Experts have dubbed The Luangwa Valley as one of the greatest wildlife sancuturies in the world and not without reason. The concentration of game around the Luangwa river and its ox bow lagoons is amongst the most intense in Africa. South Luangwa is remowned as the place in Africa for walking safaris. Its lavish spread of woodlands, lazy river channels and lily-covered lagoons has abundant wildlife and is perfect for exploring on foot. North Luangwa National Park is almost pure wilderness and supports large herds of buffalo, wildebeest, eland and reedbuck. Herds of elephant gather to drink at the lakes with massive crocks basking on the sunny river banks. Lion are often spotted and the area is well known for its leopards. Game viewing in Zambia is best during dry seasons from April to October. Many camps and lodges even close during the rainy wet seasons.
Walking Safari in South Luangwa
South Luangwa is home of the walking safari with special guides who loves to share their knowledge of the African bush. A walking safari can be anything from 1 day and up to a full week. Bushcamps are guaranteed to be of high standards with comfortable beds and soft linen, great food and setting.
The Times (London) described Tena Tena as one of Africa’s best safari camps while Nsolo Bush Camp is renown for its excellent guiding. Chamilandu has beautiful open-fronted chalets overlooking a river, while the luxurious Kampamba Bushcamp boasts with massive sunken bathtubs overlooking stunning views.
Best times to visit
Walking safaris in South Luangwa National Park are usually only possible from June to October. The park becomes flooded during summer and closes down many camps which have to be reconstructed each May or June when flood waters recede. Warm sunny days and chilly nights typify the dry winter months from June to August. By October, however, temperatures rise and wildlife concentrates around shrinking lagoons towards the end of the dry season.
The South Luangwa National Park covers about 9 050 sq km of the Luangwa Valley floor, which varies from about 500m to 800m above sea level. Near the banks of the Luangwa the land is fairly flat and mostly covered with mature woodlands. There are areas of dense vegetation where bushbuck and leopard thrive and a number of large clearings that were once part of the mighty Luangwa River but were cut off, forming alluvium-filled oxbow lakes. Sausage trees with their pendulous fruit are often filled with the shrieks of Lilian's Lovebirds or Grey-headed Parrots, adding surreal character to these clearings, while towering Ilala Palms highlight the backdrop of riparian forest.
With the progression of the dry season, game concentrates close to the Luangwa River in increasing numbers as water sources further afield dry up. The Luamfwa area is not a place of huge herds but boasts an unusual diversity of mammal life and some spectacular birding. With relatively little human activity in past years, it is a true frontier that continues to surprise as its secrets unfold.
The countryside of the Luangwa Valley is spectacular in its craggy beauty. The area is characterised by thick vegetation and closer to the Luangwa River and its many channels, a lush evergreen riverine forest flourishes all year round. On the flanks of the Luangwa Rivers’ western banks and separated by the 30 kilometre Munyamadzi Corridor are the North and South Luangwa National Parks. Between these two main parks and to the east is another small and as yet undeveloped Park called Luambe. Still further east on the stony uplands beyond the flood plain is the Lukusuzi National Park, also as yet undeveloped.
In the west, the Muchinga Mountain range forms the limit of both the Luangwa Valley as well as the parks. The valley floor is about a thousand metres lower than the surrounding plateau and down the centre of this valley flows the Luangwa River, fed by dozens of sand rivers that flow during the rainy season which starts in November. The river slices a tortuous course along the valley floor and when in flood rapidly erodes it’s outer bends, depositing silt within the loops. The river eventually cuts a new course, leaving the old water-way to silt up and ‘ox bow’ lagoons are formed. These lagoons are of huge significance to the ecology of the riverine zone and explain the high carrying capacity of the Luangwa Valley area. The rich volcanic soil supports a wide variety of lush vegetation and a wealth of animal and birdlife flourishes.
Here herds of antelope shelter under thorn trees or roam the plains, predators skulk in the shadows, scenic ox-bows and lagoons are filled with hippos and crocodiles. Buffalo and the often tuskless South Luangwa elephant are drawn to the river both for food and water. The yellow baboon and endemic Thornicroft's giraffe are often encountered but puku and impala are undoubtedly the most abundant residents. Common waterbuck, greater kudu, Sharpe's grysbok, spotted hyaena and wild dog amongst others can be seen here and towards the end of the dry season there is a chance of spotting Crawshay's zebra - a subspecies of the plains zebra that entirely lacks the shadow stripes of its more southerly cousins. Leopard occur here in considerable numbers. An interesting mammal that can be found in camp is the Mutable sun squirrel, with a distinct banded tail - considered by some to be a separate species.
One of the most entertaining residents of this area is the hippopotamus - found here in numbers unequalled anywhere else in the world, it regularly serenades guests to sleep with its repertoire of grunts, laughs and unintelligible croaks. Crocodiles too are commonly seen sunning themselves on the broad sandy banks of the Luangwa.
The birdlife is spectacular with numerous conspicuous species such as Saddle-billed, Open-billed and Yellow-billed Storks, African Fish-eagles and Bee-eaters being almost guaranteed. Lilian's Lovebird is found here in flocks of well over a hundred and Böhm's Spinetails, Western Banded Snake-Eagles and Collared Palm-Thrushes are some of the species that a visitor may be fortunate enough to see. Southern Carmine Bee-eaters arrive in August to dig their nest holes in the Luangwa's steep banks and Giant Kingfishers and African Skimmers can be seen plying the river for a meal of fresh fish.