Visiting South Luangwa
South Luangwa is Zambia’s premier game-viewing park where you can enjoy a unique type of habitat seldom seen elsewhere in Africa. Lying on the valley floor, between the meandering Luangwa River and the steep Muchinga Escarpment, this is the best national park in Zambia and one of the finest in all of Africa.
The seasonal floodplains create an environment that supports a huge diversity of wildlife including over 100 species of mammals and over 470 species of birds as well as many reptiles, insects, amphibians and plants. A different experience from parks elsewhere in Africa, Luangwa offers a real immersion into the bush life in an attractive habitat of sausage trees and ox-bow lagoons.
The park is reputed to have the highest concentration of leopards in Africa. Pods of up to 100 hippos are possible to view in the dry season as the river shrinks and they are confined to areas of deep pools. The park’s elephant population is very healthy and it is the best place in Africa to see puku. Large herds of buffalos move between the river and their grazing grounds and they are followed by lions. Zebras, waterbucks, impalas, baboons and warthogs share the open plains with kudus and giraffes.
The area now known as South Luangwa National Park was originally established to protect the Thornicroft’s Giraffe, a subspecies that can only be found in the Luangwa Valley.
World famous walking safaris are a favourite activity in South Luangwa and operate only during the dry season of June through October. Morning and night drives in open-sided safari vehicles are conducted throughout the year by some of the best safari guides in Africa.
In 1866, David Livingstone crossed the Luangwa Valley and noted that “I will make this land better known to men that it may become one of their haunts. It is impossible to describe its luxuriance.” Today, the Luangwa Valley is one of the premier game-viewing destinations in Africa, and in many ways it has managed to avoid being commercialised.
South Luangwa National Park has its roots in a discovery in 1904 when scientists declared the Thornicroft’s Giraffe a subspecies only to be found in the Luangwa Valley. The Luangwa Game Park was declared on the eastern bank of the river and in 1938 three game-reserves were defined as North Luangwa Game Reserve, Lukusuzi Game Reserve and South Luangwa Game Reserve.
In 1939, a soon to become well-known gentleman called Norman Carr became a ranger in Luangwa. Over the years to come, he was to have a huge impact on conservation in Zambia. He established the first public camp in Zambia and developed walking safaris which put visitors into a real bush experience away from the noise of vehicles. These walking safaris put Luangwa firmly on the map in terms of tourism and they remain popular to this day.
On February 15th, 1972 government legislation turned all game-reserves in Zambia into national parks and South Luangwa National Park as we know it today was born.
South Luangwa National Park lies in the eastern province of Zambia. It is situated in the Luangwa Valley which sits at the southern end of Africa’s Great Rift Valley, leading southwards from Lake Tanganyika. It is low in altitude and experiences higher temperatures than the rest of Zambia. The park covers an area of 9,050 square kilometres or 2,235,400 acres.
The main area of the park is bordered to the west by the Muchinga Escarpment and the Luangwa River provides the east and southern boundaries.
The main habitat of Luangwa is seasonal floodplains, oxbow lagoons and the Miombo and Mopane woodlands.