The 2,25 million hectares of Kafue National Park in Central Province make it one of Africa’s biggest game parks.
Established in the 1950s by renowned conservationist Norman Carr, it is one of Zambia’s oldest parks, yet vast tracts of its wilderness remain relatively undeveloped and unexplored. Boat cruises on the broad Kafue River, which flows from north to south, offer excellent views of hippos, crocodiles, otters and elephants. The Zambezi’s biggest tributary, the Kafue is the only river that begins and ends entirely within Zambia. The Kafue and the Lunga, Lufupa, Luansanza and Musa rivers that feed into it are fringed with riverine forest.
Varied habitats mean that the park is home to a wonderful diversity of wildlife and birds, with nearly 500 bird species and 158 mammal species recorded. Look out for Zambia’s only endemic bird, Chaplin’s barbet.
Kafue hosts more species of ungulate than any other park in Southern Africa. The open miombo woodlands that cover much of the park is dotted with grasslands in shallow dambos – seasonally flooded depressions that remain lush well into the dry season, providing plenty of grazing for a wide range of antelopes, including rarer species like Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, sable, roan and oribi. Shyer antelopes like blue and yellow-backed duikers shelter in the thickets. Large Cape buffalo herds and thousands of red lechwe and puku dot the great floodplains of the Busanga Plains in the northwest. Look out for sitatunga in the papyrus-dominated Busanga Swamp. The swamps and marshes host many wetland and plains birds, including endangered wattled cranes and huge flocks of crowned cranes.
Kafue is one of the best places in Africa to sight lion and leopard. Cheetah and African wild dog also inhabit the park. Many of the termite mounds that dot the park are ancient, enormous and topped with trees and shrubs that attract browsers year-round.
Rhinos were wiped out by poachers by the late 1980s. Elephant numbers have been reduced from 60 000 in the 1960s to around 4 000 today. However, the combined efforts of the Zambian Wildlife Authority and park operators in recent years have allowed elephant numbers to stabilize and other game populations to grow.
Kafue National Park