KAFUE NATIONAL PARK
Kafue National Park is the best park in Zambia for a self-drive safari. There are miles and miles of tracks through the wilderness and rarely will you find another vehicle.
Kafue National Park is very large (over 22,000 sq km); it is almost twice the size of Chobe National Park in Botswana and larger than Kruger National Park in South Africa.
The wonder of the park is its rivers. The Kafue River runs from the north of Zambia into the east of Kafue National Park. It meanders from there to the Hook Bridge where it turns south to Lake Itezhi-Tezhi. Between the Hook Bridge and Lake Itezhi-Tezhi it forms the border of the park. At Lake Itezhi-Tezhi (a man-made dam) the river turns east towards the Kafue Flats, thereafter draining into the Zambezi River near Lower Zambezi National Park.
The Lunga and Lufupa, two rivers, run from the north and join the Kafue River in the northern section of the park. In the south, the Nanzhila River runs through the park and then into the Kafue River downstream of the dam.
The park is dominated by two major floodplains – Nanzhila in the south and Busanga in the north. The Nanzhila River floods over much of the southern section of the park during the rainy season; the Lufupa River, as it enters the park from the north, spreads out over Busanga Plain during the rains. Both plains start to dry up in May.
Being such a large park, the landscape and flora vary throughout the park. The floodplains are grassland with islands of trees. The floodplains are edged by woodland with some large fig trees – an attraction for the birds. Along the Kafue River the trees are water-loving trees like waterberry (Syzygium cordatum) and Musikili (Trichilia emetica). There are forests of mopane trees (Colophospermum mopane), especially on black cotton soil. The black cotton soil also has areas of termitaria. And, in some areas, the termitaria can be seen like sentinels guarding the road.
Sections of the park are burned in June. This is a precautionary measure against serious bushfires in September and October.
As a bit of a warning, there are tsetse fly in the park. They mostly inhabit areas along the tree lines – they do not like open plains. Keep some anti-histamine with you. Lodge owners will often be seen with an mbaula (metal brazier) in the back of the car burning elephant dung. This too seems to keep the tsetse away.
Kafue National Park has a major claim to fame; it has more mammal species within its borders than any other park in southern Africa. There are huge herds of buffalo, wildebeest, hartebeest, roan and sable.
The park has all the predators – lion, wild dog, leopard and cheetah, with many of the smaller ones like serval and genet seen on night drives. The only animals you will not see is a giraffe or a rhino.
Kafue National Park is an Important Bird Area (IBA). The bird species number over 500, specialities being the endemic Zambian barbet, black-cheeked lovebirds, pelicans, crowned and wattled cranes. For a bird list compiled by Pete Leonard for BirdWatch Zambia CLICK HERE
Drives are offered throughout the park, usually a morning or afternoon and sometimes a night drive.
Some lodges offer walking.
Those camps along the Kafue River have river cruises. When the Lufupa River in Busanga Plains, is still navigable, boat safaris are also on offer.
Along parts of the Kafue River, canoeing is also a great way to see the birdlife and, if you are lucky, some otters.
Fishing is also available along some stretches of the river and also on Lake Itezhi-Tezhi. To find out more about fishing in Zambia, click here.
Ballooning is a special treat over the Busanga Plains.
Citizens K34 per person per day
Residents and SADC Nationals US$15 per person per day
International US$20 per person per day
Vehicle (Under 3 tonnes)
Local K25.50 per vehicle per day
International US$15 per vehicle per day
Note that many of the lodges are in neighbouring Game Management Areas where park fees are not applicable.
Game Rangers International
Game Rangers International was started in 2008 with its main focus on protecting wildlife especially the elephant in Kafue National Park. Since those early days the organisation has expanded to provide community support in human-wildlife conflict and community education.
Game Rangers International runs the elephant orphanage at Camp Phoenix in the park. It also supports a primate project to return vervet monkeys and baboons back into the wild.
To find out more:
Zambia Carnivore Programme
The Zambia Carnivore Programme studies the predators in Kafue National Park, their main focus being lions, cheetah, leopard and hyena. They work hand-in-hand with ZamParks and Game Rangers International in the protection of the environment and the wildlife. It is likely that visitors will see collared predators; these animals are part of their conservation work.
For predators to survive in their habitat, the Zambia Carnivore Programme also researches the herbivores like wildebeest, buffalo, impala, the prey species of the carnivores.
To find out more click on their logo below: