South Luangwa National Park | Zambia Travel Tips & Reviews | Africa Point
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South Luangwa National Park
Southern Carmine Bee-eater, South Luangwa, Zambia
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South Luangwa National Park

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Straddling the wide expanse of the great Luangwa River, one of Africa’s most thrilling National Parks is waiting to welcome you. Home to dense concentrations of wildlife including many Big Cats and four of the Big Five, South Luangwa National Park has often been dubbed one of the world’s greatest wildlife sanctuaries!

 

Best Time to Visit:

All year round - game viewing is best during the dry winter months from April to October, while Birding is amazing during the Emerald Season from November to March.
 

Average Visitor Rating:

5 out of 5 'Pawprints' Based on 0 Review(s)
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Sensational South Luangwa

The Luangwa River is a major tributary of the mighty Zambezi River and forms the life-line of no less than 3 separate National Parks in Zambia.  South Luangwa is green and lush in summer (the Emerald Season), stark and arid in winter, and encompasses a wide range of habitats and ecosystems which attract one of Africa’s most dense populations of wildlife.  The river supports the largest concentration of Hippos in Africa and there are several rare animals and birds to be spotted, making South Luangwa an ideal Safari destination.  In addition, the central location of this National Park means that it can easily be accessed as part of a multi-country Southern African Safari.

 

 

Walking Safaris, Bird Watching and other Highlights

Walking Safaris

South Luangwa National Park is the original birthplace of the African Walking Safari, which has now become popular in many private concessions and conservation areas in Africa - (most National Parks do not allow walking).  Here you can follow in the footsteps of great pioneers like Livingstone, as you get first-hand experience of one of the very best ways to enjoy the unspoilt wilderness.  

 

Bird Watching

Zambia is home to over 700 species of resident and migrant birds, and no less than 400 of these species can be seen in South Luangwa, in their numbers!  There are hundreds of water birds, 37 species of raptor and throngs of regular palearctic migrants from Northern Europe as well as inter-African migrants which include Storks, Cuckoos and Bee-eaters.

 

Night Drives

Like walking, Night Game Drives are prohibited in most National Parks, but here at South Luangwa they are one of the highlights!  On a Night Drive (usually the homeward leg of an afternoon drive) you have the chance of some exciting sightings of nocturnal animals such as Leopard, Hyena, Aardwolf and Porcupine, (with the aid of a floodlight), as you return to camp after dark.

 

Hippo Heaven

You simply cannot miss Hippos at South Luangwa!  There are really large pods of Hippo (numbering up to 70) lolling around in the many dams and lagoons along the river – it is estimated that there are about 50 Hippo per kilometre of river in this Park, making it the largest concentration of Hippos in Africa.

 

 

Safaris in South Luangwa National Park

Walking Safaris

The prolific game and the expertise of the guides in South Luangwa, born of many years of experience in this type of game viewing, ensure that this is one of the most rewarding places in Africa to do a Walking Safari. Incredible sightings of Leopard, Elephant, Hippo, Lion and Wild Dog are all quite common here, rather than a rarity. 

 

The Lodges all offer short walking excursions from your camp, or you can undertake a “real” Walking Safari where you walk from one lodge to another. You will walk all along the winding river banks, deep into the heart of the Park, away from all roads and other visitors – a really unique experience.   All you need is a reasonable level of fitness, a pair of well broken-in shoes and a daypack for water and snacks – your luggage will be moved from one Lodge or one mobile campsite to another.  Overnight stops can be anything from a Fly-Tent in the bush for the adventurous, or a lovely luxury riverside lodge for those who prefer a little more comfort.

 

Birding Safaris

Of course you can enjoy bird watching as part of your regular game drives or walks, but serious Twitchers should consider a dedicated Birding Safari accompanied by an ornithologist or an expert birding guide.  On a Birding Safari you will have plenty of time to observe, photograph and listen to a fascinating array of birds, while still enjoying great sightings of all the animals in the Park.  Expect to see hundreds of water birds, including several species of Stork, Pelicans, Heron and Cranes.  There are also plenty of raptors, including Steppe Eagles and Steppe Buzzards that make the long journey to Luangwa all the way from Russia.  Birding is best during the wet summer months from December to March.

 

Boat Safaris

Taking to the waters of the Luangwa River is the perfect way to observe life along the river banks from a different perspective, and makes a nice change from your 4X4 vehicle. You will be able to get up close and personal with many Hippos and Crocodiles from the safety of your boat and should spot Elephant and other animals along the banks.  It is also a great way to spot some of the more elusive water birds.

 

 

Other Activities

Cycling

If you are keen to work off some of the brilliant meals you will be eating in Camp, perhaps you would enjoy a Mountain-bike safari?  You will set out with an armed guide to enjoy a different approach to game viewing.  Rides are tailored to your requirements – you could go for an hour or a day!

 

Bush Spa

A relaxing massage using genuine and unique African ingredients such as Marula and Baobab is just the thing to sooth tired muscles after your Cycling or Walking Safari! 

 

Cultural Interaction

Enjoy a cultural experience just outside the Park at the Kawaza Village, home of the Kunda tribe, where you can even stay overnight in a simple African thatched hut to immerse yourself in the “real” Africa.  You can also learn how to make clay pots and animals.

 

Wildlife Tracking

Learn how to trace wildlife in the bush by means of identifying their tracks and droppings – this one is particularly popular with children.  

 

 

Accommodation

When it comes to accommodation there is definitely something to suit everyone in this Park.  Most of the accommodation is located in superbly scenic spots in the Park, usually overlooking the river or one of the many permanent water holes where the animals gather in large numbers during the dry season.  There are rustic thatched bungalows, luxurious lodges with swimming pools and luxury tented camps, as well as basic fly-camping under the stars.  Keen birders should request their Tour operator to book them into one of several camps that have well-camouflaged hides – perfect for keen photographers.

 

 

Best Time to Visit

Due to the dense concentrations of game in this Park, viewing is good all year round, but some months are better than others!  Like most of Southern Africa, game viewing is at its’ best at the height of the dry season, when water shortages force the animals to stay close to permanent water holes.  The Luangwa River recedes dramatically during the dry season, which starts in April and intensifies until October, when water becomes very scarce and game viewing is exceptional wherever there is permanent water.  The rainy season starts in November and transforms the dry river banks into a verdant jungle- the Emerald Season.  The River regularly floods during the wet season and several camps close for a couple of months.  However, this is the best time of year for Birding as the migrants arrive in their droves!  

 

 

How to Get There

The closest airport to the Park is Mfuwe, which has recently received international status, which means that non-domestic flights do not have to clear customs in Lusaka before flying in – great news for South Luangwa!  Mfuwe Airport is served by scheduled flights from Livingstone and Lusaka on a daily basis through Proflight Zambia, and several charter airlines can also fly you there from neighbouring countries.  A number of international airlines offer flights to Lusaka from the UK, South Africa and several African countries.


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