A world renowned wildlife sanctuary and one of the finest in Africa, with beautiful scenery along the meandering Luangwa River and associated ox-bow lagoons. There are over 60 species of animal and 400 species of birds. Common animals include elephant, buffalo, hippo, lion, leopard together with a host of antelope species (puku, impala, kudu, bushbuck, waterbuck – less common are eland & hartebeest). The leopard population is one of the highest densities in Southern Africa. Endemic populations of Thornicroft’s giraffe and Cookson’s wildebeest are unique to the Luangwa Valley. The Luangwa Valley is famous for its walking safaris, one of the finest ways to experience this pristine wilderness.
One of the finest wildlife sanctuaries in Africa
The South Luangwa National Park is a world renowned paradise. The meandering Luangwa River forms the lifeblood of the park attracting abundant wildlife of extraordinary diversity and creates spectacular scenery against the backdrop of the Muchinga Escarpment.
During the peak game viewing season the river level drops dramatically, exposing wide expanses of sand quickly taken over by eager colonies of nesting birds and providing ideal sleeping spots for hippo and crocodile. At the height of the green season the river completely changes character becoming a powerful, swirling mass of water, filling the ox bow lagoons and giving new life to the park.
The famous missionary, explorer Dr. Livingstone traversed the area in the late 1800s and like many after him, was spellbound by the beauty of the Luangwa. The vastness of Africa and the bountiful wildlife create a seductive allure.
The park has prolific birdlife and a myriad of mammals including, leopard and elephant for which the park is famous, lion, buffalo, zebra and over 14 different antelope.
An exhilarating wilderness experience.
Walking safaris, Zambia’s signature product, were pioneered in the Luangwa Valley by the late, Norman Carr, the country’s doyen of conservation. He created a sublime experience that remains unsurpassed. Africa distilled into a heady, intoxicating blend that magnifies your senses. The result is one of intense appreciation for the beauty of this land.
A professional safari guide leads each “walk” interpreting the bush and revealing the wonders of nature. The original safari was a walking trail between rustic bushcamps. This is still an exceptional way to experience the Luangwa, with many of the camps originally sited by Norman himself.
SOUTH LUANGWA IN DETAIL
The 9050km2 South Luangwa National Park is a world renowned wildlife sanctuary and one of the finest in Africa, with beautiful scenery along the meandering Luangwa River and associated ox-bow lagoons. The park is located in the eastern region of Zambia, encompassing the mid-Luangwa Valley which forms part of the Great Rift Valley System.
The western boundary of the park runs along the edge of the Muchinga Escarpment which provides a beautiful and photogenic backdrop to the area, whilst the river forms the major portion of the park boundary to the east. Most of the region lies between 500 – 900m above sea level rising to 1,250 m in the west.
The river is essentially the lifeblood of the park, the floodplain levees, oxbow lagoons, wide grazing lawns and associated riverine vegetation forming an important habitat with the result that wildlife is most abundant in this region. Mopane woodland dominates the adjacent terrain; beyond this there are large areas of scrub, munga and miombo woodland. Scattered grasslands are more common in the far north, the largest being the Chifungwe plain and strips of riparian forest and thicket occur throughout.
There are over 60 species of animals and 400 species of birds recorded in the Luangwa Valley. In addition to the prolific wildlife, the park is also emerging as an important and extremely rich area of archaeological significance (although research is still in its infancy).
The classic African walking safari was pioneered in the Luangwa by Norman Carr, Zambia’s most respected conservationist and is still one of the finest ways to experience this pristine wilderness.
History of the National Park
The history of game protection in the area began in the late 19th century when the British South Africa Company (BSAC) imposed a total ban on the hunting of hippo and elephant due to massive exploitation by the Chikunda tribe from Mozambique and the Arab traders from Malawi.
From 1904 – 1911, the BSAC established a game reserve in the southern Luamfwa region to protect the endemic Thornicroft’s Giraffe, whose numbers had also declined. With the ban on hunting, the elephant populations increased significantly and hunters were allocated licences to shoot crop raiding elephants. Later on a government elephant control department was formed.
The North and South Parks together with Luambe were proclaimed in 1938. Norman Carr and Bert Schultz were appointed game rangers and the villages within the reserves moved to the peripheries.
In the late 1940s Carr recommended that professional hunting safaris be allowed in the region, with the revenues going to the local Native Authorities. In 1951 Carr persuaded Chief Nsefu to set aside a portion of his tribal land as a game reserve bordering the park. Nsefu, the first safari camp in the Luangwa, was built with the proceeds going to the local community.
In 1973 the elephant population was estimated to be 100 000 and having a major impact on the area. A culling programme was carried out, but the completion of the culling coincided with the escalation of poaching to rampant proportions. The poaching seriously depleted elephant numbers and rendered the black rhino locally extinct. A privately funded organization, Save the Rhino Trust, was established in 1980 as an attempt by concerned and dedicated conservationists to halt the demise. They conducted extensive anti-poaching patrols, but up against powerful opposition, were sadly unable to save the black rhino.
Common animals include elephant, buffalo and hippo, with healthy numbers of lion. The leopard population is one of the highest densities in Southern Africa, providing for rewarding sightings during night drives. Hyaenas are fairly common throughout the area. Sightings of wild dog have been increasing over the past few years and seem to be particularly good during the rainy season in the Mfuwe area, although certainly not guaranteed due to the highly mobile nature of the species. Less common are caracal and serval.
Endemic populations of Thornicroft’s giraffe and Cookson’s wildebeest which are unique to the Luangwa Valley. The giraffe are common within the Mfuwe area diminishing in concentration towards the north of the park. The wildebeest are found in the more northerly region around Lion plain and are abundant in North Luangwa National Park.
There are estimated to be at least 50 hippo per kilometer of the Luangwa River and there is a very healthy population of Nile crocodile. Of the primates, baboons and vervet monkeys are prolific, the Maloney’s monkey is more scarce and occurs towards the escarpment. The night ape and bushbaby are only likely to be seen on night drives. The park has 14 different antelope species, including the bushbuck, kudu, eland, waterbuck, impala and puku. Much less common and a treat that is more likely to be found in the remote regions of the park are duiker, reedbuck, roan, sable, hartebeest, grysbok, kilpspringer and oribi.
The Luangwa Valley is renowned for its birding with about 400 of Zambia’s 732 species occurring in the area, including 39 birds of prey and 47 migrant species.
The South Luangwa National Park is an Important Bird Area (IBA). IBAs are crucial sites of international importance for the conservation and biodiversity of birds. They are selected by strict criteria and may hold significant numbers of one or more globally threatened species, be one of a set of sites that together hold a suite of restricted-range species or biome-restricted species; or have exceptionally large numbers of migratory of congregatory species Refer to Section 12.0 for IBA species listing.
Mopane birds are very well represented in the park. Towards the end of September the carmine bee-eaters arrive and begin constructing their nests in the river banks forming a mesmerizing display of crimson. When the oxbow lagoons recede, hundreds of birds of different species form fishing parties in the shallow waters. Great flocks of pelicans and yellow billed storks can be seen thermalling high up in the skies. The yellow billed storks are particularly amusing as they drop in like parachutists on a drying waterhole, cartwheeling and spinning almost out of control.
In November, palaearctic migrants from Northern Europe and intra-African migrants arrive. These include the red-chested cuckoo, white storks, European swallows, swifts, hobbies, bee-eaters, as well as birds of prey such as the Steppe eagles and Steppe buzzards that come all the way from Russia.
Best Time of Year to Visit
April/May: Potential rain storms around. Warm/hot. The bush is very green, grass long. Birding is excellent with migrants still around. Gameviewing is good but only the all weather roads in the Mfuwe area are open. Remote roads are still closed. Some lodges have boats which allow for beautiful trips on the river which is still quite high. Fantastic light for photography.
June/July: The start of the peak season – the bushcamps within the park are open and walking safaris are possible. This is “mid winter” and can be very cold on early morning and evening game drives. During the day the temperatures are cool/warm. The bush is drying out. Most days are clear with fabulous colours. All areas of the park are open. Gameviewing is good/excellent. Walking safaris may be a little restricted as the grass is still a bit high.
August: Cool to hot with the bush now dry. Lagoons are shrinking and gameviewing excellent.
September: Hot, dry and hazy. Trees flower and lose their leaves. There may be fires in the area attracting yellow billed kites (migrants) and other birds. Gameviewing is now excellent. Carmine bee-eaters arrive and begin to build their nests. As the waterholes dry up, huge fishing parties of birds are formed. Buffalo form large herds and come to the river daily to drink, with lion not far behind. Everything is waiting for the onset of the rains.
October: Very dry with excellent game viewing, animals concentrating around the last remaining water. The river is now very shallow. Storm clouds start building up and there may be occasional rain which cools the temperatures down and clears the air. Can be very hot (up to 40 degrees in the shade). New growth starts in the mopane woodland and elsewhere – newborn warthog finally emerge from their burrows and may also be seen.
November: Hot and slightly humid. Daily afternoon storms start to become the norm. These can be very dramatic with wind, dark clouds and sheet lightning – very beautiful and exciting. The bush is now green and fresh. Time of birth (especially the impala). The migrant birds arrive providing excellent birdwatching. The bushcamps are now all closed and access to the more remote roads is reduced as the rains increase.
December – March: Lush, green and beautiful. The river rises daily. This is a very quiet, relaxed time. Only some of the lodges remain open, road access is restricted, tourist numbers are much reduced. Thunderstorms are a daily event. Birding is spectacular.
Normal activities offered in the Luangwa
Game drives – night and day in open safari vehicles. A few lodges have canopies on their vehicles, but this is not the norm. Guests should enquire beforehand if necessary.
........ June – October. Some lodges have permission to conduct walks outside of this period, however with the grass tall and black cotton clay soil very muddy, the wet season is not the ideal time for walking. It is generally accepted that the bushcamps are most ideal for walking, being located in more remote areas away from the game drive roads and with a ZAWA scout allocated to each bushcamps. It is possible to do walks from the lodges, however they may need prior notification to organize a scout to accompany the walk. Children under 12 are not allowed to accompany walks in the national park.
River Safaris & Boating
........ Some other lodges which are open during this time are also able to offer boating, notably Mchenja Bushcamp (Norman Carr Safaris; Nkwali Camp; Kafunta River Lodge; Luangwa River Lodge...
Other places to visit in the Mfuwe area include:
The normal daily program at most camps is approximately as follows
Some lodges offer special meals in the bush, such as bush brunches, all day drives or picnic lunches, depending on the length of stay of the client.
All camps and lodges in the Luangwa area are open to the surrounding bush without fences of any kind. The wildlife can, and does, roam freely through the lodges. Guests should take the utmost care when walking about their lodge and stay within their lodge area at all times. At night clients should not walk around the camp themselves. Should a guest come across game, they should not approach the animal. Elephants in particular can move very fast and can be very dangerous – they are scared of humans and can react suddenly without warning. If an elephant happens to feel threatened and kill a human who has got too close, the scouts will then be directed to automatically shoot the elephant. Please don’t give them reason to have to do this.
Park Entry Fee
At present the rates are as follows:
Proof of residency status must be presented to the lodge or park gate on payment. These fees are per person per 24 hour period. Self drive guests will have to pay for their vehicle entrance too.
Credit cards are becoming more widely accepted, however not in remote areas and should not be relied on except in major towns. Most lodges in South Luangwa accept credit cards, however they will charge a commission varying from between 5 – 7% on both credit cards and travelers cheques in order to cover the bank charge commission.
It should be noted that VisaCard is the most widely accepted, whilst some lodges accept Mastercard as well. Diners Club, American Express and other cards are unlikely to be accepted anywhere.
Cash: US dollars are easier to change than sterling. Smaller denominations of bills are recommended. USD notes should be recent with “large heads”. Old notes with “smaller heads” (except one dollar bills) are not accepted ANYWHERE in Zambia.
Health & Insurance
Clients are advised to have comprehensive travel insurance (including Trip Cancellation/ Curtailment and Medical Evacuation & Hospitalisation).
Malaria – Zambia is a high risk malaria area and protection from malaria is imperative. Guests are strongly recommended to take malaria prophylactics and are advised to adhere strictly to the dosages, especially for the four to six weeks after their stay in Africa. Guests are further advised to use mosquito repellent and wear long clothing in the evenings and sleep under a mosquito net at night.
If you come down with flu-like symptoms either during, or within four to six weeks after your visit to a malaria area, seek a doctor’s advice immediately.
Tetanus and hepatitis vaccinations are recommended.
Whilst most lodges offer a laundry service, guests should be aware that these are hand washed, dried in the sun and then ironed with charcoal irons. Lodges cannot be held responsible for loss or damage to clothing.
What to Bring on Safari
Casual, comfortable, lightweight clothing in khaki, brown, green and beige colours. Pale or bright colours are not advisable for walking safaris as the animals can easily see these shades. (Shorts or trousers are best for walking safaris)
• Light cotton tops and cotton trousers
• Shirts with long sleeves (even in summer; to protect from the sun and mosquitoes)
• Shorts or a light skirt
• Jeans or safari trousers for evenings and cooler days
• Sweater or warm jacket (game drives in open vehicles can be very cold in winter)
• Comfortable walking shoes/boots
• Sun block, sunglasses and hat
• Strong Torch (when staying at bush camps)
• Swimsuit if your lodge has a pool
• Light, compact raincoat during the rainy months
• Insect repellent, anti-histamine cream, personal toiletries and medication
• Binoculars (Each person should have their own pair of binoculars)
If you wear prescription glasses – bring a spare pair. For contact lens wearers bring a spare pair of glasses as the dust and insects in the open vehicles can be a problem
Getting there by Air
Restrictions - It should be noted that luggage is restricted to 12kg on charter flights in soft suitcases.
Meet and Greet - Both Proflight and Airwaves charter companies are able to meet and greet clients from international flights and assist them onto their charter flight to Mfuwe. Voyagers is also able to offer this service and should be given priority where possible.
Getting there by Road - Directions
Approximate journey times to Mfuwe are:
The South Luangwa National Park can be reached from three different routes, Chipata being the usual route.
Road conditions from Lusaka to Chipata can vary with some section of the tar road having terrible potholes. The Chipata to Mfuwe road can range from excellent (after grading) to shocking (middle of the rains) and self-drive guests should enquire beforehand.
Fuel can be purchased in Petauke and Chipata, however fuel in Mfuwe is much more expensive and petrol in particular can be difficult to obtain.
The distance from Chipata is 123km and duration varies from 2-5 hours depending on the road conditions. The road from Chipata passes through rural Zambian villages and some lovely scenery. During the dry season, if the road has been fairly recently graded, conditions are generally reasonable with corrugations, some potholes and exposed rocky areas. Saloon cars are not appropriate and would need to drive with extreme caution, a high clearance vehicle is recommended. During the wet season access is only possible with a 4 x 4 as the road can be very rutted and muddy.
When you reach the BP fuel station on your left you have reached Mfuwe town. About 500m further on there is a tarred road to the left with many lodge signs. To reach your particular lodge follow specific lodge directions and signs from here. The main South Luangwa park gate will be reached if you continue driving straight ahead.
This route is a very picturesque and remote “shortcut” from Lusaka, recommended for guests with a robust 4 x 4, preferably in convoy, wanting an adventure and different scenery. This road is only open well into the dry season. Adequate provisions should be taken on this journey as it is not a well frequented road. Information regarding current road conditions should be obtained.
The Northern access is either from Mpika on the Great North Road or Lundazi, near Zambia’s eastern border with Malawi.
Just below Mpika there is a road which turns off the Great North Road and heads east, through the Munyamadzi Corridor between North and South Luangwa National Parks. A 4 x 4 is essential, preferably in convoy and is only accessible well into the dry season. The road down the escarpment is quite formidable, very rocky and bumpy but the view over the Great Rift Valley is quite spectacular.
Adequate provisions should be taken on this journey as it is not a well frequented road. Detailed directions and information regarding current road conditions should be obtained.
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