Kafue National Park Destination Guide
If a trip into the wilds and a dash of adventure is what you're looking for, Kafue National Park in Zambia could be your ideal holiday destination. Approximately the size of Wales, the Kafue National Park is the largest of Zambia's famed wilderness parks, though it has hitherto attracted fewer safaris than the better known South Luangwa or Lower Zambezi.
Situated in a sprawling plateau criss-crossed by rivers, the region is a fascinating mosaic of ecosystems and offers a vastly different experience of the wilderness from the other parks.
To help you organise which of the things to see and do in Kafue National Park should be first on your list, we have created the Kafue National Park Destination Guide below. Use it as a guide to book your tour in Kafue National Park so as to make the most on your holiday in the park. Our Zambia Country Guide is here to enhance your knowledge of the country before heading there for a visit.
Things to see and do in Kafue National Park
Kafue is now more easily accessible with the introduction of daily air charters. Many of your encounters with the wild will remain happy memories, thanks to the experience and in-depth knowledge of the locals who escort visitors around the park in various capacities. On a boat trip down the Lufupa or Kafue rivers, for example, the very savvy skipper will make your day when he throws out a fish on to the water just yards from the boat and entices a wild Fish Eagle into swooping down on the catch. Early morning, late afternoon or early evening is the perfect time to go on a game viewing drive in Kafue National Park. Here too, the spotters and drivers, with their intimate knowledge of wild animals and their habitat, make all the difference. If you're an urban, supermarket explorer, try some fishing and see what it's like to have your own catch served up for a meal!
Follow the links below or scroll further down the page for details on some of the many tourist attractions in Kafue National Park:
The rivers and dambos, or grass pans, are perfect for bird watching. The park is home to over 400 species of birds, some significant species being the purple-crested loerie, wattled crane and Pel's fishing owl.
For those with a passion for angling, the Kafue and Lunga Rivers offer abundant riches, particularly bream, barbel and freshwater pike.
A wide range of safaris are available at these camps - walking and hunting safaris, horseback safaris, safaris on canoe and motorized boats. There are also ‘participatory' safaris, where everyone pitches in and helps with setting up camps, cooking and other tasks. Some of the parks have only the most basic infrastructure; it would be unwise to tackle these without a local guide.
The dry season, from May to October, is an excellent period to view wildlife in all its variety. With the vegetation reduced considerably, animals tend to congregate around watering holes. On the other hand, the rainy season has its own charm. In November and December, the bird population goes up dramatically; also, the landscape, thanks to abundant showers, is transformed spectacularly into a verdant paradise. In the wet season, some areas of the park may become inaccessible; during the rest of the year, it can be reached by car and plane.
Wilderness Safaris runs the four main camps on the Busanga Plains, all of them at the northern edge of Kafue National Park. While the safaris they conduct are more or less similar, the camps do differ considerably in the amenities and comfort levels they provide.
The Itezhi Tezhi Dam, extending across 370 sq km, is to the south of Kafue. You could call it an inland sea, partly surrounded by grasslands where herds of hippos graze. Fish eagles, spoonbills, cormorants, goliath herons and other water birds inhabit the rocky coves and the partially submerged trees that provide convenient perches. You can spot elephant, buffalo, wildebeest and zebra at the dam. Itezhi is a fisherman's paradise and hosts an annual fishing competition.
The diverse landscapes of the park support an incredible variety of species besides the big game animals and their predators. Apart from hippos, crocodiles and water monitors can also be spotted in large numbers in the Kafue River. Other animals to look out for are common duiker, the shy yellow-backed duiker, grysbok, kudu, serval, hyena, baboon, vervet monkey, porcupine, genet and several species of mongoose.
The vastness of the Kafue National Park includes diverse landscapes of stunning beauty and an abundance of wildlife. To the north is the 750 km expanse of the Busanga Plains, stretching out in all directions. It is among Zambia's most important wetlands and one of the few genuine wildernesses in the world, never having been subjected to any form of development or human interference. During the rainy season, the Busanga is transformed into a watery network of rivers and channels that empty out into the Lufupa River, a tributary of the Kafue River. The flooding peaks between March and May. When the dry season sets in and the flood waters begin to recede, it is possible to see herds of hippo wallowing in the shallow ponds left behind. An awesome sight for visitors to Kafue National Park is the thousands of red lechwe, a species of antelope, which graze the verdant grasslands. After becoming virtually extinct in this region, there has been a phenomenal resurgence in their numbers during the past 50 years, thanks to the setting up of the park. In the rainy season, they can be seen splashing about in the shallow pools. If you're lucky, you may even get to experience the rare sight of lions chasing the lechwe through half-meter deep water.
Other antelope species that can be spotted easily here are the blue wildebeest and Lichtenstein's hartebeest, large herds of sable, and roan antelope in the northern section. More easy-to-spot herbivores include buffalo, reedbuck, oribi, impala and puku. There are bushpigs and warthogs; also, the reclusive sitatunga which dwells in swamps, its hooves adapted to walking on reedmats floating on the marshy stretches of the plains.
And then there are the predators. Kafue is home to the cheetah, the only park in Zambia where this big cat can be seen. What's more, these plains offer some of Africa's best lion sightings. The park is home to the endangered African wild dog; on a night drive in the Lufupa area, you have a fairly good chance of seeing a leopard. Virtually all of Africa's big game species are present in the Kafue, with the exception of the giraffe.
Apart from game, 490 species of birds inhabit the Kafue including endemic species like the Chaplin's Barbet.
Special features of the plains are the bumpy termite mounds scattered all over. Also, look out for teak forests and plenty of the interestingly shaped ‘candelabra' tree. Often, you will come across clumps of large boulders, their black colour giving them the appearance of an elephant herd. Large areas of the park are covered by ‘miombo' woodland that opens out into dambos or grasslands.