Liuwa Plains (Zambia)
Because of the proximity to Botswana, we do offer “expedition” style safaris to Zambia – one of our favourite destinations is LIUWA PLAINS NATIONAL PARK (LPNP). We recommend these expeditions mostly for experienced safari-goers who have maybe done a safari with us before, and are looking for something different. Liuwa combines nicely with other experiences in Zambia including the KASANKA BAT MIGRATION and a visit to KAFUE National Park.
The Attraction of Liuwa
Zambia is a relatively poor country that is battling to protect its wildlife, mainly because of the pressures exerted by growing poverty stricken human populations. In this regard, LPNP was on the brink of collapse fifteen years ago until it was taken over and revived by an organisation called African Parks.
Having visited this park since 2001, I have witnessed its transformation from an unorganised shambles to an efficiently run haven for animals – all because of the expertise of African Parks (AP)! On my first visit, barely a handful of tourists had signed through the park gate that year. Today the story is more positive, as AP have invested heavily in infrastructure and anti-poaching and are working with the locals who live off the land in and around the park. More and more people visit this park these days making it an economically viable success.
The best example of this management success is that AP have managed to grow the herd of migrating wildebeest from less than 20 thousand to more than 40 thousand since they took over. This brings us to the main attraction of visiting Liuwa: it is a breeding ground and early wet season range for big herds of wildebeest and zebra! Our expeditions to LPNP are usually timed for when the wildebeest arrive just after dropping their young – so late October, through November /December. This is also when the first rains fall.
The Adventure of Getting There
When we first started to drive up to Liuwa from Botswana there was no tar road! It took us several days of driving on what we called “The Mango Road” – this was a track leading north through Western Zambia, via seemingly endless villages, following the course of the Zambezi and the Barotse Floodplain. One also had to cross a series of ferries – always a tense affair as these often broke down! Another challenge was fuel, with only one small town having a filling station on the whole route. Things have changed and the challenge of getting to the park has dwindled since the Chinese have now completed a series of excellent tar roads and bridges – this makes it that much quicker to get to Liuwa enabling more quality time to be spent inside the park.
Part of the experience of driving through Zambia is experiencing the remoteness of the human settlements and villages. Western Zambia is very poor and has been cut off from major developments until recently. People live simple lives, still collecting wild fruit, ploughing with oxen and donkeys and making crafts from local materials. There is a genuine friendliness wherever you go, greetings from happy school children and there is always an impromptu cultural experience when you drive deep into cut-off rural areas!