ISANGANO NATIONAL PARK
Situated in the Northern province of Zambia – the Isangano National Park is a small park close to the Bangweulu swamps.
The park offers a different kind of appeal to many of Zambia’s other parks. It’s composed of mainly low-lying floodplains and flat well-watered grassland. The western side forms part of the Bangweulu wetlands which comes along with seasonal flooding and a profusion of birdlife.
The area was declared a national park and protected reserve in 1972, but unfortunately, the park went into decline many years ago due to the consequences of a lack of funds, infrastructure, support and management – resulting in little wildlife and infrastructure in the park. However, since July 2007, the Zambian government started to take steps to preserve the wetlands and develop a viable community-friendly wildlife reserve. The opportunity exists to conserve and resuscitate park back to its former status as a fully-fledged National Park
As Zambia’s least visited wetland park, the bonus of this serene and tranquil park is that it is far away from bumbling crowds and offers a lush green setting and undisturbed forest silence.
The park lacks a maintained internal road network, but if you visit – it is advised to look further west to the Bangweulu area.
- Area: 840 km²
- Altitude: 1 100 m
- Founded: 1972
The dry season lasts from May to October and the weather is sunny and rarely rains. June to July is the best time to see big herds of lechwe and other grazers, while May to August is the best time to see the phenomenal shoebill stork. The low water levels allow for activities such as game drives and canoe trips, while the rainy season – November to April – makes driving difficult, so no game drives will be available. However, canoe trips are still available, and the area becomes a wetland paradise and haven for migratory birds. November brings the first rain and new grass attracting the lechwe and other grazers
There is currently little game in this region due to illegal human settlements and subsistence hunting by those living in the park – but as the park recovers, the animal populations are steadily increasing. The Bangwelu wetlands play host to a wide range of animals, the most prolific being black lechwe, tsessebe, reedbuck, oribi, sitatunga, elephant, buffalo, crocodile and hippo. Species such as zebra, hartebeest, roan antelope, eland, bushbuck and warthog can also be spotted here.
The ecology of this wetland area is a favoured habitat for many water fowls and numerous migratory species. Species such as the black crowned night heron, Denham’s bustard, flamingo, Fuelleborn’s long claw, glossy and sacred ibis, pelican, rosy-throated long claw, spoonbill, spur winged goose, swamp flycatcher, wattled crane and white fronted bee-eater. The highlights being are the rare – and in-fact endangered – saddle-billed stork and shoebill. A treat for avid birders, and laymen alike.
Situated in the upper basin of the Congo River in Zambia, the western flood-plain area of Isangano National Park forms part of the Bangweulu flats. This wetland system is fed by 17 rivers, creating swampy forests, grasslands, and a wide range of biodiversity. Here, Erythrophleum- and Pterocarpus woodland, tall grass and watershed plain grassland dominate the park. There are also some areas of papyrus and phragmites along the two major rivers; Chambeshi River is the largest, while the Lubansenshi River runs right through the middle of the area.
The park lies in the Luwingu and Kasama districts in Luapula province and can be accessed from the west of Mpika or Mpulungu road near Chambeshi. Because of the remote location, there are few maintained roads accompanied by seasonal flooding. Therefore, a fully-equipped 4×4 vehicle, or the accompaniment of a professional and knowledgeable guide or tour operator.
Due to an unmaintained background, the park has no facilities to speak of. It’s back to basics with no ablution blocks or electricity – but this doesn’t mean it’s not popular tourists. Plan an organised expedition, with a knowledgeable guide, and full personal camping equipment and you’re in for a real bush-experience.