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Amazing wild Liuwa National Park

IF you are passionate about wildlife and eco-tourism, never set perimeters. And if you are in Zambia, please take time to explore; visit all the 20 national parks and if possible the 36 game management areas in the country.
One of these parks is the Liuwa plain. Liuwa, in the original Luiana language of Western Province, means plain. So when literally translated, Liuwa plain could be ‘plain plain’, tautology, isn’t it?
Last week, African Parks, the company managing the Liuwa Plain National Park in conjunction with the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) organised a three-day press trip to the plain.
After a two-and-half-hour flight from Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka, there is an experience of a sudden drop in temperature and an increase in turbulence, before one has a rare view of the pristine wilderness in the remote part of Zambia.
The Liuwa is a place of abundance, diversity and home to the second largest wildebeest migration in Africa.
At the start of every dry season, thousands of blue wildebeest migrate from the north-western part of the plain and slowly graze their way southwards following the numerous water pans and nutritious forage it offers.
Here, they await the onset of the rains, which is a spectacular display.
And African Parks, a non-profit organisation, has realised that the plain has immense potential and has taken the responsibility of rehabilitating and long-term management of national parks in partnership with government and the local people.
By adopting a business approach to conservation, supported by donor funding, African Parks aims to make each park sustainable in the long term, thereby contributing to economic development and poverty alleviation.
Although it was only given national park status in 1972, Liuwa has one of the oldest conservation histories in Africa.
Originally proclaimed by the King of Barotseland in the early 1880s, it was historically used as a royal hunting ground and was protected by the Lozi people themselves.
In August 2003, African Parks entered into an agreement with ZAWA and the Barotse Royal Establishment, the traditional authority representing local communities, to manage the Liuwa Plain National Park for a period of 20 years.
Matamanene Bush Camp
The media team that visited Liuwa was accommodated at Matamanene Bush Camp. Like many other places in Western Province, Matamanene is not a real name of the place where this bush camp is set.
The actual name, according to camp worker Dexter Siyoto Siyenge, in Mbowe, a native language in this part of the country, is Machia Manene, which means a place of big lakes. And for sure, the camp site neighbours several water pools and pans.
Here, Robin Pope Safaris sets out exclusive luxury safari from April to June and from November to December.   The facilities at the camp include a lounge and dining, five two-bed luxury safari tents each with bathrooms and solar geysers.
The Liuwa plain recorded an increase in wildebeest numbers from about 15,000 in 2003 to almost 46,000 in 2013. Other species whose numbers have seen a rise in the plain are zebra, red lechwe and tsessebe.
Some other species thought to be extinct in the park started to make an appearance in 2008.
A breeding pack of wild dog and a herd of about 20 roan antelope are seen frequently. Cheetahs have also been frequently spotted around Matamanene Camp.
The lion population in Liuwa has reduced to a lone lioness, Lady Liuwa, the world’s documented lioness in 2003, that now seems secure at the age of five.
The Liuwa clouds are dramatic, gathering on the horizon to build up an awe-inspiring spectacle.
The stark contrast of green and gold grasslands against the dark and ominous blue of a rising storm paints a picture of Liuwa in all its grandeur.
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