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South Luangwa
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South Luangwa safari


... is, amongst safari professionals, widely considered to be some of the very best on the continent. This hypnotic valley contains around two dozen intimate little camps, many of which are beautifully situated along the gorgeous Luangwa River and renowned for offering an intimate and intense wildlife experience.

Upsides ...

South Luangwa National Park is generally considered to be the finest safari area in Zambia and, arguably, one of the top ten wildlife reserves on the continent.

Set in a broad valley, bordered by impressive hills and centred on the languid meandering Luangwa River, this place has a really hypnotic quality. It is somewhere that people fall in love with and return to year after year.

The wildlife here really is extremely strong, especially during the Jun/Nov dry season, when the animals cluster along the river. The area has a particular reputation for lion and leopard sightings, but the sheer range of wildlife on view here really is very impressive. There is very rarely a shortage of sightings during the dry season.

But what makes South Luangwa so very special is the selection of truly exceptional small safari operators here, who have long and hard-earned reputation for offering a truly intimate, authentic and involving safari experience. In the best small camps, many of which have only three or four rooms, guests are very much up on stage with the animals rather than watching from the audience. The whole cast of lions, hippos, elephants, leopards and so many others perform around you day and night.

The area has an exceptional reputation for walking safari in particular. This is one of only a handful of reserves in Africa where guides will make deliberate approaches onto elephants, lions and leopards.

The reserve also permits a limited amount of night vehicle safari, which is also quite a rare thing these days and a great chance to catch some of the nocturnal creatures as well as seeing the predators whilst they are more active.

Read more about the upsides for this area ...

Downsides ...

The main potential downsides are the fact that the area is relatively little known, it is quite difficult to access, that prices inside the reserve itself are unavoidably high and that many of the more remote camps here are only able to operate over a relatively short season.

Read more about the downsides for this area ...

When to visit ...

Jun/Oct ... is the dry season in Zambia and generally considered to be the best time to be out on safari as the majority of animals converge on the few year round water sources. During the early part of the season, May/Jun, night time temperatures can be rather low, so do bring warm layers and a decent jacket. The grass and foliage cover can also be a little high during the first month or so, making it a little bit more difficult to find the animals. Towards the end of the season the wildlife viewing should be at its absolute best, but it can become extremely hot and humid day and night. Visitor numbers are relatively high, but this tends not to be too much of an issue here.

Nov/May ... is the green season, with showers being possible at any time, but generally focussed on Dec/Feb when they can become persistent. This rain can cause many of the minor tracks to become difficult and increase the grass and foliage cover, both of which make wildlife viewing more challenging. However the bush looks beautiful, with lots of wildflowers and baby animals. Visitor numbers are very low, except for the Dec/Jan holiday season, and prices are often considerably reduced.

Read more about when to visit this area ...


For the purposes of selecting accommodation, we have divided South Luangwa into three separate areas ...

South Luangwa Central ... is the busiest and least wild area, but has very strong wildlife densities, is particularly strong for lower cost accommodation and is usually the best option outside the Jun/Nov dry season.

South Luangwa North ... also has very high wildlife concentrations, but experiences only around 20% of the total visitor traffic. It is home to an extraordinary range of very high quality and authentic safari camps.

South Luangwa South ... generally has lower wildlife densities, but only experiences around 5% of total visitor traffic. It is also the most scenic part of the reserve and contains some excellent small camps.

How we like to include this area in trips ...

South Luangwa has conventionally it has been considered a location best suited to a more experienced safari traveller, somewhere that people might look to visit after some of the better know safari areas on the continent.

As a result it tends to attract a really enthusiastic and well-informed type of traveller, which really helps to maintain its unique atmosphere.

However we also find ourselves increasingly recommend South Luangwa to less experienced safari travellers, even first timers to Africa, so long as they are suitably outdoorsy and in search of a more immersive experience.

The wildlife here is extremely reliable, so you should have no angst in that respect. But most importantly the safari experience is so much more involving than in most other locations.

Here you can stay in tiny little bushcamps and be utterly immersed in the African bush, you can even approach elephants and lions on foot, you really can get into the thick of it.

We like to encourage a longer stay in the area, 4 to 5 nights is on the short side, but 7 to 12 nights is ideal if you are to be able to really enjoy the full range of diverse safari and cultural experiences on offer here.

During the Jun/Nov dry season we most commonly focus on the wilder Northern Sector and Southern Sector, often combining them with a shorter stay in the busier Central Sector.

At other times of year, when there is more likely to be rain, we tend to concentrate more heavily on the Central Sector, where there is a network of all-weather roads.

South Luangwa is the most popular area for safari in Zambia. It is often combined with other safari areas such including Lower Zambezi and Kafue, along with time at the Victoria Falls in Livingstone, in trips of 7 to 14 nights.

These areas are also often commonly combined combined with parts of neighbouring Malawi, Zimbabwe and Botswana in particular.

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