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Kafue National Park and the Busanga Plains

The vast Kafue is the oldest National Park in Zambia covering some 22,400 km2. It is one of the largest National Parks in Africa, roughly the same size as Wales. The Kafue has remained largely untouched by development until very recently, yet it remains a unique and pristine wilderness with sublime scenery, game viewing and bird watching. Testament to this, still today some 67% of the Park is designated as "Wilderness Area" where only walking safaris can be conducted.
Busanga Plains
The huge (750 km2) Busanga Plains are regarded as the Jewel of the Kafue, depending on the time of year you visit (The flood season is from March through to May) you may need to travel by Mokoro (traditional dug-out canoes) to access the plains. This area is synonymous with the large herds of Red Lechwe and Buffalo which bring with them interest from the Kafue's impressive carnivore diversity. Being submerged for most of the year, the seasonal flood waters attract great flocks of Open Billed storks, which spiral in the thermals over the plains. Crowned and the rare Wattled cranes are seen searching through the grass for insects and beetles.
Away from the Busanga Plains the Kafue holds many other diverse habitats, from dense woodland, lush green riverine bush, to semi arid scrub and oxbow lagoons which seasonally dry in to pans of lush grazing known as ‘Dambos' .

The northern sector has many streams which drain the bush into the meandering Lunga and Lufupa rivers which later merge into the broad Kafue River as it flows south towards lake Itezhi-Tezhi and further on to the great Zambezi.

The dominant ecological vegetation type in the Kafue is Miombo woodland, these areas are typically semi-continuous small tree and shrub dominated landscapes. Typical species' of tree synonymous with the Miombo are from the Brachystegia and Julbernardia Family. Bush fires, which can run rife in the dryer months, have given these trees the adaptation of fire-resistant bark. A less common ecological type in the Kafue is the Mopane woodland, these areas are particularly associated with the mighty Baobab and found mainly in the south of the park.

Wildlife of Kafue
As diverse as any park in Africa, the wildlife of the Kafue is as numerous as it is varied. There is an abundance of the more ‘usual' wildlife species, such as, Elephant, Lions (large prides of up to 20), Buffalo, Hippo, Leopard, and, interestingly for Zambia, good numbers of Cheetah. Indeed one Guide in the Kafue suggests from observations that there may be more Cheetah than previously believed. What many people do not know about the Kafue is that it has one of the last few viable populations of African Wild Dog left in Southern Africa and are a frequent sighting.

The Kafue is also a great place to see the more unusual game species , especially interesting and rare antelope species such as: Oribi, Blue Wildebeest, Lichtenstein's Hartebeest, Roan, Sitatunga, Puku, Red Lechwe, Defassa Waterbuck, Sable, Reedbuck, Eland and the diminutive Yellow-Backed Duiker. In addition to the ungulates, there is a plethora of other unusual wildlife with Pangolin, Bushpig, Side-Striped Jackals, Honey Badger, and numerous species of the playful mongoose family.

Possibly where the Kafue excels yet further as a destination for wildlife enthusiasts, is on a fascinating and exciting night time game drive. These are available at all of the safari camps in the Kafue and provide visitors with the chance to find what many regard to be as the best chance to see Leopard anywhere in Africa. This is not to take away from the likelihood and possibility of seeing other equally interesting and awesome species such as Aardvark, Sharpe's Grysbok, Genet, Civet Cats, Hyena and the amazing Greater and Lesser Bushbaby's. And with luck it is possible to witness the nocturnal flight of the Pennant-Winged Nightjar. Other species which are present but only known from a few sightings include the Springhare and Lord Derby's Anomalure. Unfortunately Rhino were persecuted heavily up to the 80's when it is believed the last was seen, there are however always rumours of sightings.
More than 470 species of birds have been recorded in the Kafue, obviously too many to recite here, but notable species include; Margaret's Batis, Pel's Fishing Owl, African Fin-foot, Wattled Crane, Black-collared Eremomela, Spoonbill, Bocage's Akalat, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Black-tailed Waxbill, Green-headed Sunbird, Blackbreasted Snake Eagle, Goliath Heron, Fish eagles and Anchieta's Sunbird.

When to visit
The dry season runs from June - October. Some parts of the park can be inaccessible at any time from November - April, though it is becoming more possible to get around by canoe. The park can be very different at different times of year. The wet season is particularly difficult to get around in due to the heavy black cotton soil, but to be able to see the plains flooded, and the wildlife it attracts is a spectacle well worth the visit. After the rains everything is awash with beautiful green and lush vegetation. The dry season enables easier driving and game is easier to see with the Hippos and mighty Crocodile congregating in deeper river pools in good numbers. At around 4000ft temperatures are mild compared to the Lower Zambezi and Luangwa valleys.

To find out more about Kafue National Park, and how to visit, click Kafue safari.
Kafue Plains. © Busanga Safaris.