SOUTH LUANGWA NATIONAL PARK
For most visitors, South Luangwa National Park is by far the most practical park to visit in the valley for unforgettable safaris. This is Zambia’s premier wildlife park, with superb wildlife and many excellent camps. This is where the now famous walking safaris started from over 60 years ago and this unique African destination retains some of the finest world-class safari guides.
There are many contenders for the title of Africa’s best game park. The Serengeti, Amboseli, Ngorongoro Crater, Etosha, Kruger, Moremi and Mana Pools would certainly be high on the list; South Luangwa has a better claim that most of these. Some of these areas will match its phenomenally high game densities. Many others – the lesser known Africa’s parks – will have equally few visitors. One or two may also allow night drives, which open up a different, nocturnal world to see, allowing leopards to be commonly seen and even watched whilst hunting.
However, few have South Luangwa’s high quality of guiding together with its remarkable wildlife spectacles, day and night, in the isolation of a true wilderness. These elements, perhaps, are how contenders ought to be judged, and on these, the South Luangwa Park comes out around the top of the list.
HOW TO GET TO SOUTH LUANGWA NATIONAL PARK?
The easiest and fastest way to get to the South Luangwa is to into Mfuwe Airport. There are daily flights to the South Luangwa from Lusaka operated by a local airline and we book these flights for most of our clients. On arrival at Mfuwe Airport, someone from your safari camp will welcome you and transfer you to the Camp. There you will be welcomed by the camp staff, who will give you some time to settle in before heading out on an activity such as a walking safari or game game drive.
Clients also have the option of driving themselves to the Lodges in South Luangwa from either Lusaka. Local Tour Operators such as Authentic Safaris Zambia can also arrange road transfers to and from the South Luangwa for you.
WHERE TO STAY IN SOUTH LUANGWA?
South Luangwa boasts several world-class safari camps which offer exciting walking safaris and game drives with first-class guides. A number of camps and lodges offering affordable packages are also available.
Almost all the lodges and camps in South Luangwa lie in natural bush either along the Luangwa River or one of its tributaries, with game regularly walking through camp. At Authentic Safaris Zambia, we try to recommend camps which best suited to match the interests and budget of our clients.
The safari camps in South Luangwa differ widely in style; they range from sophisticated safari lodges to the simplest of bushcamps. Many camps are still owner run while a good number of others are operated by companies which retain a strong personal ethic of their founders.
For families and small groups, a safari house might be a good option, while the more adventurous can choose to spend a night or two camping. All you need to do is to ask us about the many options; we know all the camps and lodges in South Luangwa National Park from first-hand experience!
SAFARI ACTIVITIES IN SOUTH LUANGWA
In most safari camps and lodges in South Luangwa, you will enjoy a game drive or walk in the early morning, and a second in the late afternoon. The hours in between shared between having lunch and having a siesta, or simple watching the birds and animals around camp.
Game drives usually take place in open-topped 4WD vehicles, and an afternoon drive may continue after dark in search of nocturnal creatures. On a walking safari, you can expect a leisurely pace with fascinating input from an expert guide, accompanied by an armed ranger.
WHAT TO SEE IN SOUTH LUANGWA – WILDLIFE
Amongst South Luangwa’s main herbivores, three stand out as being endemic to the area. The beautiful Thornicroft’s giraffe has a different coloration to the rest of giraffes in Southern Africa.
The park’s Cookson’s wildebeest from their blue cousins in that they have slightly redish bands and cleaner colours; they are also smaller and more compact.
Elephant and buffalo occur in herds of hundreds, and antelope, especially impala and puku are quite numerous.
The main predators in the Luangwa Valley are lion, leopard, spotted hyena and wild dog. Of these, lions are probably the most common in South Luangwa, and their large prides are often easily spotted. The park also as a top reputation as a first-class park for leopard; this is because leopards normally hunt in the night, and South Luangwa is one of Africa’s few national parks that allow spotlit night drives.
The South Luangwa also boasts a rich tropical birdlife including birds of dry-country and water-based habitats. About 400 bird species have been observed in this park, including many tropical of Southern Africa and a few more from East Africa. The best time to visit South Luangwa for birds is around December to March: the emerald season when the summer migrants visit the place, lured by plentiful food.
Another birding highlight of the South Luangwa is the migrant carmine bee-eater: colonies of their iridescent birds nest in holes in the side of sandy riverbanks. The birds arrive around August-September and usually leave early in the New Year, although their peak nesting activity is usually around September and October.