Liuwa Plain National Park was founded as a national park in 1972. The area was originally used as a hunting ground for Lubosi Lewanika, the king of the Lozi people. Lubosi Lewanika declared the area as a protected space in the early 1880’s.
Today, the nonprofit conservation organization, African Parks manages the 3,600 km sq park in partnership with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife and the Barotse Royal Establishment.
The Liuwa Plains are extremely remote and wild. As a result, it is one of the least visited national parks in Zambia, but, it is by no means the least impressive. In fact, a safari to the Liuwa Plains, at the right time of year, can rival any safari experience, anywhere! Home to the second largest wildebeest migration in Africa this is the place to catch large herds of plains game, and where they go the predators follow!
The remoteness of this park means the safari options are limited. There is only one permanent lodge at the park, King Lewanika Lodge. However, they do offer several activities: day and night game drives, walking safaris, canoeing safaris, fishing (seasonal) and nature focussed walks during the seasonal wildflower booms.
Huge herds of blue wildebeest can be seen in the park, over 43,000 traverses the plain and congregate in their thousand, during the rains. There are also herds of zebra, tsessebe, Roan Antelope and Red Lechwe. Buffalo is also present in the park.
The park is home to several predators, including lion, leopard, cheetah, wild dog and hyena. The parks most famous resident is ‘The Lady Liuwa’, a lioness made famous by a documentary: The Last Lioness. Due to poaching Lady Liuwa roamed the expansive plains alone for nine years. Today, the park has many lions thanks to African Parks’ strategy to re-introduce lions to the park.
Road-access to the park is restricted to the dry season. Wildlife viewing is very seasonal, and the big herds arrive after the first rain. November is the best month to visit, as the access roads become impassable later.
Liuwa has extraordinarily diverse birdlife which includes many rare and migratory species. A total of 334 bird species have been recorded. The arrival of the annual floods marks the influx of wealth of water birds.
Liuwa is the fourth most important breeding site for wattled cranes and groups of crowned cranes often numbering several hundred birds can be seen. Threatened water birds include slaty egret and the whisked tern.
Other notable bird species:
Liuwa Plain is great for birding all year. The wet summer months (November-April) are the best time as this is when migrants coming from the north are present, with many birds in breeding plumage.
Even though this park was officially opened to the public in 1984, the infrastructure in and around the park is not sufficiently developed to cater for the independent traveller.
Special permission to enter must be obtained from the Department of National Parks. The best way to experience North Luangwa is with an operator running safaris here.
The best time to visit the park is during the dry season as animals are drawn from the bush to the river banks in search of water. Furthermore, access in the wet season is virtually impossible.