South Luangwa National Park
One of our absolute favourite places for an African Safari. Beautiful untouched wilderness and diverse wildlife have earned South Luangwa its top spot as a destination for safari lovers in the know.
Our South Luangwa highlights were the pride of lions, seeing a leopard kill, the exotic birds and crossing the river each day. We found the walking safari thrilling and once saw a hyena running from an elephant carcass. Seeing the elephants and hippos so close to the verandah at Kafunta was incredible.
South Luangwa is Zambia’s premier national park and with the Luangwa River snaking through it, some fabulous trees, and mountains in the distance, it is also truly beautiful. With an area of 9,000 sq km, you’ll find you can enjoy vast tracts of this reserve without seeing anyone else.
This is the home of the walking safari which were pioneered here in the late 1960s and are now a key attraction to the park which offers a truly authentic wilderness experience. The legacy of some of the well-known names originally connected with the park is still seen: Robin Pope, Norman Carr, John Coppinger, Derek Shenton …
With an excellent choice of permanent and seasonal camps on offer, it is possible to visit most of the year. During the dry season, the game viewing is exceptional and South Luangwa is known for healthy predator populations. In the rainy season, whilst the wildlife may be harder to find, birding is excellent and prices are more attractive too.
- Walking Safaris: This is where it all started and it’s what many people come to South Luangwa for. There’s nothing that can compare to the exhilaration of wildlife viewing on foot, exploring the landscape and getting close to nature. This is considered the best place to do it and the guiding is superb.
- Other wildlife activities: Morning and afternoon game drives are a great way to explore deeper into the park. The park has a rule of no more than 3 vehicles at a wildlife sighting.
Night drives offer the best chance of spotting the many leopards in the park as well as other nocturnal wildlife.
Boat safaris in the rainy season are an exciting way to explore the winding waterways of the Luangwa River. If you come in the green season (November to March) your safari might be mostly by boat (depending on where you go).
Chipembele Wildlife Education Centre might be of interest to some visitors.
- Wildlife photography: There are some wonderful hides within the park (linked to different camps/lodges, especially Shenton’s) which allow you to get close to the wildlife for some stunning photographic opportunities.
- Predators: This is an excellent place to see leopards. There are strong lion prides, hyenas and increasing numbers of wild dogs. We offer a very special trip in which you can spend time with carnivore researchers in the park (Carnivore Week in South Luangwa).
- Hippopotamus: South Luangwa is perfect for hippo lovers as it has the largest concentration of hippos in Africa.
- Elephants: Elephant populations thrive in the park. Mfuwe Lodge is famous for the elephants that walk through reception en route to their favourite mango tree (late October to mid-December).
- Birding: Species diversity is endless with around 400 species recorded in the park. December to March is considered the peak season for birding, but if it’s carmine bee-eaters you’re after then look at September/October. Shenton’s camps (Mwamba Bush Camp and Kaingo Camp) have an excellent hide specifically for spotting carmine’s in these months. From June to September there are often large flocks of crowned cranes, some doing their spectacular courtship dance.
- Plains game: Buffalo are often found in huge numbers. Endemic to the area are Crawshay’s zebra, Cookson’s wildebeest and Thornicroft’s giraffe. You’ll find these alongside Thomson’s gazelle, kudu, puku, impala and eland.
- Tree safari: Leadwood, wild mango, figs, mahogany, mopane, tamarind, ordeal . . . Not everyone comes on safari to see trees, but if you do, there are some absolute beauties here, including a magical grove of ancient ebony trees near the banks of the Luangwa.
- Culture: Take the opportunity to visit a traditional village (Kawaza) or perhaps craftspeople (Tribal Textiles near Mfuwe).