Kafue is Zambia’s largest National Park. It has a strong mammal list and boasts the greatest diversity of antelope in Africa including important populations of Defassa waterbuck and Red lechwe. With an impressive bird list of over 500 species the park is Zambia’s richest haven for birders. The northern Kafue is the best spot in southern Africa for a balloon safari between June and November.
The park receives far fewer visitors than either the Zambezi or Luangwa valleys which is particularly appealing.
- The northern sector, accessible by chartered aircraft or helicopter is attractive to first timers for its better game conditions and a handful of excellent safari camps.
- The massive southern conservation area appeals to specialists and old Africa keen on exploration.
The permanently flowing Kafue River is the lifeblood of this massive and gently undulating plateau where wet fringes give rise to a wide variety of woodlands and open grasslands thus creating many diverse habitats for this rich ecosystem.
In the extreme northwest of the park the wet Busanga Swamps with their adjacent floodplains are a designated Ramsar site. Whilst much of this northern sector is permanently flooded the dry season from May to November becomes increasingly productive as large herbivores are attracted to rich feeding grounds on the Busanga Plains. Lions here are known for their tree-climbing habits. Cheetah sightings can be good and the wild dog population is thriving but they’re only occasionally seen. Leopards are prevalent in the forested areas.
- For first-timers on safari we strongly recommend a trip starting and ending at Victoria Falls with the essential inclusion of the Luangwa and/or lower Zambezi.
- For seasoned travellers a combination of Busanga with the southern areas of the park is recommended.
More on the Kafue
Most of the park lies in the Central Zambezian Miombo woodland eco region, characterised by savannah grasslands and Miombo trees species growing thickly in patches, with a few small dambos (grasslands which become marshy in the rainy season) interspersed among them.
In the south there are stony hills and rocky outcrops where the more sparse Terminalia and Mopane woodland eco region take over; Mopane trees are more adapted to hotter drier condtions and replace the Miombo.
A thin belt of evergreen forest lines the banks of the Kafue River, which has been dammed just outside the park at the Itezhi-Tezhi Dam, forming a reservoir within the park – a miniature Lake Kariba.
The Busanga Plains in the north west of the park offer wide open vistas across grassy plains, and are flooded from March to May, forming a 750 km² wetland. In the south three different river systems – the Lunga, Lufupa and Kafue Rivers come together to create a tree-choked lush wilderness filled with a wide variety of wildlife.
The Kafue River is the lifeblood, but away from its banks there are a wide variety of woodlands as well as open grasslands. These host a diverse array of wildlife species including over 150 different mammals along with an amazing 470 species of bird. Visiting the various habitats of the park is strongly recommended.
The rivers offer excellent fishing for bream, barbel and fresh water pike. Most of the camps offer canoeing activities as well as fishing and fly camping. Excellent birding is experienced throughout the region and species seen include the Pel’s fishing owl, wattled crane and Lady Ross’ Turaco.
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Highlights in the Kafue
Whilst leopards are strong climbers it’s unusual for more bulky adult lions to take to climbing trees. Not so in some specific areas! They’re regularly seen in Ishasha (Uganda), Manyara (Tanzania) and the Kafue (Zambia). It’s believed that lions climb trees to evade biting insects and catch a breeze at certain times of year. In Ishasha they’re habitually found napping in fig trees year round.
Hot air balloons offer a unique perspective for viewing wildlife and wilderness from the air. We traverse wild areas beyond the confines of game drives on roads. Each dawn flight is a one-off experience with your path and altitude governed by prevailing winds. The best places for hot air balloon trips in Africa are found in the Serengeti, Mara, Sossusvlei and Kafue.
Glossy starlings are divas, fit for the opera with glossy feathers, shining iridescant in the sunshine. Gathering in flocks of up to 50 and theaterically gossiping and chattering, drawing as much attention to themselves as possible. A delight to watch around a small water puddle, flinging their heads back to make throaty, musical calls and waddling on big feet, rather than hopping about.