The park covers an area of 3,660 square kilometres of vast wooded islands. It is home to a variety of animals, including large mammals such as blue wildebeest and tsessebe. The name Liuwa Plain comes from a real plain with the park that 70 kilometres long and 30 kilometres wide.
African Parks Networks has partnered with the Zambia Wildlife Authority and the Barotse Royal Establishment, the traditional authority representing local communities.
The park plays a vital role in the Zambezi’s catchment and is flooded from late December to June each year making it popular with diverse bird life.
The area forms part of the Western Zambezian grasslands and is bounded by the Luambimba and Luanginga Rivers.
Liuwa forms part of a remarkable annual wildebeest migration route. Herds cover 200 kilometres from an area in the north west of the park in June to group en masse in the southern region of Liuwa by November. Four elephant bulls have been sighted and eland and buffalo have been reintroduced to the park.
There have been several sightings of a breeding pack of wild dog and a group of twenty roan antelope in the park. Both of these species had been considered to be completely extinct locally. The game here is spread out across the vast plains and can take some driving around to find. But to stumble upon an immense herd of blue wildebeest, a prowling wild dog or a pride of lions in this forgotten piece of Africa is especially enthralling because of its completely natural and non-commercial state. In fact, this makes any long drive very worthwhile.
The park boasts an abundance of bird species, particularly during the rainy season. These include large populations of the endangered wattled and grey-crowned cranes, Marabou stork and pelican as well as migratory birds such as the Horus swift and black winged Pratincole. The presence of these and other species, including southern ground horn bill, Bateleur and martial eagle, make Liuwa an important bird conservation area.
In November, with the onset of the rains, the massive herds of blue wildebeest arrive from Angola, navigate the plains in their thousands, very often mingling with zebra along the way. Other unusual antelope found mingling include oribi, red lechwe, Steinbeck, duiker, tsessebe and roan. The predators here are the jackal, serval, wildcat, wild dog, lion and hyena. Many birds migrate here during the rains and massive flocks of birds can be seen as they migrate south.
It is recommended to go after the floods have receded in August and be out of the park in December before the roads become impassable and the waters rise. In November as the rains begin watch dramatic cloud formations erupt in the skies as storms build. This creates spectacular skylines and when the rain begins, carpets of flowers burst from the ground across the pans. This is also when large herds of blue wildebeest migrate across the plains from neighbouring Angola.
Private access demands 4×4 vehicles and complete Off-road driving experience is necessary. Near by Kalabo is the place to hire a guide and this is essential as it is very easy to get lost here.
The road from Katima Mulilo to Kalabo is fine up to the Nangweshi, Senanga ferry. From there to Kalabo, estimate two days to do 180 kilometres of low range driving over very sandy roads. There is no fuel available at Kalabo so carry extra supplies. Accessing Kalabo from Mongu depends on the seasonal levels of the Zambezi River, you must enquire at Mongu’s port office for available options.
This is not a park one should tackle without a guide as there are no visitor facilities. Going with a licensed tour operator to see the best this national park has to offer is highly recommended. If you do tackle it alone, make sure you take an armed guide from the Parks office in Kalabo. You can camp anywhere in the park but don’t attempt it unless there are at least two vehicles and you are fully self-sufficient and prepared for all eventualities. This is the ‘real’ Africa, and help is a long way away.
The work done by African Parks Network is commendable and the result is that the wildlife has prospered under protection. This is highlighted by the incredible increase in wildebeest, zebra, red lechwe and tsessebe. Year-round law enforcement within the park has been strengthened since 2003. Training programmes for all staff include first aid, natural science, field crafts, investigations, weapons training, radio communication, customer care, tourism and effective communications with local communities. African Parks Network has also assisted four communities to establish their own campsites within the park.