Situated in the heart of East Zambia, the South Luangwa National Park boasts pristine wilderness and immense concentrations of wildlife. With guiding set at an astonishingly high standard, it is small wonder that seasoned safarists consider this park the finest in Africa for embarking on a stroll!
A number of companies operate properties in the area, offering morning and afternoon walks as well as opportunities for longer excursions in the form of walking between camps and lodges, and even camp-outs overnight. Remote Africa, Shenton, Robin Pope, Norman Carr, The Bushcamp Company… each of these has at least one property in its portfolio that is really first rate, providing truly authentic experiences within a breathtakingly beautiful area.
The Luangwa River floods during the wet season, so we recommend visiting from June to October – and the later the better, if you are able to tolerate maximum temperatures of 34 °C! As the river dries, huge numbers of both predators and herbivores congregate at waterholes to quench their thirst.
The South Luangwa consists of 9,050 square kilometres of woods and savanna, with the river running through. The upper slopes of the valley contain southern miombo woodlands, an eco-region of trees that are scattered and small in comparison with the trees closer to the river. This part of the park has plenty of shrubs and grasses. On the lower slopes, there are larger mopane trees and some great grazing!
Both areas are very popular with elephant, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, and antelopes such as eland, impala, kudu, puku. Herbivore highlights include Cookson’s wildebeest, Crawshay’s zebra, and Thornicroft’s giraffe – these species are found nowhere else in the world! Naturally the prevalence of herbivores attracts a lot of predators – lion, leopard, and wild dog in particular. The river is home to hippo and Nile crocodile. With bird species numbering close to four hundred at last count, including raptors, kingfishers, bee-eaters, and lovebirds, the South Luangwa is a real treasure trove for nature lovers!
The pristine feel of the park is complemented by the authentic vibe of our favourite camps and lodges here. These tend to be fairly bijou properties, with five or fewer rooms sleeping up to just ten guests. The buildings have been constructed using stone, wood, and thatch, and a main mess tent combines lounge and dining spaces. Often there are superb river views! Visitors can relax on a dining deck or their own private veranda and enjoy sights of wildlife coming down from the woods to the edge of the water.
Most camps offer walking safaris during the morning and afternoon. Guests set off in the company of a very knowledgeable and experienced guide who will ensure that all walks are memorable and thrilling! Strolling beside the river… exploring the woodland… even crossing the water at times… every step of the way, the guide is on hand to answer all your questions and an armed scout guarantees your safety. And another great part of the experience is spending time within strategically placed hides, so you can come particularly close to wildlife! Do not forget to bring your camera – and your binoculars too!
Travellers hoping to take walking in the Luangwa to the next level can opt to stay in a mobile camp and take part in a mobile walking safari. For example, Robin Pope offers a walking trip lasting five days and covering approximately 10 kilometres daily! The mobile camp is designed to accommodate a maximum of six persons and although the facilities are fairly basic they are very comfortable. This really is a wonderful way to see the South Luangwa! The trip begins and ends with a couple of nights at Robin Pope’s permanent camps – Nkwali at the start, Tena Tena or Nsefu at the finish.
Walking itineraries are also available. Norman Carr has a terrific range, something to suit all budgets! Their Luwi River Trail is fantastic for exploring the really remote parts of the South Luangwa, while the Week on the Wildside takes a flexible approach to safari planning in order to bring clients the best of the park for the lowest cost – and with no single supplement payable, it is ace for solo adventurers. The Bushcamp Company is good value for money too! It boasts six properties situated within outstanding areas for walking. Each accommodates no more than eight guests, resulting in an exclusive and intimate atmosphere.
Shenton Safaris offers super-cool camp-outs! A guide accompanies you on a journey deep into the park. You set up camp close to a waterhole, for some excellent wildlife watching before and during a delicious dinner. Then you clamber into your sleeping bag close to the campfire, with just a mosquito net between you and the star-studded night sky! The experience of drifting off to sleep while surrounded by the sounds of nature is something you will always remember. Camp-outs are available from June to September.
Finally, for perhaps the ultimate in remote safari, the appropriately named Remote Africa has three camps in the wildest parts of the park. Each sleeps up to just six guests and the walking experience includes tracking game, which really adds to the excitement!
The South Luangwa is a YZ favourite and we are always happy to hear from anyone hoping to go on safari here! Just get in touch if you would like further details.