The South Luangwa National Park is special for two particular reasons; it is home of the walking safari and has the highest density of leopard on the planet. It also holds over 60 different mammal species, 450 bird species and two endemic animal sub-species, Thornicroft’s giraffe and Cookson’s wildebeest. Four of the Big 5 (buffalo, elephant, leopard and lion) roam the South Luangwa’s wide range of habitats as do endangered species like the African wild dog and grey crowned crane.
From mid-August, thousands of southern carmine bee-eaters arrive from other parts of Africa to nest in the banks of the Luangwa River and they do so wearing their finest breeding plumage. Monogamous pairs excavate one-meter long tunnels into the riverbank to lay their eggs, aggressively protecting their own nest hole from cheeky marauders. The riverbank remains a site of amazing colour and noise until November, when the birds fly south for the summer months.
The summer rains fill the winding Luangwa River, flooding the oxbow lagoons and transforming the surrounding vegetation into a lush playground for wildlife. This is known as the Emerald Season and it is the time when traditional game drives are traded for boating safaris – a unique way to explore the park. Migrant birds, like the African pitta, arrive over this time to nest and breed. The park becomes a nursery as ungulates birth their young when food and water is plentiful, which draws predators out and is the prime time for African wild dog sightings.
Then, as the rains come to an end and winter forces the landscape to shed its greenery, wildlife become easier to spot as they concentrate around the river and have less vegetation to hide within. Intrepid adventurers step out into the South Luangwa bush on multi-day walking safaris or can choose to cover greater distance by 4x4 vehicle. This is often an action-packed safari that is marked by exhilarating predator-prey encounters.
We love the safari experience in the South Luangwa, not just for the rich wildlife and natural beauty. From mobile camping expeditions to luxury safari lodges and fixed camps, there are a multitude of accommodation types to choose from. Every traveller will find somewhere they will want to lay their head after spending a day immersed in the Zambian wilderness.
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