I am just back from Liuwa — and it was always fantastic. This is a place with extraordinary allure. This whole area is part of the Zambezi catchment and is flooded from late December to early May. During these flood months the 100 metre wide Zambezi becomes a 40 km wide stretch of water, swamp, reeds and islands. What a sight to fly over.
We were the first into the camp this year and met up with Robin Pope and his team who had set up at Matamenene Camp. It takes two hours to fly from Lusaka to Kalabo and from there it is a two hour drive (often in deep water) to the camp. Robin Pope himself was guiding our trip and what a pleasure it was to be in his excellent company along with his assistant Jason Alfonse (an outstanding guide himself) the six other photographers who were joining me on this trip. The plain is flat – horizon to horizon and under the vast skies run 30,000 blue wildebeest along with zebra, red lechwe, oribi, eland, buffalo and others. These antelope are prey to many hyena, some wild dog and a few cheetah. One of the most interesting things about the plains is the vegetation. Much of the ground is flooded annually and this gives rise to a stunted form of tree called suffrotex. Look closely at the stunted trees and you will notice that it contains many of the indiginous larger trees that occur in the region. “We are actually driving over a forest,” Robin told us.
The birds of Liuwa are great in May. The congregate in large feeding parties on the shrinking pans and include a varieties of waders, storks, terns and others. Waves of red winged pranticoles, crowned cranes, wattled cranes and many others
Liuwa is also famed for Lady Liuwa — a single lioness who was found here quite on her own and is the subject of the film “the last lioness”. She has since been joined by two males from Kafue National Park. But after two years and no offspring the sad reality is that the link to the Liuwa lion pool may now be severed. Two young females have been introduced. Lady Liuwa is still top lion here in the view of the males and the three spent much of their time around our camp — and one of the males gave us a startling mock charge at the fire one morning. Everyone spilled their coffee!
We spent almost the entire day out in the field in the company of these two great guides and the remarkable denizens of this plain. African Parks have taken on the administration of the reserve and are doing a great job on law enforcement, reintroduction of species and its great to see how the numbers of wildebeest have grown. African Parks manage Liuwa alongside Zambian Wildlife Authorities and they said that numbers of wildebeest are increasing at up to 25 % per annum. Unlike East Africa’s great migration the one at Liuwa is enjoyed in isolation. Aside from our group and the team doing research here we did not see another person for five wonderful days.