Discover how Liuwa Plains in Zambia is setting new standards for 'Sustainable Tourism'

Sustainable Travel Zambia - Luiwa Plains - flooding lilies - copyright Noeline Tredoux.jpg

When one talks about sustainable travel achieving a low impact on a national park or area of natural importance, one park that defines this is the Liuwa Plains in the far western side of Zambia. Roughly the size of Wales, the park has only one tourism lodge within it which caters for a maximum of 12 guests in an area spanning 3660sq.kilometres.

The lodge within the Liuwa Plains National Park has been built with an emphasis on having a low impact on the surrounding environment as well as a reduced carbon footprint. It only has a few additional small campsites. The only other addition to the human population in the park is the small number of traditional villages, where the local people live off fishing from the dambos.

African Parks have taken over it's management and are working hand in hand with the Zambian National Parks Department. They are also working with conservation organisations and Governments to support the Plains, to help reverse any negative impacts made on the park in the past, with an emphasis to restoring the wildlife back to its former glory.

It is pleasing to note that all of the effort is having a very positive effect and the park has an abundance of wildlife today already.  

  • Sustainable Travel Zambia - Luiwa Plains - Norman Carr Safaris_Innocent Tembo  - Cheetah.jpg

The long-term positive change that has already been achieved within the past few years is wonderful. On my recent visit to Zambia, I was enthused by the great herds of wildebeest, and cheetah numbers rising, whilst the recent reintroduction of a new male lion (from Kafue) will hopefully bring more genetic variation into the pride. The two younger sister females are in their prime and looked in exceptionally good condition.

African Parks is applying effective management plans so that local communities and tourism will benefit, as well as the wildlife itself. It is important to balance the environmental measures, future sustainability of the plains and the wellbeing of the local communities within and surrounding Luiwa.

To date the conservation strategies and management plans are minimising any negatives and are making plenty of positive changes. The increasing numbers of wildlife is adding value and this all works together to maintain the cultural honour of the local people through increased tourism and rejuvenation of the landscape. Sustainable tourism in action!

  • Sustainable Travel Zambia - Luiwa Plains -  Will Burrard-Lucas_Norman Carr Safaris - Lion.jpg

The increased flights to nearby Kalabo this year will bring further benefits to the town and increased wildlife in the park benefits tourism. This in turn creates employment for local people in the park, be it focused on anti-poaching, working in camps and even sales of local crafts, just as they have in Kalabo right now.

Visitors have plenty to see here - Luiwa is simply wonderful! With 330 recorded bird species and 23,000 wildebeest annually migrating through it, this park is for purists who are looking for the unusual and for space almost beyond comprehension.

  • Sustainable travel Zambia - Liuwa Plains - grey crowned crane.jpg

When the annual flooding arrives, you can sit on the verandah with your feet in the water amongst thousands upon thousands of water and vlei lilies, massed in yellows and pinks before you. 

This is a birder’s paradise too – resident crowned and endangered wattled cranes strut across the plains.  My favourite bird was the pelican doing their flotilla fishing dance across the dambos. Kitlitt’s plover, Fulleborns longclaw and thousands of red winged pratincoles can be seen on the plains, a birders idea of heaven.

The apex predator by far is the hyena and packs are particularity large here.  One can drive for hours and not see another person or vehicle, just wildlife dotted across the plains.

Each evening on our October visit, we sat at a hyena den waiting for the families to emerge. Slowly the adults came out, stretched and then flopped down. Then little black heads of the cubs popped out and started venturing to our vehicle. One little cub started chewing on the tyre flaps before going off to find something more tasty!

  • Sustainable Travel Zambia - Luiwa Plains - Will Burrard-Lucas_Norman Carr Safaris - Hyena.jpg

Scenically Luiwa is stunning – there are feathery sways of thatching grasses which change colour from blonde to caramel and are home all year round to a variety of wildlife and birds.

The pans are  trimmed with a plethora of colours, green marshes and floating grass, yellow tops and some purple tops too (shrubs). Brilliant white game trails stand out against the plains and veld, leading through the grasslands, past black conical termite mounds to the grey and blue dambos. 

This is definitely a park to visit before it gets discovered by the masses.

Headline and background image courtesy of Wilderness Safaris.

Lion and hyena family image courtesy of Norman Carr safaris and copywrite to Will Burrard-Lucas.

Cheetah image courtesy of Norman Carr safaris.

Image of hyena with lilies courtesy of Wilderness Safaris and copywrite to Noeline Tredoux.


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Posted by: Kate Pirie

Posted on: 28th December 2016

Read more: Posts about Africa