Liuwa Plains National Park deserves to be much better known than it is, but part of me isn’t at all sad that it’s only been discovered by true Zambia safari aficionados … Fewer visitors means a more intimate safari experience.
Kalabo, the gateway to the park, is the entrance to a magical theatre production, with a remarkable cast of characters and a plot driven by rumbling summer storms, and the tattoo of hoofbeats.
Indeed, this is the setting for Africa’s ‘other’ wildebeest migration. While Liuwa Plains sees fewer wildebeest than the Serengeti and Masai Mara, their crossing of this beautiful floral carpet on a journey dictated by rains – accompanied by tsessebe and zebra – is no less wondrous to behold.
This is the kingdom of the Lozi people, whose Litunga – or king – makes his own annual journey to higher ground as part of the Kuomboka Festival. He always travels in style, in a striped barge surmounted by a giant elephant statue with flapping ears. Smoke from the barge lets his people know he’s alive and well.
And what is a king without a queen? This was once home to a lion queen known as Lady Liuwa, the loneliest lioness in Zambia before a pride was built up around her. While the grand dame has passed on, thanks to determined conservation efforts her legacy pride remains. Southern crowned and wattled crane, spotted hyena and cheetah also have starring roles.
The opening of permanent lodges in Liuwa Plains (previously there were only temporary, mobile camps) means that you can now have front row seats for the second act, announced by forked lightning splitting the velvet curtain of the night as the rains begin.