This remote park in the far west is pristine wilderness, which to the ardent bush lover, makes it its biggest attraction and the rewards are great.
The game is spread out across the plains and takes some driving around to find. But to come upon a vast herd of blue wildebeest, a prowling wild dog, a dozing pride of lion in this forgotten piece of Africa is especially fascinating because of its completely natural and uncommercialised state. The birdlife is abundant and the very dramatic storms and lightning rising up on the horizon, contrasting with the green and gold grasslands create views of spectacular magnitude and fantastic photographic opportunities.
What to see
In November, with the onset of the rains, the massive herds of blue wildebeest arrive from Angola, traversing the plains in their thousands, very often mingling with zebra along the way or gathering around water holes and pans.
Other unusual antelope found include oribi, red lechwe, steinbuck, duiker, tsessebe and roan. The Jackal, serval, wildcat, wild dog as well as lion and hyena are the predators of the area. Many birds migrate here during the rains and massive flocks of birds can be seen as they migrate south. Some of the more notables are the white bellied bustards, secretary bird, red billed and hottentot teals, crowned and wattled cranes, long tailed whydah, sooty chat, yellow throated longclaw, large flocks of black winged pratincoles around the pans, fish eagle, tawny eagle, marshall eagle, woodland kingfisher, pink throated longclaw. The plains are dotted with woodlands which also make for excellent birding.
When to go
August to December. In November as the rainy season begins, dramatic cloud formations erupt as the storms build, creating spectacular skylines and with the onset of the rains, carpets of flowers explode around the pans. This is also the time when large herds of blue wildebeest migrate across the plains from neighbouring Angola.
Robin Pope Safaris offer fly in safaris in Dec and May/June.
Hemingways offers tailor made tours and safaris anywhere in Zambia (specialising in trips to the remote Liuwa Plains). They also offer specialist vehicle hire and disabled accessible transport and can organise accommodation and adventure activities throughout Zambia and Southern Africa.
Private access demands at least two 4WD vehicles, complete self sufficiency in terms of fuel, catering and camping supplies as well as a healthy degree of offroad driving experience. Permission for private entry can be obtained from the National Parks and Wildlife Services office at Chilanga (near Lusaka) or Kalabo, the closest town to the plains. Kalabo is also the place to hire a guide. This is essential as it is very easy to get very lost.
The road from Katima Mulilo to Kalabo is fine up to the Nangweshi/Senanga ferry. From that point to Kalabo, estimate two days to do the 180 kilometres – low range driving over very sandy roads. There is no fuel available at Kalabo so carry extra supplies.
Accessing Kalabo from Mongu depends on the seasonal levels of the Zambezi – enquire at Mongus port office for available options which range from the Post Boat to two ferries.
Where to stay
This is not a park one should tackle without a guide, there are no visitor facilities or roads and very easy to get lost. Going with a licensed tour operator to see the best this Park has to offer is highly recommended.
If you do tackle it alone, make sure you take an armed scout/guide from the Parks office in Kalabo. One can camp anywhere in the park but dont attempt it unless there are at least two vehicles and you are fully self sufficient and prepared for all eventualities. This is the real Africa, and help is a long way away.
There are now designated campsites that you get allocated when you book – 5 camping areas per community campsite – these share 2 flush toilets and 2 cold water showers plus handbasins. Each area has large shaded areas on sand which are raked each day by the guys who stay near the campsites (their villages are not anywhere nearby) so you only see them if you happen to be there when they rake or are filling up the water for the shower – they are very insistent on having their books filled in! There are also bundles of wood provided for a small fee that can be replenished if you run out. The water available is quite brackish so needs to be boiled thoroughly.
You are now also given a sketch map of the park at the Park Office which shows various spots accompanied by their GPS co-ordinates. There are sign posts in the park but not that brilliant so the map plus the co-ordinates are great.