Zambia - South Luangwa National Park
The Luangwa Valley, enclosed by the fairly steep Muchinga Escarpment, is widely considered to be one of Africa's finest wildlife areas. In fact, South Luangwa National Park, roughly 9,050km (3,494 square miles), is known as the 'Valley of the Leopards.'
Game is so prolific in the woodlands and plains surrounding the Luangwa River that it became an officially protected area in 1904. South Luangwa National Park consists of the valley and riverine area, including what are called oxbow lakes, as well as densely wooded areas in the northern reaches of the park. The terrain varies throughout the park: in the southern reaches, your camp is likely to offer a view of the beautiful Chindeni Hills across the Luangwa; in the northern portions the park offers more woodlands as well as open pans. It's a huge park worth the exploration.
The concentration of game in South Luangwa is staggering. You'll see all the usual suspects: huge herds of elephant and buffalo; the Luangwa River is literally choked with hippos. Impala and puku are prolific; bushbuck, eland and kudu are often seen.
In addition, you will see three unique subspecies endemic (localised) only to the Luangwa: the Thornicroft's giraffe, with its dark-patterned skin, Crawshay's zebra (with pure black and white striping, no shadow stripes), and Cookson's wildebeest.
The main predators in South Luangwa are lion, leopard and spotted hyena; wild dogs are increasingly seen and seem to be making a comeback. The park is particularly known for its leopard sightings. Civet, genet, African wildcat, elephant shrew, black cobra, and scores of bird species also make their home in the park. There is a happy reason this park also has been called 'The Crowded Valley.'
Most of South Luangwa's permanent tented camps
are peppered along the banks of the Luangwa River. You will find some semi-permanent bush camps
and mobile safari
options in the park as well.
Some camps are set up for spectacular walking safaris, while others excel in game drives - day and night. Others offer exclusive activities such as getting a bird's-eye view from a microlight, or enjoying specially designed photographers' hides. The variety of options makes a longer stay in South Luangwa very worthwhile.
In addition, many camps offer cultural visits to their neighbouring villages. If this is something that interests you, please let us know and we will plan your itinerary accordingly.
It should be noted that that most of the semi-permanent bush camps and some lodges are closed during the rainy season (December - April) simply because little is accessible. This is something that varies from year to year; for example a camp that normally is closed may offer a special 'green season river safari' or a 'wild dog season special' as these rare animals are best seen during the green season. A successful game-viewing experience in South Luangwa is probably best planned between the months of May-October, possibly into November, when the onset of rains offer some interesting photo opportunities.