South Luangwa National Park
This is one of the premier parks in Africa and famous for its walking trails, magnificent riverine landscapes and high concentrations of game. It is at the southern end of the Great Rift Valley in south-eastern Zambia and is flanked by the ramparts on the Muchinga Escarpment. The river, which is at the heart of the park, meanders wildly with forests of ebony trees, boababs and sausage trees that grow in forests along its banks. In the dry months the river is a trickle but from November when the rains come it turns into a torrent of raging water that often floods the banks. The river changes course from time to time and has created wafwas or ox bow lakes which provide great habitat for game. It is here that large numbers of birds and wildlife congregate particularly during the winter months.
Photographic Highlights of the Luangwa Valley
Leopards Considered to have one of the best populations. The best time to see them is when its very wet (December to March) or when its very dry (August to November).
Carmine bee-eaters. Good time to see them is from August when they arrive through October and into November. They form vast colonies of several thousand birds. The best camps will allow you to get up close and personal to them in hides.
Stork colony. Regarded as one of the largest in the southern hemisphere and in the Nsefu Sector. Go there during the rainy months when they are breeding. Best time from March to April.
Bird Fishing parties. Get into the action during as the wafwas begin to dry out. Can start getting large congregations of storks and other birds from July through to November and the start of the rains.
Migrant birds. The summer months from November through to March are fantastic for birding with summer migrants.
Hippos. The river gets choked with them during the dry months from October though to November. Can offer fantastic opportunities if you can get close enough.
Landscapes. The period from February through to May produces the best landscape opportunities with lots of water in the river, clear views and big skies.
Giraffe. The Thornicroft giraffe is endemic here. And because you can go on guided walking trails there are excellent low down angles.
How to get there
A one hour scheduled flight from Lusaka will take you to Mfuwe International Airport, which serves as a hub for the lodges in the valley.
Best time to visit
The optimal month for game viewing is from July to October when the bush is least dense and game and predators concentrate in the drying lagoons. Massive bird parties collect to polish off trapped barbell in the waters. Carmine bee-eaters crowd the banks and leopards are frequently sighted.The first rains in November thorugh to December is also a great time but as the rains make the ground soft soon only the all weather roads are accessible. As the rains continue from January and through into April the river becomes accessible by boat and this is a great time if you are keen on birds and river trips. Only selected camps remain open through the rains and most are clsoed.
Leopards are found here in large numbers. Lion are also common. Elephants, buffalo, puku, impala, zebra and the endemic thornicroft giraffe are also found in large numbers. The birding is exceptional and with large congregations of crowned cranes, yellow-billed storks, bee-eaters and raptors. There are large pods of hippos here, and their bathing pools become increasingly congested as the dry season progresses and the water level drops.
Good add ons
It’s a short flight to the shores of Lake Malawi from here. South Luangwa also combines well with Lower Zambezi, Victoria Falls, Liuwa Plains and the other great Zambian parks.