Lochinvar National Park Zambia
Lochinvar National Park is one of Zambia’s birding hotspots. It’s part of the Kafue River floodplain, and a gorgeous mixture of dry bush, and lush marshy plains.
We went there on a short family break, mainly to do some bird watching, but extending our knowledge, as well as our kids knowledge of the country we live in was also uppermost in my mind. I couldn’t have been more amazed with the beauty and unique landscapes and wildlife. Unfortunately, as so many incredible places in our part of the world, it has been neglected, pillaged and ransacked to the point that one wonders what it was like before. In fact, in my husbands case, we don’t have to imagine, as a mere 15 years ago he came here to help capture live game for restocking on private farms, in an attempt to save some of the wildlife before it was completely devastated. The plan being to restock once numbers had build up in the private areas, and the Park had been maintained. We are still waiting for that day sadly. However, the natural beauty is still incredible, and attempts to create geo thermal plants have luckily been rebuffed thanks to research suggesting that although there is a lot of geo thermal activity underground, there is not enough to warrant an expensive plant. Phew! that was a close one! Sadly the mining of Gypsum, a component used in cement, was not avoided, which in turn has created an environmental disaster with people traipsing through the park, setting traps and chopping down trees, oblivious, or uncaring of the fact that this is supposed to be a protected area.
Having said all that serious stuff, we loved our trip and the more exposure the park has and the more visitors it has, the better. The game may be lacking (herds of lechwe used to number in the thousands, and now one hundred would be impressive), but the birdlife is exceptional, and we saw so many species of water fowl as well as lbj’s (aka ‘Little Brown Jobs’, which our professional bird guide helped us to de-mystify). Among our favourites were the African Skimmers and the Purple Gallinule. Which is like a beefed up lily trotter that has been dipped in paint. To my disappointment I could not spot the little bugger for the life of me, even though all the kids managed to! But the African Skimmers certainly made up for it.
Our hosts from Birding Zambia, Inge and Frank Willems, were absolutely awesome. Franks knowledge of Zambian birds, specifically the unique species of the region, is overwhelming. They set up a very comfortable camp complete with a shower and loo, and their daughter Robin, was a wonderful companion for our own kids. Frank organises trips to various birding hotspots around Zambia, including a boat trip that covers the whole of Zambian part of the river, from source to border. They also have their own camp in the far north west of Zambia, in the Mwinilunga District. Birding Zambia and Inge and Frank can be reached on www.birdingzambia.com.