SOUTH LUANGWA NATIONAL PARK
South Luangwa National Park is based on the Luangwa River and its many tributaries. It is just over 9,000 sq km with the Muchinga Escarpment to the west and the Luangwa River to the east. The Luangwa River runs throughout the year but is reduced to a large trickle towards the end of the dry season (September and October). The pools remaining in the river are the resting places of many hippo and crocodile.
- The Wild Stuff
Between the hills and the river there is a variety of mature woodlands interspersed with waterholes and plains. Nsefu has salt springs which attract large numbers of water birds. Trees include some enormous baobabs and many Ilala palms (Hyphaene ventricosa). Riverine trees are Musikili (Trichelia emetica) and Red mahogany (Khaya nyasica).
Large herds of buffalo, elephant and antelopes can be found, often visiting the river to drink. But South Luangwa is famous for its lions and leopards and most visitors are sure to see them. There are two special members of the Luangwa animal family – Thornicroft’s giraffe and Cookson’s wildebeest. Thornicroft’s giraffe is the only naturally occurring species of giraffe in Zambia. (There are some in Livingstone’s small park but these were introduced from Zimbabwe). Cookson’s wildebeest is only found in the Luangwa valley and is a larger subspecies of the blue wildebeest found in other Zambian parks.
There is a range of accommodation facilities in the park and Lupande Game Management Area. Camping is only found in Lupande. It is important to book accommodation before arrival.
During the dry season between May and November, bush camps are set up in remote areas of the park.
Main Centre and Entrance
In the Park
- Getting There
Most visitors to South Luangwa arrive by air at Mfuwe Airport. The flight takes I hour 15 minutes from Lusaka or 1 hour 30 minutes from Lower Zambezi National Park. Road transfers from the airport which is 25 km away from the main entrance to the park are organised by every lodge.
From Lusaka, the drive is along the Great East Road to Chipata, a distance of 570km. From Chipata to the park entrance is another 115 km. It is a very long day’s drive.
Most visitors take morning or afternoon drives with the lodge guides in open safari vehicles. The guides are very professional and will give guests an informative experience. Night drives are also on offer.
There is no cruising along the river as the Luangwa is almost seasonal and can only take boats when the river is high during the rainy season when much of the park is closed.
South Luangwa is known for its walking safaris. Walks can be for an hour or two or for longer. Some lodges offer walks between camps for a 3-day experience.
For the self-drive there are some all-weather roads around the main centre. Off these roads there are several loop roads to explore. Travelling away from the main centre, drivers are advised to keep to the main routes – follow previous tracks and have a GPS primed with major landmarks. Note that there are no facilities for self-drive so if you need to pee, have a good look around before you do and do not stray far from the car. The park closes around 6pm and all self-drive must be out of the park.
Conservation South Luangwa
Conservation South Luangwa works in the park and surrounding Game Management Areas. Their work includes anti-poaching and human-wildlife conflict. People living around the park are often visited by animals which leave the park boundaries. Elephants are particularly bad offenders as they go into the farmlands to eat crops. A year’s worth of food can be destroyed or eaten by a few elephants in one night. But elephants do not like chillies, so the farmers have been taught to grow chillies and to use them to make a grease which can be smeared onto a simple string fence. The elephants are stopped in their tracks when they meet this fence.
Conservation South Luangwa also has a canine unit which is used on patrols in the park and at road blocks where the dogs can sniff out illegal wildlife products.
To find out more:
Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust
Steve and Anna Tolan set up Chipembele Wildlife Trust in 1998 in Lupande Game Management Area which borders South Luangwa National Park. Their emphasis is to teach children from the area about their natural heritage. The premises, over the years, have grown to house a resource centre and classrooms. The children are brought to the centre where they attend classes and are taken into the park all the while learning to appreciate the environment.
To find out more:
Zambia Carnivore Programme
Zambia Carnivore Programme works in three parks in Zambia – Kafue, Liuwa Plain and South Luangwa. Their main focus is on research of the predators in the park and their habitat but they also assist in many other areas alongside the authorities and other NGOs.
To find out more: