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Kafue National Park 2
Kafue National Park 1

Kafue National Park

The largest national park in Zambia, Kafue is a luxurious safari destination that covers an expanse of 22,400 km2, stretching over the southern, central, and northwestern provinces. Furthermore, the park’s diverse topography, which includes miombo woodlands, rocky outcrops, stony hills, mope woodlands, evergreen forest and the flooded grasslands, provides habitats to diverse wildlife species, including a wide variety of birds.

The ever-popular Busanga Plains, containing flooded grasslands, are a place where wildlife, both predators and herbivores, gather. At the time that the game reserve was established, it was named after the Kafue River, which flows throughout the park. The river is a significant and popular attraction.

To understand the origins of Kafue National Park, let’s take a brief look at the park’s history.

The‌ ‌History‌ ‌of‌ Kafue National Park

  • 1924: To regulate the decreasing wildlife within the region, the Kafue Game Reserve was established for wildlife conservation. Despite the reason for its establishment, no plans were made to achieve these conservation goals.
  • 1945: Chief Kasonso and the district commissioner of Kasempa met, and came to an agreement that led to the Kasonso and Busanga villages moving out of the reserve.
  • 1948: Several proposals for turning the game reserve into a national park were discussed. The proposals didn’t just include the Kafue Game Reserve, but also the Cordon Conservatory area.
  • 1949: After consulting with several provincial administrators and district commissioners, the boundaries for the proposed national park were adjusted. The proposed park area included both the Kafue Game Reserve and the southern section of the Cordon Controlled Area.
  • 1950: The governor of northern Rhodesia announced the establishment of Kafue National Park on the 20th of April 1950.
  • 1954-1960: Between these years, people from all of the villages within the park moved to areas outside of the park. Amongst them were the people of Chief Kaingu of Kantinti, Chief Kasonso of Kusagan Plain, and Chief Kabulwebulwe of Katobo.
  • 1963: This year marked the arrival of two white rhinos to the park. The male and female white rhinos were a Christmas gift from Umfolozi Game Reserve’s John Spicer.
  • 1972: After two decades, on the 25th of February, Kafue National Park, along with 17 other national parks, were officially gazetted, followed by a motion passed by the national assembly on 23rd November 1991.
  • 1991: To improve the Kafue National Park’s administration, the park’s command was divided into two, with the north command located at Ngoma and the south command located at Chunga.

Wildlife in Kafue National Park

Kafue National Park is well-known for its vast array of mammals and birds, including several rare species. Large herds of elephants, Cookson’s wildebeest, and Lichtenstein’s hartebeest can all be spotted within the park.

Kafue has an extensive range of antelope species, including large herds of bushbuck, Defassa waterbuck, duiker, grysbok, kudu, and reedbuck. Most of these antelope are hunted by the lions spread throughout the park. Other predatory species include African wild dog, leopard, spotted hyena and cheetah, all of which are rarely sighted.

The Kafue river is home to both the hippopotamus, and large crocodiles. An iconic birding destination, the park has more than 480 bird species, living in diverse habitats such as floodplains, miombo woodlands, wetlands, and rivers.

African finfoot, brown-headed Apalis, collared palm-thrush, grey-tit flycatcher, miombo rock thrush, Pel’s fishing owl, and the wattled crane are some of the bird species that can be spotted in the park. Chaplin’s barbet, which can also be found in Kafue, is an elusive bird species found only in Zambia. The black-cheeked lovebird is another sought-after species among bird-watchers, however, this bird is found in neighbouring countries as well.

Kafue National Park Premier Attractions

✔     Kafue River

The river itself is a remarkable sight, surrounded by riverine forest, and flowing throughout the park, reaching sections that have been isolated by islands. Crocodiles and hippos are often seen basking in the sunlight on the banks of Kafue. During the dry season, the river is one of the major water sources that animals congregate around, and is an excellent spot to watch wildlife.

✔     Busanga Plains

Located in the northern section of the park, the Busanga Plains are well-known. These floodplains allow visitors to experience beautiful scenery, including incredible sunrises and sunsets. Although flooded during the wet season, making visiting the area impossible, the Busagna Plains dry up in the dry season, attracting animals and birds alike, making it easier for visitors to spot them.

When to Visit Kafue National Park

The best time to visit Kafue National Park is during the dry season, a time when the vegetation around the water sources has dried out, and animals congregate around waterholes, making it easier to spot them.

Avid bird watchers should consider visiting the park from November to April, as the wet season marks the arrival of several migratory bird species to the area.

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