North Luangwa National Park

North Luangwa National Park

North Luangwa National Park, usually known just as ‘the North Park’, covers 4,636km² of the Luangwa Valley. The North Park is largely untouched, with few roads and restricted public access, offering a wilder experience of the Luangwa Valley than the much larger South Park.

Safaris to North Luangwa

To get the most out of North Luangwa National Park, our travellers generally visit one of the few camps for walking safaris within the park. Typically a three- to five-night stay at one of the walking camps is perfect, and these camps only operate during the dry season, from June to October.

The North Park can be accessed by air or road. From Mfuwe or Lukuzi in the South Park, a short flight to the North Luangwa airstrip is the easiest and most comfortable way to enter the park. Alternatively, and for more adventurous travellers, North Luangwa National Park can be reached over land, requiring a six-hour drive across rough terrain.

North Luangwa safari camps and lodges

Of the few camps in the North Park, we generally recommend Mwaleshi. Mwaleshi Camp is tiny, able to accommodate just six people and set along a scenic stretch of the southern banks of the Mwaleshi River, which flows year round including the dry season.

Activities on a North Luangwa safari

Mwaleshi Camp is located in the remote, walking-only area of North Luangwa National Park, and thus the sole focus is on walking safaris. There is a vehicle available for driving guests out to more remote walking areas.

Mwaleshi Camp’s vehicle is also available for day trips to the Mwaleshi Falls, located upstream of camp.

Wildlife of North Luangwa

The ecosystems, game and landscapes in the North and South Park are virtually identical. However, unlike the relatively flat relief of the South Park, which is bordered by the Muchinga Escarpment to the west, 24% of North Luangwa Park lies within the escarpment. Thus the North Luangwa National Park has a greater diversity of habitats, particularly for the birdlife, than the South Park.

Animals of North Luangwa National Park

The game in the North Park is similar to the South Park, although there are some notable differences.

The escarpment brings some more unusual mammals to the North Park, including occasional sightings of sable antelope, bushpig and blue monkeys.

In the North Park you’re more likely to see Cookson’s wildebeest, one of the valley’s endemic subspecies. However, you won’t find any giraffes here, they are rarely seen north of the Mupamadzi River. Eland, the largest antelope, are more common in North Luangwa, and Lichtenstein’s hartebeest are also seen more often than in the South Park.

Following the high levels of poaching in the 1980s elephant are scarce and skittish in the North Park. This is changing and the population is growing, but it’ll take a long time before they can match the elephant presence in the South Park.

Lion and buffalo are numerous in the North Park, with buffalo herds even larger than those in South Luangwa, and some very strong prides of lion.

North Luangwa National Park is host to an exciting black rhino re-introduction program. In 2003, five black rhino were introduced into a large fenced-off intensive protection zone, at the heart of the park, with a further ten added in 2006. Despite the death of two of the animals, two baby rhinos were born in the sanctuary, a measure of the project’s success, and a big step towards the aim to establish 20 animals within the now extended sanctuary area.

Birds of North Luangwa National Park

North Luangwa is home to all of the birds species found in South Luangwa. Frequently sighted birds are the carmine bee-eater, giant eagle owl, Pel’s fishing owl, broad billed roller, Lillian’s lovebird, purple crested lorries and crowned cranes.

Furthermore, the North Park is home to a couple of East African bird species that don’t usually occur further south – like the chestnut-mantled sparrow weaver, the white-winged starling and especially the yellow-throated longclaw.

Vegetation of South Luangwa National Park

The inclusion of the escarpment in North Luangwa brings a new dimension to the flora here, in comparison with the South Park.

The 12km long road from Mano down the escarpment, for example, gives one an excellent opportunity to see the difference to the South Luangwa. This road leads you from the two-storey woodlands of the upper and plateau escarpment, with a lightly closed canopy of semi-evergreen trees 15–20m high, down through the Miombo woodlands on the hills to vegetation more typical of the valley as most people know it.

The area south of the Mwaleshi River boasts a huge variety of vegetation, ranging from red mahogany, vegetable ivory palms, leadwood, acacia thicket and open grasslands, morpane woodland to riverine forest and sausage trees.
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