Muchinga province has some of the best national parks
in the world with abundant wildlife. These include the South Luangwa National Park, North Luangwa National Park, Bangweulu Wetlands, Lavushi Manda National Park and Mutinondo Wilderness.
The South Luangwa National Park
The South Luangwa National Park is believed to be the greatest wildlife sanctuary in the world. The concentration of animals around the Luangwa River, and its oxbow lagoons, is among the most intense in Africa. The Luangwa River is the most intact major river system in Africa and is the lifeblood of this 9050 km2 Park. The Park hosts a wide variety of wildlife, birds and vegetation. There are 60 different animal species and over 400 different bird species in South Luangwa National Park. The only notable exception is the rhino, sadly poached to extinction. Some of the prominent animals include the elephant, leopard, giraffe, lion and different types of antelopes.
The North Luangwa National Park
The North Luangwa National Park lies in the northern part of the South Luangwa National Park and was founded as a game reserve in 1938 and it became a national park in 1972. The park covers 4,636 km². Like the South Luangwa National Park, its eastern boundary is the Luangwa River, while it rises to cover a stretch of the Muchinga Escarpment to the west. The Mwaleshi River flows east-west through the centre of the park. Wildlife is widely found, including elephant, wildebeest, zebra and many antelopes and birds.
The Bangweulu Wetlands
The Bangweulu wetland is a place of high biodiversity endemism and thus renowned for being a haven for thousands of avian and ungulate species, especially in the rainy season when the Chambeshi/Luapula river system bursts its banks to form a massive flood plain. What is spectacular about this wetland is that it is home to one of the most rare and elusive birds in Africa, the Shoebill stork, Balaeniceps rex.
This is a very rare and unique occurrence of the Bangweulu, rendering it a very significant natural heritage and indeed an outstanding scenic area. The Shoebill Stork, a bird that is probably closer to the extinct Dodo than any living new world avian species today, is common sight from January to April when the plains are flooded.
Also unique to the floodplains of the Bangweulu is the water loving Black Lechwe (Kobus lechwe smithemani). It has a distinctive black portion on its side and this clearly distinguishes it from the Lechwe of the Kafue Flats. The Bangweulu wetland is also a Ramsar site (Wetland of International Importance).
This park is potentially interesting for its hilly and very pleasant landscape, though sadly it has lost its animals to poaching over the last few decades. Game scouts however, report that there are still populations of game left. The park is currently being rehabilitated by the Kasanka Trust, working as part of a donor-funded development project. Lavushi Manda covers 1,500km2 including the Lavushi Hills. To the north the land slopes away, and the park’s streams all drain into the Lulimala, Lukulu or Lumbatwa Rivers and thence ultimately into the Bangweulu Basin. Miombo woodland covers most of the park, with some areas of riparian forest nearer the larger streams and many grassy dambos.
Mutinondo Wilderness in Mpika is one of the most stunning places in Muchinga province. Mutinondo is a beautiful 10,000-hectare wilderness littered with hills; huge, sweeping hulks of stone in varying shades of black, purple, green and brown. The landscape here feels unspoiled and ancient. Scramble to the top of one of those great granite beasts and it is easy to imagine a time when Stone Age hunters wandered the endless valleys, woodland and rivers below. Mammal sightings are not very common, although there are plenty of tree squirrels, klipspringers and other antelopes lurking around. Mutinondo is an important birding destination and there are about 320 bird species.