The park and its history
Lusenga Plain National Park is in Luapula province in the North of Zambia. This hot and humid park was designated to protect the large open Lusenga plain (about seven by five kilometres in size) from which the name of the park is derived from. Lusenga Plain National Park is a relatively medium sized park of 880 square kilometres in the northern corner of Kawambwa District of Luapula Province. Formerly a game reserve it was declared a national park in 1972.
The oval shaped open plain in the south western corner of the park rises approximately 1,300 metres above sea level, the highest point of the park. Lusenga Plain National Park receives above 1,500 mm of rainfall per year, one of the highest rainfall in the country. This has characterized dense vegetation of wet miombo and mushitu. On the eastern side it is bordered by the Kalungwishi River on which three stunning waterfalls are found. These are the Lumangwe, Kabwelume and Kundabwika falls.
Over the years poaching has reduced the wildlife considerably, though there are still buffalo, blue and yellow backed duiker, bushbuck and reedbuck to be found. Larger mammals currently sighted by patrol teams include zebra, eland, sable and roan antelope, common duiker and baboon. For many years the area was given a low priority listing for protection and consequentially, wildlife populations have become severely under stocked. However, in 2007 a program to restock the park with Zambian wildlife commenced. Three species namely, zebra, puku and impala were introduced to the depleted park. Additional species are planned to be reintroduced including 160 elephants.
The bird life in the park is particularly rich in species. Sightings have included ruwet’s masked waxbill, black-faced waxbill, grey-crested helmet shrike, Lilian’s lovebird, slender-tailed Cisticola. Several globally threatened water-associated birds are found here including wattled crane, slaty egret and corncrake. Though it is unlikely that you would visit this national park for wildlife, you may well opt to come here to bird watch since the birdlife is so rich.
Places to visit
The wilderness character of the wet Miombo with the associated animal life provides a unique opportunity for walking safaris in the Lusenga Plains National Park. The National Park and the three stunning waterfalls are the main attractions in Kawambwa area. These waterfalls on the Kalungwishi River are a popular and important nature based tourist attraction in Zambia. Lumangwe Falls is in fact the second largest waterfalls in Zambia after Victoria Falls in Livingstone. The spectacular Ntumbachusi Falls is another waterfall to visit in Kawambwa District. All four waterfalls can be seen on one day trip as they are within a 60 kilometre stretch of the river. Interesting rock paintings can be viewed near Kundabwika Falls.
Two traditional ceremonies take place in the area. Around July the Umutomboko Ceremony of the Lunda people of Chief Mwata Kazembe at Mwansabombwe and around October the Chishinga Malaila Ceremony of the Chishinga people of Senior Chief Mushota occurs.
Facilities of the park
The current status of Lusenga Plains National Park as a tourist destination is poor. Accommodation facilities are offered by Lusenga Lodge or visitors can camp outside the park. This park has not been operational for many years and wildlife stocks are severly depleted. Impala and zebra have been rereleased in the park and wildebeest is soon to be restocked too. Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve in South Africa is working on a project to relocate between 300 and 500 elephant from Sabi to Lusenga Plain and Sumbu National Park. New road networks are being graded, and funding is being sought for more scouts, firearms, vehicles for anti poaching, bicycles and motorbikes for scouts and a light aircraft for surveys.
Lusenga Plain is now accessible by road with signposts from Kawambwa. Recent visitors have successfully reached the park by hiring a game scout for a guide from the National Parks and Wildlife Office in Kawambwa. Otherwise the park is hard to navigate. It is usually approached from the Kawambwa–Mporokoso road, and you should be very well equipped to reach it.
The conservation of the park
Lusenga Plain National Park is now being managed as a trust. As a long-term strategy to safeguard the park it plans have been suggested to extend the park boundary to include the surrounding waterfalls and to restock the park to increase diversity of wildlife. This would increase the tourism potential and would take place only if it was reinforced with other key activities such as the improvement of access to and within the park, improvement in the management of the park and the involvement of local communities and local authorities in the management of wildlife resources. The goal is to reintroduce previously existent wildlife and introduce new animal species into Lusenga Plain so that the ecological integrity of the par can be restored tourism development can be promoted for the benefit of local communities and the country.
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