“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”. Zambia Tourism.
We spent 3 nights in the middle of nowhere in a pristine and way off the beaten track 3,600 sq.km park.
There are four community campsites in the park.
Our camp, Kotayana Camp, had five camping spots with a clean ablution block with hot and cold running water and rustic but clean showers.
By the time we arrived at the park 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 along with 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 over our campsite flying back to to their resting places. As they approached 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.
It was very hot during the day, at one point registering +40 C and the warm wind barely turned to cool in the evening.
At sunrise the same happened except this time they were flying to their feeding areas and they were noisier, squawking to each other as if to say turn this way, or that way.
There are many Cheetah in the area but unfortunately we didn’t see any however there are also Brown and Spotted Hyena which paid us a visit 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.
For dinner the night before our 6:00 pm encounter we had pork chops cooked on the brai over our open fire. Having a couple of bones left we thought about throwing them into the bush near our site.
Now to be honest you really aren’t supposed to do this. Regardless of whether the park is empty of tourists it is a no-no to feed the wildlife, in this is case and anywhere else in the world.
We threw the bones into bush near our campsite. Our bad.
That night/early morning we heard a visitor and could hear it crunch the bones and rustle around looking for more scraps so when it came back earlier the next evening we figured it was intent 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 the tee lined periphery of our site a very large Spotted Hyena appeared.
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.
Before going to bed we again 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, late in the evening we heard Scotty the Spotty came over and probably have his/her first feast in quite a while considering there isn’t whole lot of food around in the park at this time in the season.
We were happy to hear satisfaction squeals 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 refrigerator and his exercise consists of walking around and maintaining the camp site and using a “stair-climber” type of water pump to maintain the water levels in the solar heated water tanks and water supply for the toilet and shower. We had great conversations and we exchanged contact info. We will definitely keep in touch with Agray.
Very sandy roads
Chops with scalloped potatos
Sausage, squash and carrots
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 this time after only 2 1/2 hours and a bit of backtracking we made it back to the ferry crossing and the best (or worst) was yet to come.