The South Luangwa National Park lies in eastern Zambia, in the Luangwa Valley at the tail end of Africa’s Great Rift Valley. It is one of a few parks that allows for night drives, which vastly increases the chances of spotting leopard. The concentration of wildlife that roams near, in and around the Luangwa River is one of the highest in Africa.
Comprising some 9050 square kilometres of unspoilt African wilderness, South Luangwa is undoubtedly the jewel of Zambia’s national parks. The South Luangwa National Park, in eastern Zambia, is the most accessible of the three in the valley of the Luangwa River. The Luangwa Valley, which marks the end of the Great Rift Valley, is one of the last unspoilt wilderness areas which makes it an ideal safari destination. The park was founded as a game reserve in 1938, it became a national park in 1972 and now covers 9,050 km².
The park slopes down from the Muchinga Escarpment, which forms the western boundary, to the Luangwa River. The Luangwa River is the most intact major river system in Africa and is the life blood of the Park. During winter the area is dry and scrubland. During the summer rains the area turns lush green. Between January and February, the Luangwa River floods and turns the area into a rich, productive, beautiful ecosystem.
The park has 60 species of animal and 400 different bird species. This is one of the premier wilderness areas in Africa, famed for its seclusion and natural beauty. The only notable exception is the rhino, sadly poached to extinction in this park in 1987. Birdwatching is also superb with over 420 bird species recorded. Near the end of the dry season, when the river and oxbow lagoons begin to recede, hundreds of large waterbirds can be seen wading through the shallows, including pelicans, saddle-billed and marabou storks, great white egret, black- headed and goliath herons and open-billed storks.
The Park is well-known for its huge herds of elephant and buffalo, often hundreds of animals strong, along with its high population of leopard which are commonly seen on night drives. Specialities of the area include the beautiful Thornicroft’s giraffe, Cookson’s wildebeest and Crawshay’s zebra. The Luangwa Valley has one of the highest concentrations of hippos in Africa, estimated to be at least 50 per kilometre of river. The meandering Luangwa River also has an extraordinarily high number of crocodiles and it is not uncommon to see several basking on the riverbanks or even floating down the river tearing at a dead animal.
1. Pristine Wilderness
The South Luangwa is absolutely vast with very few safari camps. This means you will not be disturbed by minibuses full of loud and obnoxious people, and your game viewing is peaceful and tranquil. The game here is very relaxed and we’re sure this is as a result of there only being luxury camps in this area, which in turn means that only the best safari guides are leading safaris in this area.
2. Luxury Camps
As already mentioned the camps here are intimate, luxurious and welcoming. This is the home of the small luxury camp and you can enjoy tales around the campfire with like minded people, and a feeling of true remoteness when staying in a luxury camp here.
The South Luangwa has long been known as the best place in Africa to see leopard. The landscape and bush here is a leopard’s heaven which is why there are so many here, and luckily they are now very accustomed to vehicles, and behave in a natural way.
4. Wild Dogs
These heavily endangered animals are very hard to see, but when you do there is nothing quite like it. They are the only predator in Africa that really doesn’t want to eat you and they are completely enchanting. Their family connections are very deep and to watch a family relaxing or at play is magical. They are the most efficient hunters of all the predators and if you’re very lucky you might just see them bring one of the South Luangwa’s unsuspecting antelope down.
Guests traveling to South Luangwa National Park in Zambia will be met at OR Tambo in Johannesburg where they will be assisted in transferring to the international flight to Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka. Upon arrival guests, will board a domestic or charter flight to Mfuwe Airport, which was constructed specifically for tourists to the park.
Upon arrival at Mfuwe Airport, guests will be transferred to their lodgings in a private, air-conditioned vehicle. Although the Mfuwe Gate lies only 20km from the airport, lodges are spread across the park and the drive through the park can take a couple of hours through the rougher terrain. This however, is a wonderful opportunity for game viewing.
Weather & Best Time To Visit
The best time for watching wildlife in South Luangwa National Park is during the dry season, which takes place from July to October. During the rainy season some lodges are shut due to unreachability. The dry conditions enable easy viewing of wildlife as vegetation is less thick. The cloudless skies are also immaculate for stargazing. Fishing is fantastic in September and October.
Average temperatures in South Luangwa National Park vary somewhat. Considering humidity, temperatures feel nice most of the year, excluding some hot weeks in the summer, with a very low chance of precipitation throughout the year. The area is more temperate than most — in the 68th percentile for pleasant weather. If you’re looking for the very warmest time to visit South Luangwa National Park, the hottest months are November, October, and then December. The warmest time of year is generally early to mid October where highs are regularly around 94.9°F (34.9°C) with temperatures rarely dropping below 64.3°F (17.9°C) at night.
Lower Zambezi is situated within a high malaria risk area, and anti-malaria safeguards ought to be consulted with your personal medical practitioner when you are scheduling your tour to Southern Africa. Further than that, make sure that all your regular vaccinations are up to date.
Health & Safety
Crime is virtually non-existent, however as precautionary it is advisable to keep your valuables locked away or camp / lodge management may be consulted for enhanced securing of any valuables.
Mobile Walking Safaris
You will be accompanied by a guide as you walk from one overnight camp to another deep in the heart of the park, along the river banks, exploring areas where there are no roads, so you are unlikely to see anything but wildlife. This park is one of the best known for these types of safaris.
There is a vast array of birds in the park. A birding safari is usually accompanied by an ornithologist or an expert birding guide. Bird lovers appreciate the time to listen to bird song, twitters, and calls, while still enjoying the opportunity of seeing large game.
The South Luangwa River offers a spectacle of wildlife to view safely from the comfort of your boat. The Luangwa River is best navigated in the rainy season when it is fuller. The scenery is lush and verdant and hippos and crocodiles are everywhere, elephants will be common too but most of the other animals will not need to come to the river in the wet season so th focus will be on the experience itself more than game viewing but most operators combine boating and walks.
In the heart of the South Luangwa National Park is a bush–spa, sure to bring tranquillity and rejuvenation. The therapists use treatments based on traditional therapeutic ingredients as well as traditions like using coffee to exfoliate before a deep cleanse with Marula and then moisturizing with Sausage Tree or Baobab Masks. Relax in the Jacuzzi or enjoy a reflexology massage all set in the picturesque African bush.
Just outside of the Park is Kawaza village, home to the Kunda tribe. Here you will be able to experience the culture of the local people as well as the opportunity to stay in a simple African thatched hut. The village was the winner of the prestigious British Guild of Travel Writers’ Silver Otter Award for the “Best Overseas Tourism Project.”
Many of the lodges offer morning and afternoon game drives. Morning drives usually start before sunrise, allowing you to take in the best of the morning game-viewing. The afternoon drives often continue after dark to try and spot some of the Park’s night-time inhabitants.
Night game drives offer an opportunity to spot nocturnal animals as well as those preferring to hunt in the dark – leopards galore, hyenas on a prowl, genets and civets, mongooses, and hippos grazing in the open. But there was one animal I really wanted to spot – the tiny elephant shrew – and this finally happened.
You will have the opportunity to enjoy the African bush on foot, usually for a few hours at a time. A guide will accompany you and make sure of your safety during your excursion.
South Luangwa National Park has to be one of the best places in the world for visitors who want an authentic African photo safari. Shenton Safaris’ two camps are located in the most game rich area of the South Luangwa, it is also the area with the fewest other camps in the vicinity.
What are the animals that we’ll most likely see when on a safari?
You can expect to encounter numerous large animals here – elephant, Cape buffalo, hippo, lion, Nile crocodile, warthog, puku, impala, spotted hyena, greater kudu and eland are all common.
Are boating safaris safe?
Boating safaris are safe. Just like any other safari, it is highly recommended to pay attention to your ranger as wildlife is generally unpredictable.
Why aren’t there any Rhinos in the Area?
No rhino’s exist as poaching completely annihilated the rhino population in this part of the world.
When are the lodges closed?
Some lodges are open throughout the year. Due to road inaccessibility some lodges are closed during the wet season.
Are there any health-related factor that I need to take into consideration?
There are malaria-carrying mosquitoes in the area, so it is advised that you see your personal physician before visiting.
Is there any internet connectivity in the park?
Yes, in other lodges WiFi is available and most have a small internet café.
Is the tap water safe to drink?
Yes, it is safe to drink tap water, however bottled mineral water is easily accessible at lodges.
Come into contact with three of Zambia’s most favoured destinations and genuine safari areas. You will kick-off with Livingstone and the breath-taking Victoria Falls ahead of a diversity of safari activities in the Royal Zambezi …
Live through Zambia’s principal safari area – South Luangwa National Park – from your accommodation at two terrific comfortable safari lodges. You will experience game viewing from open four-wheel drive vehicles in addition to a …
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