Posted Nov 21, 2012
Zamag Tours & Safaris was very privileged to be involved in organising the 2012 Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth Conference. Her Royal Highness Princess Anne is the President of the RASC, and over 250 delegates from all over the Commonwealth attended the conference in Livingstone.
In the run up to the conference some 80 delegates went on pretours of Zambia to visit small scale and commercial farms.
Liuwa Plains is one of those beautiful uncommericalised parks of Zambia, situated in the Western Province in Zambia. It has the second biggest wildebeest Migration in Africa, next to the Serengeti. Jackie Peel, from Zamag Tours & Safaris was fortunate enough to recently visit it.
Liuwa Plains, Western Zambia
by Jackie Peel
I was recently lucky enough to be on board a Cessna caravan for a 2 hour flight from Lusaka to Kalabo, on the western side of the Zambezi River. The flood waters had rapidly receded and the Liuwa plains were beckoning. Kalabo is a small, colourful harbour town on the Luanginga river where boat building is an important business, being the mode of transport in the swamps.
Robin Pope and Jason Alfonso were there to meet us, and we crossed the river and headed off on a 2 hour drive towards Matamanene Bush Camp in the middle of the Plains, where an occasional clump of Raffia Palms on the horizon breaks the great emptiness of the Plains. Liuwa Plains is a National Park, managed by African Parks and covers an area of 3,660 square kilometres. Nothing can prepare you for the vast open space, plains of grasses in all sizes and colours. It is home to the second largest wildebeest migration in Africa.
Once we’d had tea and refreshed we set off for sundowners ... passing herds of blue wildebeest and zebra, we arrived to the sun setting over lagoons filled with white water lilies and teeming with bird life: Crowned and Wattled Cranes, Saddle billed Storks and Spoonbills, White face and knob billed duck, Pelicans, Egrets, herons, Stilts, jacanas, terns, bustards, plovers and many, many more!! The bird watching was incredible, over 90 species in 5 days. We couldn’t get enough and each evening was spent at a different lagoon enjoying the sunset and the water lilies.
At night we were lulled to sleep by the occasional roar from Lady Liuwa, the last lioness on Liuwa plains, and by hyena.
The first morning we were up early to look for the cheetah family, a mum and her four 8 month old cubs. Through binoculars we had another incredible sight as we spotted them in the longer grass. We followed them at a distance, watching as they attempted a kill, gave up, and then eventually settled down under some trees at midday. The next day, following the vultures, we came across their kill. A young wildebeest that they were walking away from, their tummies full and their faces covered in blood.
Every day was just as exciting... a visit to a Hyenas den where we saw them emerging from holes in the ground and adults interacting with cubs. All of them were inquisitive and came up to inspect us at close range! Herds of Red Lechwe seemed to be grazing on water lilies in the lagoons.
The next day, after finding a group of Wild Dog, who were intent on getting home as fast as possible, we saw Lady Liuwa with her freshly killed wildebeest. She was happy to let us watch as nothing else came near her ... the hyenas, jackals and even the vultures stayed away as she munched, cleaned herself, had a sleep and then went back for more. Later that day, a few kilometres away from Lady, we saw the two young lions, which were too sleepy to even pose for the camera Robin and Jo Pope, and Jason have a wealth of knowledge which made our trip so memorable. Their staff are a highly professional team who looked after our every need.... even surprising us with dinner at a lagoon one evening and a bush brunch after a busy morning game drive. An unforgettable experience.. of wide open spaces, herds of comically clever wildebeest, zebra, lechwe, oribi, lions, cheetah, hyena, wild dog and jackal.
Our final treat was the boat trip from Kalabo to Mongu. It was a 2 hour boat ride down the Luanginga river to the Zambezi River, a few Km along the Zambezi and then up the channels of the flood plains to the large bustling harbour at Mongu. Life on and around the river, on the flood plains is something unique to the people of Barotseland, and was worth the very early start all wrapped in blankets to keep warm.
Now I can’t wait to get back to Liuwa as Robin described the changes at the beginning of the rains when the plains become a carpet of flowers, wildebeest return and calve, and the predators never go hungry!
Ian & Daphne Lindsay
ZAMAG Tours & Safaris
Postnet 726. P. Bag E891. Lusakacell: 00 260 977 618 194.