On game drive | South Luangwa

South Luangwa is worldwide known for its high density of predators and big herds of buffalo. Am I right?

And there is a lot more. Let’s start.

The Luangwa River

The Luangwa River in eastern Zambia is the fourth largest river in the country and one of the main tributaries of the Zambezi River. The source is in the Mafinga Hills near the border with Tanzania and Malawi at an elevation of 1500m. After about 150km from its source it has dropped to an altitude of about 690m. It becomes a meandering river with wide floodplains. The valley is up tp 100km wide with a 10km wide floodplain. The natural boundary on the northern side is the 750m high Muchinga Escarpment and the escarpment of the southern side is about 450m high. The meandering river has formed many oxbow lagoons that are filled by the rivers floods. Many hold water during the dry season and support an abundance of wildlife. The Luangwa Valley is the corridor between the Selous – Ruaha – Wildlife Complex and Zambezi Valley Wildlife Complex. The Luangwa River is one of the last remaining rivers in Africa that is unaltered. After 770km it has its confluence with the Zambezi River at Feira / Luangwa where Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Zambia form a tri-point.

The Luangwa Valley

The upper and middle part of the Luangwa River form the Luangwa Valley. This valley is up to 100km wide and about 300km long. It is protected by escarpments on the northern and southern side. No highways or railway lines are crossing it. The slow flowing Luangwa River has created many lakes, abandoned meanders and oxbow lagoons. The availability of water all year round has made it a wildlife haven. Thousands of Black Rhinos used browse the thickets and big numbers of Elephants used to roam the valley until the 1980’s. This is when commercial poaching wiped out the entire rhino population and left only a few thousand elephants alive.

Since then things have changed to the better. 4 national parks are protecting the Luangwa eco system. Some 10 to 15 thousand Elephants are nowadays found in the Luangwa Valley. Black Rhinos were reintroduced in 2003 and are well guarded in North Luangwa NP by the DNPW rangers in partnership with Frankfort Zoological Society. Luambe NP is the smallest of the national parks and known as the transit park. Lukusuzi NP is mainly on the eastern escarpment and is part of the Kasungu – Lukusuzi Transfrontier Conservation Area managed by the Peace Park Foundation. This park is a patchwork of woodlands and grasslands, host a good number of Wild Dogs but has no tourist facilities.

South Luangwa NP – Zambia’s flagship

South Luangwa NP is the flagship national park of Zambia. It was initially setup as Luangwa Game Reserve in 1904 and converted in one of three game reserves (hunting areas) in 1938. The British big game hunter turned conservationist Norman Carr used his influence and persuaded Senior Chief Nsefu of the Kunda people in the Luangwa Valley to set aside a portion of his tribal land for conservation. In 1950 he built the first game viewing safari camp and started up his famous walking safaris in an effort to bring non-hunting tourists to the Luangwa Valley. The proceeds went back to the community and the idea of ecotourism in Africa was born. Over the years a good number of safari camp were set up, game drive loops were made. Some are even elevated to prevent them from flooding. South Luangwa NP is accessible all year.

During the Emerald Season from November to April some lodges offer boat safaris and one of the largest nesting colonies of the Yellow-billed Storks can be reached. May to August is the cooler period of the year and the bush is slowly opening up. From September until the rains start it is very hot in the “Valley”. Waterholes dry up and lots of animals are coming down to the river to quench their first.

From Backpacker accommodation to 5* – Deluxe, from remote fly-in camp to easy to reach by public transport lodge, for honeymooners and solo travelers. We are sure there is the right place for everyone. Thanks to Norman Carr’s vision we can enjoy so memorable safaris in South Luangwa. South Luangwa never disappoints and is always in season.

Click here for our selection of safaris to South Luangwa. You can also following this link to our contact form for a tailor-made tour.