Liuwa Plain National Park
is located in the remote west of Zambia
Situated around 650km northeast of Victoria Falls, Liuwa Plain is one of the least known and little visited national parks in southern Africa and yet it is one which can provide a safari experience to match the finest and most famous safari areas.
These open grasslands were the traditional hunting grounds of the king of the local Barotse tribe and have enjoyed protected status for centuries. In 1972 the area was formally gazetted as a national park, but with the local people retain rights to utilise some areas for grazing of domestic stock, fishing and honey collecting.
Until recently the area was virtually inaccessible, almost 4000 square kilometres of virgin bush, centred on the main plains which cover about half that area. The terrain is very open, an apparent endless flatland punctuated here and there by small islands of trees and raffia palms. Much of these grasslands become flooded during the Nov/May green season, when migratory herds pour in from the surrounding woodlands to congregate and have their young. During the converse Jun/Oct dry season the plains host a lesser volumes of resident wildlife.
The area is renowned for its herds of blue wildebeest, which are thought to total around 50,000 head, a respectable tenth the size of the massive Serengeti migration and arguably as impressive to experience. Other herbivores include buffaloes, tsessebes, zebras, red lechwes, elands, Lichtenstein's hartebeests, roans, reedbucks, oribis and even sitatungas. Predators include famously aggressive lions, as well as leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs and spotted hyenas.
During the green season the bird-life is prolific, notably including yellow-billed storks, open-billed storks, saddle-billed storks and marabou storks, along with grey herons, spoonbills, egrets, plovers, spur-winged geese and pygmy geese. Secretary birds, Denham's bustards and white-bellied bustards are common, as well as greater kestrels, bateleur eagles, martial eagles, palmnut vultures and fish eagles. Pel's fishing owl is found along the rivers.
The best times to visit are generally considered to be before or after the main dry season, so May/Jun and Nov/Dec. The wildlife it at its most prolific during the green season Jan/Apr, but access is virtually impossible.
The main potential downsides are that the park is very flat and therefore a little short on magnificent scenery, the best wildlife viewing coincides with the green season and is out of kilter with most other safari areas, there are very few elephants or rhinos and prices are inherently quite high.
There is only one accommodation option in the park ...King Lewanika Lodge
... is a high quality facility, the first proper camp to be built in the area and a really exciting new development.
Access to Liuwa Plain is almost exclusively by private charter flights from Livingstone or Lusaka.
Liuwa Plain is most commonly combined in trips with other popular safari areas around Zambia
, including South Luangwa
and Lower Zambezi
, as well as the Victoria Falls at Livingstone
, in trips of 7 to 14 nights.
These areas are also often commonly combined combined with parts of neighbouring Malawi