Zambia :: Barotseland
Category: Protected Areas :: Protected Area
Home to the second-largest wildebeest migration in Africa, Liuwa Plain National Park is located in the remote western corner of Barotseland, west of the Zambezi Floodplains. Previously administered by DNPW (Department of National Parks and Wildlife), an agreement was signed with African Parks in 2004 to take over the park management. Together with the government and the local community, African Parks are working towards eradicating poaching and illegal fishing, creating employment for the community and improving education.
Some 3 660 km2 in extent, the flat lands of Liuwa Plain lay between Luanginga River to the west and Luambimba River to the east. Bordering the Zambezi River floodplains in the east, the park’s plains are seasonally flooded, leaving behind pans which provide water for the game when the Zambezi subsides.
When the rainy season starts around November, massive herds of wildebeest arrive from the plains of Angola and follow the rains into Liuwa Plain. Zebra mingle with the wildebeest and form the second largest migration of these animals in Africa, after the well-known Serengeti migration. Travellers should also be on the lookout for oribi, tsessebe and roan antelope, as well as predators such as wild dog, African wildcat, serval, cheetah and hyena. Several young lion have been introduced in the park and the lion population is slowly making a comeback.
The onset of the rains also brings migratory birds such as white bellied bustards, crowned and wattled cranes, sooty chats and large flocks of black winged pratincoles. There’s a total of 334 bird species found here with the Eastern Clapper Lark and Pink-Billed Lark being endemic to the area.
The park remains home to a number of tribes people who depend on its natural resources for survival; although it’s not unusual to see them fishing or grazing their cattle, African Parks is working on limiting their impact on the environment. The park provides employment for these people as game scouts, anti-poaching units and administrators. A portion of the funds raised through tourism are paid over to a Community Development Fund which funds the building of schools and health clinics.
Due to its seasonal flooding, Liuwa Plain has remained relatively pristine, and this, together with its remoteness, will attract those in search of peace and tranquility. The tarred road from Mongu to Kabalo which stretches across the Zambezi Floodplains has opened up access to the park, but visitor numbers remain small.
|Liuwa Plain National Park, Kalabo, Zambia
|P.O. Box 930094, Kalabo, Zambia
|+260(0)97 801 7372
|+260(0)96 416 8394
|Cellphone Reception :
|Subject to Seasonal Operation. :
|Open 1 April to 15 December. Closed 16 December to 31 March). Liuwa is open to visitors for most of the year (1 April to 15 December). Please note that accessing Liuwa during the dry season (June through December) requires 4x4 driving. Before June, Liuwa can only be accessed by plane. Note that the park opens only when roads are accessible after the floods have subsided so its best to call ahead to be sure. Access only from Kalabo side of the park. The park is open to visitors between 06:00 and 18:00.
|Updated for :
|Park Fees: USD20 (SADC Citizens); USD30 (Internationals); ZMW30 (Locals); USD15 per vehicle. (Updated Aug-2022).
|Payment Methods Accepted :
|Cash, Electronic Funds Transfer, Foreign Currency
|Types of Foreign Currency Accepted :
|Park Fees: USD20 (SADC Citizens); USD30 (Internationals); ZMW30 (Locals); USD15 per vehicle. (Updated Aug-2022).
|Towing Service :
|Towing Service Telephone :
|+260(0)97 801 7372 / +260(0)96 416 8394
|Lodging, Camping, Airstrip
|Accommodation (Lodge), Camping, Child Friendly, Landing Strip, Motorbikes Not Welcome
|Day Visitors Allowed :
|Frequented by Tour Groups :
|Game Viewing, Guided Walks, Bird Watching, Photography
|Game to View :
|Cheetahs. Hyenas. Lions. Eland. Tsessebe.
|Notes on Activities :
|You do your own game viewing, there are no game drive facilities here. Birding is very good, large water birds are in great numbers at the water holes. Lots of hyena dens where you could spot cubs.
The park is usually open from April to November or December, but depending on rains, this may vary. Call ahead to confirm.
While access by vehicle (off-road only) is easiest from June until November, when water levels in the rivers crisscrossing the plains are low. Note, even when the roads are dry, they remain sandy so an off-road vehicle is always required to travel this park.
Note you must have a proper offroad 4x4 to travel in this park. An all wheel drive without low range and good ground clearance will not be allowed in. Your best bet for the sandy conditions here is a proper off-road vehicle with basic recovery equipment. Prior permission must be sought if you wish to bring a trailer, caravan or campervan into the park.
From Mongu, a good tar road leads to Kalabo all the way to the Kalabo Harbour. Here you have to use a pontoon to cross the Luanginga River to reach Liuwa Plain National Park, but an off-road vehicle is required once you cross the river. In times of low rainfall you may be able to cross the river in your off-road vehicle.
The Game Management Area (GMA) on the other side is not managed by African Parks. It is very sandy on the other side of the river, and you will only reach the actual park boundary after about 45 minutes of driving.
A note about the pontoon: This vessel has a 10 ton weight limit which might well exclude large overland vehicles. Driving across the river also might not be an option if the water levels are too high. So, if you’re driving a rig that weighs 10 tons or more, before you set off for Kalabo, you should check with African Parks whether you’ll be able to ford the river.
Flying in: The park has its own airstrip inside the park, but does not offer commercial flight services. Permission to use this airstrip must be obtained in writing from African Parks.
Caravans & Trailers: Only off-road trailers and off-road caravans under 2000kg are allowed in the park. You have to get permission before hand.
Entry Fees: Entry fees and accommodation is payable by EFT before arrival, or in cash on arrival (dollars or Kwacha) in Kalabo, at the African Parks offices at the harbour, where one crosses the Luanginga river by pontoon. They’re open from 08h00 to 17h00 and can be contacted on +260 96 416 8394 or [email protected]. You will need your passport to prove citizenship if you want to qualify for SADC rates. Only cash payments are accepted. If you would like a scout to accompany you in your vehicle, this can also be arranged at the offices in Kalabo, but should be organised in advance; they will bring their own camping gear and food. Firewood may not be collected in the park, so buy some at the market in Kalabo.
Accommodation is available in the upmarket King Lewanika Lodge, in chalets at Kalabo, or in basic community campsites (with proceeds going directly to the community). The latter offer flush toilets, wood on sale, and cold water showers but no drinking water so bring your own. The exception to this is Sikale camp which only has a long drop toilet and no water at all. Take all your rubbish out with you - there’s no rubbish collection in the park. If you want to have a fire, it’s best to bring firewood with you as African Parks doesn’t allow firewood collection in the park nor the purchase thereof from the local community.
Travellers to Angola can head west from Kalabo on a gravel road towards Sikongo, where there is an immigration office, but take note that the border crossing here is only possible once the Zambezi floodplains has dried out, from around September to mid-November, and even then it’s a remote and difficult crossing.
From May/June to October it is very sunny and dry, but can be cold at night. October is usually the hottest month of the year. The first rains usually start November and December, and its usually more overcast then.
Visitors to Zambia are advised to have their own personal travel insurance. Local police, hospitals, clinics etc. cannot be relied upon.
Please note that any emergency numbers indicated on our data will be for the local police, hospital, clinic etc. and most of the times, don't work. Many tourism sites show the numbers like 999 for police, they often don’t work.
If you have a medical problem when in Zambia, Specialty Emergency Services has a Call Centre (24 hours). Phone them on 737. This company has offices in Livingstone, Lusaka and Kitwe. But they will fly anywhere to assist if visitors have the right insurance.
If you want to check your insurance, contact SES on [email protected]. (http://ses-zambia.com/).
The campsites with staff attendants, do have radios in the case of emergency.
There is no fuel station in Kalabo which is the last town you pass through to reach the park from the south. Mongu is the nearest town to Kalabo, where you can purchase fuel.
Camps are rustic and basic but very nice. Liuwa is very well run by African Parks and their website is up to date with good information. Their booking staff are also very helpful with information about the park and current conditions.
Take your own water.
Fishing in the park is only allowed by local residents of the park.
North of the park, has little or no game.
The best time to see the wildebeest migration is in November, when the first rains arrive and the plains are teeming with game, but the plains are not yet flooded.
The park does provide a road map upon entry into the park. African Parks do suggest a GPS as obligatory for navigation within the park.
There are tribal communities living in the park, they fish and tend to their animals in the park.
The Liuwa Plain National Park headquarters / African Parks offices, are in Kalabo. (2019). This means you are not allowed into the park coming from the north, but you can exit that way.
The road from Mongu to Kalabo is a brand new tar road and it takes about 45min to get to Kalabo. Be ready for very deep sand driving from Kalabo onwards to the park. As soon as you cross the pontoon at Kalabo you are in thick sand. So be sure to take enough fuel. Lukulu would have diesel, but don't count it. Mongu will always be stocked. There is also a very well stocked Shoprite in Mongu.
Northern parts of the park: To access the park from the north you would also need to cross at the Lukulu pontoon and hope its working. The river crossings up north all depend on the time of the year so it would be best to ask the park staff closer to the time. During July it could go either way. The rains start in October/November so September and October it is definitely possible.
SHOPS & SERVICES:
You will only find basic supplies in Kalabo (eg. Tomatoes, onions etc), as well as a bakery. But you cannot depend on this. There is no fuel here.
The nearby town of Mongu is well stocked up. There is a well stocked Shoprite, bakeries, butcheries and stores selling camping, hardware and automotive supplies. There is also an ATM.
The park is sometimes frequented by large tour groups, mostly from September to December.
Spend around 3 nights in this park.
African Parks can assist with vehicle recovery or towing in case of emergency (US$200 or more), but be sure that you take their phone number, and have a satellite phone to contact them. The community campgrounds have access to radios for emergencies. Within the park there is no cell phone reception; this said, while on a game drive you might experience the occasional SMS coming through.
“The pontoon has a ten tonne limit. So we could not use it and the river was to deep to ford :-(” - DavidQ , 2020/01/27
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