100 kilometres north of Kasanka National Park are the vast Bangweulu Wetlands – Africa’s greatest swamp, which is basically divided into 3 main habitats.
There is open water to the North West, huge swamps in the middle and seasonally flooded grass plains on the southern and eastern fringes. The grass plains support a huge variety of aquatic birdlife, including a good population of shoebill storks; regarded as a “mega” tick by many birding enthusiasts. The local name for the swamps means “where the water meets the sky” and during the rainy season the swamps swell to three times their size in dry season.
Massive herds of black lechwe are found only in the Bangweulu Swamps. In fact if one sight is typical to this area it is the vision of black lechwe taking flight from real or imagined foe and leaping from tussock to tussock across the watery plains. In dry season the male lechwe compete heavily for the females attention and this seems to be their main purpose in life as they take no part in raising and defending their ofspring. This makes them easy prey for the big cats. Elephant, buffalo, tsessebe, reedbuck, Burchell’s zebra, oribi and sitatunga are amongst other species found here, so no need to be an avid bird lover to visit the area!
The Bangwelu Swamps feed the Congo River and were a great disillusion to the sick Dr David Livingstone who travelled to the area in search of the source of the Nile only to find the swamps led to the great Congo River instead! His grave is in this area although our own guide disagrees with the precise spot – see Livingstone’s Grave.
In response to drought, the unusual and unique lungfish found in this area and thought to have survived for 300 million years, developed the ability to live for months and sometimes years, without water. At the first sign of water, the fish revives and continues with its life as a fish. Of great interest as one of the evolutionary missing links between land and water, this species is the subject of a number of scientific research projects.
If you are a bird lover, there is simply a profusion of waterfowl: Wattled crane, Saddle-billed stork, Spurwing goose, Sacred Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Black-crowned Night Heron, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Swamp Flycatcher, Pink- throated and Fulleborn’s Long claw, Denham’s Bustard and numerous ducks live here amongst many, many other birds. A comprehensive bird list is also now available. Other bird species include African Openbill, Rufous-bellied heron, Lesser jacana, lesser moorhen, saddle-billed stork and Fulleborns Lonclaw (Rosy breasted is common, but Fulleborns more tricky to spot).
Other key areas of interest for bird safaris are the Nchila Reserve in the west, (easy access to species normally only accessible in politically unstable Angola/Congo), Lake Manyara in Tanzania (immense diversity and ease of sighting) and the Sowa Pan in Makgadikadi Pan, Botswana (the world’s biggest breeding ground of the greater flamingo). The nearby Kasanka National Park offers an impressive diversity, including many Central African species and is a key area for birders.
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