Welcome to the Busanga Plains, where there are more lions than beds for travellers and you can now get a discount on your final flight if you stay with Green Safaris.
For a mere five months a year, in the heart of wildest Africa, a flood plain recedes into the mist and leaves behind a garden of Eden where animals roam free and uninterrupted. This lush area, which is larger than the whole of Chicago, holds only four lodges in the heart of the plains, with a grand total of 32 beds available for travellers. So at any given time there are likely to be more lions nearby than there are tourists, and there will definitely be far more elephants than people.
And one of these lodges (spoiler alert, it’s our camp, Chisa!) is now offering to sponsor part of your immediate flights into the Busanga Plains if you fly from Livingstone or Lusaka and stay with Green Safaris.
The Magic of the Busanga Plains
There is nothing quite like watching the world from your Chisa Busanga Nest, perched above an endless horizon. In June, the grounds are still cool and damp from the rapidly vanishing waters, and there is an elephant corridor very close to Chisa Camp. So first thing in the mornings, early birds can snuggle up in their nests and watch as herds of elephants make their silent, ponderous way through billowing mists, clouds of which are turning gently pink in the sunrise as the wild world wakes up for the day and the Chisa guests sip their coffee above it all.
What and where are the Busanga Plains?
If you took the whole of Ireland and divided it into four, or if you took the entire Grand Canyon National Park and multiplied it by four, you would have a landmass the same size as the Kafue National Park in Zambia. And within this immense national park, which has some of the greatest safari experiences in the world and yet is hardly known, sits perhaps Zambia’s most magnificent hidden gem – the Busanga Plains.
The Busanga Plains cover 600 km2 of vast, fertile grasslands, also known as ‘dambos’, and have been called one of the wildest, most pristine places left on Earth. This is partly because for most of the year the Lufupa River overfills her outspread branches and seasonally narrow channels and turns the grasslands into inaccessible floodplains and the roads into lily-covered lagoons, leaving only a few dotted islands around to wait for the water to recede again.
What this means is that when the floods of the Busanga Plains do subside (usually between early June and the end of October), they reveal miles of open grasslands and draw thousands of herbivores to munch on the verdant, misty vegetation. And where the herbivores go… well, so does everyone else.
Wildlife in the Busanga Plains
The Kafue National Park is not only the oldest and largest park in Zambia; it has also registered more species of antelope than anywhere in Africa. Whilst most travellers do not fly across the world to see antelope (they should, though!), what this means is that the Kafue and the Busanga Plains are amongst the best places in the world for wildlife diversity, and a prime location for viewing animals with sharper teeth and claws as well as the hoofed kind.
The wide-open grasslands and endless horizons also ensure easier game-viewing, whether you are hoping to walk, go on a Silent Safari game drive, or experience the brand new Chisa Busanga electric mountain bike safari.
The park is known to be one of the best places in Africa to find leopards, especially on night game drives, and is also home to one of the last populations of cheetah in Zambia. It has one of the largest populations of wild dogs, and thanks to anti-poaching work on the ground this population has more than doubled in the last three years. In those same three years, the lion population has increased from a rather depressing 8 to an incredibly exciting 47 so far… and this number is still on the rise.
Definitive wildlife viewings in the Busanga Plains include thousands of red lechwe leaping over the watery channels (occasionally with mud-covered lions attempting to leap after them). Waterbuck, puku, wildebeest, Cape buffalo, and Burchell’s zebra are abundant, and antelope that are extremely rare in other places such as oribi, sitatunga, and Liechtenstein’s hartebeest can also be spotted amongst the palms.
Out of Zambia’s recorded 733 bird species, the greater Kafue area boasts a mind-boggling 478 of them.
The endemic Chaplin’s barbet and endangered grey crowned and wattled cranes find sanctuary within the Busanga Plains, along with Pel’s owls and African finfoots. The lesser kestrel and Montagu’s harrier are summer migrants, while Ross’s turaco and black-backed barbet are some of the area’s ‘specials’. Secretary birds – a Green Team favourite – are abundant.
How to get to the Busanga Plains
For much of the year, the Busanga Plains is simply not accessible… although occasionally our team can get in via a series of exciting tractor-related adventures. But for the open season, which tends to be between early June and the end of November, travellers can reach the newly revealed grassland in one of two ways:
Fly into the Busanga Airstrip
This takes up to 1.5 hours from Lusaka Airport or 2 hours from Livingstone Airport (these times also depend on the size of the plane). The airstrip is around 20 minutes from our property, Chisa Busanga Camp.
Drive through the Kafue National Park from Lusaka
This is a thrilling journey but we would suggest breaking it up into parts and staying at Ila Safari Lodge on the banks of the Kafue River on the way. The Lusaka-Ila leg would then be around 3.5 hours, with only the last leg of this being within the national park itself, and the Ila to Chisa Busanga Camp stretch would be around 5 hours. This entire journey would be in a game vehicle right through some of the best wildlife spots in the park.
Why you really ought to stay at Chisa Camp in Busanga Plains
Chisa is the only property in the Busanga Plains offering the Silent Safari experience, with electric land cruisers for game drives and even electric mountain bikes for experiencing the wildlife under your own pedal power. Chisa’s unique ‘Nest’ rooms also offer a once in a lifetime perspective of the plains: a bird’s eye view, when the bird is at home!