Zambia

Kafue

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Superlative and unexplored

Superlative and unexplored

Superlative and unexplored

Kafue National Park lays claim to the greatest diversity of wildlife of any national park in Africa, and it is large enough to harbour not one but two Ramsar Sites.

Kafue’s 22,440km2of wilderness is situated in the centre of western Zambia where it dominates the basin of the Kafue River, a major tributary of the Zambezi. Not only can Kafue boast that it is Zambia’s biggest national park but it is also one of the largest in all Africa.

Despite the fact that it is only a few hours’ drive from either Livingstone or Lusaka, two of the country’s largest cities, it remains largely unexplored and inaccessible. In fact many of the roads that were created after the legendary Norman Carr established it as a national park in the 1950s have subsequently been lost to the elements and there is little or no access to much of its interior.

Kafue’s range of wildlife is due to the diversity of its ecology. In the northwest the jewel in the crown of this beautiful park is Basanga Plains which are inundated, by high summer rainfall, for much of the year. Vast expanses of lush grazing attract thousands of buffalo and red lechwe and, in turn, numerous predators. The bird life is extraordinarily prolific and  large flocks of waterfowl can be seen. This special paradise is one of Kafue’s Ramsar Sites.

In the east the Kafue River, swollen by its many tributaries, is stemmed by the Itezhi-Tezhi Dam, creating 370km2 of tranquil lake and a wonderland for wildlife lovers, birders and fisher folk. Beyond the dam the river spills out onto the Kafue Flats which form the second of the two Ramsar Sites. This site also incorporates Lochinvar National Park and Blue Lagoon National Park.

Travelling south from Itezhi-Tezhi you come to Nanzila and you may be forgiven for thinking that you took a wrong turn and landed up in Moremi National Park and the Okavango by mistake. Waving palms, large shady trees, open grassland and numerous pools filled with clear water attract a stunning variety of mammals and birds.

All this would be enough, one feels, to provide sufficiently diverse habitat for numerous species of animals, but as you leave Nanzila to head towards Livingstone you pass through an arid and sometimes stony area which provides for yet another environment for dry land species. This is a park that you really shouldn’t miss.

Other articles in this series:
Paradise unveiled
A short history of the Falls
The sacred hills of the Matopos
The smoke that thunders
Valley of abundance
Superlative and unexplored
The great enigmas
Africa’s grand anomaly
The Middle Zambezi
The Zambezi’s final triumph

Read more articles from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (Issue 13, June 2013)

Read more about the region in our destination guide:
Kafue