Top Things To Know about South Luangwa National Park
Welcome to South Luangwa National Park, one of the great remaining unspoiled regions of Africa.
Its officially time to discover, explore, and experience everything the widely renowned and highly sought-after South Luangwa National Park has to offer – Are you ready? You better be, because it promises to be a truly unforgettable and beyond thrilling African wildlife and safari adventure.
South Luangwa National Park is by far the greatest highlight of eastern Zambia. Known by locals as simply ‘the South Park’, this impressive National Park covers an extensive area of approximately 9050 square kilometers of the Luangwa Valley floor. With its western and northwestern edge bounded by the Muchinga Escarpment, and the southern border lined with the meandering Luangwa River, there is no shortage of dramatic and fascinating topography and landscapes to explore in this stunning game-rich park. In fact, very few destinations in Africa can offer the unique combination of South Luangwa National Park’s open, grassy plains and mature, mesmerizing woodlands, crowned with the breathtaking Luangwa River.
One of South Luangwa National Park’s main allures, as well as what sets it apart from other pristine National Parks, game reserves, wilderness and conservation areas, and safari destinations in Africa, is that despite Zambia’s growing reputation as a spectacular and must-visit safari destination, South Luangwa National Park has retained its essence of true wilderness, remaining relatively untouched, and is therefore uniquely able to provide an unpredictable and exhilarating safari experience to any that visits this rare and remarkable wilderness gem.
South Luangwa National Park Wildlife
Beyond its untouched wilderness landscapes and sheer unapologetic natural beauty, Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park is known to draw wildlife enthusiasts and safari connoisseurs from all corners of the globe. Accompanying its reputation for offering extremely high-quality expert guiding, South Luangwa’s concentration of wildlife is some of the most dense in all of Africa.
Brimming with exuberance and fuelled by the life-giving Luangwa River – The pristine Luangwa River is the most intact and unspoiled river system in Africa, with its tributaries and lagoons being the lifeblood of this region – South Luangwa National Park’s expansive savannah grasslands are home to over 60 species of wildlife, boasting a vast diversity of game that will undoubtedly satisfy any safari bucket list. From Africa’s top predators like the mighty majestic lion, lean and elusive leopard, agile cheetah, hungry hyenas, and the famed, yet endangered, African wild dog to big game favorites which include large herds of elephants, buffalos, rhinos, giraffes, and hippos (to mention merely a few) – you better believe South Luangwa National Park has them ALL, including the iconic African Big 5! Here’s a quick tip – For the best Big 5 sightings and game-viewing experience, head to the Valley’s oxbow pools – you definitely won’t be disappointed!
South Luangwa’s wildlife wonders DEFINITELY don’t end there! This glorious National Park and wildlife haven is also home to a number of rare and endemic species as well as some of the most unique wildlife sightings, such as Zambia’s beloved Crawshay’s zebra herds (whose stripes are more distinct than those found further south and west), the Thornicroft’s giraffe, and Cookson’s wildebeest. Not to mention 14 different species of antelope, including the elusive bushbuck and the attractive kudu, with its spiral horns and delicate face.
Another one of South Luangwa National Park’s wildlife highlights takes place in late October, just before the start of the rain, when thousands of hippos gather in the Luangwa River’s deeper pools – It truly is a remarkable spectacle to witness as they jostle and fight for space.
South Luangwa National Park Birding
Calling all avid birders – South Luangwa National Park has you covered too! Boasting over 400 different species of birds, including 39 birds of prey, South Luangwa’s birdwatching is like no other.
When Zambia’s dry season draws to a close, the Luangwa River becomes the ultimate hub of activity for hundreds of frolicking waterfowls – from the majestic yellow-billed storks and grandiose pelicans to the striking saddle-billed storks, elegant crowned cranes, and the stately goliath heron – you sure are in for quite the birdwatching treat!
As if that isn’t enough, dozens of migratory species like the steppe eagle, the red-chested cuckoo, and the steppe buzzard swoop in just before the rains. On top of this, you’ll even get to spot hundreds of carmine bee-eaters nesting in the steep river banks. Talk about a utopia for twitchers! If you’re a head-over heals bird lover, South Luangwa National Park should be right at the top of your birding bucket-list!
With such a glorious diversity of birdlife to see, you’ll definitely want to pack your binoculars as well as a camera to capture all your remarkable bird sightings. To add an extra touch of thrill, South Luangwa National Park offers visitors both day and evening game drives, which is unique in the world of safari, this opens up a whole other nocturnal realm for your viewing excitement.
South Luangwa National Park Walking Safaris
Loudly and proudly claiming the title as ‘The Home of the Walking Safari’ – Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park is by far the top destination in Africa to go on a walking safari. Considered the birthplace of walking safaris, going on an exhilarating walking safari in the renowned South Luangwa National Park promises to exceed all your expectations – Because, as stated by the locals, a South Luangwa walking safari is not JUST a South Luangwa walking safari or a thrilling wilderness experience, adventure, or activity to be enjoyed, but rather a way of life.
If you decide / have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of going on a walking safari adventure on your visit to this iconic National Park you’ll have the additional privilege of traversing the untamed landscapes of South Luangwa National Park on foot while being guided by an exceptional, highly experienced, and incredibly knowledgeable wildlife guide or ranger.
So lace up those hiking boots and ditch the conventional 4×4 safari vehicle as you embark on your exhilarating and bucket-list worthy South Luangwa walking safari expedition – an experience this region pioneered and remains famous for even to this very day. As South Luangwa National Park is arguably one of the greatest wildlife-viewing destinations in Africa, you’ll cross paths with an incredible and diverse array of wildlife species, including large herds of elephants, buffalos, zebras, hippos, giraffes, an abundance of antelope, the mighty and magnificent lion – the ultimate king of the jungle – leopards, cheetahs, endangered African wild dogs, as well as Zambia’s beloved Crawshay’s zebra herds, the Thornicroft’s giraffe, and Cookson’s wildebeest. Boasting such an amazing abundance of wildlife your South Luangwa walking safari will undoubtedly be filled with the most magnificent up-close wildlife sightings and encounters.
South Luangwa’s essence of true wilderness, relatively untouched surroundings, remote location, and limited number of visitors allowed ensures a pristine walking safari experience that’s genuinely unparalleled. You’d be hard-pressed to find anything quite like it! With all that being said, South Luangwa National Park continues to wear the crown and covet the title as the ultimate destination in Africa for those who desire to traverse big-game terrain on foot and entirely immerse themselves in the natural world.
South Luangwa National Park Game Drives
While Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park is indeed ‘The Home of the Walking Safari’ and going on an exciting walking safari, where you traverse your way through the untamed natural landscapes of the park on foot and get up-close-and-personal with nature’s finest, is not only encouraged but an ABSOLUTE MUST, feel free to mix things up by going on a couple of game drives too! Because, why not?
With an expensive wilderness and countless untouched landscapes just waiting to be explored, going on an adventure-filled game drive in an open 4×4 safari vehicle is the perfect way to cover more ground as well as experience South Luangwa’s spectacular surroundings, wildlife, and birdlife from a whole new perspective – not only figuratively, but literally too! The high seats of the game drive vehicle provide unbeatable all-around views, making it easier to spot various wildlife species, especially those that enjoy being a little more elusive and harder to find, as well as capture every picture-perfect wildlife and safari moment on camera.
Going on a thrilling game drive in an open 4×4 vehicle with an experienced and knowledgeable wildlife guide by your side not only gives you the incredible opportunity to enjoy up-close wildlife and birdlife sightings and encounters like you never have before, but venture off the beaten path to game-rich areas where you’ll discover hidden wildlife gems seldom seen on foot.
If you’re eager to add a bit more excitement to your game drive experience why not venture into the South Luangwa wilderness at night and revel in every thrilling second of an exhilarating night game drive? Hearing a lion roar during a night drive or safari is without a doubt a once-in-a-lifetime wildlife experience you’ll never forget – there truly is nothing quite like it!
South Luangwa National Park River Safaris
With the twisting curves of the substantial Luangwa River flowing through this east part of Africa, it is no surprise that some of the best wildlife viewing on your Zambia and South Luangwa National Park safari will take place near and along the river itself. River Safaris and Boat Trips are an exciting and great way to be ‘wowed’ by the greatness of the iconic Luangwa River which is teeming with wildlife. River Safaris will also give you the amazing opportunity to spot and enjoy up-close sightings of some of South Luangwa’s wildlife species that are not as easily spotted by going on a game drive or walking safari. Not to mention the fact that you get to explore and experience the spectacular South Luangwa National Park from an entirely different and unique perspective.
When to visit South Luangwa National Park
As most people travel to South Luangwa National Park for its sensational wildlife sightings – It does boast among the highest concentration of wildlife in all of Africa after all – the best time to visit / travel to South Luangwa National Park is during Zambia’s dry season, which takes place from July to October.
Due to the lack of rain / minimal rainfall experienced during Zambia’s dry season, most of the smaller water sources in South Luangwa National Park dry up. As a result, the famous Luangwa River becomes the primary gathering place for animals as an abundance of wildlife congregate around the river in search of the refreshment of the river’s clean water. As most, if not all, of South Luangwa National Park’s wildlife population congregate around this sole water source during the dry season, visitors to the park can expect to enjoy spectacular wildlife sightings and up-close encounters.
In addition to remarkable wildlife sightings and pristine game viewing, predator activity significantly increases during this time. As South Luangwa National Park is home to all of Africa’s top predators, including lions, leopards, cheetah, hyenas, and African wild dogs, visitors can expect to see these predators in action as they wait for the perfect moment to strike. Due to the abundance of wildlife that congregate around the Luangwa River it is essentially easy pickings / open season for predators.
Pros of visiting South Luangwa National Park during its dry season (April – October):
- The thick bush thins out and wildlife is easier to spot.
- Animals will gather around the river.
- Best time to spot the more elusive species on your list.
- Expect bright days and lots of sunshine.
- Less chances for malaria, since there are fewer mosquitos.