Flora and fauna
Nchila attracts a steady stream of ornithologists, herpetologists, zoologists, and other keen observers of the natural world. Most come for the reserve's pockets of pristine wet, evergreen forest (rainforest). These are typical of large areas of its neighbouring countries – so you'll find species here which you can't see anywhere else, unless you're prepared to brave the instability of either Angola or DRC.Note
that you'll find some exceedingly comprehensive details of Nchila's flora and fauna on their website, www.nchila-wildlife-reserve.com, so here I'll just mention a few of the more obvious highlights.
This beautiful, rolling and hilly area has large areas of moist open plains dotted with termitaria. These are veined by miombo woodland and, in the lower areas, patches of wet, evergreen (mishutu) forest which surround many permanent streams.
The larger wildlife here includes possibly Zambia's largest herd of sable antelope (some of which appear to have some genes in common with Angolan giant sables, given their appearance), and very good numbers of roan and eland that are generally very relaxed and approachable. In addition, there are Burchell's zebra, Defassa waterbuck, impala, lichtenstein's hartebeest, kafue lechwe, puku and kudu. Oribi are very common on the plains, warthog are sometimes seen grubbing around, and there's a herd of blue wildebeest.
Sitatunga frequent the denser, wetter patches of forest – and, like the bushbuck which are found here, sometimes venture out along the edge of the open plains; it's here that I had one of the clearest sightings of these shy antelope that I've ever experienced. The Nchila team say that there are two different subspecies of sitatunga here: 'normal' sitatunga such as are found to the south in Zambia and the rest of southern Africa, and an 'Angolan' subspecies.
In the forest patches you'll find vervet and blue monkeys, as well as common and blue duiker. (With some luck and much skill, the guides can sometimes call the curious blue duiker in to approach you!)
The birdlife here is a real draw; it's a very special place. The forests contain 30 species not found anywhere outside of the DRC, Angola and this area – most of which do not even occur around Mwinilunga (only 70km south of Nchila). However, for some of this area's 'specials' you may have to go a further 50km north to the very tip of Zambia – around the source of the Salujinga and the Jimbe. The borders with Angola and Congo are very sensitive – so take local advice before you venture that far.
The source of the Zambezi and the Sakeji River, which runs through Hillwood, are a microcosm of the DRC forests. Many of the birds which occupy ecological niches south of here are replaced by different, but closely-related, species. The area's 'specials' often need work to spot, and a fair amount of searching with one of Nchila's guides who knows where to look. They include afep and bronze-naped pigeons; black-collared bulbuls; grey-winged robins; rufous ant thrushes; Fülleborne's and rosy-breasted longclaws; honeyguide greenbuls; shining blue, white-bellied and blue-breasted kingfishers; olive long-tailed cuckoos; orange-tufted, green-throated and Bates' sunbirds; buff-throated apalises; Laura's and bamboo warblers; white-cheeked bee-eaters; red-bellied paradise flycatchers and splendid glossy starlings.