Kafue National Park in Zambia
Kafue is an amazing surprise for those ready to venture off the beater path. With its lush, rolling landscapes and diverse habitats that boast an abundance of wildlife, Kafue National Park is an African jewel. Wildlife is excellent in Kafue, especially in the Busanga Plains. By May, the water that flooded the plains during the wet months, will have receded, and the plains will be rich and lush with vegetation, drawing herds of wildlife to the ready food source.
There are herds of elephants and buffalo, although they can be skittish due to the years of poaching. Lions are easy to spot, and are prone to lounging in trees, while the enigmatic leopard can be seen walking along the Lufupa River. Kafue also happens to be the best place in Zambia to see the wild dogs and cheetahs. Birdwatching is at its best here too, with over 480 species available.
Best Time to Go
July – October
Average Safari Cost
$200 - $1,000 pp/day. Park fee: $20.
Four of the Big Five (rhino is absent), cheetah and wild dogs, wide variety of antelope species and a range of diverse habits. The Busanga Plains. Over 480 species of birds, and more.
Why Visit Kafue National Park
The diverse terrain of Kafue National Park is home to four of the Big Five, with only rhino absent. The elephants and buffalo in the park are rather skittish due the years of poaching, while the lions are more easily seen, and their tree-climbing performances are sure to charm you. Leopards are also common in this part of Zambia, and seeing these graceful predators stalk through the undergrowth is definitely a sight to behold.
The park boasts a large variety of antelope species, including the rare sitatunga antelope and a surprisingly large herd of roan antelope. There are also thousands of red lechwe antelope in the swamplands.
Kafue is the best place for birdwatching in Zambia, with over 480 species of birds recorded in the park. The diversity of Kafue’s landscapes greatly contributes to the variety of bird species available. Both the near-endemic black-cheeked lovebird, and the endemic Chaplin’s barbet can be seen in Kafue, and migratory birds are present from November to April.
Pros and Cons
- Four of the Big Five are present, except rhino - lion, leopard, elephant and buffalo,
- The big cats and the rare wild dog are present
- Large variety of antelope species
- Remote, with a range of diverse habitats
- Walking safaris, night drives and boat safaris
- Self-drive options for visitors
- Busanga Plains are inaccessible from November to April due to flooding
- Animals can be skittish due to poaching
Best Time to Go
Wet season: November – April
Dry season: May – October
Zambia has a tropical climate. As such, there is hardly any difference in the daytime temperature throughout the year. From July to October is the best time for wildlife viewing. The park would be well into the dry season by July and ground water will be drying up, which leads to animals converging on reliable sources of water. The local vegetation would have thinned out as well, allowing for optimum wildlife viewing pleasure. This is the only time of the year that you can visit Busanga Plains, as the rainy months makes it inaccessible.
Hot temperatures and heavy afternoon showers characterize the wetter months from November to April. Surprisingly, this is the best time for birdwatching, although birdlife is good throughout the year. This is when migratory birds are present. It is also the breeding season, ensuring that you will have a great show.
For more information on when to visit Zambia see here.
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Wildlife and Birds
- Wild Dog
- Wild dog, Sitatunga antelope, Roan antelope
Infrequently Seen Animals
- Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, Hyena, Oribi
Frequently Seen Animals
- Elephant, Hippo, Zebra, Buffalo, Wildebeest, Waterbuck, Puku, Greater kudu, Red lechwe, Lichenstein’s hartebeest
With its 480 species of birds in the many different habits – wetlands, rivers, floodplains and woodlands – Kafue is the best park for birdwatching in Zambia. This range of diverse habits ensures a spectacular viewing of birds, including the near-endemic black-cheeked lovebird, and the endemic Chaplin’s barbet. If you are interested in migratory birds, you can see them from November to April.
For a complete list of endangered birds in Zambia see here
Endemic and Near Endemic Birds
- African finfoot
- Black-cheeked lovebird
- Böhm's bee-eater
- Brown-headed apalis
- Chaplin's barbet
- Chestnut-backed sparrow-weaver
- Collared palm-thrush
- Denham’s bustard
- Grey crowned crane
- Grey tit-flycatcher
- Miombo pied barbet
- Miombo rock thrush
- Narina trogon
- Olive woodpecker
- Pale-billed hornbill
- Pel’s fishing-owl
- Purple-crested turaco
- Racket-tailed roller
- Ross's turaco
- Southern white-faced owl
- Souza's shrike
- Spotted creeper
- Wattled crane
- Yellow-throated leaf-love
Getting There and Safety
Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (LUN), located 14km (19 miles) from Lusaka (the capital), is your most likely entry point into Zambia. Kafue is roughly 360km (223 miles) from Lusaka, and it is a reasonably easy self-drive along Lusaka-Mongu Road to the park.
There are a few lodges along Lusaka-Mongu Road, within easy distance of the park. A 4x4 is required for the park itself, and there are safari operators in Lusaka that offer mobile trips to visitors.
There are several airstrips within the park itself. Most visitors, who have booked a stay at one of the high-end lodges within the park, usually arrange for a chartered flight into Kafue.
For the flights to Zambia, it is advised to check Skyscanner (for multiple destination flights), to see which airlines can take you there and compare various ticket prices.
If you are based in the UK and Europe, check out these flights to Zambia.
If you are based in the USA and Canada, check out these flights to Zambia.
For more information on visas see our Zambia Safari - Complete Country Guide.
Zambia is a high malaria risk country – and the parks are no exception. Before going to Zambia, consult your doctor or travel clinic concerning any vaccinations that you may need, as well as which anti-malarials you should take, as they are highly recommended. Invest in a good insect repellent (30% DEET or more), as this will be a good defense against mosquitoes. Keep your arms and legs covered at night for added protection.
Check your local travel health authority for more information:
All the national parks in Zambia are considered very safe – including Kafue. Crime is very rare inside the parks. Most who visit Zambia do so as part of an organized tour, which mostly insulates them from crime. It is important to remember, however, that Zambia is a developing country, and muggings are common, especially in busy cities such as Lusaka. Try not to travel anywhere alone, especially not at night.
If you have opted to do a self-drive of Kafue, it is important to have some experience in off-road driving. It is also a good idea to enquire as to the conditions of the roads that you will be travelling on, before you set out.
The country is hot throughout the year, therefore insect repellent (30% EET or more) is considered essential. A wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen is also necessary to protect from sunburns. It is recommended that you keep your arms and legs covered at night to help prevent mosquito bites, thus long-sleeved clothing will also be necessary despite the heat. Try packing clothes with light, breathable material.
For more details on what to pack see our Safari Packing List.
Going on a safari in Africa comes with obvious risks. We recommend you get travel insurance for all safaris in Zambia. Make sure your insurance has full medical coverage, emergency air evacuation, repatriation and the standard travel insurance for cancellations, delays and luggage cover.
Check World Nomads’ travel insurance calculator to see the cost of your safari trip cover.