South Luangwa National Park
One of the Greatest Wildlife Sanctuaries
Experts have dubbed South Luangwa one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world, and not without reason. The concentration of game around the Luangwa river and its ox bow lagoons is among the most intense in Africa.
We are located deep within the richest game viewing area of the South Luangwa National Park. The areas surrounding our camps are incredibly rich in wildlife, and the vast volume of prey species such as: Hippos, Elephants, Buffalo, Puku, Impala, Zebra, Kudu, Giraffe, Waterbuck attracts many predators. We have identified 10 different leopards around our camps. As unpredictable as leopards can be, an incredible 95% of our guests get to see these stunning cats. We also have two very strong Lion Prides in the area, which we have named the Mwamba Pride and the Hollywood pride, the latter being so named due to the vast amount of time documentary filmmakers have spent following them. From our camps you will see abundant antelope, two large lion prides, numerous leopard and impressive herds of elephant, buffalo, zebra and hippo.
Close to 400 bird species and 60 different mammals have been recorded throughout the year; seasonal highlights include the spectacular carmine bee-eater colony, celebrated fishing parties and amazing quelea displays. We have a camp check-list and it is not uncommon to be able to tick off over a hundred birds in a few days.
The Luangwa River is the most intact major river system in Africa and is the life blood of the park’s 9050km2; it is not dammed anywhere , has no industrial development on its banks and only supports subsistent agriculture in areas outside the park.
The now famous ‘walking safari‘ originated in this park by and is still one of the finest ways to experience this pristine wilderness first hand.
The changing seasons add to the South Luangwa’s richness ranging from dry season (May to November) to the lush green jungle of the rainy summer months to dry plains, grasslands and woodlands – drawing the game towards the rivers and waterholes.
Close to the meandering Luangwa river, dambos support huge numbers of grazers like buffalo, zebra, antelope (especially puku, impala, kudu and waterbuck) as well as baboons and giraffe (Thornicrofts).
Elephants and Hippos
Further out on the plains (like Lion plain) you’re bound to see family groups of elephant collectively reaching up to 70 in number. Buffalo are abundant and the herds can reach up to 1000 during the dry season.
The hippo is one animal you cannot miss. As you cross over the bridge into the park there are usually between 30 and 70 hippos lounging in the river below and most of the dambos and lagoons support a pod. There is estimated to be more than 50 hippos per km of the Luangwa River – with at least 6000 in the South Luangwa National Park!
South Luangwa has an excellent population of leopard as the terrain and large number of small game makes a perfect habitat for this most beautiful but elusive cat. The best area for finding leopards is around Kaingo and Mwamba; our safari guides know the area intimately and are skilled in finding leopards on game drives (and even on walks!).
Lions and more
Lions are plentiful in the Luangwa Valley and their main source of prey includes buffalo, zebra, hippo and the smaller antelope like impala and puku. In the Kaingo / Mwamba area there are two resident prides – the “Hollywood” pride and the “Mwamba” pride.
Hyenas are fairly common throughout the valley and their plaintive, eerie cry, so characteristic of the African bush can be heard on most nights.
Of the other carnivores present but not always seen, are the caracal, wild dog, serval aswell as many smaller carnivores and omnivores such as the Large spotted genet, African Civet, and seven species of mongoose.
Crawshay’s Zebra (a subspecies of the Burchell’s) are common in the valley – particularly on the plains near Kaingo and Mwamba camps. The difference between Zambia’s zebras and those in the south and east of Africa are in the stripes. Here they are evenly spaced as opposed to broad light stripes with a faint, or none at all, shadow stripe in-between.
Thornicroft’s Giraffe, unique to Luangwa Valley should be easily spotted and are plentiful throughout the riverine areas.
14 Antelope Species
The park has 14 different antelope species, most of which are easily seen on game and night drives.
Watch out for the elusive bushbuck, preferring to inhabit densely covered areas; they are often spotted close to camp.
Cookson’s Wildebeest are another unique species, endemic to South Luangwa. They are stunning, and can be found between Mwamba camp and the spectacular Baobab Forest.
The common duiker is not that common near the Luangwa river but inhabits the back country of the Luangwa Valley. The largest of the antelope is the eland; there is a resident herd close to Mwamba Camp.
The most numerous antelope is the impala; these gregarious animals can be seen in herds all over the park. Not to be confused with the Puku, of similar size but a much fluffier buck with a rich browny/orange coat and also prolific.
Perhaps the most beautiful is the Greater Kudu, with its majestic spiral horns and delicate face. Although fairly common, they’re not always easy to find due to their retiring habits and preference for dense bush along the rivers.
Reedbuck, roan, sable, hartebeest, grysbok, klipspringer and oribi are all here but not prolific in the central tourist area of the Park. They tend to populate deeper in the remote parts towards the Muchinga escarpment.
Of the primates, yellow baboons and vervet monkeys are prolific. More scarce is Maloney’s monkey. Present, but unlikely to be seen except on night drives are the night ape and the nocturnal bush-baby.
The Luangwa river also has an extraordinarily high number of Nile crocodile. It is not uncommon to see up to 200 on a hippo kill or basking on the riverbanks.
Night drives are a highlight of a safari in the Luangwa. Not only for the chance of seeing a leopard but for the many interesting animals that are active only at night. Genets, civets, servals, hyenas, and bush-babies, porcupines, White-tailed mongoose as well as owls (Giant Eagle, Scops , Pearl Spotted and Pels commonly seen), nightjars, the foraging hippos, honey badger and lion.
Viewing wildlife from a specially designed hide or blind is one of the most satisfying bush experiences. Between Kaingo and Mwamba Camps there are six different hides ranging from an “elephant” hide in the treetops to a “hippo”hide in the river bank, a “Carmine” hide on a boat on the river to three grass hides set up at various water-holes close Mwamba. These experiences are exciting, safe, and allow for excellent angles for photography while remaining unobtrusive to the wildlife. Spending time at a hide is fun and always yields results. Shenton Safaris is the only operation that uses hides in the Luangwa Valley.
One of the Luangwa’s most beautiful qualities are its number of huge trees from the enormous ebony forests, such as the one alongside Kaingo Camp which stretches 3km, to one thousand year old lead woods. Along the river everywhere you look there are massive Sausage Trees, Tamarinds, Lilac and Wild Mango Trees.
Further inland begins the cathedral-like Mopane forests. Six hundred year old Baobabs are common and there is even a very special ‘Baobab Forest’ near Mwamba Bush Camp. Many of the hardwoods are estimate to be 300 years old or more, which means that they were around long before any explorers set foot in this ancient valley of Africa.
Based on the edge of the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia and established in 1991, Tribal Textiles has a team of over 150 staff. An convenient stop on the way from or to the airport, a visit to Tribal Textiles is a great opportunity to shop for locally made products, and to contribute to the development of the local community.
Originality is the focus and true beauty of their products. They do not mass-produce and in fact, their strength lies in the hand-made process, which you can see when visiting the facilities. The objective of this thriving company is to promote fair trade practices, generate local employment and develop creative skills.
By purchasing bags and linen from Tribal Textiles, you actively support and fund-raise the local community school, Malimba, educating over 160 children. Click on logo above to access their website.
Map of South Luangwa
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