Viewing the large number of different varieties of animals and birds in this totally unspoilt habitat is a fascinating experience for visitors. Blue Lagoon National Park was established nearly 40 years ago by the Critchleys, a retired British Army colonel and his wife Erica who developed the park in an environmentally sound manner.
Viewing the large number of different varieties of animals and birds in this totally unspoiled habitat is a fascinating experience for visitors. The Critchley family developed the park in an environmentally sound manner and then sold the park to the National Parks Department.
The northern section of this National Park is Zambezian and Mopane woodlands while the south the is Zambezian flooded grasslands. The plains are fringed with acacia woodland. The Kafue River’s major channel is around ten kilometres south of the southern park boundary.
Blue Lagoon provides a stark contrast to the other parks in Zambia because of the vast flat landscape and spectacular birding. It is made up of flat lands which look like dry patched land in the dry season and wet grassy flat land during the rainy season.
In the dry season the vast plains are a spectacular dry grass flatland where large herds of zebra, sitatunga and buffaloes graze, transforming completely to a watery wonderland in the wet season, as the flats fill with water and the migratory birds arrive from far and wide. The Kafue Flats ecosystem, of which Blue Lagoon National Park is part of, is of great importance for conservation and was declared a Ramsar site in 1991.
If you are a birdwatcher, then the Blue Lagoon National Park in Zambia can be your birding paradise. The abundance and variety of birds is astounding. Over 400 species of birds have been recorded within the Kafue flats region, which compares favourably with the 700 species found in the whole of Zambia.
The dense Kafue lechwe populations on the floodplains and in the neighbouring termitaria zone (termite mounds) create habitats which are suitable for many wetland species – about 125 of the 400 species found here are wetland. Almost 60 species are migrants.
Within the swamps of the Kafue flats, very large concentrations of resident and migratory water birds occur and large breeding colonies can be found. The species spectrum varies greatly depending on the season and the water level, but species which are often found in significant numbers include pelican, common Squacco heron, cattle egret, black egret, open bill stork, glossy ibis, Fulvous whistling duck, white-faced whistling duck, Egyptian goose, spur-winged goose, knob-billed duck, red-billed teal, southern pochard, red knobbed coot, common pratincole, Kittliz’s plover, Caspian plover, blacksmith plover and ruff. The area is also extremely important for wattled cranes.
When dry, the floodplains and termitaria host a rather different selection of species and particularly numerous are red-capped lark, chestnut-backed sparrow-lark, grey-ramped swallow, Richard’s pipit, capped wheatear and quail finch. The greater swamp warbler and swamp flycatcher can be found in the swamps.
The Kafue flats and Blue Lagoon National Park in particular, are well known for their high diversity of breeding raptors. Vultures are particularly numerous, as are African fish eagles and tawny eagles. African marsh harriers are very common here and the three Palearctic harries are also regular.
Blue Lagoon National Park, together with Lochinvar National Park on the other side of the Kafue Flats, hold the largest concentrations of the Kafue Lechwe. The Kafue lechwe is one of the three subspecies of the Lechwe antelope endemic to the Kafue Flats Wetlands. Herds numbering in the hundreds can be observed here. The lechwe is the most water-loving of the antelope. It thrives in flood plain habitats and seasonally wet grasslands and frequently feeds in shallow water and will submerge if threatened.
The Kafue lechwe is specially adapted to semi aquatic environments with a special hoof structure enables it to walk on very soft and sticky clay soils during flooding and allows it to graze the emergent vegetation in shallow water up to 50cm deep. Since the Kafue lechwe is largely confined to the floodplain and termitaria where it feeds and lives, the survival of this specie largely depends on conservation of these habitat types.
Although lechwe run in herds of about 30, several thousand may gather together on the floodplains. It is not unusual to see huge river pythons too, which are attracted by the concentration of the lechwe and birds.
Other large hoofed animals found on the Kafue Flats, adjacent termitaria and woodland areas include buffalo, oribi reedbuck, bushbuck and kudu. The wildebeest and zebra are the second most abundant species. These may be found on the floodplain and the termitaria grasslands.
Hippopotamus can be found in small herds around the Chunga Lagoon, while the sitatunga is confined to the papyrus and reed marshes. Predators existing in the wetland ecosystem include hyenas, jackals and civets.
The only option for accommodation is to camp and be completely self sufficient, bringing everything with you including water. Because of its proximity to Lusaka, it is probably best to visit Blue Lagoon National Park for a day rather than to stay overnight.
This is achievable in the dry season when the roads are better and Nyanja Safaris can arrange such day trips for you. With the birth of the Blue Lagoon Trust in 2010 it is hoped that progress will be made here so that people can benefit from this wonderful environment and local communities can also benefit.Ecology