On the Western part of Zambia lies a small National park where every year around early November, along with the first rains, the second largest wildebeest migration on Earth takes place. It is here in Liuwa Plains National Park that we decided to test the beast.
Our new expedition vehicle had recently been completed and we were itching to take it out into the wilderness for its first trip. Eager to see all the benefits come to play and find any issues which would only show under extreme conditions. And we could think of no place better to take it on a test than the fairly remote Liuwa Plains NP.
The first obstacle in driving to Liuwa is arguable the hardest one too. At the Northern tip of the town Kalabo is where one must cross a river with a very small ferry, a ferry which isn’t rated for the weight of the vehicle and directly on the opposite bank is a steep incline of very soft sand. The sort of incline which generally requires a run up, but because one needs to cross with a ferry, there is no run up.
It seemed that the sheer size of the vehicle could have actually be preventing us from even starting the off-roading, but in fact it played in our favour. The ferry operators took one look at the vehicle and said, “Just go a few hundred meters upstream and you can drive through the river with your cars!” They also advised us that “some” cruisers also make it through but not many try.
All the while one of Kalabo’s first rain clouds was approaching fast and we quickly found ourselves driving in heavy storming conditions. We could barely see anything as we approached the river-crossing and had to trust in the guidance of our Scout to show us which line to take through the water. I engaged the lowest gear possible, locked all the diffs pointed her straight and let the beast do what it does best…cruise through effortlessly. It was then that we knew this car can get to the places we built it for.
The rest of the roads were think sand, but now filled with the confidence in the vehicle we could relax, knowing we would make it through almost anything. We could now turn our attention to why we came all this way…the wild life.
Liuwa is an incredible place to visit and especially during the wetter times of the year. The sheer abundance of plains game that fill the seemingly endless open plains is a sight to behold. And where there is food – there are predators, so we always kept an eye out for a special sighting. Liuwa sports an incredible high density of hyena’s putting them at the top of the food chain, followed by about 6 lions and also a number of cheetah that roam around. Liuwa is not a place to visit if your intentions are to tick off the big 5 boxes but rather for people wanting to visit places less travelled for a different but true African experience and the remote nature of the park means that you could go an entire day seeing more hyena’s than humans, and this is where its magic lies.
Wild, vast African plains and a vehicle tall enough to help you see further than usual. Add a cold drink and a pair of binoculars and you have everything you need to make for an epic safari. And it was!