South Luangwa National Park
South Luangwa is undoubtedly one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world. The Luangwa River is the most intact major river system in Africa and is the life blood of the park's 9,050km². The Park hosts more than 60 different animal species and over 400 different bird species. The concentration of game around the Luangwa River and it’s ox bow lagoons is among the most intense in Africa.
Here you will encounter large herds of elephants, and smaller herds of zebra, abundant buffalo and Thornicroft’s giraffe, unique to the Luangwa Valley. Hyenas, leopards, lions, caracal, wild dog, serval and side striped jackal all hunt here. The park is home to 14 different antelope species, monkeys, bushbabies, night apes, baboons and vervet monkeys. Prolific populations of hippos and crocodiles are found in the river.
Birdwatching is superb, with more than 400 of Zambia’s 732 species of birds appearing in the Valley. A special sight is the hundreds of brightly coloured carmine bee-eaters nesting each October in the steep sandy banks of the river.
The now famous ‘walking safari’ originated in this park and is still one of the finest ways to experience this pristine wilderness first hand. Much of the park is reasonably flat, so the walking is not particularly difficult, and walking safaris are aimed at the generally fit, rather than supreme athletes! The park is not however exclusively for walkers. Most of South Luangwa’s private lodges are located close to waterholes, or overlooking vast plains, offering guests superb game viewing from the comfort of your deck or pool.
Game drives in 4x4 vehicles depart twice daily, and vehicles are equipped with spotlights for night drives. Please do bear in mind that only those lodges located within the park’s boundaries are permitted to conduct game drives after dark. If you are staying at one of the lodges outside the park’s boundaries, your game drives will be restricted to the gate opening times.
The park experiences very pronounced seasonal changes, adding to its richness – ranging from dry, bare bushveld in the winter to a lush green wonderland in the summer months.
The dry season lasts from April to October. The heat intensifies through to October which is the hottest month when game concentrations are at their height.
For game viewing, the best time to visit is during the dry winter months of May to August, when the bush is sparse and animals congregate around waterholes and at the river. These months are characterised by warm sunny days and cool evenings.
The wet season begins in November and lasts until the end of March. As the dry bleak terrain becomes a lush jungle the migrant birds arrive in droves. Lodges in and around South Luangwa stay open for as long as access is possible, depending on their location. The northern areas of the park are pretty much inaccessible during the rainy season (November-March).
photo copyright: Norman Carr