Liuwa is one of Zambia’s premier parks but is little known to the outside world. Liuwa is a Ramsar site, a wetland of international importance; it is an Important Bird Area, recognised by Birdlife International; it is the second largest wildebeest migration in the world and, if that was not enough
National Heritage Conservation Commission is applying for the Barotse Floodplain to become a World Heritage Site. Peace Parks Foundation is also negotiating with Angolan authorities for a Transfrontier Conservation Area between Liuwa and Mussuma. Liuwa used to be the hunting ground for the Litunga but, at the end of the 1800s he proclaimed it a conservation area and it was protected. It was made a national park in 1972 but still had the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) an integral part of its management. In 2003 African Parks was given the mandate by the Zambia government and BRE to come into
the park to manage and assist with its conservation. Now the park is overseen by the three organisations – ZAWA, African Parks and BRE. I can imagine that it is quite a process to get decisions made. However, African Parks is very upbeat about its involvement in the park and are making good progress.
Liuwa is a floodplain and in the rainy season the water from the rivers floods out over the whole area and it becomes almost inaccessible. The wildebeest and other wildlife don’t mind; they like it. Anyhow, one of the best times to go is late November or early December. A point to note is that the Barotse Floodplain also floods meaning that vehicles can’t cross from Mongu to Kalabo after mid-December. When the Causeway is complete in 2016 (we hope) this will not be a problem.
When we arrived there had not been much rain. On my previous visits the plain had been inundated with streams and pools; bulbs and herbs were pushing through the ground and the plain was covered in pinks, yellows and blues. This time, though, there was just a sprinkling of flowers and the ground was dry with only the pools offering water for the birds and animals to drink from.
Our campsite was Katoyana, one of four community campsites in the plain. They have basic facilities of flush toilets and cold showers in a reed and thatch construction. The water comes from a well and, looking down the well, you can see that the water is not far underground.
There are villages inside the park and also some of the people are given fishing licences to fish from the pools. So, driving round the park, it is not unusual to see people walking through or fishing in the pools.
Although there were plenty of wildebeest to see, others were still coming. The main animals which we saw in the park are zebra which always follow wildebeest, hyena, lion, jackal and oribi. The lechwe and sitatunga were still in the rivers because of the lack of rains. We didn’t see the recently introduced eland and buffalo. The predators, apart from the hyena are lion, wild dog and cheetah. One of our group saw cheetah but there was no sign (for any of us) of wild dog. The park is unique for its dominant predator, the hyena, and the Zambian Carnivore Programme is working in the park to research how the predators co-habit the area.
Our days in the park were usually spent with an early morning drive, followed by a laze in camp during the heat and then another drive in late afternoon followed by sundowners at Kings Pool. Kings Pool is a wonderful spot and was close to our camp so we could quickly pack up the chairs and rush for camp just as the sun was setting – there is no night driving in the park.
The good news is that Norman Carr Safaris are to start a new camp in Liuwa and it will be at Kings Pool.
Driving around the park is easy but it is also easy to get lost. There are a few landmarks here and there but largely it is flat and featureless. A GPS is required. Before going on the trip I had looked up the park on Google Earth, done a rough sketch of the park and identified some landmark GPS coordinates. The information was invaluable.
On our first day out none of us saw hyena. With 400 of them in the park you would have thought we would glimpse a few – no such luck. The next day, though, we saw plenty. One hyena had just made a kill of a young wildebeest and taken it back to a dry pool where she was rolling in its blood.
Her mate was kept away until she had had her fill. At night we all heard the hyena calling. In the mornings we could see the paw prints of hyena patrolling our campsite. One night there was an almighty wooping – it seemed like the hyena was right in the camp but none of us got out of our tents to find out.
And we mustn’t forget the little things …
We found a lot of dung beetles rolling around their balls of zebra dung and digging a hole in which to bury it – the eggs would hatch inside and have lots
of yummy dung to eat …
We were not alone in the park. The convoy below was a bunch of South Africans all in a line. In fact most of the visitors to the park were South African … we need more Zambians in there, so pack your car … there is still a bit of time to get in to the park … the rains haven’t set in yet.
From : The Livingstone Weekly
By Gill Staden
16 December 2014