Experts have dubbed South Luangwa as one of the “greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world. The concentration of wildlife around the Luangwa river and it’s ox bow lagoons is among the most intense in Africa. The Luangwa River is the most intact major river system in Africa and is the life blood of the park’s 5,623 square miles (9,050km). The Park hosts a wide variety of wildlife, birds and vegetation. The now famous ‘walking safari’ originated in this park and is still one of the finest ways to experience this pristine wilderness first hand. The changing seasons add to the Park’s richness ranging from dry, bare bushveld in the winter to a lush green wonderland in the summer months. There are 60 different animal species and over 400 different bird species.
One animal you will not miss here are Hippo’s! There is estimated to be at least 50 hippos per kilometer of the Luangwa River! Other common sightings include crocodile, herds of elephants numbering up to 70 individuals, buffalo, lions, baboons, hyena, antelope, zebra, and the Thorneycroft’s Giraffe, unique to Luangwa Valley. The park has 14 different antelope species, most of which are easily seen on day and night game drives. The largest of the antelope, the shy eland, usually near the Nsefu sector of the park. The most numerous antelope is the impala, these gregarious animals can be seen in herds all over the park. Kudu are also found (perhaps the most beautiful of the antelope species) Reedbuck, roan, sable, hartebeest, grysbok, klipspringer and oribi are all here but not prolific in the central tourist area of the Park.
South Luangwa has a good population of leopard but they are hard to spot and tend to retreat when they hear vehicles. Many of the Lodge’s game trackers are skilled in finding leopards on night drives however, and often visitors are rewarded. Lions are plentiful with prides of up to 30 individuals. Of the other carnivores present but not often seen is the caracal, wild dog, serval and side striped jackal.
Seasonal changes are very pronounced in Luangwa. The dry season begins in April and intensifies through to October, the hottest month when game concentrations are at their height. Warm sunny days and chilly nights typify the dry winter months of May to August. The wet season begins in November as the leaves turn green and the terrain becomes a lush jungle. The rainy season lasts up until the end of March and the migrant birds arrive in droves. Each lodge stays open for as long as access is possible, depending on its location in the area.
Park Size: 5,623 square miles – 9,050 sq. kilometers
Ecosystems: Grass plains, acacia woodland, flood plains, Luangwa river
Wildlife: Rare black rhino, elephant, hippo, buffalo, lion, leopard, spotted hyena, roan antelope, hartebeest, crocodile, kudu
When to go: May through October
Highlights: Game drives in open 4×4, night game drives, walking safaris