About 30 % of Zambia’s 752,614 square kilometers is reserved for wildlife. There are 20 national parks and 34 game management areas in the country. South Luangwa, Kafue and Lower Zambezi rank among the finest game parks in the world. Luambe, and Lukusuzi Liuwa Plain, West Lunga, Sioma Ngwezi, and Nyika Plateau have substantial wildlife but are still undeveloped. Mosi-oa-Tunya, near Victoria Falls, is regarded as a Zoological park as it has a well managed population of antelope, elephants, giraffe and rhino, but does not have any predators.
Isangano, Lavushi Manda, Lusenga Plain, and Mweru Wantipa have never had management or facilities and have little wildlife but are still worth a visit by intrepid explorers and bird lovers. The newest park to be proclaimed is Lusaka National Park, just outside the capital, which opened to the public in June 2015.
Kafue National Park
Kafue National Park is the largest national park in Zambia, covering an area of about 22,400 km² (similar in size to Wales or Massachusetts). It is the second largest park in Africa and is home to over 55 different species of animals. The park is named for the Kafue River. It stretches over three provinces: North Western, Central and Southern. The main access is via the Great West Road from Lusaka to Mongu which crosses the park north of its centre. Seasonal dirt roads also link from Kalomo and Namwala in the south and south-east, and Kasempa in the north.
Kafue National Park was established in 1924 after the British colonial government moved the traditional owners of the area, the Nkoya people of (King) Mwene Kabulwebulwe, from their traditional hunting grounds into the Mumbwa District to the east. Dissatisfaction with the pace of development in Central Province and a lack of benefit from tourism in the park have led to calls from Nkoya leaders to establish a new province in the area which they have proposed to call Kafue Province.
The country is generally flat or gently undulating apart from some small, steep porphyritic granite hills between Chonga and Ngoma and occasional sandstone and granite hills around Ngoma rising to 120 metres (390 ft). The southwestern part of the Hook granite massif underlies the central part of the park, including schist, gneiss, granite gneiss and granite. On the edge of the granite massif there are slates, quartzites and limestones from the Katanga sediments of the inner Lufilian Arc. To the north and south of the massif the soil covers Karroo sediments of shales, siltstones, concreted gravels and various types of laterite.
In the northern end of the park the flood plains have clay soils, but otherwise the soils are strongly leached sandy to loamy soils with low fertility. In most of the drainage of the Nanzila river, and in some of the lands around the Nkala, Musa and Lwansanza rivers, there are dark grey alkaline clays. Otherwise, the park is covered by well-drained and relatively infertile pale or orange Kalahari sands mixed with some silt and clay.
Mean annual rainfall varies from 510 millimetres (20 in) in the south to more than 1,020 millimetres (40 in) in the north. The annual mean temperature is 21 °C (70 °F), with a mean maximum from 26 °C (79 °F) in July to 33 °C (91 °F) in October, the hottest month of the year. Winds are mostly light, blowing from the east. In November-February there are about 5 hours of sunshine daily, and in June-September about 9 hours of sunshine daily.
Eco-regions & Habitats
Most of the park lies in the Central Zambezian Miombo woodlands ecoregion characterised by savanna grasslands with Miombo tree species, growing thickly in some patches, with a few small dambos (grasslands which become marshy in the rainy season) interspersed among them. In the south there are stony hills and rocky outcrops where the sparser Zambezian and Mopane woodlands ecoregion takes over, and Mopane trees adapted to hotter drier conditions replace Miombo. A thin belt of evergreen forest lines the banks of the Kafue River, which has been controversially dammed just outside the park at Itezhi-Tezhi Dam, forming a reservoir within the park. Patches of Baikiaea (teak) and Cryptosepalum evergreen forest occur in the south and west.
The jewel in Kafue's crown however is the Zambezian flooded grasslands ecoregion in the north, including the Busanga Swamp and plains. These support large herds of herbivores and their predators. In the dry season the animals keep close to the swamps and marshy creeks and are easily seen. The area is also noted for its birdlife.
Ngoma in the south is the headquarters of the park but this area together with the Nanzhila Plains are less visited and have become somewhat run down since the Itezhi-Tezhi Dam was built and more lodges were developed in the north. The reservoir cut the north-south track through the park and now it is necessary to detour outside the park to drive between Ngoma and Chunga.
Lower Zambezi National Park
The Lower Zambezi valley is a huge rift in the earth's crust, through which a mighty river flows. Over millennia, mineral-rich volcanic soils deposited by the Zambezi have nurtured lush vegetation, while old meanders and oxbow lakes add to the attraction for wildlife.
There are national parks on both sides of the river – Mana Pools National Park on the Zimbabwean bank, and the Lower Zambezi National Park on the Zambian side. The landscape is beautiful: tall leadwoods, ebonies, acacias and figs stand on a carpet of rich grassland. But the main attraction is the area's game, which congregates near the river during the dry season.
Lower Zambezi only has a whole range of Lodges and Safari camps from 5 Star to Camping that are within, or beside, the Lower Zambezi National Park itself – as we believe that these offer the best game and safari experience. All are located in natural bush along the river, with game regularly roaming through camp. Safari camps in the Lower Zambezi are widely spaced, so you won’t see many, if any, other vehicles during a game drive.
Although the safari camps in the Lower Zambezi National Park differ in style, from sophisticated safari lodges to the simplest of bush camps, you can expect personal service that is up there with the best. Guiding is generally excellent guiding, with all guides trained to the high standards set by the Lower Zambezi Conservation Trust.
Several of the camps in the valley, such as Chiawa Camp, Chongwe River Camp, Sausage Tree, Potato Camp, Kanyemba River Lodge and Old Mondoro, among others are independently owned and run, and receive consistently high reports from our travellers. There are also a couple of safari houses, which are great options for small groups or families travelling together
The Lower Zambezi has strong populations of big game. Buffalo and elephant are common, and move freely between Zimbabwe and Zambia, often grazing on the islands in the middle of the river. The Lower Zambezi's antelope species are dominated by large herds of impala, but there are also good populations of kudu, eland, zebra, wildebeest, waterbuck, bushbuck and the odd duiker or grysbok. Giraffe are completely absent (there is no record of them ever having lived here) as are cheetah and black rhino – the latter due to poaching.
In the river, crocodile and hippo are always present, but look also for the large water monitor lizard, which occurs frequently here.
The major predators in the Lower Zambezi are lion, leopard and spotted hyena – and in our experience it's an excellent park for game viewing. The varied terrain (with many large trees) seems to suit leopards, whilst the large herds of buffalo attract large prides of lion. Wild dogs occur, and generally also den in or near the park, although sightings tend to be sporadic.
The park’s birdlife is rich – 378 species have been recorded here, including many species of eagle, heron, stork and bee-eater. Just considering the kingfishers, you'll find pied, giant, woodland, malachite and brown-hooded kingfishers are all common here. Similarly, the river is frequented by darters, cormorants, egrets and storks, and fish eagles are often seen perching in trees that overlook the water. The Lower Zambezi is rich in wading birds, both resident and migrant; uncommon residents include ospreys, spoonbills and African skimmers.
Like the nearby South Luangwa National Park, the Lower Zambezi protects a slice of a huge rift valley which, geologically, is related to East Africa's Great Rift Valley. In fact, most of the park consists of the hilly higher ground on the sides and top of the escarpment – where the bush consists mainly of thick, broad-leafed miombo woodland. However, with little water here the dry season sees the game concentrate on the flat alluvial plain, beside the deep, wide, permanent Zambezi River.
Here the vegetation is very different: rich soils nurture tall, strong trees typical of riverine areas, including ebonies, leadwoods and fig trees. Winterthorn woodlands – where the apple-ring fruits are so popular with hungry elephants – seem to stretch endlessly along the river. The beauty of these areas is that bush growth under the trees is usually sparse or even absent; this allows unobscured views of game, and makes a great environment for walking safaris.
Most visitors to the Lower Zambezi fly in by light aircraft to one of the valley’s small airstrips, and stay at one or two of the safari camps or lodges along the river. Although it is possible to drive into the valley, or even to drive part of the way and finish your journey by boat, arriving by air is the most efficient way to maximise your time within the park.
Flights can be organised from Lusaka, Livingstone or South Luangwa’s Mfuwe Airport, making a Lower Zambezi safari easy to combine with time in the South Luangwa National Park or a trip to Victoria Falls. On arrival you will be met by someone from your safari lodge, and transferred by 4WD, taking in any game that you see along the way. Back at the camp, you will be welcomed by the team with some time to settle in, before heading out on an activity such as a safari walk or drive.
Visitors to the Lower Zambezi National Park, with its location on the wide Zambezi River, can usually choose from an exceptional range of activities. Most Lower Zambezi safari lodges offer two activities a day, one in the early morning, the second in late afternoon – with plenty of time for a leisurely lunch and a siesta between the two. Game drives in open-topped 4WD vehicles are a regular fixture in all camps, but most also offer the option of a walking safari with a qualified guide and armed ranger. On the water, there are boat trips to explore the Zambezi, keeping an eye out for hippos, crocodile and an impressive array of birds. The more intrepid might prefer to take to the waters in a canoe, while anglers won’t want to miss the opportunity to seek out the mighty tigerfish (though note that all fishing here is on a catch-and-release basis).
South Luangwa National Park
South Luangwa National Park in eastern Zambia, the southernmost of three national parks in the valley of the Luangwa River, is a world-renowned wildlife haven. It supports large populations of Thornicroft's giraffe, and herds of elephants and Cape buffaloes often several hundred strong, while the Luangwa River supports abundant crocodiles and hippopotamuses. It is one of the best-known national parks in Africa for walking safaris. Founded as a game reserve in 1938, it became a national park in 1972 and now covers 9,050 km2.
The Muchinga Escarpment in Northern and Central Provinces forms the park's western or north-western boundary, it slopes down from there to the river, lying mostly on its western bank. The eastern bank of the river is in Eastern Province, and as access to the park is only from that side, it is usually thought of as being wholly in Eastern Province.
The park spans two ecoregions, both of them woodland savannah, distinguished by the dominant tree: Southern Miombo woodlands cover the higher slopes of the valley, while Zambezian and Mopane woodlands cover the bottom of the valley. Read more
The Mopane tree tolerates the higher temperatures and lower rainfall found at lower elevations than miombo trees which are found on the higher plateau. Within these woodland savannahs are larger patches of grassland, so that grazers such as zebra and leaf browsers such as giraffe are found in profusion in the same areas. Patches of flooded grassland habitats (floodplains) are found close to the river, on which hippopotamus graze at night. Their dung released into the river fertilises its waters and sustains the fish population which in turn sustains the crocodiles. The Luangwa valley, continued to the west by the Lunsemfwa River valley, contains some varieties of animals such as Cookson's wildebeest and Crawshay's zebra which are endemic or near-endemic to the valley. It also represents something of a natural barrier to human migration and transport, no roads cross it and this has helped conserve its wildlife.For this reason and many others, South Luangwa has been declared a “Sustainable Park for Tourism Development” by the UNWTO Secretary General. It is the first National Park in the world to attain this
Although the park is generally well-protected from poaching, the park's black rhinos were wiped out by 1987, and the elephant population has been under serious pressure at times.
The main settlement of the park is actually outside its eastern boundary at Mfuwe, home to an international airport.
Kasanka National Park
Kasanka National Park is a park located in the Serenje District of Zambia’s Central Province. At roughly 390 km2 (150 sq mi), Kasanka is one of Zambia’s smallest national parks. Kasanka is the first of Zambia’s national parks to be privately managed. The privately funded Kasanka Trust Ltd has taken on all management responsibilities, in partnership with the Zambian Wildlife Authority, and has been in operation since 1986. The park has an average elevation between 1,160 m (3,810 ft) and 1,290 m (4,230 ft) above mean sea level. It has nine permanent lakes with the largest being Luombwa that provides angler sighting. There are eight rivers in the park, with the largest being the Luapula River, all of which flows into the Bangweulu basin, a major tributary of the Congo River.
A total of 108 mammal species have been recorded in the park. Elephant, Hippopotamus and a set of rare breed of birds were reintroduced in the park after the takeover by Kasanka Trust. Close to five million Eidolon helvum (African fruit bat) migrate to the Mushitu swamp in the park for three months during October to December, making it the largest mammal migration in the world. There are over 330 bird species identified in the park.
North Luangwa National Park
North Luangwa National Park is a national park in Zambia, the northernmost of the three in the valley of the Luangwa River. Founded as a game reserve in 1938, it became a national park in 1972 and now covers 4,636 km².
Like the South Park, its eastern boundary is the Luangwa River, while it rises to cover a stretch of the Muchinga Escarpment to the west. The Mwaleshi River flows east-west through the centre of the park, the area to its south being a strict wilderness zone.
Wildlife is widely found, including Cookson's wildebeest, Crawshay's zebra and many antelopes and birds. Elephant numbers have recovered from poaching in the 1970s and 80s. The struggle against poaching in the park was described by Delia and Mark Owens in their book The Eye of the Elephant. For many years its wildlife suffered greatly from poaching, but recent years have seen poaching almost entirely stopped. It has generally suffered from a lack of investment and interest compared to the much more popular South Luangwa National Park, although its flora and fauna are very similar to its southern counterpart. In 2003, black rhinoceroses were re-introduced to the park
Topography & Vegetation
There are a variety of habitats in the park. Brachystegia woodland, otherwise known as Miombo Woodland, covers around 70% of Kasanka’s surface area, interspersed with grassy dambo’s. It is very rich in tree species and in many places forms a half closed canopy but also supports a well-developed herbaceous stratum. A high frequency of fires removes this stratum and young saplings and leads to Miombo Woodland with large, widely separated trees. Decades of “early burning” in the park have resulted in more natural Miombo with a strong presence of young trees and thicket species. Evergreen forests have three kinds occur within Kasanka; Mushitu or swamp forest, riverine forests and very small patches of Mateshe (dry evergreen forest). The Mushitu is characterised by huge red mahoganies, waterberries and quinine trees among others and is fairly well represented. The largest tract of intact Mushitu, in the Fibwe area, hosts the annual gathering of straw-coloured fruit bats from October to December making it the largest fruit bat roost on Earth. Riverine forests are found along most rivers in Kasanka, with the largest stretches being found along the Luwombwa. True Mateshe probably was common in historic times but is rare now, as a result of centuries of frequent fires. All both forest types are at risk from frequent wildfires as the tree species they support are not resistant to fire.
Chipya, also known as Lake Basin Woodland has interspersed trees and do not form a closed canopy, which allows sunlight that aids tall grasses to grow. Chipya is prone to very hot fires in the dry season,and this gives these woodlands their name as ‘chiya’ means ‘burnt’ in the local language. Chipya typically occurs on relatively soils and are thought to be a fire derivate form of Mateshe Dambo’s are grassy drainage channels and basins with little to no woody vegetation but very palatable grasses. Most woody species grow on exposed termitaria as dambo’s tend to retain water very well. Dambo’s are of a vital importance to grazing mammal species as well as several woodland mammals that choose to graze on the fringes, especially during the dry season. Several large (several square km) grassy plains occur within the park such as Chinyangali close to Fibwe and the Chikufwe plain north of the Kasanka River.
Papyrus swamps are considered the crown jewels of Kasanka with vast marshes supporting large tracts of thick papyrus swamp and home to the elusive sitatunga. Kasanka has nine permanent lakes and over 100 km (62 mi) of rivers flowing through the park. Many of the rivers, especially the Luwombwa in the North support riparian fringe forests on their banks. Large areas of grassy floodplains are found along the Kasanka, Mulembo and Luwombwa rivers. The rivers and lakes are host to a variety of fish and are rich in other forms of aquatic and semi-aquatic wildlife.
A total of 108 mammal species have been recorded in the park. Although severely depleted in the past, due to effective anti-poaching measures, game populations in Kasanka has recovered. Puku are the most plentiful antelope and graze on the grassy floodplains and dambo’s throughout the Park. common duiker, bushbuck, warthog, vervet monkey and Kinda baboon (a race of the yellow baboon (Papio cynocephalus)) are common throughout the park and hippo can frequently be encountered in Kasanka’s rivers and lakes, including in Lake Wasa, opposite the main lodge. The population of Puku increased from 300 to greater than 600 during the period between 1989 and 1994. Kasanka is perhaps the best place in the world to spot the shy and reclusive sitatunga, of which the park holds an estimated 500-1,000 animals, and offers great opportunities for sightings of the rare blue monkey.
Elephant are faring increasingly well and several breeding herds and bachelor bulls traverse the park and the surrounding game management area. Several of the plains like Chikufwe are home to common reedbuck, buffalo, sable antelope and Lichtenstein's hartebeest, which are often encountered in the dry season. Among all wildlife parks in Zambia, the population of Lichtenstein's hartebeest had a steady increased during the early 90s. A small population of plains zebra clings on to existence close to the airstrip at New mulembo. Roan antelope, defassa waterbuck and Sharpe's grysbok occur but are rare and seldom seen, whereas bushpig are common but also very difficult to detect. Yellow-backed Duiker and Moloney’s monkey, which are poached elsewhere, have also got a steady increase in the population in the park.
The largest resident predator in the park is the leopard. Lions and hyenas are no longer resident but wanderers still move through the park. Side-striped jackal are common and often spotted in the early mornings. A range of smaller carnivores occur, of which water mongoose, white-tailed mongoose, African civet and large spotted genet are commonly encountered at night and slender, banded and dwarf mongoose can often be seen crossing pathways during the day. Caracal, serval, honey badger and the rare Meller's mongoose occur but are very seldom sighted. Two species of otter live in Kasanka’s rivers, marshes and lakes. African wild dogs are rarely spotted in the park after the 90s and have not been seen in groups.
The first of Kasanka’s famous straw-coloured fruit bats (Eidolon helvum) start arriving towards the middle of October each year. By mid-November the roost has reached its highest density and numbers are estimated to be around five to eight million. It is believed to be the highest density of mammalian biomass on the planet, as well as the greatest known mammal migration. The arrival of the bats normally coincides with the start of the first rains and the ripening of many local fruit and berry species such as the masuku (wild loquat) and waterberry, on which the bats feed. It is estimated that 330,000 tonnes of fruits are consumed by the bats during the three months.
The bat roost is centred on one of the largest remaining patches of Mushitu (indigenous forest) in Kasanka along the Musola River. The edge of the forest is accessible to tourists to view the bats up close and guided bat walks into the heart of the roost are arranged at dusk and dawn. The high concentration of food items attracts an incredibly variety of predators and scavengers to the bat forest. Martial eagles, pythons, fish eagles, lesser-spotted and African hawk-eagles, kites, vultures and hobby falcons are amongst the raptors that concentrate on the roost for easy pickings, whereas leopard, water monitors and crocodiles make off with those bats unfortunate enough to drop to the forest floor.
The migration profile of the bats could not be fully ascertained, but some of the studies with lightning sensors fitted in male bats found that the bats travel as far as Congo, covering at total of 1,180 miles (1,900 km). Some studies indicate that the abundance of fruits during the season are the major reason for the migration. While the inflow starts gradually during the first week of October, the outflow is rapid during the last week of December. A study published in the African Journal of Ecology indicated that the migratory impact of the bats could ultimately threaten the viability of the seasonal roost as it increases faster tree mortality.
Kasanka holds undoubtedly some of the finest birding in Africa’ according to Dr Ian Sinclair, one of Africa’s leading ornithologists. With over 330 species recorded in this relatively small area without altitudinal variation, one will find it difficult to argue with this statement. Kasanka is blessed with a wide variety of habitats, each hosting its own community of bird species, many of which are rare or uncommon. A boat-trip along the Luwomwba River, or any other major river in the park may reveal Pel’s fishing owl, African finfoot, half-collared kingfisher, Ross’ turaco and Böhm’s bee-eater. The vast wetlands of Kasanka support some species not easily seen elsewhere such as rufous-bellied heron, lesser jacana and African pygmy goose. The shoebill was confirmed for the first time in 20 years at the end of 2010 and a breeding pair of wattled cranes and their offspring are often encountered. Marsh tchagra, coppery-tailed coucal, Fulleborn's longclaw, locustfinch, pale-crowned, croaking and short-winged cisticola, chestnut-headed and streaky-breasted flufftail, harlequin and blue quail, black-rumped buttonquail and fawn-breasted waxbill are amongst the other specials on the wetland fringes and in the large dambo’s.
The Mushitu is host to a wide range of other species, the sought-after Narina trogon can often be heard and seen in the small patches of forest close to Pontoon and Fibwe. A range of other species occur such as blue-mantled crested flycatcher, Schalow’s turaco, brown-headed apalis, black-backed barbet, grey waxbill, Bocage's robin, West African (olive) thrush, dark-backed weaver, red-throated twinspot, green twinspot, red-backed mannikin, green-headed sunbird, yellow-rumped tinkerbird, scaly-throated honeyguide, pallid honeyguide, purple-throated cuckooshrike, black-throated wattle-eye, yellow-throated leaflove and little, grey-olive, yellow-bellied and Cabanis's greenbul. However, perhaps the richest birding areas of Kasanka are the extensive tracts of miombo woodland. A variety of specialist species occur here, many of which are not found outside the sub-region, these include black-collared and green-capped eremomelas, racket-tailed roller, rufous-bellied and miombo grey tits, grey penduline tit, woodland and bushveld pipit, spotted creeper, white-tailed blue flycatcher, Böhm's flycatcher, yellow-bellied hyliota, red-capped crombec, Cabanis's bunting, Reichard's and black-eared seedeater, miombo scrub robin, miombo rock thrush, thick-billed cuckoo, Anchieta's sunbird, and Anchieta's, Whyte's and miombo pied barbets.
In addition to the large and more visible game and wildlife, Kasanka is home to an incredible variety of insects and other arthropods. The many rivers and marshes are home to a wide range of (reed)frogs and other amphibians. Large crocodiles dwell in the rivers and huge specimens can be seen along the Kasanka and Luwombwa Rivers. Large Nile monitors occur as well, as do Speke's hinged tortoise. Common snake species include African rock python, forest cobra, lined olympic snake, olive marsh snake and herald snake. Three geckos, one agama, five skinks, one worm-lizard and two lizard species are known to occur as well. Administration and management.
Zambia's wildlife management is considered the best managed and administered among all countries in Africa. The management faced increasing challenges in the form of poachers, live stock grazing, encroachment and illegal settlement. During the decade of 1980s, the administration faced shortage of trained staff, transport and patrol, leading to the government seeking the support of NGOs and private bodies. After visiting the neglected and completely undeveloped Kasanka National Park for the first time in 1985 and hearing gunshots, the late David Lloyd, a British colonial officer, impressed with the wide range of habitats and amazing scenery, concluded that if there was still poaching, there must still be wildlife. He made it his life's mission to develop the park and safeguard the biodiversity of Kasanka. In 1987 the Kasanka Trust was founded as a non-profit charitable institution with tax-exemption within Zambia. It has since become a registered charity in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. The Kasanka Trust has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Zambian Wildlife Authority and has taken upon itself the responsibilities of park management, community relations and tourism. It became the first wild life park to be managed by a private body. ZAWA retains the responsibilities for anti-poaching work in the park and surrounding Game Management Area in conjunction with the Trust. The Kasanka Trust aims to cover their costs through tourism-generated revenue, but is still reliant on gifts and charitable funding for part of their budget.
In the last 25 years a lot of work has been done in the park, a vast network of roads has been created as well as an excellent tourist-infrastructure, a community conservation centre and the implementation of effective anti-poaching measures. The Trust employs about 90 local staff and does a lot of outreach work within the surrounding communities and amongst other things; sponsors the secondary education of promising local students, educates farmers on more effective alternative farming practises and teaches them how to employ chilli-fences to keep elephants out of their fields. The Trust also operates Shoebill Island Camp in the Bangweulu Wetlands. In 2011 Kasanka Trust began operations in the undeveloped and depleted 1,600 km2 Lavushi Manda National Park with assistance from the World Bank.
Liuwa National Park
Liuwa Plain National Park lies in Western Province, Zambia, west of the Barotse Floodplain of the Zambezi River near the border with Angola. The Park is governed by African Parks (Zambia), which is a partnership between African Parks, the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) and the Barotse Royal Establishment, the traditional government of the Lozi people.
Liuwa Plain National Park was designated as a game reserve of Barotseland by the king, Lewanika, in the nineteenth century and became a national park in 1972. Liuwa Plain is situated on the upper Zambezi floodplains of western Zambia and is bounded by the Luambimba and Luanginga Rivers. Liuwa is characterised by seasonally flooded grassy plains dotted with woodland islands. Originally proclaimed by the King of Barotseland in the early 1880s, it was historically used as a royal hunting ground and was protected by the Lozi people.
Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park
Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park (Sotho: Musi oa Tunya [Mosi wa Tunya] "The Smoke that Thunders"), is an UNESCO World Heritage site that is home to one half of the Mosi-oa-Tunya — 'The Smoke that Thunders' — known worldwide as Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River. The river forms the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, so the falls are shared by the two countries, and the park is 'twin' to the Victoria Falls National Park on the Zimbabwean side. ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ comes from the Kololo or Lozi language and the name is now used throughout Zambia, and in parts of Zimbabwe.
Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park covers 66 km2 (25 sq mi) from the Songwe Gorge below the falls in a north-west arc along about 20 km of the Zambian river bank. It forms the south-western boundary of the city of Livingstone and has two main sections, each with separate entrances: a wildlife park at its north-western end, and the land adjacent to the immense and awe-inspiring Victoria Falls, which in the rainy season is the world's largest curtain of falling water. It extends downstream from the falls and to the south-east along the Batoka Gorges.
Location, Access & Accommodation
Situated in the Western Zambezian grasslands ecoregion, it is bounded by the Luambimba and Luanginga Rivers and consists of a grassy plain with numerous pans. Liuwa hosts the second largest wildebeest migration in Africa, offering spectacular sights of thousands of animals. Liuwa also supports globally important bird populations, with more than 330 bird species recorded. Predators include African wild dogs, spotted hyenas and lions, one of which is the famous lioness known as Lady Liuwa.
In 2003 African Parks (Zambia) assumed responsibility for the park, undertaking an aggressive approach to reestablishing native wildlife populations and relocating extinct species. The most notable example of this is the astonishing increase in blue wildebeest (Connochaetus taurinus) numbers from approximately 15,000 animals in 2003 to almost 43,000 individuals in 2011. Other species that have shown clear increases in population numbers are Grant's zebra (Equus quagga boehmi), from some 2,800 in 2005 to around 4,500 in 2011, and red lechwe (Kobus leche) which increased from a counted 966 in 2005 to a counted 1,272 in 2011. Tsessebe (Damaliscus lunatus) doubled in number between 2007 and 2011 with the current count at 872 individuals.
The Zambian Carnivore Programme is active in Liuwa Plain National Park, conducting collaborative, long-term studies of both the predatory and prey animals, in order to provide management and conservation insight's for the park's recovery. Some other species thought to be extinct in the park started to make their appearance in 2008. A breeding pack of Cape wild dog (Lycaon pictus pictus) started to be seen frequently and a herd of about 20 roan antelope (Hippotragus equinus) often made an appearance. Wild dog are considered apex predators and their return to Liuwa is a sign of a recovering ecosystem. The South African cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus jubatus) have also been frequently spotted around Matamene Camp. The hyena population at Liuwa is very healthy with large numbers congregating at dens. In 2008, the park was visited by four African elephant bulls (Loxodonta africana) from a park more than 300 km away.
For centuries, the common eland (Tragelaphus oryx) has been an important cultural symbol to the Lozi people that live around Liuwa Plain. In 2007 African Parks, with financial backing from the Dutch Government (DGIS), successfully relocated 49 eland to Liuwa and within one year the herd was strengthened through the birth of five calves. During 2008, 16 African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) were introduced back to the park with the herd having grown to 23 animals by 2011. In August 2011 the herd was further supplemented with another 12 animals, The herd currently stands at 53 individuals due to a further introduction and births of calves in 2012. Liuwa plain supports globally important populations of storks, cranes and other water birds. The vulnerable crowned crane (Balearica regulorum) and wattled crane (Grus carunculatus) are abundant, sometimes forming flocks numbering several hundred. Wattled cranes are the most wetland dependent of Africa's cranes and are therefore considered an excellent flagship species for wetland conservation. Globally, Liuwa is considered to be the fourth most important breeding site for wattled cranes. The arrival of the annual floods marks the arrival of a wealth of water birds and the spectacle of massive migrating flocks is not uncommon in Liuwa. These water birds include the vulnerable slaty egret (Egretta vinaceigula) and the whiskered tern (Chlidonias hybrida) for which Liuwa provides the only breeding area in Zambia.
A notable migrant, arriving on the plain in summer, is the near threatened black winged pratincole (Glareola nordmanni) often numbering in the tens of thousands. Grassland species are also well represented in Liuwa. The eastern clapper lark (Mirafra fasciolate jappi) and the pink billed lark (Spizocorys conirostris makawai) reach their northern limit here with both these subspecies considered to be endemic to Liuwa.
Liuwa Plain National Park is home to Lady Liuwa, a Southwest African lioness (Panthera leo bleyenberghi) the subject of Aquavision's documentary, “The Last Lioness." Following the turmoil of the Angolan civil war, poaching and illegal trophy hunting decimated the lion population in the park; leaving but one, Lady Liuwa.  For years Lady Liuwa lived alone, roaming Liuwa Plain without a pride. While on assignment documenting spotted hyenas in 2005, filmmaker Herbert Brauer developed a relationship with the isolated lioness.
African Parks, who maintain Liuwa Plain National Park, decided to re-establish the lion population and bring an end to Lady Liuwa’s solitude. The first attempt to bring a single male lion from nearby Kafue National Park to Liuwa Plain resulted in tragedy, with the male dying after choking on regurgitated vomit. In May 2009, two male lions were successfully relocated from Kafue National Park to Liuwa Plain.
Lady Liuwa and the two young male brothers quickly developed a close and amorous relationship. For two years the trio were observed mating. Despite the frequent mating, no cubs were produced. It was initially suspected that Lady was holding off on becoming pregnant until she was certain the males were there to stay. As time passed it became clear that Lady Liuwa was likely sterile and unable to produce offspring. It is unknown if Lady ever had a litter of cubs prior to the slaughter of her pride.
In October 2011, two young female lions were successfully translocated from Kafue National Park. In June 2012, tragedy once again struck on Liuwa Plain. One of the young lionesses was killed in a poacher's snare. In November 2012, one of the two male lions was killed outside of the park in Angola. Lady Liuwa was then placed in a holding boma with the surviving female and released together in October 2012. Since that time the remaining lions have formed a pride. While the male had been observed mating with the two females, no cubs were produced.
In January 2014, African Parks announced that two cubs were observed, making them the first in over a decade. In February 2014 the Zambian Carnivore Programme confirmed that actually three cubs were produced.
On February 4, 2014, the sequel to The Last Lioness, The Real Lion Queen, aired on Animal Planet in the United Kingdom. The documentary will be broadcast in the United States on the Smithsonian Channel on July 30, 2014.
On April 14, 2014, African Parks announced that the surviving male lion had been named Nakawa, which means "he who gives something back." The Kafue female was named Sepo, which means "Hope."
On May 23, 2014, the board of African Parks, Zambia, announced the tragic death of Dexter Chilunda, Park Ranger in charge of law enforcement at Liuwa Plain National Park. Ranger Chilunda was shot in the chest by a suspected poacher after investigating gunshots that had been heard by park rangers stationed at a ranger outpost in the park. An experienced ranger and law enforcement officer with more than 20 years’ experience, Dexter Chilunda was on secondment to Liuwa Plain National Park from the Zambian Wildlife Authority. He left a wife and seven children, who will be financially provided for in terms of a life insurance policy put in place by African Parks.
On June 2, 2014, African Parks announced that two men were arrested in connection with the killing of Dexter Chilunda, the head of law enforcement at Liuwa Plain National Park. The men were apprehended in the town of Lukulu, 35 kilometres from the park. The arrests resulted from the combined efforts of the Zambian police, the Zambian Wildlife Authority, and five Liuwa Plain law enforcement officers following leads by supportive local communities.
The Wildlife Section
The wildlife park includes tall riverine forest with palm trees, miombo woodland and grassland with plenty of birds, and animals including Angolan giraffe, Grant's zebra, warthog, sable, eland, buffalo, impala and other antelope. Animal numbers fell in droughts over the last two decades. The park contained two southern white rhino which are not indigenous and were imported from South Africa - they were both poached during the night of June 6, 2007. One was shot dead and got its horn extracted, not far from the gate and the other received serious bullet wounds but has triumphed against all odds and still lives in the park under twenty four hours surveillance.
As of June, 2009 the number of southern white rhino in the park has been increased to five animals with plans to introduce further animals in due course. The indigenous (black rhino) was believed extinct in Zambia but has recently been reintroduced in a pilot area). African elephants are sometimes seen in the park when they cross the river in the dry season from the Zimbabwean side. Hippopotamus and crocodile can be seen from the river bank. Vervet monkeys and baboons are common as they are in the rest of the national park outside the wildlife section. As of January 2009 the commercial wildlife company, Lion Encounter, has been operating a "walking with Lions" experience within the park, with further plans to start a breeding programme for Southwest African lions within the soon to be expanded Dambwa Forest section of the park. Within the wildlife park is the Old Drift cemetery where the first European settlers were buried. They made camp by the river, but kept succumbing to a strange and fatal illness. They blamed the yellow/green-barked "fever trees" for this incurable malady, while all the time it was the malarial mosquito causing their demise. Before long the community moved to higher ground and the town of Livingstone emerged.
The Falls section
The Falls section of the national park includes the rainforest on the cliff opposite the Eastern Cataract which is sustained by spray from the falls. It contains plants rare for the area such as pod mahogany, ebony, ivory palm, wild date palm and a number of creepers and lianas. Small antelopes and warthogs inhabit this area, and may also be seen in on the paths through the riverine forest leading to the falls.
In November 2005 a new statue of explorer David Livingstone was erected in the park (the original and more famous Livingstone statue is on the Zimbabwean side). A plaque was also unveiled on Livingstone Island to mark the spot from where Livingstone was the first European to see the falls. The Knife-Edge Bridge was constructed in this area in the 1960s to enable access on foot to the cliffs looking over the Rainbow Falls and the First Gorge's exit to the Boiling Pot in the Second Gorge. A steep footpath also goes down to the Boiling Pot, with views of the Second Gorge and the Victoria Falls Bridge.
In the area directly before the river plunges over Victoria Falls, there is a small undeveloped stretch of the park which is currently the only riverfront location that can be accessed without paying a fee. It is a crucial location for elephants to cross the river. The tops of the deep gorges below the falls can be reached by road and walking tracks through the park and are good places to see klipspringers, clawless otters and 35 species of raptors such as the Taita falcon, black eagle, peregrine falcon and augur buzzard, which all breed there.
Okavango - Zambezi Trans frontier Conservation Area
Okavango - Zambezi Trans frontier Conservation Area, also known as KAZA is situated in a region where the international borders of five countries converge. It includes a major part of the Upper Zambezi basin and the Okavango basin and Delta. The zone includes the Caprivi Strip of Namibia, the southeastern corner of Angola, southwestern Zambia, the northern wild lands of Botswana and western Zimbabwe. The centre of this area is at the confluence of the Chobe River and Zambezi River where the borders of Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe meet. It will incorporate notable sites such as Chobe National Park, Hwange National Park, the Okavango Delta in Botswana and the Victoria Falls.
The initiative was created in cooperation with Peace Parks Foundation and the World Wide Fund for Nature. It developed from the Okavango-Upper Zambezi International Tourism Initiative (OUZIT) and the “Four Corners” Trans boundary Natural Resource Management. On 24 July 2003, the Ministers responsible for tourism in Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe met in Katimo Mulilo, Namibia and agreed the vision for the KAZA TFCA initiative. Read more
In July 2006 SADC's endorsed the KAZA TFCA as a SADC project and on 7 December 2006 the Ministers of Environment and Tourism of the five partner countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, providing for work towards the establishment of the KAZA TFCA.
In November 2014 Zambia and Zimbabwe introduced a common KAZA Visa. Angola, Botswana and Namibia are expected to join the scheme in the future.