No Zambian park is more remote and less visited than Liuwa Plains National Park.
The flat plains and generous size of the park (3 600 square kilometres) serves to enhance the sense of big skies, space and wilderness. Bordered by the Luanginga and Luambimba rivers, it is part of a vast floodplain. The seasonally flooded grassland dotted with islands of miombo woodland attracts flocks of wetland birds, including the vulnerable crowned crane and threatened wattled crane.
There is no better place for an exclusive safari. Wildlife fans will have a secret spectacle almost to themselves: the world’s second-biggest wildebeest and zebra migration. As in the world-famous Great Migration in the Serengeti and Mara, the animals move constantly with the seasons, following the grazing from eastern Angola to western Zambia and back again. More than 40 000 wildebeest start to cross into Zambia from June. The best time to witness the annual phenomenon in Liuwa Plains is November, when the animals have calved and the rains are imminent. The park’s predators – hyena, jackal, serval, African wild dog and lion – make the most of the seasonal feast. Look out for members of one of the last two populations of cheetah in Zambia. The plains harbour a host of other grazing species, including red lechwe, oribi, tsessebe, roan and duiker.
Liuwa Plain suffered years of depredation by poachers. The park’s most famous inhabitant became Lady Liuwa, the lioness who became the subject of the documentary The Last Lioness in 2005, when she was the last remaining lion. Since then, more lions have been introduced and the first few cubs have been born. Eagle-eyed game viewers may be rewarded by the sight of the two new cubs born in 2016. The park’s management has been successfully focused on boosting the numbers of existing game and re-establishing other wildlife species like red lechwe, African hunting dog and Cape buffalo. For the local community, the most important returning mammal has been the common eland, an important symbol in Lozi culture.
The Lozi community has a unique link with Liuwa Plain National Park. The park was first decreed a game reserve in the early 1880s by Lewanika, king of the Lozi. The Lozi protected it as a royal hunting ground and they remain involved in the park today. They are permitted to live in some parts of the park, fishing and grazing their cattle, and they have a say in its management – it is managed by African Parks (Zambia), which is a partnership of African Parks, the Zambian Wildlife Authority and the traditional government of the Lozi people, the Barotse Royal Establishment.
Liuwa Plain National Park