You'll likely get to see wild dog on a luxury Liuwa Plains safari.

Luxury safaris in Liuwa Plains National Park

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.

When to Go

At the start of the dry winter season, around May or June, thousands of wildebeest move northwest. In the park, you can witness them crossing plains of waving gold, purple and pink flowers, before they enter the surrounding woodlands and Angola. They return southeast towards the end of winter, in September or October, in anticipation of the coming rains that govern their movements. By this time, wildlife will be dependent on the few remaining sources of water, causing animals to become more concentrated (meaning potentially better viewing). The annual Kuomboka Festival takes place as the rains arrive.

Liuwa Plains is something of an exception in Zambia, as having permanent lodges means that it can now be visited in the summer, green season. You can thus enjoy it at its most beautiful, watching wildlife running through shallow water and seeing dramatic electrical storms. Seasonal activities such as canoeing and boating expand your activity options, and the lush greenery soothes the eye. While other Zambia areas may be tricky to reach, a visit to Liuwa Plains now is wonderful paired with a stint in sunny South Africa.

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