Unquestionably the South Luangwa is one of the top parks in Zambia, and Africa. The density of animals in the valley is one of the highest on the continent. Scientists have counted 60 animal species and over 400 bird species.
Apart from the scientific facts, the valley has a lovely traditional African feel. The charming scenery is a blend of yellows, greens and browns.
The Luangwa River provides the lifeblood for the entire region. There is a distinctly dry season from June to November when the bush looks almost dead. Come to mid-November, and big storms lash down on the valley. A whole season’s rain could fall in a few hours. Within a few weeks, the landscape changes dramatically. Green grass covers the bare soil, and the trees spring into flower. Everything starts to buzz with renewed life.
The flora is varied and adapted to the distinct seasons. Tall baobab trees, magnificent tamarinds, leadwood, winterthorn, mopane are common trees. The vegetation of the park dictates the range of animals that are present.
All the big African game is found here in good numbers. Giraffe, elephant, lion, wild dog, and buffalo. Leopard sightings are particularly close-up and frequent. In the winding Luangwa River, crocs and hippos line the sandbanks. Birding is good year-round, particularly when the rains start and the migrant species arrive.
The focus throughout the region is on outstanding guiding. Most of the guides are local and very knowledgeable. For this reason, walking safaris here are a real highlight. Unfortunately, the river is too shallow for boating, so all game viewing is by vehicle.
A variety of accommodation is dotted mainly along the river’s edge. Some are available to self-drivers although most are fully inclusive, pre-booked camps. Daily scheduled flights from Lusaka or Lilongwe are the best way to reach the park. The road network is in good repair for self-drivers, although it is a long 8-hour drive from Lusaka. A combination of the South Luangwa with Victoria Falls and the Lower Zambezi National Park always works well.