Liuwa Plain National Park

“Because Liuwa Plain National Park is so isolated, it remains one of the most pristine safari experiences available in Zambia. It mainly attracts the 4×4 community who come to explore this unspoiled territory and stay at one of the community campsites within the park. Although African Parks assists with bookings and management, the campgrounds are owned and run by the community”.

Above is a quote from Zambia Tourism.

We spent 3 nights in the middle of nowhere at Katoyana Camp in a pristine and way off the beaten track 3,600 sq.km park. There are four community campsites, ours had five camping spots and upon our arrival, any other tourists who had been in the park had departed. We were the only people in the whole park save for a few small villages scattered around the periphery of the park boundary. It was surreal. The very best time to visit the park is in November after the rainy season when the whole area explodes into flowers and green pastures which supports the second largest Wildebeest migration in the world and a massive array of bird life.

We came to Africa of course to see the wildlife but more importantly this time to experience all of the many other wonders on offer and at Liuwa Plain it was the silence and vast open spaces dotted with Zebra and Wildebeest, with Fish Eagles and Crowned Cranes hanging around watery areas and the occasional Secretary Bird bobbing along through the tall plain grasses. In the evenings as the sunset large flocks of Crowned Cranes flew overhead flying back to to their resting places. You could hear the whoosh of their wings and if there wasn’t a breeze it seemed you could feel the wind from their wings. At sunrise the same happened except this time they were flying to their feeding areas, squawking to each other as if to say turn this way, or that way . It was very hot during the day, at one point registering +40 C and the warm wind barely turned to cool in the evening.

There are many Cheetah in the area but unfortunately we didn’t see any but there are also Brown and Spotted Hyena which we had the pleasure of their visits each evening after we went to bed except for our second night when we had a pleasant encounter at around 6:00 pm, just near sunset. Now to be honest, the night before we had we had pork chops cooked on the brai over our open fire. Having a couple of bones left we figured we would throw them into the bush near our site. That night/early morning we heard the visitor and could hear it crunch the bones and rustle around looking for more scraps so we figured it came back earlier the next evening so not to miss out on more goodies. We were sitting near our fire, I was prepping the foil wrapped squash and carrots and beef sausages and out of nowhere, a very large Spotted Hyena appeared at the periphery of our site. He looked us, we at him, Joyce ran to the truck for her camera and my video camera and we proceeded to watch it circle near by with a look of further food scrap anticipation. It eventually wandered into the tall grass near by and waited patiently for us to go to bed. At this point we did what you really shouldn’t do. We had some raw chicken drumsticks that we weren’t confident in eating so we threw them into the bush near by. Sure enough, Scotty the Spotty came over and probably had his/her first feast in quite a while considering there isn’t whole lot of food around at this point in the season. We were happy to hear satisfaction howls after it finished but then I heard beer bottles clanking. I had squashed some beer cans and put them in a bag with a couple of beer bottles and tied up the bag. Never has this been a problem in the past but Scotty must have liked the barley smell so he/she carted it off to the bushes. We heard a little clinking and clanking and had visions of having to pick up the mess scattered throughout the bush but fortunately when we got up at sunrise the bag was intact and just nearby.

When we initially arrived at our camp we met the Camp Attendant, Agray. He and his family and his families before him grew up in the area and he has been working for Zambia Parks at Katoyana Camp for the last 14 years. He is a wonderful intelligent man and must have a certain inner strength and peace as he is stationed at the camp for weeks on end and for many weeks may not have any human contact. The park is very busy in late October and November but otherwise relatively empty so he spends his time in solitude with only a two way radio for communication and a small radio to listen to news and what have you. He has no refrigeration and his only exercise aside from walking around and maintaining the camp site is to use a “stair-climber” type of water pump to maintain the water levels in the solar water tanks and water supply for the toilet and shower in the camp. We had great conversations and we exchanged contact info. We will definitely keep in touch with Agray.

Our departure back to the pontoon ferry to Kalabo was similar to our departure from Kalabo to our campsite. We sort of got lost but after 2 1/2 hours and a bit of backtracking we made it. But the best (or worst) was yet to come.

 

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