South Luangwa National Park
Zambia holds one of Southern Africa’s greatest unspoiled wilderness areas, 9,050 sq km of grasslands, oxbow lagoons and riverine forests.
The South Luangwa National Park is home to one of the highest concentrations of game anywhere in the world and is one of the few places in Africa to allow night game drives and walking safaris.
The park is often described as Zambia’s premier safari destination, foremost for the variety of species seen when visiting and the pristine woodland and riverine vegetation plays host to over 60 mammal and 400 bird species.
South Luangwa is the most impressive of National Parks, with incredible wildlife populations and continually enthralling sightings. Not only is it home to unique species such as wild dog, it also offers visitors the chance to experience big game such as lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, hippo, zebra and of course the Thornicroft Giraffe.
The night drives take the wildlife opportunities up a level. Not only for the chance of seeing a pack of lions or leopard but for the many interesting animals that only come to life at night. Genets, civets, servals, hyenas, and bushbabies, nightjars and the grass-mowing hippos.
Bird watching too is superb in the Luangwa Valley; with over 400 species of birds recorded out of the 732 in Zambia including 39 species of prey, there is plenty for the birdwatcher to spot, whatever the season. The oxbow lagoons provide the perfect home to easily see over 100 different species in a three-day visit.
Changing of Seasons
The meandering Luangwa River is the life blood crowded with hippos and crocodiles flanked by Elephants, Zebras, Giraffes and antelope all coming for a drink. Without it the park would not be able to support such levels of wildlife and the survival of these animals depends on it.
The Luangwa changes week by week through the seasons. Dry and dusty at the end of the dry season it turns in to a marshland filled with water, grass grows tall and the trees and bushes become thick with leaves and creepers. This is the happiest time of year for wildlife as they have plenty of food easily at hand and can spend their time socializing, grooming and having fun – especially elephants. Finding the wildlife is exceptionally hard but when you do find then the animals radiate an enjoyment that is hard to find in the harsher dry season.
The rains slow down in March and, except for the odd down-pour, the rainy season is over. The park starts to dry up and tracks start to become accessible in the park that had previously been underwater for the last 5 months. We can start to explore the park and by the end of August the rains and the lush landscape is a distance memory. Wildlife viewing becomes easier and easier as the animals have to venture out further to get water.
By the end of September most rivers except the Luangwa are dry and the hippos congregate in huge pods of hundreds of individual jostling for a patch of precious water. Almost all of the animals have migrated to the river to get access to water and wildlife viewing is exceptional, and the concentration of game is high. The drought is a hard time for the animals as water and quality food source is rare. It has been some 5 months since it last rained, and everything is clinging for survival. This is prime season for the lions and leopards who can feast by picking off the weaker animals.