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National Parks

South Luangwa National Park in Zambia

South Luangwa National Park, referred to as Zambia’s premier game viewing park, is the ultimate destination for walking safaris.

Ker & Downey® Africa > Destinations > Zambia > Parks > South Luangwa National Park in Zambia

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Everything you need to know about South Luangwa National Park

South Luangwa, Zambia is a true showcase of the region’s exceptional wildlife. In fact, it is often referred to as Zambia’s premier game viewing park due to the fact that the concentration of animals around the meandering Luangwa River and its lagoons are among the most prolific in all of Africa. Founded as the Luangwa Game Park in 1904, it was ultimately converted to a game reserve in 1983. Today this 9050km2 park is home to 60+ animal species and 400+ bird species, including 39 birds of prey and 47 migrant species that flit in and out of the park along with the seasons.

Where is the reserve located?

The park is situated in the eastern province of Zambia and locally known simply as ‘the South park’. Located in the Luangwa Valley, it straddles the southernmost portion of Africa’s Great Rift Valley that extends southward from Lake Tanganyika. It borders Muchinga Escarpment and the Luangwa River and comprises of oxbow lagoons, seasonal floodplains, as well as native Miombo and Mopane woodlands. Mfuwe Airport in Zambia recently achieved international status and there are now scheduled flights allowed from abroad. Domestic and chartered flights are available, with the option of chartering in from outside the country. Most lodges facilitate transfers to and from the airport.

About the reserve

What type of wildlife will we see?

The park’s singular seasonal floodplains create a fertile habitat that supports an incredible array of wildlife. It is said to have the highest concentration of leopards anywhere in Africa, and there are pods of 300+ hippos that can be seen in the dry season when the deeper pools start to dry up. The elephant population is robust and large herds of buffalo lead a procession of lion, zebra and other bucks to and from grazing grounds and water sources. Impala, baboon, kudu and giraffe are also present in vast numbers.

The park was initially established to protect the Thornicroft’s giraffe, a subspecies that can only be found here.

Top experiences to enjoy at South Luangwa

South Luangwa National Park is said to be the birthplace of the epic walking safari that takes you right into the heart of the action to see, hear, taste and smell Africa and all her glorious creatures up-close. Village tours offer a rare opportunity to learn more about the everyday lives of local townsfolk, while full-day safaris with packed picnic lunches provide the opportunity to enjoy a full day in the veld with an intrepid guide at your disposal. River boat rides on the Luangwa river in Emerald Season is another exciting way to explore this fascinating destination.

When to visit

The best time to visit the park depends on how you want to spend your time in Zambia. If your goal is to see as much game as possible, the dry season from April to October is your best option, when water is scarce and the animals flock around remaining water sources. From May to August, the days are warm, but the nights get colder. The rains come in November, turning the entire landscape into a lush jungle up until March, and attracting droves of migrant birds. This is aptly termed ‘Emerald Season’ and makes for a truly stunning experience if you can stand (quite) a bit of rain.

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