The Safari Index’s Indexpedition took them to some of Zambia‘s best safari areas
Heading north along the Zambezi River, the team came to the mystical Liuwa Plains National Park. Witnessing the wildebeest migration in Liuwa Plains is, quite simply, spectacular. Compare it to the Great Migration in the Serengeti, but without the crowds. Well off the beaten track, this park is for those who are looking to have a true African wilderness experience. There is exceptional birdlife in the grasslands and floodplains of Liuwa, with wattled and crowned cranes at every turn. Packs of hyena roam the plains, and in the central and northern regions, lions are re-establishing themselves and are frequently seen. Surprisingly, there are no elephants in the park. This may correlate with the fact that there are still a number of rustic villages within the park, with local residents still relying on a subsistence way of life. That said, it is not far off from what the Africa of old would have been like. Liuwa is a very special place indeed.
Next, it was on to the Kafue. Kafue National Park is a huge park in the centre of Zambia. Its diversity of both mammals and birdlife is astounding. There are sections of Miombo woodland, one of Africa’s most picturesque biomes, which also harbour one of the continent’s most destructive insects– the infamous Tsetse Fly. Although the lodges in the park are set outside of the Tsetse zones, these flies can follow vehicles in to the camps (they fly at up to 40 km/h and get into the vehicle at times). However, it is only in a few areas and on game drives that the Tsetse flies are noticeable. They have also been a blessing in disguise for Africa, as they have kept people and livestock out of large tracts of pristine wilderness over thousands of years, something even fences and controls have been unable to do.
The Kafue is a great park for predators – lions, leopards, wild dogs and cheetah are seen regularly. The elephants tend to be rather skittish, due to poaching incidents in the past, but you will see a few herds during your stay in the park. Notable populations of hippo, Puku antelope and Defasa’s Waterbuck pop up everywhere. Interestingly, there are no giraffe in the Kafue region, but there are enough other species to keep one ticking off a long checklist of mammals. The diversity of game in Kafue is commendable and it is a wonderful park to visit on safari.
The next stop in Zambia was the Bangweulu Wetlands, in search of the prehistoric-looking ‘Shoebill’ stork. The Bangweulu Wetlands consist of a vast marsh, with a host of rural villages surrounding the ecosystem. The park hosts herds of the strikingly beautiful Black Lechwe antelope, which are not seen anywhere else. They congregate in their thousands on the floodplains– a sight to behold.
And finally, after a long morning of climbing trees to search for the elusive Shoebill, the team eventually claimed their prize. Although it was effectively just a head popping out of the reeds, for any birder, that is a reward in itself!