Zambia expedition: a wildlife paradise in magical landscapes

‘The adventure of a lifetime’ is how Margot Glyn describes their Zambia expedition. With visits to Liuwa Plain and Kasanka national parks, it was a feast of game viewing and natural beauty.

Visiting Zambia had long been a treasured dream for Margot and Patrick Glyn. It was with this in mind that they bought the Tracks4Africa Zambia Self-Drive Guide last year. They were intending to plan their own overlanding trip to the country, but soon had an even better prospect. They won the chance to join a 14-day Zambia Migrations Expedition, courtesy of Tracks4Africa and Ultimate Adventures.

Margot gives us an inside look on what they experienced in Zambia on their November 2021 trip.

What was it like going on expedition?

We met Simon Steadman of Ultimate Adventures at the spanking new Kazungula one-stop border facility between Botswana and Zambia. Simon and his wife, Des, guided our group through all the border procedures. They knew exactly where to take a ‘temperamental’ fridge and gave us a delicious meal after a long day’s gruelling drive. This set the tone for the rest of the trip: Simon and Des were expert in their leadership. It was a comfort knowing they could also help with vehicle recovery, every overlander’s nightmare. Best of all, they gave us a nightly briefing of what to expect the next day. This included a list of what birds to look for to add to our Lifer’s List. In short, we had the privilege of being able to enjoy ourselves without the usual worries of a self-drive trip.

The gateway to adventure! Crossing the newly finished Kazungula Bridge to reach Zambia was exciting. Pictures by Margot and Patrick Glyn unless otherwise indicated
The trip getting underway. The Tracks4Africa Zambia Guide explained what documentation to have ready.

Where did the trip take you?

The main thrust of our trip was to visit Liuwa Plain National Park. It is not only home to the second biggest wildebeest migration in the world, but also birdlife second to none. The landscapes are astoundingly beautiful. We also visited Kasanka National Park, found on the edge of the Bangweulu Basin. It is one of Zambia’s smallest national parks and famous for the largest mammal migration in the world. From October to December every year, millions of straw-coloured fruit bats take to the skies here.

The bosberaad: the daily briefing of what to expect on expedition the next day.

Also read: Explore the best of Zambia

Could you put your Tracks4Africa Zambia Self-Drive Guide to use?

In preparation for the expedition, the Zambia Self-Drive Guide gave us all the practical pre-trip information we required. It covers things like vaccinations; how to communicate in remote areas; and who to contact in an emergency. Along with an ideal packing list of food and clothes, the guide deals with all the aspects of vehicle preparation. Knowing this information gave us advance peace of mind and confidence.

The new transit routes, which unpack the driving conditions between major destinations, are a valuable inclusion in the guide. To reach our destination, we would have a long, mostly stressful day of eight to nine hours on the road. Any overlander would feel comfort in the information provided on these transit routes in the guide. Whether to expect potholes and trucks; the distances between places; and where to shop and stay the night. It’s all visually easy to follow and well laid-out for easy navigation.

Driving in Liuwa Plain National Park. Picture by Desiree Steadman
A roadside shop in Zambia.

What was your impression of the Liuwa Plains?

Because of its remoteness, west of the Zambezi Plains and close to the border of Angola, there are few visitors to the park. That’s compounded by the fact that these plains are totally flooded during December to April. Anyone wanting to visit would have to fly in to one of the lodges. However, we were there in November after the first rains which gave birth to a magical land. Picture shimmering water and vibrant colours with an intensity not seen anywhere else. We found ourselves in a type of dreamlike unreality. You can explore all day and see few people but rather an abundance of rare birds and animals. For us it was a feast for the eyes and soul and a memory we will never forget.

Lush and vibrant, the magical landscapes of Liuwa. Picture by Desiree Steadman
The park is home to the second biggest migration of wildebeest in Africa. Picture by Desiree Steadman
The road less travelled in Liuwa. It was possible to drive all day without seeing many other visitors.
Beautiful grey crowned cranes against the equally beautiful backdrop of Liuwa. Picture by Desiree Steadman

What did you experience in Kasanka?

This park is host to a miracle of another kind. Close to 10 million straw-coloured fruit bats migrate from central Africa to a small patch of mushitu (evergreen swamp forest) in Kasanka. They roost during the day and leave to feed during the night on the fruit of the masuku (wild loquat), waterberry and mango trees. This incredible phenomenon is therefore best observed at dawn or dusk when the bats leave the forest and when they return.

At dawn and dusk you can see millions of bats cloud the sky.

Also read: Kasanka – a magical migration moment

We had the privilege to view them from three hides which each gave us a different perspective. Firstly, there’s the community hide, with free entrance. The Musola Hide is named after the Musola River and was previously known as the Japanese Hide. Then there’s the Ultimate Adventures Hide, sponsored by Ultimate Adventures and officially opened during our visit. Kasanka is jointly run by the National Parks of Zambia and a private Kasanka Trust. They have the common aim of preserving the forest for future generations of bats. The variety of topography, the many rivers and nine permanent lakes result in plentiful animals (114 species) and over 300 birds. It’s a true wildlife paradise. Among the rare sightings are Kinda baboon, blue monkey, puku and sitatunga.

Opening of the Ultimate Adventures Hide, with James Mwanza, General Manager of Kasanka National Park, and Ultimate Adventures’ Desiree Steadman.

Would you recommend a trip to Zambia?

We will never forget our trip to two exquisite remote areas to witness these miracles of nature. Our trusty guides were Tracks4Africa and Ultimate Adventures, both contributing to this indelible adventure of a lifetime.

Main image of wildebeest by Desiree Steadman.

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