Lioness and cub, Kafue NP, Zambia

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Kafue National Park


Covering more than 22,500 sq km (8687 sq mi), this is the largest park in Zambia and one of the biggest in the world. With terrain ranging from the lush riverine forest of the Kafue River to the vast grassland of the Busanga Plains, the park rewards wildlife enthusiasts with glimpses of various carnivores and their nimble prey. This is the only major park in Zambia that’s easily accessible by public transport, with a handful of camps just off the highway.

Kafue is classic wildlife country. Staying a few days here will allow you to explore different habitats and to experience the great diversity of wildlife that this beautiful park has to offer. The main road between Lusaka and Mongu runs through the park, which divides it into northern and southern sectors.

In the northern sector, the Kafue River and its main tributaries – the Lufupa and Lunga – are fantastic for boat rides to see hippos in great grunting profusion, as well as crocodiles. This area is one of the best places in Zambia (maybe even in Africa) to see leopards – they are regularly spotted on night drives.

To the far north is Kafue’s top highlight, the Busanga Plains, a vast tract of Serengeti-style grassland (note that this area is accessible only between mid-July and November.) Attracted by rich pickings, lions (which climb the local sycamore figs to keep cool and away from the flies, and swim through deep pools in the swamps during the wet season) and hyenas are plentiful, and during the dry season there are buffaloes, zebras and wildebeest herds. Cheetahs are also around, as well as wild dogs.

In the southern sector of the park, the vegetation is more dense, and early in the season the grass is very high, making animals harder to locate, although the thick woodland around Ngoma is the best place to see elephants. Lake Itezhi-Tezhi, a vast expanse of water, is both tranquil and beautiful. In the far south, the Nanzhila Plains support an abundance of red lechwe among other antelope species. Large buffalo herds are sometimes seen, and there are lions and leopards to see. The southern sector is less visited (not that the north is crowded); you’re unlikely to see another vehicle all day.

For birdlovers, Kafue is a dream; the wide range of habitats means that over 500 species have been recorded.

There are several gates, but the main ones are: Nalusanga Gate, along the eastern boundary, for the northern sector; Dundumwezi for the southern sector if coming from Livingstone or Choma; Kabanga Gate if visiting the north and Tateyoyo Gate for either sector if you’re coming from the west.