Kafue is a sprawling wilderness that includes both woodlands and open grasslands. It is Zambia's oldest and largest national park. The park consists of a vast, undulating plateau, with some hills along the mid-reaches of the Kafue River. It is one of Africa's hidden gems as far as authentic safari areas are concerned.Need Advice?
The park is well known for its predators, particularly the leopard. Unique antelope species like puku, red lechwe, and Lichtenstein's hartebeest occur in abundance.
The Kafue River and its floodplain are particularly well-known for their rich birdlife, with over 450 species occurring. Busanga Plains, part of Kafue, is a vast floodplain fed by the Lufupa River. When the floodwaters recede, tiny grass shoots attract vast herds of zebra, wildebeest, and other antelope.
Standing in a queue of cars to get a better view of wildlife that has been spotted could be better. You can rest assured that, in Kafue, this will never happen. It is one of the few places where the untouched natural beauty of Mother Earth can still be experienced and appreciated. Here you can revel in the wild solitude and reconnect with nature.
Although artificial, Itezhi-Tezhi Lake is one of the most striking features of the Kafue landscape. Stretching over 340 km2, it is almost the same size as the Island of Grenada. It's beautiful beyond compare and even more striking because even this vast lake seems to disappear in the sheer vastness of the 22 400 km² conservation area.
More than 450 bird species fly around in Kafue, so remember to pack your binoculars - you will only be putting them down sometimes! Pel's fishing owl, bee-eaters, kingfishers, African fin-foot, Goliath herons, wattled cranes, hornbills, vultures, eagles, and many more live and breed in the Zambian wetlands.
When exploring Zambia's Kafue National Park, you'll undoubtedly savor the low visitor density and the prolific animal population. The immense herds and the predators that trail them will take your breath away.
Guests are met on arrival at O R Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg and assisted with transferring to an international flight to Lusaka. From Lusaka, guests connect to a light aircraft to Kafue National Park in north-western Zambia. A camp ranger will drive you to camp from the resident airport in a 4X4 vehicle.
The weather plays an integral park to visiting Kafue, as during the wetter summer season from November to April the plains are flooded, which makes a large part of the park inaccessible. The wet season does, however, transform the area, and its lush greenery is rather spectacular to see. Luckily there are camps that do stay open all year round.The best time to visit would be during the dry season from June to October, when most of the park is accessible. The park is fairly large and the climate varies from area to area, and as such some parts of the park do go below zero degrees in the winter. The dry season is also the best time for game viewing and boat cruises are available throughout the year as well.
It was established as a reserve in 1924 to protect the natural environment and animals. In April 1950, the status of the reserve was upgraded to a national park by the Governor of Northern Rhodesia. In the 1950s, the authorities started the development of this park.
The untamed wilderness needed some infrastructure to provide tourists with access to the area's natural wealth. Thus, the massive undertaking of surveying the boundaries and roads and clearing sites for camps got underway. Authorities built airstrips and camps. After consultation with chiefs, the relocation of villagers out of the national park ended in the 1960s. With permits, the villagers were then allowed to fish during certain times of the year, harvest wood for fire and building material, pick fruit for sustenance, and gather salt from the salt pans.
Kafue contains four of the Big Five, excluding the rhinoceros. Leopard sightings in forested areas are such common occurrence visitors are guaranteed to spot this highly elusive predator. Large prides of lions of up to 20 strong move throughout the reserve, and cheetahs are plentiful, especially in the north. Kafue is also a stronghold for the endangered African wild dog. Although wild dogs are never easy to spot, Kafue provides ample opportunity to see them because this park has the world's largest population.
Elephants are abundant. The Kafue River and its tributaries contain large pods of hippos and some of the largest crocodiles in Southern Africa. You will encounter large herds of puku and red lechwe. Rare and elusive species like blue and yellow-backed duiker, sitatunga, roan, and sable are almost commonplace. Other mammals include pangolin, aardvark, bush baby, honey badger, and much more. It is a birder's paradise, with an impressive 491 species documented, including the endemic Chaplin's barbet.
Kafue is both the oldest and biggest national park in Zambia. The area is predominantly covered by Miombo woodland, grassland, and shrubland, although wooden grasslands, riparian forests, and acacia woodland areas occur. Northern Kafue is known as the Busanga Plains: a rolling plateau of miombo woodland, mopane woodland, and grassy dambos (shallow wetlands) in some areas. The area is veined by many tributaries of the Kafue River, which in turn create corridors of hardwood riverine forests which can only be navigated by traditional mokoro boats (dugout canoes) in the rainy seasons.
The park includes various wetlands, such as the Busanga Swamps in the far north-western region, the Kafue Flats, Lukanga, and Lushwishi Swamps, listed as wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. These lush areas and the variety of ecosystem types are critical to the animals they support. Sycamore figs and baobab trees are some of the most prominent and also culturally significant in the area.
A variety of safari opportunities are available in the park. Birding safaris are a prevalent activity in Kafue, and specialist birding drives accompanied by expert game rangers are available. Day and night drives in 4x4 vehicles are an excellent way to view larger animals and cover more ground. Walking safaris mean guests can experience the terrain more hands-only. During the rainy season, safaris on the Kafue River using mokoros are an exciting and unique way to explore the surroundings.
At certain times of the year, hot air ballooning is available in the park, offering a breathtaking aerial view of the grasslands, wetlands, and larger animals roaming the rolling plains. Additionally, it makes for spectacular sunrises and sunsets across the vast expanse of this African safari area and is an excellent opportunity for photographers and cinematographers to film the landscape. Fishing is also allowed in the park, and pike and barbells are regularly caught off the banks of the Kafue River and her estuaries. At night, it's best to be on your back, looking at the stars that seem to dominate the landscape from a million miles away.