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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: in detail

South Luangwa safari holidays: the full story

The most fertile area of the Luangwa Valley is the wide alluvial plain and riverine area where South Luangwa National Park and its many safari camps and lodges are located. By combining fantastic wildlife with extremely high-quality guiding, Luangwa comes out near the top of the list of Africa's most famous parks.

Safaris to 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 drive yourself into and around the park in a 4WD; or to arrange a safari company from outside to drive you into the park. The easiest of these is to fly in, because it is the most relaxing and 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.

South Luangwa safari camps and lodges

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 the South Luangwa safari camps and lodges lie 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. Closer to the gate, however, there is more activity and other vehicles are less of a rarity.

In style, the safari camps in the South Luangwa National Park 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.

For families or small groups, a safari house might be a good option, while the more adventurous can choose to spend a night or two camping. At the other end of the spectrum, you could even stay in chandeliered splendour at the old presidential lodge. Just ask us about the many options; we know all these camps from first-hand experience!

Activities on a South Luangwa safari

In most safari camps and lodges within the South Luangwa National Park 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 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 of 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.

Wildlife of South Luangwa

South Luangwa supports a very rich flora and fauna, and the key to this is in the valley's soils. These were originally volcanic in origin, so are often rich in minerals and nutrients, augmented by fine deposits from the river. Combine these with plenty of rainfall and a position about 12–14° from the Equator, where there is plenty of light, and you have the base for a lush and diverse plant growth.

Animals of South Luangwa National Park

Amongst South Luangwa's many herbivores, three several stand out as being endemic to the area. 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. Finally Crawshay's zebra is an endemic subspecies of the more common plains zebra, completely lacking its cousin’s brown shadow-stripes between the black stripes.

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, whilst puku are best suited to well-watered riverine areas.

The main predators in the Luangwa Valley are lion, leopard, spotted hyena and wild dog. Of these, lion are probably the most common, and their large prides are often easily spotted.

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

Wild dog 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.

Birds of South Luangwa National Park

As you'd expect of a fertile valley, the Luangwa boasts a rich tropical birdlife including birds of dry-country and water-based habitats. About 400 species have been observed here, including many typical of Southern Africa – and a few more usually known from East Africa.

The best time to visit the South Luangwa for birds is around December to March: the '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 for birders are the plains and marshes of the Nsefu Sector, in the north of the park. During the rains there is a huge breeding colony of yellow-billed storks here – situated in a stand of tall trees, surrounded by shallow water.

Another birding highlight of the South Luangwa is the migrant carmine bee-eater: colonies of these iridescent birds nest in holes in the side of sandy riverbanks. The birds arrive around August–September and usually leave early in the new year, although their peak nesting activity is usually around September to October.

Vegetation of South Luangwa National Park

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'. There are a few large open plains, although these aren't common; most notable is the plain at the heart of the Nsefu Sector, with natural salt springs at its centre that attract crowned cranes in their thousands. But the Luangwa's most interesting habitat must be the lush riverine vegetation that lines 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 – which form dense groves at several places in South Luangwa.

Where to stay in South Luangwa

Our suggestions for safari camps in South Luangwa National Park


Tafika

Tafika

Tafika is one of the best camps in Zambia: naturally built, with few apparent luxuries, but actually very high quality. Service and food are excellent, but the real focus is on top guiding skills and wildlife experience.


98% (282 reviews)
Nkwali

Nkwali

In the heart of South Luangwa, overlooking the river, Nkwali is unusual in being open year round. It offers great safaris; a high standard of food, service and care; and an excellent springboard for Robin Pope's various safaris in the park.


96% (207 reviews)
Kaingo Camp

Kaingo Camp

Kaingo Camp is a small, owner-run camp in a quiet but excellent game area of the Luangwa. Photographers will particularly appreciate the camp’s series of wildlife hides.


97% (191 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% (170 reviews)
Tena Tena

Tena Tena

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


95% (137 reviews)
Mwamba Bushcamp

Mwamba Bushcamp

Mwamba is a small, fairly simple, owner-run bushcamp in an excellent game area. It offers first-class walking, 4WD safaris and great game hides; come for excellent guides and a real bush feel.


99% (131 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.


99% (108 reviews)
Crocodile Bushcamp

Crocodile Bushcamp

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


98% (82 reviews)
Kapani Lodge

Kapani Lodge

Just on the south-east side of the national park, Kapani Lodge is the base camp for Norman Carr Safaris, one of the Luangwa's oldest safari operations. It's also a very solid safari camp that has retained lots of character, and runs very well indeed.


95% (80 reviews)
Flatdogs Camp

Flatdogs Camp

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


98% (65 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% (64 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% (63 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% (60 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% (52 reviews)
Kafunta River Lodge

Kafunta River Lodge

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


96% (39 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% (38 reviews)
Robin Pope Safaris bush-camp

Robin Pope bush-camp

RPS bushcamping in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia


99% (25 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.


94% (22 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% (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.


94% (18 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% (14 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)
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.


93% (14 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% (14 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)
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)
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)
Three Rivers Camp

Three Rivers Camp

In the remote far south of South Luangwa National Park, Three Rivers Lodge is being constructed by the confluence of three of the valleys rivers.


94% (10 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% (9 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.


96% (9 reviews)
Chamilandu Bushcamp

Chamilandu Bushcamp

A very comfortable little bushcamp, Chamilandu has a picturesque setting by the Luangwa River, with a range of habitats that can be explored on foot and by 4WD, day and night.


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.


90% (4 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)
Chichele Presidential Lodge

Chichele Lodge

Chichele Presidential Lodge stands within the park on a hill with superb views. Its hotel-like, air-conditioned rooms and child-friendly attitude make it ideal for families or those who don't want to get too close to the bush outside.


100% (1 review)
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% (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
Shawa Luangwa Camp

Shawa Camp

Due to open in June 2020, we’re expecting Shawa Luangwa Camp to be a small, intimate and rustic camp, with a good location in a remote section of the South Luangwa National Park.


No reviews yet
Chikunto Safari Lodge

Chikunto

Chikunto Safari Lodge is a new property in Zambia's South Luangwa National Park, sitting on a peninsula of land created by the meandering Luangwa River.


No reviews yet

Our travellers’ wildlife sightings in South Luangwa

This is their success for sightings in South Luangwa National Park.
Click on a species for more detail. How we work this out.


Hippo

99% success

Elephant

98% success

Zebra

96% success

Giraffe

95% success

Buffalo

87% success

Lion

86% success

Spotted Hyena

86% success

Leopard

84% success

Wild dog

44% success

Wildebeest

38% success

Eland

14% success

Roan antelope

7% success

Sable antelope

3% success

Pangolin

1% success

Aardvark

1% success

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