It's Monday 30th June 2008 and the Liuwa Plains Recce
Exciting news – we are going to start safaris to Liuwa Plains in the far west of Zambia again. I have been itching to tell you this story but have had to wait as we put the pieces of the new safaris together. Many of you will remember that we led safaris to the Liuwa Plains in the ‘90s. We loved these wild and adventurous trips. We drove our full mobile unit (5 tons) to the banks of the Zambezi and then on into the Luiwa Plains (a 1400 km trip!). Often a great adventure but as one guest put it after a rather tricky day with a pontoon breaking down, the truck getting horribly stuck, being misdirected by a villager so he could get home – “can we have a little more safari and a little less adventure”. That was a memorable day.
Robin has always had a hankering to get back but due to various reasons we did not feel the time was right until now. So after I returned from my travels (Kenya and South Africa – yes those knees are doing well!) we flew off to take a look to see what the Liuwa Plains was like in May. We had no idea and had low expectations.
It was a fabulous flight (2-3 hours). The first half of the flight was miles and miles of the Kafue flood plains. Water, reeds, channels - almost an hour and not a single village. Then miles of sand veld with woodland and dambos (dull in comparison). But again – hardly a village in sight. As we flew over the beautiful watery flood plains of the Zambezi and towards Kalabo we were very excited. Landing to pick up Craig, our host from African Parks, we then flew over the plains for an hour. We saw lots of wildebeest and got a real feel of how utterly flat and vast the plain is.
We had been told that we were joining a journalist who turned out to be Peter Ryan, the co author of the much treasured book “Birds of Africa”. Great guy with encyclopaedic knowledge of anything that flies. What a bonus. We drove through Kalabo which has a very appealing feel. It is very remote, cut off by road for months, water everywhere and yet it has a feel of an interesting culture with a level of cultural sophistication that you do not see in many rural areas. I would love to spend a morning just sitting and watching life pass by along the river harbour. Naturally we did have to wait for a while as the pontoon had broken down and the engine had to be swopped. So nothing much had changed in ten years!
We stayed at the only camp there is – operated by African Parks. With large tents, functional bathroom and good wholesome cooking it was simple and welcoming. There is, however, a fellow inhabitant who made life interesting. There used to be a healthy population of lions in the park ten years ago but sadly, they have been shot out bar one. The last remaining lioness has decided the safest place to live is the camp – quite right too. But she is wild and there is a lot of skirting around trying to avoid her. She sleeps on one the verandas of the tents and apparently you can hear her gently snoring away in the night.
The plains were wonderful. There were many pools with carpets of lilies and flocks of multi species of water birds. The wildebeest were still in situ before their migration over to the Angolan border. The hyena were as curious as ever, the oribi leapt around in the thin grass and the steinbuck bounded as we drove past. But the birds were simply spectacular from the flocks of many hundreds of pratincole to the dancing crowned crane, along with the majestic wattled cranes who were scattered throughout the animals. Magical.
So we have decided – yes – we will run safaris into the Liuwa again. Robin and a small team will be based there for the periods early December 2008, and again May to mid June 2009. We will fly the guests in from Lusaka for a 5 night safari. For further details take a look at the website...
Great to be back in touch with you after so long…..and thank you to everyone who sent their best wishes when I was in the UK replacing the knees!
All the best for a wonderful week.
PS - a Liuwa Plains update after a number of questions –
- Lioness - the lonely Liuwa lioness will be joined soon by two strapping young lions who are being translocated in order to start up a new population. And hopefully there will be more next year.
- Numbers on safaris – min 4, max 6 if not a private group, max 8 if a private group.
- Robin will be leading the safaris.