Ten reasons to visit this magnificent region in Zambia's Kafue National Park...
The Busanga Plains is situated in the Kafue National Park of Zambia, a relatively unknown destination to safari goers. It is a unique and remarkable area of 8500 square miles in size making it slightly larger than the world famous Kruger National Park in South Africa. In 2015 the Kruger National Park welcomed 1.2 million visitors to its gates while Kafue’s guests numbered approximately 12,000. Part of the beauty of this park is the sense of remote, exclusivity which comes with less human footprints.
The Busanga Plains themselves are found in the northern regions of the Kafue, drained by the Lufapa River. It is 227 square miles making it larger than the Sabi Sands. Within this area there are only five camps!
So what is it that makes the Busanga Plains so special? Below are 10 reasons to add it to your safari bucket list:
- The fact that this region is so wild, remote and untouched makes it a very attractive safari option. Guests take a one-hour flight from Livingstone/Lusaka to the airstrip, drive to the mokoro station, get mokoroed across the floodplain (in the beginning of their season when the water levels are high) and finally meet their guide and vehicle to take them across to their lodge. It is an adventure within itself. No crowds, just pure wilderness!
- The diversity of habitats is remarkable! Once in Busanga you will find seasonal floodplains, papyrus swamps north west of the plains (a wonderful place to spot the elusive sitatunga antelope), a punctuation of palm fringe islands (popular shade for resting lions), and it is fringed by Miombo Woodlands (a great place to view numerous bird species and the beautiful sable antelope).
- Busanga Plains has a wonderful diversity of wildlife. It is a great place to see the endangered Roan and Sable antelope who make their way out of the Miombo woodlands once the plains start to dry up. Other antelope not often seen in other areas, but fairly common here, include Oribi and Lichtenstein Hartebeest. Leopards can be seen along the acacia lined islands and the grass plains make it an excellent place to see the normally secretive serval. For the bird watchers out there Rosy throated longclaws are common and it has a wide variety of water birds such as the Lesser Jacana.
- What makes the Busanga Plains famous though is its famous lion prides. The reason for such exceptional lion viewing is due to its openness, with very little obstruction from bushes and trees. The lions tend to be rather active until late in the mornings which means that guests have more of an opportunity to see them active. Night drives on the plains in front of the camps gives an additional opportunity to spend time with the cats.
- There are numerous activities to keep one busy here. Boating safaris, around June and July, offer guests some of the best boat based game viewing on the continent. Hippos seem to be exceptionally relaxed around the boats which makes for some incredible experiences. In the last three months of the season (August, September and October) hot air ballooning is an iconic way to spot the local wildlife. With the ability to get close to the ground, sightings of lion and leopard have been recorded on such trips. The diversity of habitat is sublime from above. Night game drives are a great way to see the normally lesser seen critters of the bush.
- The photographic opportunities are brilliant. The openness of the environment, and good backdrops, makes for no blocking of the intended subject. It also allows for many mixed species photography. Synonymise of the Busanga Plains is its iconic morning mist that full the floodplain, lifting early morning to unveil the daily theatrics. It truly is a unique photographic destination.
- The two camps that we recommend are small and intimate. Busanga Bush Camp has a mere four rooms while its larger sister camp, Shumba a mere twenty-minute drive, has six rooms. Shumba Camp has a raised boardwalk which enables guests to look out over the plains, great for in camp game viewing, while the camp is also know to sit in the middle of the local lion prides territory. This makes lion visits a common occurrence. Lionesses have even been known to have their cubs under certain guest rooms!
Busanga Bush Camp
- Busanga Plains forms an extremely important area for conservation. The presence of tourism in the area is key to the protection of its many well-known species. Elephants, and their behaviour, can largely attest to this importance. In 2006, when Wilderness Safaris started operating in the area, elephants were seldom seen on the floodplain preferring the safety of the palm fringed islands or Miombo Woodlands. They were known to “streak” through the area at night at high speeds, keeping in close proximity to each other. These days they are sighted daily on the floodplains. Breeding herds are now relaxed and at ease with the tourist’s presence. Aerial census has confirmed a 500% increase in Red Lechwe and a 100% increase in blue wildebeest. With an increase in prey species comes an increase in predators.
- Community involvement from the camps means job creation, employment and the development of skills. Wilderness Safaris hires approximately 50 people from the region who, on average, are known to support an additional eight people from the area. That is more than 400 people benefiting from conservation within the region. This does not include additional job creation for service providers that supply these camps. “Children in Wilderness” is a great initiative by Wilderness Safaris where kids from the community get to spend time in camp learning about the importance of conservation and other general life skills.
- This is a place where every visiting guest makes a massive difference to the conservation of the area and the communities involved. This is mainly due to the fact that the region has limited beds which can be filled only over limited times of the year. Just by visiting a guest can be deemed a conservationist.
Daily flights by Wilderness Air connects Busanga Plains to Livingstone and Lusaka. This makes it possible to combine a trip to Kafue with a visit to see the gorillas via direct flights from Lusaka to Kigali. It is also possible to combine with other safari regions such as Masai Mara via Nairobi and the Sabi Sands via Livingstone. It is possible to do a morning drive in the Okavango Delta followed by an afternoon drive on the Busanga Plains.