There is no better walking destination than Zambia’s Luangwa Valley. Both South Luangwa and North Luangwa are exceptional walking destinations with a camp style quite unlike anywhere else we operate safaris. With guiding set at an astonishingly high standard, it is small wonder that seasoned safarists consider these parks the finest in Africa for embarking on a stroll!
The lifeblood of the Luangwa Valley, the Luangwa River gives life to over 800 kilometres of wilderness, flowing from northern Zambia to join the mighty Zambezi at the convergence on the borders of Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. It connects all three national parks in the valley, so that North Luangwa, Luambe, and South Luangwa all have the hippo-strewn river as their chief boundary.
Although North Luangwa has similar landscape to its southern counterparts, it is a world away in terms of offering a wild and totally secluded safari. Almost completely untouched, North Luangwa is one of the few parks in Africa where game viewing is carried out just about exclusively on foot, following existing animal trails. This is Africa at its most raw, remote, and pristine. A safari here is almost unimaginably good, rarely offered anywhere else on the continent. We highly recommend taking to the bush with your walking boots, binoculars, and sense of adventure. This is the place to get Africa’s dirt under your shoes, its drama into your soul, and its charm into your heart.
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!
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. A number of companies, such as Remote Africa, Shenton, Robin Pope, Norman Carr, The Bushcamp Company, offer really first rate properties providing truly authentic experiences within a breathtakingly beautiful area.
Where to stay?
Run by the fittingly named Remote Africa, Mwaleshi Camp is one of only two camps in the North Luangwa that we sell. Simple, rustic, and functional rather than luxurious, Mwaleshi is undeniably a YZ favourite – there are only four reed-and-thatch chalets, which are rebuilt annually using natural materials. The en-suite bathrooms are open to the stars, the dining area is beautifully scenic with superlative views of the Mwaleshi River, and the guiding is some of the best on the continent – what more could you want in the walking-only zone of North Luangwa?
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.
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.
One that epitomises the very essence of authentic, no-frills walking safaris is John Coppinger’s exceptional Remote Africa. We are big fans of his main camp, Tafika - the base of Remote's operations and John and Carol's seasonal home - but it is his adventurous walking camps that John is arguably most famous for. YZ Director Julian considers Chikoko as one of his favourite walking properties in the entire South Luangwa.
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.
If you’d like more information on a walking safari, check out our top recommendations below - alternatively, feel free to call us on +44 (0)20 8547 2305 or send us an email at [email protected].