Flying into the Busanga Plains you appreciate the vastness of Kafue National Park. There are little to no roads visible from the air. This remote location is famous for its lions. However, as I found out on my visit, there is much more to experience…
After landing at the airstrip, we decided to set out on an afternoon game drive before heading to Shumba. Fraser, my Wilderness Safaris guide, has been guiding in Kafue for 13 years, and knows the place like the back of his hand. A humble guy with a gentle spirit.
The floodplains were filled with red lechwe and puku. You literally never drive without seeing these attractive antelope. We also came across a herd of roan, the second largest antelope in Africa and an elusive species to find at the best of times. Our game drive ended with two buffalo bulls which we enjoyed sundowners with before heading to camp.
That night we listened to lions roaring and were treated the next morning to some of the best lion viewing I have had in my entire life.
We spent the morning with the pride, following them as they crossed numerous water channels.
At high tea, before our afternoon drive, we noticed a cloud of dust approaching on the horizon. On closer inspection we saw a massive herd of buffalo approaching the floodplain. No prizes for guessing what our plan for the afternoon was!
En route to the buffalo we came across a fresh red lechwe carcass and spotted a male leopard. Unfortunately, the leopard was true to its secretive nature, and left the scene quite quickly. Our plan was to come back later after sunset, to see whether he would be more relaxed at night. We spent the afternoon with the buffalo herd, which numbered more than 500 individuals, all the while being constantly reminded of the endless parade of red lechwe and puku.
After a magical sunset with a gin & tonic, we left the buffalo, hoping to find the leopard once more. Luck was with us and we found the stealthy cat at the carcass again. The leopard allowed us a bit more time but soon retreated under the cover of a bush. What a first day!
The following morning, we came across two male lions on the floodplain east of Shumba. We explored the area around Paradise and added oribi to our mammal list – a small, uncommon antelope. Our morning coffee was spent in the presence of the buffalo herd again.
That afternoon we decided to head to Kapinga Island to do some birding (Böhms bee-eater, western banded snake-eagle and white-breasted cuckooshrike being the highlights). Upon circling Kapinga Island we came across a herd of elephant numbering close to 80 individuals, which decided to cross the floodplains at sunset while we were having sundowners.
It was an incredible scene. They formed a close group and then with the matriarch leading the way, crossed the open floodplain at sunset. A moment I will never forget.
The following day our incredible game viewing continued as we enjoyed sightings of Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, some more elephant, a very old spotted hyaena and even an Ansell’s mole-rat! But the highlight of the day was a young male leopard found close to the Shumba bridge at sunset. The evidence of leopard, from their tracks and droppings was a pleasant surprise, and to have two sightings made our safari even more rewarding.
The plan for the next morning was to head south towards the Musanza area to explore the more wooded areas south of the Plains. We came across a herd of buffalo which must have been close to a thousand individuals. In the afternoon we visited Kapinga Island again and enjoyed sunset with another herd of elephant.
At this stage, we were all suffering from “lion withdrawal” as we hadn’t seen them for two days... luckily on our final morning we came across the pride close to camp. They were feeding on a red lechwe. In the fresh morning air, the social interaction between the pride members provided a classic final goodbye. The light was stunning, and the setting couldn’t have been more perfect.
Busanga is certainly the “Plains of Plenty”. It is remote, vast, and absolutely beautiful. There simply aren’t enough superlatives to describe this wonderful wild area.
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