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South Luangwa National Park
South Luangwa National Park
South Luangwa National Park
South Luangwa National Park
South Luangwa National Park
South Luangwa National Park
South Luangwa National Park
South Luangwa National Park

Breakfast as the sunrises over the Luangwa

Harmony in the South Luangwa

We're not the only inquisitive ones ...

A public display of affection ...

The daily newspaper, reading lastnight's spoor

It's a whole new day ...

Zambia, renowned for it's walking safaris

Perfect photographic opportunities ...

South Luangwa National Park

South Luangwa National Park

Fanning out on either side of the Luangwa River, fertile plains are dotted with grazing animals – no hint of incipient danger.

With lush grass, shallow lakes, shrubby bush and stands of trees spreading to the escarpment, the setting is almost pastoral. But in a world where every tree can be a hiding place, every bush can morph into a lion, appearances can be deceptive. Despite the apparent calm, these animals are on high alert – with the odds stacked increasingly against them as the dry season progresses.

Equally alert are highly trained guides, their safari-going visitors safely ensconced – by day or by night – within sturdy, open-topped 4WDs, or exploring on foot, accompanied by an armed guard and a pounding heartbeat. In the South Luangwa, where walking safaris began, this is still the ultimate thrill for the adventurous safari goer.

While the park’s original camps are still going strong, others have joined them, from the rustic to the sophisticated, the budget to the truly exclusive, the accessible to the remote.

For many, ease of access is key. Just a short drive from the airport, a plethora of lodges cluster around the main Mfuwe gate: you don’t have to go far in search of wildlife. But the further away you go, the more intimate your safari experience – whether on a self-drive safari, with a mobile expedition, or in one of the more isolated camps.

Some camps are geared entirely to walking. Others specialise in photography, with purpose-built hides and specially trained guides. Still others offer chandeliered splendour, or focus on families, or even camping.

But all have wildlife at their heart, from the diversity of tropical birds – at their peak during the “emerald” or rainy season – to the magnificent array of animals that find food and shelter in this exceptional park. Whatever your budget, they are the constant of the South Luangwa.

South Luangwa National Park

Safaris visiting South Luangwa

Zambia’s most popular park for safari holidays is the South Luangwa - and this is reflected in the large number of safaris that we feature. A few of these trips also incorporate Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park, or the Livingstone & Victoria Falls, but many of them focus entirely on the Luangwa Valley.

Often we suggest visiting sister-camps that are run by the same operator, which helps to make the trips the best value possible, as well as offering greater continuity throughout the trip.

The best South Luangwa safari is the one that works for you. Our top suggestions range from a week in a series of small, remote lodges, or in highly individual owner-run camps, to one where you will walk between specialist bushcamps.

There’s also the option of a full mobile walking safari – the ultimate adrenalin-inducing trip!


Itinerary image

Perekani Walking Trail

10 days • 5 locations
LUSAKA AIRPORT TO LUSAKA AIRPORT

Five smart but rustic bushcamps are the comfortable staging posts for this walking safari in South Luangwa. The route offers outstanding seclusion and rich wildlife with top-quality guiding throughout.

US$9,250 - US$11,500 per person

Itinerary image

Civet Safari

9 days • 4 locations
LUSAKA AIRPORT TO LUSAKA AIRPORT

Combining three intimate bushcamps in the quieter south of the South Luangwa, this safari will appeal to those looking for an interesting mix of walking and vehicle safari.

US$7,480 - US$9,230 per person

Itinerary image

Scrub Hare Safari

7 days • 3 locations
LUSAKA AIRPORT TO LUSAKA AIRPORT

Camps run by welcoming owners with a passion for their environment are rare, and Tafika is one of the best. Combine this with walking safaris at equally excellent bushcamps for the best of the South Luangwa.

US$6,040 - US$7,210 per person

Itinerary image

Boehm's Zebra Safari

7 days • 2 locations
LUSAKA AIRPORT TO LUSAKA AIRPORT

This safari combines two high-quality owner-run camps in a very productive region of the South Luangwa. The guiding is excellent and with its hides this safari is perfect for serious photographers.

US$7,130 - US$9,410 per person

Itinerary image

Hippo Safari

9 days • 4 locations
LUSAKA AIRPORT TO LIVINGSTONE AIRPORT

Combining excellent game with aspects of remoter safari in South Luangwa, as well as the cultural delights of Livingstone, this trip also makes use of long-stay discounts, making it an excellent-value and well-rounded adventure.

US$7,480 - US$8,820 per person

Itinerary image

Robin Pope Walking Safari

7 days • 3 locations
LUSAKA AIRPORT TO LUSAKA AIRPORT

The definitive, original mobile walking safari; explore the remote north of the South Luangwa on foot while staying in a simple mobile camp that moves with the group.

US$6,500 - US$7,870 per person

Itinerary image

Duiker Safari

10 days • 3 locations
LUSAKA AIRPORT TO LUSAKA AIRPORT

Three luxurious bushcamps in stunning riverside locations, split between the South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi national parks, offer a wide variety of expert-guided safari activities in stunning game-rich environments.

US$8,060 - US$10,020 per person

Itinerary image

Nile Monitor Safari

6 days • 2 locations
LUSAKA AIRPORT TO LUSAKA AIRPORT

Great-value South Luangwa safari to two sister camps: a classic safari camp for 4WD safaris by day and night and its simpler sibling: a remote, seasonal bushcamp for expert-guided walking safaris.

US$4,570 - US$4,800 per person

View all safaris

Our travellers' most recent reviews of safaris in South Luangwa National Park

Every year, we help numerous travellers to fulfil their dream of a safari in South Luangwa National Park, or further afield. Many of them come back to us with their feedback, something that we appreciate in many ways.

Their comments help to enhance our knowledge and understanding of each place they visit – and this in turn helps future travellers to plan their trips.

In addition, this feedback is shared with lodges and other safari operators in the South Luangwa, who appreciate it as genuine insight and opinion.

All 901 reviews from our travellers’ safaris in the South Luangwa National Park are reproduced in full and are unedited; click below to read them.


99%
901 reviews since August 2007
Excellent
881
Good
31
Average
1
Poor
0
Terrible
0
Miss P from London

Arrived 4 May 2024, 16 nights

"My May 2024 trip"

"Overall, a very enjoyable trip. …" Read Miss P’s full holiday review

Overall rating: Excellent

Mr F from Amsterdam

Arrived 26 May 2024, 19 nights

"My May 2024 trip"

"Once again an expertly crafted journey by Expert Africa. …" Read Mr F’s full holiday review

Overall rating: Excellent

Mr & Mrs S from Oxon

Arrived 12 May 2024, 15 nights

"Our May 2024 trip"

"our seventh visit to South Luangwa National Park... keep up the good work …" Read Mr & Mrs S’s full holiday review

Overall rating: Excellent

Mrs F. from Australia

Arrived 1 Jun 2024, 5 nights

"My Jun 2024 trip"

"Website is fantastic with so much helpful information. …" Read Mrs F.’s full holiday review

Overall rating: Excellent

Ms Andrea L from USA

Arrived 19 May 2024, 15 nights

"My May 2024 trip"

"Our group was very impressed with Maruska and Expert Africa....Africa is magical …" Read Ms Andrea L’s full holiday review

Overall rating: Excellent

Mr & Mrs H from Kent

Arrived 13 Feb 2024, 14 nights

"My Feb 2024 trip"

"We had never been to Zambia in the emerald season before, …" Read Mr & Mrs H’s full holiday review

Overall rating: Excellent

Richard/Mary from England

Arrived 31 Oct 2023, 24 nights

"Our tenth trip to RPS"

"Claire s a 'star'. Thank you. …" Read Richard/Mary’s full holiday review

Overall rating: Excellent

Rowena from London

Arrived 19 Nov 2023, 11 nights

"Zambia November 2023 trip"

"A truly wonderful trip. I appreciated all the calls and detailed advice. …" Read Rowena’s full holiday review

Overall rating: Excellent

Pete & Nancy from Stockton

Arrived 5 Oct 2023, 28 nights

"Our Oct 2023 trip"

"the best safari experience we’ve had. Expert Africa took care of all the details …" Read Pete & Nancy’s full holiday review

Overall rating: Excellent

M and D from Brockenhurst

Arrived 30 Sep 2023, 17 nights

"My Sep 2023 trip to Zambia "

"a wonderful trip with superb wildlife sightings... very pleased to return …" Read M and D’s full holiday review

Overall rating: Excellent

See all South Luangwa National Park reviews

Where to stay in South Luangwa

South Luangwa boasts several world-class safari camps, which all offer exciting safari walks and drives with first-class guides. Some also offer excellent mobile and fly-camp options.

Almost all South Luangwa accommodation lies in natural bush along the Luangwa River or one of its tributaries, with game regularly roaming through camp. Most of the camps recommended by Expert Africa lie away from the main Mfuwe gate, spaced a considerable distance from each other, where it is unusual to see vehicles from other camps during your game drive.

In style, the South Luangwa camps differ widely, from sophisticated safari lodges to the simplest of bush camps. Many, such as Tafika Camp, Kaingo and Kafunta, with their tiny satellite walking camps, are still owner run; others, such as Nkwali and Kapani, are operated by companies that retain the strong personal ethic of their founders.


Tafika

Tafika

One of the best camps in Zambia, Tafika is naturally built, combining excellent service and food with top guiding skills for a superb wildlife experience.


98% (319 reviews)
Nkwali

Nkwali

On the banks of the Luangwa River, with its own access to the national park, the intimate Nkwali is open year round.


96% (240 reviews)
Kaingo Camp

Kaingo Camp

Small and owner-run, the riverside Kaingo occupies a a quiet but excellent game area, with a series of wildlife hides and a focus on photography.


97% (213 reviews)
Nsefu

Nsefu

One of the Luangwa's oldest camps, Nsefu is a great safari camp in a remote, beautiful and game-rich location with top-rate guiding.


98% (192 reviews)
Tena Tena

Tena Tena

One of the Luangwa's best camps, in a beautiful, remote bush location, Tena Tena is very small, exceedingly well-run and has top-rate guiding.


95% (154 reviews)
Mwamba Bushcamp

Mwamba Bushcamp

Small, remote and owner-run, Mwamba offers first-class walking, 4WD safari drives and superb hides, with excellent guides and a real bush feel.


99% (152 reviews)
Chikoko Tree Camp

Chikoko Tree Camp

Chikoko Tree Camp is an excellent small, rustic bushcamp that concentrates on walking safaris, and is run by a top-quality operation.


98% (119 reviews)
Big Lagoon Camp

Big Lagoon Camp

Big Lagoon Camp is a great little rustic bushcamp built to high standards that focuses on excellent walking safaris, with the emphasis on top wildlife guides.


98% (93 reviews)
Kapani Lodge

Kapani Lodge

Kapani Lodge is now the main office base for Norman Carr Safaris, one of the Luangwa's oldest safari operations.


95% (78 reviews)
Flatdogs Camp

Flatdogs Camp

A relatively big safari camp, Flatdogs offers value for money with great guiding and good food in a comfortable, relaxed setting.


98% (74 reviews)
Luangwa River Camp

Luangwa River Camp

Luangwa River Lodge is a small and consciously stylish lodge in the Mfuwe area, overlooking the Luangwa River and the South Luangwa National Park beyond – an area renowned for great game.


96% (74 reviews)
Mchenja Bushcamp

Mchenja Bushcamp

Set in a shady ebony grove on the banks of the Luangwa, Mchenja is a smart tented bushcamp. It combines well with Kakuli and Nsolo – its sister camps with a focus on walking safaris.


98% (70 reviews)
Kakuli Bushcamp

Kakuli Bushcamp

Beside the Luangwa River, Kakuli is a comfortable tented bushcamp offering 4WD safaris and walking safaris – the best of which are camp-to-camp walks linking Kakuli with its nearby sister camps.


97% (65 reviews)
Nsolo Bushcamp

Nsolo Bushcamp

Nsolo is a small, comfortable bushcamp overlooking one or two pools in the usually dry Luwi riverbed. It concentrates on walking safaris in an interesting and diverse area, led by a knowledgeable guide.


97% (55 reviews)
Kafunta River Lodge

Kafunta River Lodge

Kafunta is a laid-back, friendly and good-value lodge on the outskirts of South Luangwa National Park.


96% (45 reviews)
Luwi Bushcamp

Luwi Bushcamp

In a remote part of the South Luangwa National Park, Luwi is a rustic bushcamp whose emphasis is on walking safaris with great guiding and a chance of seeing some rarely seen and elusive antelope.


93% (39 reviews)
Robin Pope Safaris bush-camp

Robin Pope bush-camp

RPS bushcamping in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia


99% (29 reviews)
Lion Camp

Lion Camp

Lion Camp is an established and comfortable camp with a swimming pool, located near to the game-rich Lion Plain in the northern part of South Luangwa National Park.


95% (26 reviews)
Robin Pope Safaris Mobile Safari Camp

Robin Pope mobile

RPS mobile safari camps are at the heart of their set-itinerary walking safaris in South Luangwa National Park, which start and finish at a permanent camp.


98% (24 reviews)
Puku Ridge

Puku Ridge

Puku Ridge is a luxurious designer camp set in a stunning location, high on a hill overlooking a floodplain within South Luangwa. Explore from here on 4WD safaris and walks.


96% (21 reviews)
Kapamba Bushcamp

Kapamba Bushcamp

In the remote far south of South Luangwa National Park, Kapamba is a small and very comfortable bushcamp offering good walks and game drives.


95% (20 reviews)
Mfuwe Lodge

Mfuwe Lodge

In a game-rich area close to the South Luangwa’s main Mfuwe Gate, Mfuwe Lodge is relatively large by park standards, but it’s stylish, modern and family friendly.


94% (18 reviews)
Kuyenda Bushcamp

Kuyenda Bushcamp

Kuyenda Bushcamp is a classic bushcamp with particularly delightful hosts and offers top-class walking safaris in South Luangwa National Park.


99% (16 reviews)
Luangwa Safari House

Luangwa Safari House

Luangwa Safari House is a vast and very smart four-bedroom house specifically designed for families and small groups, and offering an exclusive and flexible safari experience.


100% (14 reviews)
Three Rivers Camp

Three Rivers Camp

In the remote far south of South Luangwa National Park, Three Rivers Lodge sits at the confluence of three of the valleys rivers.


95% (13 reviews)
Island Bush Camp

Island Bush Camp

Island Bushcamp is a good-value, rustic, walking-only camp, in arguably one of the most remote parts of the South Luangwa, well away from all other camps.


100% (13 reviews)
Chinzombo

Chinzombo

Opened in early June 2013, Chinzombo offers luxurious and stylish accommodation with very high levels of service and excellent guiding.


98% (13 reviews)
Bilimungwe Bushcamp

Bilimungwe Bushcamp

A smart bushcamp with four very spacious chalets, Bilimungwe offers interesting walking safaris in pretty riverine woodland, as well as day and night safari drives.


95% (12 reviews)
Chindeni

Chindeni

Chindeni Bushcamp is a very modern and minimalist camp, which is a far cry from your traditional bushcamp and unlike most of the other camps in South Luangwa.


97% (12 reviews)
Robin's House

Robin's House

With your own expert guide, private vehicle, chef and valet, the two-bedroom Robin's House offers an exclusive, flexible safari experience – and is open year round.


95% (11 reviews)
Kawaza Village

Kawaza Village

Kawaza Village – beside the South Luangwa National Park, offers guests the rare opportunity to appreciate local village life. Visit for a few hours or stay overnight.


95% (11 reviews)
Chamilandu Bushcamp

Chamilandu Bushcamp

A comfortable little bushcamp, Chamilandu has a picturesque setting by the Luangwa River, in an area with a range of habitats to explore on foot and by 4WD.


100% (5 reviews)
Mwamba Camp-out

Mwamba Camp-out

The Mwamba-Camp Out allows you to have an incredibly adventurous night in the bush, sleeping under mosquito nets with activities led by some of the best guides in Zambia.


92% (5 reviews)
Zungulila

Zungulila

Zungulila is a small, comfortable tented bushcamp with an emphasis on walking safaris, in the remote southern section of the South Luangwa.


93% (3 reviews)
Shawa Luangwa Camp

Shawa Luangwa

Opened in June 2021, Shawa Luangwa Camp is a small, intimate and rustic camp, with a good location in a remote section of the South Luangwa National Park.


93% (3 reviews)
Luwi Riverbed Sleepout

Luwi Riverbed Sleepout

For an adventurous night in South Luangwa National Park, come and sleep out in the bush, around a campfire, with an experienced guide and game scout.


100% (2 reviews)
Chichele Presidential Lodge

Chichele Lodge

Currently in the final stages of an extensive rebuild, Chichele Presidential Lodge stands high within the park, with superb views, and is due to reopen in late 2024.


100% (1 review)
Mapazi Camp

Mapazi Camp

Mapazi Camp is a basic safari camp in the far north of the South Luangwa, with walking safaris led by renowned guide Deb Tittle.


No reviews yet
Chikunto Safari Lodge

Chikunto

Chikunto Safari Lodge is a more traditional property in the South Luangwa National Park, sitting on a peninsula of land created by the meandering Luangwa River.


No reviews yet

View all places

Our travellers’ wildlife sightings in South Luangwa

Our travellers’ sightings of key wildlife species are an intrinsic part of our understanding of the South Luangwa National Park.

For many, keeping a record of their sightings of these species – including the major predators, along with wild dog, buffalo, elephant, giraffe, hippo, spotted hyena and zebra – helps to enhance their South Luangwa safari.

For us, this information enables us to assess with increasing accuracy where you are likely to spot individual species during your safari; citizen science in action. Whether you’re seeking the South Luangwa’s giraffes, or intrigued by the possibility of watching wild dog, see our interactive map showing the best locations for individual wildlife species in Zambia.

And to find out more, click on a species or read how this survey works.


Hippo

99% success

Elephant

99% success

Giraffe

96% success

Zebra

96% success

Buffalo

89% success

Lion

87% success

Spotted Hyena

86% success

Leopard

84% success

Wild dog

46% success

Wildebeest

40% success

Eland

16% success

Roan antelope

7% success

Sable antelope

4% success

Aardvark

1% success

Pangolin

1% success

When to go to South Luangwa National Park

Perhaps the question we are most frequently asked is “when is the best time to go to South Luangwa National Park?”. And the answer, of course, depends on many factors.

The best time to see animals in the South Luangwa is from around June, increasing through to October as the dry season progresses and the Luangwa River is reduced to a series of pools. As a result, August–October is when the park is at its busiest, and accommodation in the South Luangwa is at its most expensive.

During the shoulder season, around June–July and in early November, game viewing is still very good, but visitors are fewer and lodge rates tend to fall.

Few camps in the South Luangwa remain open during the “emerald” season, typically from December when the rains have started, but those that do showcase a verdant setting with the river flowing and migrant birds returning to nest.


Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Zambia in January

At the peak of Zambia’s rainy season, you can expect heavy rainfall for a few hours most days, with sunny spells in between. Temperatures remain high, reaching over 30ºC, with high humidity. The rainfall is yet to make a significant difference to the Victoria Falls, and the flow of water here remains low. The landscapes are green and lush and the air crystal clear, but with the abundance of water the wildlife disperses, and the thick bush can restrict sightings. It severely limits walking safaris too. Migrant birds boost the species count at this time.

With seasonal rivers in flood and dirt roads and airstrips unusable, many camps in Zambia become inaccessible, and close. Only a few lodges in the central Kafue and the South Luangwa remain open. Few people visit in January, so the parks are incredibly quiet and the camps charge their lowest rates.

  • Peak of rainy season: hot & humid, with rain for a few hours most days
  • Majority of camps closed throughout the month
  • Bush incredibly green & lush, with clear air – great for photography
  • Big game dispersed & thick bush makes sightings difficult
  • Very few visitors: the cheapest time to visit

Our view

This is not a great time to visit

Weather in January

Zambia in February

February remains in the heart of the rainy season, with dramatic thunderstorms delivering a few hours of rain most days, interspersed with clear sunny skies. There is still an abundance of water in the environment, dispersing game and closing camps. With the thick bush, game viewing is limited and walking safaris restricted, but the swollen rivers allow some activities that would be unavailable in the dry season, such as boat trips on the Luangwa River.

After a couple of months of rain, water will once more be making its way to the Zambezi River, and the flow of water over the Victoria Falls will start to pick up.
Visitor numbers and costs at the few open camps remain low.

  • Peak of rainy season: hot & humid with rain for a few hours most days
  • Most camps closed throughout the month
  • Bush lush & green: good for photography but poor for game viewing
  • Very few visitors, & the cheapest time to visit
  • Water levels at Victoria Falls still low, but starting to pick up

Our view

This is not a great time to visit

Weather in February

Zambia in March

March is the last month of the rainy season in Zambia, and there are still heavy downpours most days. Water levels are at their highest making it difficult to get around the country. Temperatures still reach over 30ºC most days, too, with the rain causing high levels of humidity.

Many camps remain closed, and the thick bush limits game viewing and walking safaris. However, many animals are raising young at this time of year, with predators taking advantage of the easy prey, so sightings can be incredible, if sporadic. Wild dogs in the South Luangwa are particularly active at this time of year. With clear air and increasingly frequent blue skies as a backdrop, photography can be spectacular. The birding remains excellent as thousands of birds prepare for their winter migration.

  • Peak of rainy season, hot & humid, with rain for a few hours most days
  • Majority of camps closed throughout the month
  • Bush remains green & lush: good for photography but poor game viewing
  • High abundance of animals with young
  • Very few visitors, & the cheapest time to visit

Our view

This is not a great time to visit

Weather in March

Zambia in April

As the rains change from intense downpours to lighter and sporadic showers, April is very much a transitionary period in Zambia. The landscape remains exceptionally green and lush, with sparse viewing of larger wildlife.

Although camps start to reopen in April, most remain closed, and others that were open at the start of the year may shut to prepare for the coming dry season. This is the first month of the year when it’s possible to visit the Lower Zambezi.

The Zambezi River will be at its highest level with the Victoria Falls in full flow, but with huge amounts of spray kicked up views of the waterfall are often obscured.

  • Tail end of the rainy season; hot & humid with light rain most days
  • Some camps reopen; possible to visit the Lower Zambezi
  • Bush still green & lush: good for photography; poor for game viewing
  • Victoria Falls in full flow but with poor views
  • Very few visitors, & the cheapest time to visit

Our view

This is not a great time to visit

Weather in April

Zambia in May

May is typically the first month of the dry season. While there is the chance of an odd shower, the majority of days are clear and sunny. As winter approaches, temperatures start to drop, with most days reaching highs of around 26ºC.

As the landscape dries out, access to the parks improves, and all but the most remote bushcamps reopen. After five months of rain there is still a lot of standing water, but despite the thick bush May marks a distinct improvement in game viewing, and clear air is a continuing bonus for photographers.

The end of the month can be a popular time for visitors, taking advantage of typically good weather, improved game viewing, and the last of the low-season rates offered by the camps.

  • Start of the dry season in a typical year, with mostly clear & sunny
  • Majority of camps open
  • Bush still green & lush, with clear air for photographers
  • Game viewing starts to improve
  • Last month of low rates at the camps

Our view

A good time to visit, with pros & cons

Weather in May

Zambia in June

Zambia sees virtually no rainfall in June, with a strong chance of sunny days throughout. The humidity drops dramatically and, as winter approaches, temperatures reduce, falling to around 10ºC at night but still warming to 25ºC during the day.

The landscape remains lush but the bush starts to die back significantly, improving visibility for game viewing and walking safaris. All the camps in the South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi are open by the start of June. While some have a ‘shoulder season’, others start charging their highest rates.

The water coming over the Victoria Falls starts to recede, reducing the mist and spray kicked up, providing better views of the waterfall itself.

  • Reliably sunny days, but dropping temperatures, especially at night.
  • All camps in the South Luangwa, southern Kafue & Lower Zambezi open
  • Wildlife viewing continuing to improve
  • Increased visibility & cool weather perfect for walking safaris.
  • Viewing of the Victoria Falls at its best

Our view

A very good time to visit

Weather in June

Zambia in July

As the dry season continues, vegetation and long grasses have mostly died back and water starts to become scarce. Wildlife starts to cluster around the major sources of water and the game viewing approaches its best.

July is the first month of winter, and while daytime temperatures are in the 20s Celsius, temperatures at night can drop to single digits. Early morning and late evening drives in open vehicles are particularly cold, and blankets and hot water bottles are often provided.

Visitor numbers increase significantly and space at popular/small camps can get tight. Nearly all properties are now charging their highest rates. Even floodwaters on northern Kafue’s Busanga Plains have now receded, and all camps in Zambia are open.

  • Warm, dry days; cold, crisp nights
  • Significantly improved game viewing
  • Walking safaris are unrestricted by vegetation, with good temperatures
  • Approaching peak season, so significant increase in costs
  • Northern Kafue now accessible

Our view

A very good time to visit

Weather in July

Zambia in August

By August, the vegetation has died back and wildlife is now congregating around the remaining water sources, providing excellent game viewing. With virtually no chance of rain you are almost guaranteed sunny days, although dust and smoke in the air means a visible haze starts to appear on the horizon.

Temperatures can drop below 5ºC at night but climb to the 20s Celsius during the day. Jackets and gloves are recommended for morning and evening drives. This is one of the most popular – and most expensive – months to travel. European school holidays have little impact on travel within Zambia, but they do increase international flight costs, and all camps are charging their highest rates.

  • Very dry with warm days but cold nights
  • Excellent wildlife viewing, as animals congregate around water holes.
  • Haze developing on the horizon, potentially affecting photographs
  • Cool temperatures & clear sightlines: ideal for walking safaris
  • Peak season: camps & flights at their most expensive

Our view

Fantastic: the very best time to visit

Weather in August

Zambia in September

September is the most popular, and arguably the best, time of year to travel. Rain is almost unheard of so humidity is low, and temperatures are starting to climb. Morning drives are more comfortable, with daytime temperatures normally in the low 30s Celsius.

Water is scarce, so wildlife clusters around the few remaining sources. Game viewing is very nearly at its best, with a good chance of seeing interactions between species. Camps are charging their highest rates and are at their busiest, with popular camps often fully booked more than a year in advance.

A significant haze sometimes appears on the horizon, impacting on landscape views and affecting photography. Depending on the rainfall in the wet season, the Victoria Falls can start looking dry, with more cliff face than waterfall on show.

  • Dry hot days with clear skies, & warm nights
  • One of the best months for wildlife viewing
  • Dust & smoke creates a haze over the landscape
  • Peak season: camps are expensive & often full
  • Victoria Falls starting to look dry

Our view

Fantastic: the very best time to visit

Weather in September

Zambia in October

As the dry season peaks, the landscape in October is brown and barren, with little ground-level vegetation, though the promise of rain may bring the occasional shower. Temperatures can be uncomfortably hot, reaching over 40ºC in the daytime and rarely dropping below 20ºC at night. This is particularly challenging on walking safaris and in camps without air conditioning.

A thick haze on the horizon sometimes turns photographic backgrounds grey-brown rather than sky-blue. The lack of water sees hippos and crocodiles cram themselves into the few remaining shallow rivers, with other wildlife carefully skirting around them in order to drink. Game viewing is at its absolute best, and you’re most likely to see hunts in October.

On the Zambian side, stretches of the Victoria Falls become a dry cliff face.

  • The best month for wildlife viewing
  • Very hot both night & day, with little chance of rain
  • Air can be very hazy with dust & smoke, so not great for photography
  • Victoria Falls largely dry on Zambian side
  • Camps less busy & some start to drop their rates

Our view

A very good time to visit

Weather in October

Zambia in November

November typically marks the end of the dry season. Although the timing of the rains is always uncertain, temperatures remain reliably high and the humidity builds as the rains approach.

While you may avoid the rains in the first week of November, it’s not unusual to see some spectacularly heavy thunderstorms, followed by an explosion of green growth. Wildlife disperses rapidly after the rains, no longer restricted to limited waterholes closely monitored by predators. However, Kasanka’s bat migration is at its peak, and wildebeest gather on Liuwa Plains.

Many remote camps close, and those that remain open significantly drop their rates. The initial rains have little impact on the Victoria Falls, but do significantly reduce the atmospheric haze.

  • Typically the start of the wet season; very hot and humid
  • Increased chance of heavy rain as the month progresses
  • Greatly diminished game viewing once the rains arrive
  • Bat migration in Kasanka, and wildebeest migration in Liuwa
  • Camp rates lower, & visitor numbers reduced

Our view

A good time to visit, with pros & cons

Weather in November

Zambia in December

December is typically the first month in Zambia’s rainy season, with heavy thunderstorms most days interspersed by sunny spells. Temperatures start to fall, but still reach over 30ºC in the daytime, with high levels of humidity.

As the rainfall increases it brings plentiful water into the landscape, encouraging the growth of thick green vegetation. Wildlife remains in the national parks and sightings are possible, but overall game viewing is poor. Access to the parks becomes problematic and all but a handful of camps around the entrance to the South Luangwa and the centre of Kafue national parks close. Those that do remain open charge their lowest rates and are very quiet.

The rain removes any smoke and dust from the air, returning the sky to a dazzling blue that is great for photographers.

  • Start of rainy season, with hot, humid & wet days
  • Poor game viewing as wildlife disperses & bush thickens
  • Majority of camps close; others charge their lowest rates
  • Landscape green with blue skies; photographic opportunities improve
  • Victoria Falls still dry

Our view

This is not a great time to visit

Weather in December

South Luangwa National Park: In detail

Wildlife and environment of South Luangwa

South Luangwa National Park lies in a wide alluvial plain and riverine area, the most fertile part of the Luangwa Valley. It incorporates a variety of habitats that in turn support a very rich flora and fauna.

Key to this variety are the valley's rich volcanic soils, augmented by fine deposits from the river. This, combined with plenty of rainfall and a position about 12–14° from the Equator, where there is plenty of light, creates the ideal base for a lush and diverse plant growth.

This rich vegetation in turn supports a wide variety of animals. Each species has its own niche in the food chain, and each herbivore has its favourite food plants – or favourite part of those plants. It’s an efficient use of vegetation, leading to the high densities of game that the valley supports.


Trees & vegetation of the South Luangwa

Trees & vegetation of the South Luangwa

The South Luangwa’s most interesting habitat must be the lush riverine vegetation that lines both the Luangwa River and the banks of many old river courses and small tributaries. Here you'll find giant red mahogany trees, sausage trees, knobthorns and the hard, black African ebony trees – often forming dense groves.

Spreading out from the river, a patchwork of different vegetation zones includes the ever-present miombo forests, interspersed with open, herby “dambos”, or shallow lakes, and mopane forests – both the stunted variety, and the beautiful mature “cathedral” mopane.

Although there are a few large open plains, these aren't common. Most notable is the plain at the heart of the Nsefu Sector, east of the Luangwa River, whose natural salt springs attract crowned cranes in their thousands.

Predators in the South Luangwa

The main predators in the Luangwa Valley are lion, leopard, spotted hyena and wild dogs. Of these, lions are probably the most common, and their large prides are often easily spotted - especially in the dry season when the grass is low.

South Luangwa has a top reputation as a first-class park for spotting leopards. This is largely because leopard hunt nocturnally, and the South Luangwa is one of Africa's few national parks to allow spotlit night drives.

Wild dogs are uncommon, but sightings have been becoming much more numerous in recent years. They're now regularly seen, especially around February to May, and it seems likely that their numbers are growing. Cheetah, however, have not been seen in the South Luangwa for several decades.

Antelope & other herbivores in the South Luangwa

Throughout the South Luangwa, elephant and buffalo occur in hundreds-strong herds, and antelope, especially impala and puku, are numerous. Impala are very adaptable – they can browse and graze – whereas puku are best suited to well-watered riverine areas.

Amongst South Luangwa National Park's many herbivores, three stand out as being endemic to the region – that is, those that occur nowhere else.

The beautiful Thornicroft's giraffe has a different (and more striking) coloration than the giraffes in the rest of southern Africa.

Cookson's wildebeest differ in having slightly reddish bands and often “cleaner” colours – and they are also a little smaller and more compact than their blue cousins.

And then there is Crawshay's zebra, an endemic subspecies of the more common plains zebra, completely lacking its cousin’s brown shadow-stripes between the black stripes.

Birds of South Luangwa National Park

Birds in the South Luangwa range from dry-country species to those favouring water-based habitats; around 400 species have been observed.

The best time for birdwatching in the South Luangwa is around December to March: the wet or “emerald season”. Then summer migrants are here, lured by plentiful food. Once-dry plains have thick vegetation and water is everywhere, encouraging wading flocks of herons, egrets and storks and several species of geese and ducks.

Of special note during the rains is the huge breeding colony of yellow-billed storks that nest in a stand of tall trees surrounded by shallow water in the Nsefu Sector, in the north of the park.

Another birding highlight of the South Luangwa starts in the dry season. Around August–September, colonies of migrant carmine bee-eaters arrive to nest in holes in sandy riverbanks. Peak nesting activity is typically around September to October, with the birds leaving early in the new year.

Map of South Luangwa National Park

Take a look at our South Luangwa National Park maps and it’s immediately clear that most of the park’s lodges line the Luangwa River.

For a clear idea of how the tributaries of the Luangwa are threaded through the park, and the location of the Nsefu Sector, start with our reference map. Then switch to the Google map in satellite mode, and the valley falls into sharp relief, fringed to the west by the Muchinga Escarpment, with Lake Malawi running almost parallel to the east.

Zoom in for more detail of the whole park, or click on the camp icons for information on each of them. Zoom out and you can see the valley's proximity to the Zambian capital, Lusaka (a flight of around 1hr 10mins), and to the Lower Zambezi (1½-2 hours). For the Victoria Falls; a direct flight from Mfuwe Airport will take around 2-2½ hours, or 3–5 hours via Lusaka.


Reference map

South Luangwa National Park: Safaris

Spread the net more widely, and the options for the best South Luangwa safari holiday broaden even further. If you have only a week for a Zambian safari, you could spend it all in the South Luangwa, but consider, too, combining it with a visit to the Lower Zambezi National Park, or perhaps the lesser-known Kasanka National Park.

With more time, how about contrasting time in the South Luangwa with Liuwa Plain, truly Zambia’s most remote park – and one that until recently was accessible only on a serious expedition? You could even make this a three-centre trip, taking in both Victoria Falls and the beaches of Lake Malawi.

Whatever your focus, give us a call, and let us tailor-make the right trip for you.


Showing 1-12 of 15
Name
Duration
Cost
Most popular
Itinerary image

Scrub Hare Safari

7 days • 3 locations
LUSAKA AIRPORT TO LUSAKA AIRPORT

Camps run by welcoming owners with a passion for their environment are rare, and Tafika is one of the best. Combine this with walking safaris at equally excellent bushcamps for the best of the South Luangwa.

US$6,040 - US$7,210 per person

Itinerary image

Perekani Walking Trail

10 days • 5 locations
LUSAKA AIRPORT TO LUSAKA AIRPORT

Five smart but rustic bushcamps are the comfortable staging posts for this walking safari in South Luangwa. The route offers outstanding seclusion and rich wildlife with top-quality guiding throughout.

US$9,250 - US$11,500 per person

Itinerary image

Boehm's Zebra Safari

7 days • 2 locations
LUSAKA AIRPORT TO LUSAKA AIRPORT

This safari combines two high-quality owner-run camps in a very productive region of the South Luangwa. The guiding is excellent and with its hides this safari is perfect for serious photographers.

US$7,130 - US$9,410 per person

Itinerary image

Hyena Safari

11 days • 4 locations
VICTORIA FALLS AIRPORT TO LILONGWE AIRPORT

Mix relaxation and adventure on a safari combining the South Luangwa with Victoria Falls and the beaches of Lake Malawi. These three locations are among the most iconic in southern Africa.

US$8,630 - US$11,910 per person

Itinerary image

Crawshay's Zebra Safari

10 days • 4 locations
LUSAKA AIRPORT TO LUSAKA AIRPORT

This superb safari combines two of Zambia’s best national parks, the South Luangwa and the Lower Zambezi. The camps are small and high quality with excellent safari guides.

US$9,760 - US$13,820 per person

Itinerary image

Hippo Safari

9 days • 4 locations
LUSAKA AIRPORT TO LIVINGSTONE AIRPORT

Combining excellent game with aspects of remoter safari in South Luangwa, as well as the cultural delights of Livingstone, this trip also makes use of long-stay discounts, making it an excellent-value and well-rounded adventure.

US$7,480 - US$8,820 per person

Itinerary image

Robin Pope Walking Safari

7 days • 3 locations
LUSAKA AIRPORT TO LUSAKA AIRPORT

The definitive, original mobile walking safari; explore the remote north of the South Luangwa on foot while staying in a simple mobile camp that moves with the group.

US$6,500 - US$7,870 per person

Itinerary image

Giraffe Safari

9 days • 3 locations
LUSAKA AIRPORT TO LUSAKA AIRPORT

A safari to the remotest parts of Zambia’s Luangwa Valley. Perfect for experienced safari goers and first-time Africa adventurers. Explore with expert guides whilst staying at small bushcamps.

US$8,390 - US$9,740 per person

Itinerary image

Duiker Safari

10 days • 3 locations
LUSAKA AIRPORT TO LUSAKA AIRPORT

Three luxurious bushcamps in stunning riverside locations, split between the South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi national parks, offer a wide variety of expert-guided safari activities in stunning game-rich environments.

US$8,060 - US$10,020 per person

Itinerary image

Vervet Monkey Safari

7 days • 2 locations
LUSAKA AIRPORT TO LUSAKA AIRPORT

Explore the world-class wildlife of Zambia’s South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi national parks in considerable luxury, guided by experts from two sister camps renowned for their excellent level of care.

US$8,370 - US$10,990 per person

Itinerary image

Fruit Bat Safari

6 days • 2 locations
LUSAKA AIRPORT TO LUSAKA AIRPORT

Offering a highly specialised experienced, this safari uses two simple bases for access to South Luangwa and Kasanka National Parks. Visit between October and December when you will witness the world’s largest mammalian migration of millions of fruit bats.

US$4,980 - US$5,530 per person

Itinerary image

Puku Safari

11 days • 3 locations
LUSAKA AIRPORT TO LIVINGSTONE AIRPORT

Discover South Luangwa’s prolific wildlife before exploring the wildly remote pans of Liuwa Plain National Park and relaxing in one of the Livingstone area’s most romantic and exclusive hideaways. A safari of luxury, style and impressive diversity.

US$13,200 - US$18,440 per person

Showing 1-12 of 15

Our 39 top lodges & safari camps in South Luangwa National Park

Most places to stay in South Luangwa National Park aim at upmarket visitors from overseas. Given the park’s remote location, and the seasonal variations, this is not surprising. Most camps can operate for only for five or six months of the year, after which they pack up, returning to rebuild their camps after every rainy season.

Our suggestions for safari camps in the South Luangwa are based on personal experience. All camps listed here range from the substantial comfort of Chichele Presidential Lodge to the much more simple style of Island Bush Camp, and spread from north to south. Yet even the most rustic of camps is smart and comfortable with en-suite facilities; you certainly won’t be roughing it!

Ask us for more details of what’s where, and what’s likely to suit you best.


Showing 1-12 of 39
Name
Traveller's rating
No. of reviews
Tafika

Tafika

One of the best camps in Zambia, Tafika is naturally built, combining excellent service and food with top guiding skills for a superb wildlife experience.


98% (319 reviews)
Nkwali

Nkwali

On the banks of the Luangwa River, with its own access to the national park, the intimate Nkwali is open year round.


96% (240 reviews)
Kaingo Camp

Kaingo Camp

Small and owner-run, the riverside Kaingo occupies a a quiet but excellent game area, with a series of wildlife hides and a focus on photography.


97% (213 reviews)
Nsefu

Nsefu

One of the Luangwa's oldest camps, Nsefu is a great safari camp in a remote, beautiful and game-rich location with top-rate guiding.


98% (192 reviews)
Tena Tena

Tena Tena

One of the Luangwa's best camps, in a beautiful, remote bush location, Tena Tena is very small, exceedingly well-run and has top-rate guiding.


95% (154 reviews)
Mwamba Bushcamp

Mwamba Bushcamp

Small, remote and owner-run, Mwamba offers first-class walking, 4WD safari drives and superb hides, with excellent guides and a real bush feel.


99% (152 reviews)
Chikoko Tree Camp

Chikoko Tree Camp

Chikoko Tree Camp is an excellent small, rustic bushcamp that concentrates on walking safaris, and is run by a top-quality operation.


98% (119 reviews)
Big Lagoon Camp

Big Lagoon Camp

Big Lagoon Camp is a great little rustic bushcamp built to high standards that focuses on excellent walking safaris, with the emphasis on top wildlife guides.


98% (93 reviews)
Kapani Lodge

Kapani Lodge

Kapani Lodge is now the main office base for Norman Carr Safaris, one of the Luangwa's oldest safari operations.


95% (78 reviews)
Flatdogs Camp

Flatdogs Camp

A relatively big safari camp, Flatdogs offers value for money with great guiding and good food in a comfortable, relaxed setting.


98% (74 reviews)
Luangwa River Camp

Luangwa River Camp

Luangwa River Lodge is a small and consciously stylish lodge in the Mfuwe area, overlooking the Luangwa River and the South Luangwa National Park beyond – an area renowned for great game.


96% (74 reviews)
Mchenja Bushcamp

Mchenja Bushcamp

Set in a shady ebony grove on the banks of the Luangwa, Mchenja is a smart tented bushcamp. It combines well with Kakuli and Nsolo – its sister camps with a focus on walking safaris.


98% (70 reviews)
Showing 1-12 of 39

Excursions in South Luangwa National Park

Optional, extra day-trips and excursions that are possible while you’re staying in South Luangwa National Park. Talk to us: these excursions are usually best arranged before you go.


Kawaza Village Visit

Kawaza Village Visit

Two to three hours

Just outside Zambia's South Luangwa National Park lies a normal, working rural African village which is open and welcoming to visitors to the Luangwa valley. There is nothing artificial or contrived about Kawaza Village, and it offers a rare opportunity to experience and appreciate Kunda culture, and meet local Zambians.

More about Kawaza Village Visit
100% (1 reviews)
Tribal Textiles Tour

Tribal Textiles Tour

One - two hours

Visit the Tribal Textiles workshop, where hand-painted textiles are produced by more than a hundred local people. The workshop is close to Mfuwe Airport, so is ideally placed for a stop en route to/from the South Luangwa. With products ranging from cushion covers to bags and T-shirts, it's a great place for souvenir shopping while at the same time supporting the local community.

More about Tribal Textiles Tour
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Frequently Asked Questions

South Luangwa FAQs

So where exactly is South Luangwa National Park? And how do I get there? These and many more seemingly trivial questions – such as what you need for a walking safari – are often asked by our travellers, and they’re important.

We have tried to answer some of these questions here, but you may well have others. If so, please don’t hesitate to contact us. The Expert Africa team’s knowledge of the South Luangwa is based on years of personal experience and we would be happy to help.


Where is South Luangwa National Park?

Where is South Luangwa National Park?

One of Zambia's top national parks, along with the Lower Zambezi National Park, the South Luangwa is in eastern Zambia. It lies at the southern end of the Great Rift Valley, bordered to the west by the Muchinga Escarpment, and to the east by the Luwanga River, which is a mecca for wildlife as the dry season progresses.

As the crow flies, the South Luangwa is some 455km (283 miles) north-east of Lusaka, the Zambian capital, or 530km (354 miles) by road. Livingstone and the Victoria Falls, also to the south-west, are almost as far again in the same direction.

How do you get to and around the South Luangwa?

The three ways to get to South Luangwa National Park are to fly in and stay at one of the camps or lodges provided; to arrange a safari company from outside to drive you into the park in a 4WD: or to drive yourself into and around the park.

The easiest of these options is to fly in, both because it is the most relaxing and because your time is relatively limited. This is how almost all the trips arranged by Expert Africa are set up.

From Lusaka we usually organise a short 70-minute flight with Proflight, which takes you to Mfuwe Airport. On arrival, you will be met by someone from your safari camp, and transferred to the camp. There you will be welcomed by the team with some time to settle in, before heading out on an activity such as a safari walk or drive.

Is the South Luangwa good for a family safari?

The South Luangwa caters well for families or small groups. It's important to be aware, though, that this is a malarial area. There are also dangerous animals roaming throughout, so children must always be kept under adult supervision. And do note that children under 12 are not allowed to take part in walking safaris.

Now to the plus points! Many lodges, including Flatdogs Camp and Tafika, welcome older children, with family-friendly accommodation, children's menus and a flexible approach to activities. Further afield, the more adventurous can even choose to spend a night or two camping.

More relaxed, especially with younger children aged around 7+, is one of the South Luangwa's safari houses: Robin's House and the larger Luangwa Safari House. Both offer exclusivity of activities, their own kitchen and chef, and space for children to run around without upsetting other guests.

Just ask us about the many options; we know all these camps from first-hand experience!

What is there to do on a South Luangwa safari?

In most South Luangwa National Park safari camps you will enjoy a game drive or walk in the early morning, and a second in late afternoon. The hours between are yours to linger over lunch and enjoy a siesta, or to spend time watching the birds and animals in camp.

Game drives usually take place in open-topped 4WD vehicles, and an afternoon drive may continue after dark in search of the park’s nocturnal creatures. On a walking safari, you can expect a leisurely pace, with fascinating input from an expert guide, accompanied by an armed ranger.

One or two of the South Luangwa camps, such as Kaingo, where there are several hides well suited to keen photographers, offer a third daily activity. And in the so-called “emerald season”, a handful of camps operate safaris that include river trips.

Do I need to be fit to go on a walking safari – and what should I take?

While you don’t need to be overly fit to take part in a walking safari, it’s as well to be comfortable walking for an hour or two (with stops) on fairly uneven ground.

That said, the terrain is predominantly flat, and the pace leisurely – with plenty of time allowed for less-mobile guests. Walks normally take place in the early morning or late afternoon, when temperatures are relatively cool.

Loose, comfortable clothes are ideal, in muted tones of creams, greens or browns. Long trousers and long-sleeved shirts help to protect against insects, a hat is important, and comfortable shoes are essential.

Do bring a bottle of water, perhaps in a small backpack, together with a pair of binoculars and your camera – though a walking safari isn’t suited to heavy camera kit. Your safari guide will usually provide drinks and snacks.

Other areas in Zambia

A safari in South Luangwa National Park can be ideal as a standalone holiday, but it also combines well with Zambia's equally renowned Lower Zambezi National Park.

Unrivalled in terms of scale is the vast and less well-known Kafue National Park, defined by the Kafue River that is an irresistible draw for wildlife. In contrast, there's the magic of the North Luangwa, where a handful of tiny camps specialise in exploring on foot, while for sheer remoteness, don't miss Liuwa Plain.

Rather more estoteric is to witness the bat migration in Kasanka National Park at the end of the year. Hike in total privacy at Mutinondo Wilderness. Or come face to face with an English stately home in the bush at Shiwa Ng'andu. Then round it all off with the majesty of the Victoria Falls, considered to be one of the seven natural wonders of the world.


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