South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

Game drive - South Luangwa National Park.
Truly a beautiful Park teaming with wildlife! The Luangwa River has the most intact major river system in Africa. Animals of all kinds love the riverbanks and the ox bow lagoons giving visitors superb opportunities to watch them.

South Luangwa National Park

The Luangwa Valley is the tail end of the Great Rift Valley.

The ox bow lakes are a visual delight and visitors can also admire the ebony forests and many other wonderful trees such as ancient leadwoods, Sausage Trees and Tamarinds, even Lilacs and Wild Mangos. Elsewhere visitors can see mopane forests and long lived Baobabs. The Luangwa Valley has fertile soil which supports incredible life.

This wilderness sanctuary has 60 different animal species and over 400 different bird species. Walking safaris were pioneered in this Park and continue to be a speciality here. The seasons change the landscapes from dry and bare to lush and green before your eyes.

Game viewing in South Luangwa National Park is led by consummate professionals and visitors can see a variety of African wildlife day and night. The Luangwa River in full flood is a delight for canoeing safaris! Visitors can pass Hippos, Elephants and spot spectacular birdlife maybe even a Pels Fishing Owl.

Seasons

The seasons are dramatic here. Traditionally the dry season, April to October has been the time for game viewing as the vegetation is less lush allowing better opportunities to see but the Emerald Season or wet season is gaining popularity.

The average temperature in summer is between 25C to 35C (77  95 Fahrenheit) and in winter from 6C to 24C (43  75 Fahrenheit).  Zambia generally has a moderate climate with intense heat felt usually in the valleys.

Hot and dry: From August to October, game concentrations are at their height toward the end of this period, October is also the hottest month.

Cool and dry: Warm, sunny days and cool nights characterise the period from May to August which are the dry winter months.

Warm and wet: From November to March, the rainy season is magnificent; vegetation takes on a vibrant green colour becoming a lush jungle, the animals tend to move to higher ground in the wet season.

This period experiences intense storms that pass quickly; there are often heavy rainfalls at night. With higher water levels boating opportunities abound like sundowners on the water or canoe and river safaris in areas previously completely dry.

Also birdlife is most intense in this season with the added bonus of migratory species being present, a birdwatchers dream come true!

Wildlife in Zambia

Out on the plains there are large herds of Elephant, reaching 70 in number, Buffalo are also plentiful and widely spread. Zebra are common, although the ones in Zambia have a different stripe pattern. Another endemic species is Thornicrofts Giraffe, unique to the valley and easily spotted.

South Luangwa has a very good population of Leopard, one of the best, they are not easily seen, but many of the Lodges game trackers are skilled in finding them on night drives.

Night drives searching for nocturnal animals is a wonderful experience in the Luangwa, not only for Leopard spotting but also for the chance to see smaller carnivores like Genet, Civet, Serval and Honey Badger, also Lion, Hyena, foraging Hippos and Owls.

Lions can be seen in prides of up to 30. Visitors may also see Wild Dog, Caracal and Jackal, although they are less commonly seen. There are 14 varieties of antelope species in the Park. The most numerous of these is the Impala; also see Puku, Bushbuck, Duiker, Eland and Kudu. More remote areas are home to Roan, Sable, Reedbuck, Hartebeest, Grysbok, Oribi and Klipspringer.

Primates most commonly seen are Baboons and Vervet Monkeys. There are rarer sightings of Maloneys monkey and the Night Ape or Bushbaby usually only seen on night drives.

A great many Hippos luxuriate in this environment; visitors can see them in their element right from the entrance to the Park whilst driving over the bridge. The lagoons and dambos are like a magnet for them too, it is estimated that there are 50 hippos per kilometre of the great Luangwa River. Crocodiles also favour this habitat; they are often seen basking on the riverbanks.

Birdlife

Zambia has 732 species of bird, 400 of which live in the Luangwa Valley. There are 39 birds of prey and 47 migrant species. This is a haven for birdwatchers that would do well to have an interest in the vegetation also, such variety and diversity is there!

At the end of the dry season, many large waterbirds can be seen wading through the receding waters, each using their own particular method to hunt or grab their prey. Visitors can see storks, egrets, pelicans and herons  the Goliath Heron can stand stock still for hours until the opportune time to pounce! The Crowned Crane is the most handsome.

Around November visitors from up north and down south migrate here to feed. Red Chested cuckoos, swallows, swifts, hobbies and bee-eaters, the Steppe Eagles and Steppe Buzzards arrive all the way from Russia.

Daily choruses of birds will be a far cry from city life, visitors can expect to hear the Ground Hornbill first thing, Heuglins Robin, cooing doves and larks and the haunting cry of the Fish Eagle.

Access:

By Air: Mfuwe Airport has recently obtained international status. There are scheduled flights from Lusaka and Lilongwe. Charter planes from outside Zambia can fly direct to Mfuwe and clear customs and immigration there.

By Road: 1. The most used route is from Chipata. It is a generally good road if a little bumpy here an there. The 123km (76 miles) drive takes about 2 hours to Mfuwe, right outside the Park. 2. If driving in a strong 4 x 4 from Lusaka, it is possible to use a short cut from the Great East Road at Petauke, travelling up alongside the Luangwa River to Mfuwe. This must ONLY be attempted well into the dry season. 3. Northern access is from Mpika on the Great North Road OR Lundazi, near the eastern border with Malawi. Just below Mpika is a road running down the Munyamadzi Corridor between North and South Luangwa Parks. It is only just passable in a 4WD and best with 2 vehicles because help is a long way away. There is formidable mountain pass down the escarpment, very rocky and bumpy however the view is spectacular.


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