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the south, while Angola lies on its western boundary and the Zambezi itself fl ows not far to the east. The vast, panoramic grasslands are fringed by Burkea woodland and punctuated with the odd iconic palm or sausage tree. It is a place of enormous skies, spectacular storms, stunning stars and a deafening silence - broken only by the monotonous slosh of wildebeest hooves crossing shallow wetlands or, occasionally, the crack of thunder. From November onwards the big blue skies fi ll with cotton- wool clouds, which steadily build into monstrous cumulonimbus thunderheads before unleashing lightning and violent downpours upon the exposed plains. As the terrain becomes progressively marshier, countless blooms turn the savannahs into a landscape of vibrant colour: yellow Conyza fl owers carpet the fringes of seasonal pans, while fi reball and spider lilies add their splashes of red, mauve and white. Meanwhile the inundated plains fi ll with huge fl ocks of wattled and crowned cranes, along with abundant storks, ducks, pelicans and other water birds - including such rarities as the slaty egret. Despite this rich avian and fl oral spectacle, however, Liuwa Plain is probably best known as the setting of Africa's second biggest blue wildebeest migration. These lugubrious antelope once traversed the terrain in their hundreds of thousands, moving from eastern Angola onto Liuwa's grasslands and through its woodlands before returning to Angola. Heavy poaching had reduced the population to a low of 14,000 by the time African Parks Network ( APN) took over management of the park in 2003. But the last fi ve years have seen a remarkable recovery, with the population reaching an estimated Zambia undiscovered Below: A palmnut vulture poses on top of a palm. May 2009 Travel Zambia 31 It is a place of enormous skies, spectacular storms, stunning stars and a deafening silence ALL PICTURES BY STEPHEN CUNLIFFE

32 Travel Zambia May 2009 40,000 by the end of 2008, and the spring gathering is once again starting to show defi nite seasonal movement. " Wildebeest movements will revert to their full extent," explains Craig Reid, project manager for APN, " as the numbers of wildebeest and zebra expand and pressure on natural resources drives the migration." But Liuwa offers considerably more than just lots of wildebeest and zebra. We found red lechwe congregating around the natural pans on the fl oodplains and herds of tsessebe on the western plains. Diminutive oribi and steenbok sought shelter in grass tussocks on the open plains, while common duiker dashed for cover in the woodland. Eland, recently reintroduced, have grown in number to 56 and taken up residence on the park's eastern boundary. Meanwhile the eight- hectare reintroduction boma currently houses a small breeding herd of buffalo, and there are plans to build up this population, before also bringing back locally- extinct Lichtenstein's hartebeest and roan antelope. Another exciting plan for 2009 involves the relocation of a male lion from Kafue National Park to provide Lady Liuwa with some much- needed company. Otherwise, with the exception of leopard, it appears that most predator populations are healthy or recovering naturally. We saw plentiful side- striped jackal, usually trotting past in pairs, while the den sites of the numerous spotted hyena clans were easy to locate on the open plains, allowing superb viewing of cubs and social interactions. A pack of ten wild dogs is often sighted on the edge of the southern woodlands, while two female cheetahs ( both with cubs) have recently taken up residence further north. During 2008 a paltry 358 people embraced Above: Lady Liuwa continues her lonely vigil, often entering Matamanene camp ( inset) in search of company. Opposite page: The rainy season carpets the grasslands with lilies, while crowned cranes ( inset) are among countless birds that fl ock to the wetlands and Burchell's zebra ( below) enjoy the rich grazing. Below: The park's numerous spotted hyena are unusually approachable and allow for outstanding photographic opportunities. Zambia undiscovered ALL PICTURES BY STEPHEN CUNLIFFE