Zambia’s wildlife protected areas occupy about 10% of the country’s total land area. There are a total of 20 national parks, 36 game management areas and 23 million hectares of land devoted to the conservation of spectacular variety of animals. The major national parks are:
South Luangwa National Park
Experts have dubbed South Luangwa as one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world, and not without reason. The concentration of game around the Luangwa River and its ox-bow lagoons is among the most intense in Africa.
The hippopotamus is in abundance. It is estimated that each kilometre of the Luangwa river is covered by at least 50 hippos. Zebra can be seen running in small herds of about a dozen. Animals, such as the Thornicroft Giraffe, which are unique to the Luangwa Valley are also found. The park has 14 different antelope species, most of which are easily seen on game and night drives. Watch out for the elusive Bushbuck, the Eland, and the most numerous antelope – the Impala. These gregarious animals can be seen in herds all over the park. Reedbuck, Roan, Sable, Hartebeest, Grysbok, Klipspringer and Oribi tend to stay deeper in the remote parts towards the Muchinga Escarpment. Baboons, Velvet and Maloney monkeys including Hyenas are fairly common and their plaintive, eerie cry, so characteristic of the African bush can be heard on most nights. South Luangwa has a good population of Leopard, and Lions, which are as plentiful in the Luangwa as anywhere else in Africa. The Luangwa River also has an extraordinarily high number of crocodiles.
Bird watching is superb, with about 400 of the more than 700 bird species found around here, including 39 birds of prey and 47 migrant species. There is plenty for the birdwatcher to spot, whatever the season.
Kafue National Park
From the astounding Busanga Plains in the North Western section of the park to the tree-choked wilderness and the lush bamboos of the south, fed by the emerald green Lunga, Lufupa and Kafue rivers, the park sustains huge herds of a great diversity of wildlife. From the thousands of red Lechwe on the plains, the ubiquitous Puku, the stately Sable and Roan Antelope in the woodland to the diminutive Oribi and Duiker. The solid-rumped defassa Waterbuck, herds of Hartebeest, Zebra and Buffalo make for a full menu of antelope. Large prides of Lion, solitary Leopards and Cheetahs are the prime predators. There is a host of smaller carnivores from the side-striped Jackal, Civet, Genet and various Mongoose. Bird watching – especially on the rivers and the dambos is superb.
The Kafue and Lunga Rivers offer superb fishing opportunities, especially good bream, barbell and fresh water pike. Most lodges have fishing tackle, rods, boats and bait available.
Lower Zambezi National Park
This is the most recent park to be established in Zambia. The river edge is overhung with a thick riverine fringe, mostly diasporus, ficus and other riverine species. Further inland is a flood plain fringed with Mopane forest and interspersed with winter thorn trees of Acacia Albida. The hills that form the backdrop to the park are covered in broadleaf woodland.
The park covers an area of 4,092 square kilometers, but most of the game is concentrated on the valley floor. Enormous herds of elephant, some up to 100 strong, are often seen at the river edge. Abundant are Buffalo and Waterbuck as well as good populations of Leopard, Lion and Fish Eagle.
OTHER PARKS OF INTEREST
North Luangwa – Very wild, access with operators only
Nsumbu – On the shores of Lake Tanganyika, excellent fishing
Lochinvar – A wetland birders paradise. Small and accessible boasting huge herds of Kafue Lechwe
Nyika Plateau – A highland park, excellent birds, awesome views, large herds of antelope, notably Eland
Sioma Ngwezi – Undeveloped and wild, teak forests, good elephant, roan antelope
Kasanka – Superb birding, fishing and the rare Sitatunga Antelope
Bangweulu Floodplains – Thousands upon thousands of the endemic Black Lechwe, Antelope and the rare Shoebill Stork
Liuwa Plain – Annual Wildebeest migration, great predators including Wild Dog
LAKES AND RIVERS
Zambia hosts 35 per cent of Southern Africa’s water resource. The country has five major rivers and four major lakes. The Zambezi River is Africa’s fourth largest river and the country’s longest spanning a total distance of 2,700 kilometers. It is on this river that the mighty Victoria Falls and the world’s largest man-made Lake, the Lake Kariba, lie. In the southern part of the country is the Kafue River which spills into the Zambezi River and in the Eastern Zambia is the Luangwa River. The Northern part of the country is endowed with two rivers namely the Luapula and Chembeshi rivers, and three lakes that is, Tanganyika, Mweru and Bangweulu. These water resources provide opportunities for fishing, white-water rafting, boat cruises, canoeing river boarding, jet boating, and Gorge wing.