The Bounty of Kafue’s Busanga Plains


Sarah Kerr


The vast wilderness of the Kafue National Park unfolded below me as we flew above it, a land I knew virtually nothing about. I was immediately drawn in... stunned at its magnitude and the varying landscape below me, intermittently hidden by clouds, and made all the more tantalising for it. The Kafue is one of the largest national parks in Africa and also one of its least explored wild regions.

After landing, our drive to camp passed through an otherworldly region of snouted harvester termite mounds, beautiful miombo woodlands, vast plains and seasonal wetlands interspersed with lush islands and small streams. In the late summer, the vast floodplains are covered with shallow water and even now they are filled with large herds of aquatic red lechwe.

Shumba is a small camp nestled in amongst the lush palms, figs and sausage trees of one of the Busanga Plains numerous islands. These plains are a unique seasonal wetland. At different times of the year, the view from camp alternates between vast shimmering floodplains dotted with waterlilies and dry plains covered with golden grass as far as the eye can see.

Over the days we spent relaxing in the idyll that is Shumba, we were delighted by the birding as rosy-throated longclaw and grey crowned cranes became commonplace sightings on drives. The sooty chat was spotted and yellow-throated sandgrouse caused us much excitement as we had never seen this species. A fellow birder was successful in his hunt for the elusive Schalow’s turaco and returned giddy with excitement.

Red-billed teal (back) with Hottentot teals

... And this was before we got to the large mammals! Lichtenstein's hartebeest, roan antelope, oribi, elephant, puku, Cape buffalo, blue wildebeest and shy warthog were seen often, with the ubiquitous red lechwe now almost ignored. With all of this prey, the large pride of lion that was our daily highlight to view was no surprise. Three muscular lionesses and a regal male presided over six rambunctious eight-month-old cubs and one adorable three-month-old. The young lions provided hours of entertainment as they jockeyed for position, ambushed one another and jealously guarded a sought-after pair of lechwe horns from one another.

We left with the feeling that four nights was not enough time to see all this vast wilderness has on offer, and I am now eagerly planning my return.

Rosy-throated longclaw


  • Rosy-throated longclaw
  • Blacksmith lapwing
  • Long-toed lapwing
  • Crowned crane
  • Wattled Lapwing
  • Goliath heron
  • Yellow-throated sandgrouse
  • Yellow-billed duck
  • Red-billed teal
  • Hottentot teal
  • Namaqua dove
  • Cape turtle dove
  • Coppery-tailed coucal
  • African Openbill stork
  • Yellow-billed stork
  • Saddle-billed stork
  • Hooded vulture
  • White-backed vulture
  • Lappet-faced vulture
  • Steppe eagle
  • Bateleur eagle
  • Red necked spurfowl
  • Red-capped lark
  • Cape wagtail
  • African jacana
  • Golden-tailed woodpecker
  • Olive woodpecker
  • African fish-eagle
  • Trumpeter hornbill
  • Helmeted guineafowl 
  • White-browed robin-chat
  • Scarlet-chested sunbird
  • African stonechat
  • Black winged kite
  • Yellow-billed kite
  • Great egret and Little egret
  • Reed cormorant
  • African spoonbill
  • Red-billed oxpecker
  • Red-billed quelea
  • Böhms bee-eater
  • Black-collard Barbet
  • White-crested helmetshrike
  • Grey go-away bird
  • Square-tailed nightjar
  • Squacco heron
  • Grey heron
  • Southern ground hornbill
  • Dusky lark
  • Zitting cisticola
  • Arrow-marked babbler
  • Red-billed firefinch
  • Sacred ibis
  • Hadeda ibis
  • Egyptian goose
  • Wattled crane
Egyptian geese

Written and photographed by Sarah Kerr

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