Sioma Ngwezi National Park in Zambia

In the south west corner of Zambia, the Sioma Ngwezi National Park is one of the most unspoilt parks in the country. It is undeveloped, rarely visited and an important link in the migratory route of elephants from bordering Botswana and Namibia. It is home to over 3000 elephants and endangered species including roan, sable, wild dog and cheetah. Sioma River Camp is situated on the banks of the Zambezi River with good views up and downstream.

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This park occupies part of a large plain lying between the Zambezi, the Cuando River, the upper Chobe River, and the Caprivi Strip, called the Silowana Plains, lying south of the Barotse Floodplain. They were once part of the Kalahari Desert and covered in wind-blown sand-dunes, still present as gentle undulations and a sandy plain.
  • Park offers refuge for elephants migrating from Angola
  • 5,000 square kilometre park in the very south west corner of Zambia
  • Unfenced allowing free movement of Zambian wildlife

The park and its history
It is undeveloped and rarely visited, lacking roads and off the usual tourist tracks. But this may change in the future. It is surrounded by buffer zones called Game Management Areas where hunting is regulated. The West Zambezi Game Management Areas adjacent to the park is the largest in the country at 35000 square kilometres.

Ecology
Although the climate is now wetter, permanent rivers do not flow through the plains. The park has only a few seasonal rivers, and in the rainy season thousands of small lagoons, typically a couple of hundred metres across, form in the depressions between the dunes. Two eco regions are well represented in the park. The first is Zambezian Baikiaea woodlands dominated by Zambian Teak trees, which surrounds the plains of Western Zambezian grasslands. Along the major rivers surrounding the park is a second eco region, the Zambezian flooded grasslands.

Sioma Falls also called Ngonye Falls are just outside the village of Sioma. These beautiful falls mark the transition point of the Zambezi Rivers’ flow from Kalahari sand floodplain to basalt dyke. The latter eventually contributes to the magnificent gorges of the Victoria Falls.
The horseshoe-shaped Ngonye Falls are mostly impressive because of the sheer volume of water that cascades over the staggered twenty metre drop. An interesting aspect is that the river flows underneath the rock on either side of the falls. It’s quite remarkable to stand upon them, feeling and hearing the underground flow.

Mammals
Here you will find more than 3000 elephants, and many endangered species of animals. Elephants are indeed the major attraction in this park. Being the migratory route, several elephants get into this national park in Zambia from other natural reserves. You will find other animals like roan, wild dog, sable and cheetah in the park including many antelope species. Animals such as puku, zebra, impala as well as kudu are also present. The Sioma Ngwezi national park is considered for inclusion in the five Nation Kavango – Zambezi Trans Frontier Conservation Area. There are no facilities except for campsites and no roads in the park, only tracks requiring four-wheel drive vehicles even in the dry season, when vehicles can become bogged in sand.

According to the Zambian government plans were in hand to open the park to private management and better wildlife protection. The proximity to Angola, Namibia and Botswana makes it ripe for trans frontier park initiatives. Tourism facilities have recently been planned in the region, such as along stretches of the Zambezi (a fishing resort, and a lodge at Ngonye Falls), and in the Caprivi Strip. The recently-opened Trans Caprivi Highway and Katima Mulilo Bridge are within 60 kilometres of the park.

Getting there
From Livingstone: There is a brand new road all the way from Livingstone to Sesheke and Katima Mulilo.
From Mongu: There is a good tar road to Senanga and the last opportunity for fuel before Livingstone. Ten kilometres beyond Senanga is the Mangweshi ferry. Somewhat unreliable and pricey, however, it is the only viable route to Sioma and Katima Mulilo via a fairly good, if somewhat slippery, gravel road.

Where to stay
There are no permanent facilities and no roads other than tracks in the park. Three operators take guided safaris into the park at the moment. Maziba Bay Safaris being the only known operator with a tented camp there. Alternatively, one can take ones own vehicle in but the lack of roads makes this a very difficult undertaking, and a guide from the National Parks office in Sioma is highly recommended.

Sioma River Camp is situated on the banks of the Zambezi River with good views up and downstream. Six safari tents with open air bathrooms, placed on elevated, wooden decks with thatched roofs are available. A campsite and four standard safari tents with open air thatched bathrooms opened in July 2008 for self drive and self catering tourists.

Sioma Bush Camp is situated South West of the Sioma Falls or Ngonye Falls in the Game Management Area and close to the north-western border of the Sioma Ngwezi National Park. From the dining area there is an excellent view on a nearby waterhole. Opened in July 2008, both camps are based on ‘eco-tourism’ principles, including the use of sustainable energy in the form of solar power for electricity and water heating with generator only as a back up option.
Mutemwa Lodge is nearby on the Zambezi River. It’s owned by ex Springbok player Gavin Johnson and is a beautiful lodge with good fishing opportunities. Sakazima Island Camp on the Katima-Senanga road also offer day excursions into the Park.

Ecology

  • Zambezian Baikiaea woodlands
  • Zambezian flooded grasslands
  • Zambian Teak trees
  • Lagoons

Mammals

  • African wild dog
  • Cheetah
  • Elephant
  • Hyena
  • Impala
  • Kudu
  • Lion
  • Puku
  • Roan Antelope
  • Sable Antelope
  • Zebra

Birdlife

  • Barbet, acacia pied
  • Bee-eater, white fronted
  • Bittern, little
  • Broadbill, African
  • Brownbul, terrestrial
  • Bustard, black bellied
  • Buzzard, common
  • Courser, Temminck’s
  • Crake, African
  • Crane, wattled
  • Cuckoo, great spotted
  • Dove, namaqua
  • Duck, white faced whistling
  • Eagle, African fish
  • Egret, cattle
  • Falcon, red footed
  • Flufftail, red chested
  • Gallinule purple
  • Goose, spur winged
  • Goshawk, Gabar
  • Greenbul, yellow bellied
  • Greenshank
  • Guinea fowl, crested
  • Hammerkop
  • Harrier, African marsh
  • Heron, black crowned night
  • Heron, purple
  • Hornbill, Bradfield’s
  • Ibis, hadada
  • Kestrel Dickinson’s
  • Kingfisher, malachite
  • Kite, yellow billed
  • Lapwing, crowned
  • Lark, red capped
  • Longclaw, fuelleborn’s
  • Martin, house
  • Moorhen, common
  • Nightjar, rufous cheeked
  • Owl, marsh
  • Pelican, white
  • Pigeon, green
  • Pipit, buffy
  • Plover, three banded
  • Pratincole, common
  • Quail, harlequin
  • Roller, lilac breasted
  • Ruff
  • Sandgrouse, double banded
  • Sandpiper, green
  • Secretary bird
  • Stint, little
  • Stork, openbill
  • Swallow, lesser striped
  • Swift, European
  • Teal red billed
  • Thicknee, water
  • Trogon narina
  • Turaco schalow’s
  • Vulture, hooded
  • Wagtail, Yellow
  • Woodpecker, golden tailed