Being privileged to be based in the centre of the Namib we got spoiled by having a large variety of ‘off-road’ ‘destinations close by. Recently I ventured outside my ‘comfort zone’ exploring the Western side of Zambia joining up with Andre van Vuuren of Explore Africa on route to Luiwa Plains in the South Western side of Zambia.
The fact that the new border post at Singalamwe in the Caprivi Strip near Kongola (Kwando River) opened up new possibilities of ‘off the beaten track’ routes triggered my interest in this area.
Zambia is amazing in many ways. The people speak good English; they all wave and greet you with really big smiles. Of alarm however is the de-forestation taking place on a huge scale (due a very active charcoal trade and the use of very exotic wood (Teak & Rosewood) for general construction and woodworking (furniture, curios etc). The Chinese have arrived big time and a very active construction of new roads in this remote areas is.
Travelling to Katima Mulilo via the Caprivi Strip (recently the name has changed to the Zambezi Province of Namibia) once again enforced my appreciation of this area as a destination. Various lodges and campsites in this area make it possible to embark on a very comfortable trip into this area and to experience a diversity of wildlife equal to that found in neighbouring Botswana but in a much quieter and less congested area. Typically the Khaudom, Mamili and the Horshoe bend amongst others come to mind. Being as it may we had to just pass this on our way – destination Zambia.
After stocking up with supplies in Katima we crossed the border at Katima Mulilo and were pleasantly surprised with the new border post on the Zambian side, we were ushered through quite effectively in a nice air conditioned environment. The next surprise was the tar road that was constructed between the border up to Ngonye falls. The first night we camped at Kabula Tiger Lodge on the banks of the stunningly wide & beautiful Zambezi River. Still going north we continued upon a sandy road into the plains along the edge of the Barotse plains towards Kalabo, on what we called the ‘Mango route’. At Kalabo we crossed the river just 12 km short of the Luiwa park on a 2-car hand drawn ferry. Having crossed the river you are in deep sand and the going is quite slow – this is what we came for!
The Liuwa Plains National Park is one of Zambia’s wildest wilderness areas. It is situated in Barotseland on the Upper Zambezi Flood Plains, covering an area of 3660 km² of vast grassland and wooded islands. There are 3 campsites neatly tucked into the edge of the woodland ‘islands’ in the vast grassy plains.
Blue wildebeest cover the horizon, stretching as far as the eye can see. It is early November in the Liuwa Plains National Park and the herds
have gathered en masse on the southern plains. This spectacular sight is the culmination of Africa’s second largest wildebeest migration. The wildebeest begin their journey some 200km away in Angola before eventually emerging from the woodland and gathering in the northwest regions of Liuwa Plains during the early part of the dry season. Tessebe, zebra, lechwe, oribi, lion and hyena accountant for the rest of our sightings with Luiwa also offering amazing bird-life, Crowned & Wattled Cranes, Vultures and much more. It is really big, open & beautiful. We spent three nights in the park and then sadly it was time to turn for home.
This remote and vast wilderness areas is truly unique and untouched. Imagine taking the Mara and Serengeti, combining them with the Okavango Delta, and then evacuating all the tourists… an ‘off the beaten track’ that will leave you in awe.