population has increased from about 15,000 in 2005 to an astonishing 43,000 in 2011, and this is not the only wildlife on the increase. Red lechwe have risen from 966 to 1,272, zebra from 2,800 to 4,500 and tsessebe have doubled in number, all within the same six years.

The predators here are great too, with prides of aggressive lions, cheeky hyenas, frequent cheetah sightings and even wild dog - evidence that the ecosystem is recovering. The bird life is equally prolific, with 334 recorded species, including many rare and migratory birds that are attracted by the flood plains. The vulnerable crowned crane and wattled crane are found in abundance, sometimes seen in flocks of several hundred and you may also see slaty egret and whiskered tern during the floods.

Between January and April, a huge area of Liuwa Plain is covered in shallow water, great for sightings of herbivores and large numbers of birds. May to July sees the plains dry up the way they came, receding northwards – the wildlife following them until they reach the woodlands round the edge of the park. Some wildlife remains, relying on the aforementioned pans that retain the water from the floods. August to October sees the herds moving south into the park again and November to December see the rains, when the park is teeming with game. Classically November is the best time to visit the park, however, it is for the seriously adventurous. You may have access from April to February via walking and canoeing.

This is not a park we recommend travelling without a guide.

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