Kafue National Park is the largest single protected area in Zambia and the second largest in Africa. Covering an area of about 22,400 km2, the park was first designated as a reserve in 1924 and declared a National Park in the 1950s, but unlike many tourist destinations, Kafue is still largely untouched and unvisited, a pristine wilderness with breath-taking landscapes, wonderful wildlife viewing opportunities and a diversity of bird-life.
The permanently flowing Kafue river runs roughly north-south through the length of the park and exits in the south-eastern side where it is dammed by the Itezhi-Tezhi Dam. The flooded river fringes support a variety of habitats and wildlife.
The parks covers a range of habitats, from savannah grasslands to open Miombo scrub and woodland, with dambos (grasslands which become marshy in the rainy season) interspersed among them. In the extreme northwest of the park, the wet Busanga Swamps – with their adjacent floodplains – are a designated Ramsar site. While much of this northern sector is permanently waterlogged, the dry season (from May to November) becomes increasingly productive, as large herbivores are attracted to rich feeding grounds on the Busanga Plains. Lions here are known for their tree-climbing habits. Cheetah sightings can be good and the wild dog population is thriving but they’re only occasionally seen. Leopards are prevalent in the forested areas.
In the south there are stony hills and rocky outcrops where Mopane woodland takes over, adapted to hotter drier conditions. A fringe of riverine forest lines the banks of the Kafue River, which has been controversially dammed just outside the park at Itezhi-Tezhi Dam, forming a 370 km2 reservoir within the park. Patches of Baikiaea (teak) and Cryptosepalum evergreen forest occur in the south and west.
In the inaccessible northern reaches of the Park, seasonally flooded grasslands provides an abundance of wildlife, with prolific birdlife and supporting large herds of herbivores, including lechwe, sitatunga, oribi, tsessebe, hartebeest, zebra and buffalo, and predators typical of the region, including lion, leopard and cheetah as well as the endangered African wild dog.
The area is noted for its diverse birdlife, with an amazing total of nearly 500 species being recorded, including the rare wattled crane and black-cheeked lovebird.
The Kafue and Lunga Rivers offer superb fishing opportunities, especially good bream, barbel and fresh water pike, and an annual competition is held on Lake Itezhi-Tezhi in September.
The main east-west road from Lusaka to Mongu crosses the northern half of the park. Seasonal dirt roads also link from Kalomo and Namwala in the south and south-east, and Kasempa in the north.
Interested in discovering Kafue with The Mobile Safari Company? See our suggested Kafue Explorer Safari itinerary page for more information.
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