Upemba National Park Congo

Situated within the Katanga Province of south-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is the Upemba National Park, one of the best destinations for wildlife watching and birding within this secluded Central African country. It was established on 15th May 1939 covering over 17,730 square kilometers (6850 square miles) making it the largest Park in the African Continent but by 1975, it was reduced to its current size of 11,730 square kilometers (4530 square miles).

This Park is made up of different bio-regions that include the savannah plateau (ranging from 1400 to 1800 meters above sea level) with rocky outcrops separating the tributary of River Lufira that drops down into the Kamalando depression and from there into the marshlands and Lakes of the lush Upemba wetlands. The North-eastern section of the Park is characterized by mainly the Kibara Plateau with its wooded foothills and high altitude savannah plateau while the center is made up of the Lufira basin from Kiobo waterfalls to the marshes at the edge of the Lake and the south is dominated by a straight and long grassy plateau from Kayo to Lufira.

Vegetation and attractions within Upemba National Park

The Park landscape is characterized by Afro-montane grasslands and Forests at the areas of high elevations within the Kibara Mountains, Miombo woodlands, Tropical rainforests as well as the wetlands, marshlands, riparian zones and streams at the lower altitudes. The system of wetlands, lakes, swamps and rivers offer habitat to a wide range of fish species including the Cichlidae, Cyprinidae, Barbus, Mormyridae and Alestidae among others.

While here, you will see small herds of Zebras, Upemba lions, troops of baboons, isolated pairs of oribis, buffaloes, elephants and many others. There are also several Amphibian species with the common one being the Schmidt’s snouted frogs as well as avifauna especially shoebill stork, Chestnut owlet, Angola Lark, Sparrow weavers, Honey guide greenbul,  spotted ground-thrush, Barbets, grey crowned cranes, Seed-eaters, Cisticola, Miombo rock thrush, Racket-tailed rollers, and the wattled cranes among others.

Therefore, activities such as bird watching, fishing (within any of the ten large fishing Lakes), nature walks, game viewing and cultural visits allow tourists to explore all or some of the attractions found within the National Park.

When to Visit Upemba National Park

There is no specific time to visit Upemba National Park because it is an all-year destination. Its location within the Itombwe Plateau makes it one of the best destinations to be explored for wildlife safaris. However, few tourists visit during the rainy season (with an average rainfall of 1200 millimeters of rainfall) from February to March (long and heavy rains) because it brings floods to the Park hence creating temporary wetlands and permanent water ponds/points overflow.

Where to Stay within Upemba National Park

Considering the fact that Upemba National Park is found within Katanga Province (with the Capital being Lubumbashi), there are a number of accommodation facilities (inform of Holiday Inns, Safari Lodges, Campsites and Hotels) within the City and undeniably near the Park.

How to Get to Upemba National Park

The Park is found within Katanga Province, at approximately 400 kilometers from the Zambia and Angola borders and can be reached by both air (flights to Lubumbashi International Airport) and road transport.

However just like most National Parks in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Upemba National Park has suffered from considerable attacks from local rebel groups and poachers with the notable ones being on 28th May 2004 when the Park Headquarters within Lusinga were attacked and burnt down by MaiMai Militia whereby many rangers and their family members were killed while others were taken hostage.