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South Luangwa National Park

South Luangwa National Park

About South Luangwa National Park

In the heart of the picturesque Luangwa valley lies the most renowned Zambia Destination, the South Luangwa National Park. Often referred to as Africa’s last great wilderness, the national park area remains largely unaffected by humans.

South Luangwa is perhaps the most unspoiled and intact safari destination in Africa. It is popularly addressed as just “the south park” by the locals, as it is located in the southern part of Luangwa valley. Its top-notch quality of guiding, remarkable wildlife sightings, and wild natural conditions make it a favorite for safari experts and wildlife enthusiasts.

Undoubtedly, this southern part of Luangwa Valley is one of the best Places To Visit In Zambia. Still, necessary planning and insights about South Luangwa National Park Safaris are required to make your visit an unforgettable experience. So, here is everything you need to learn about the place before embarking on your next Zambia Safari to one of its wildest paradises.

Best time to visit

Best Time To Visit South Luangwa, Being a highly seasonal destination, the South Luangwa National Park is open to visitors only during the dry season from May to November. Hence, the Best Time To Visit Zambia is the earlier part of the dry season extending from May to September. The latter months, October and November are also good for wildlife viewing, but it can get uncomfortably hot. On the other hand, the wet summer months from December to March can be avoided as rains make the black-cotton soil terrain impassable.

Wildlife

South Luangwa Wildlife, South Luangwa is popular among travelers for its predators, including leopards, lions, hyenas, and the critically endangered wild dog. It is notably the best place in Africa to locate leopards, which is why it is famously named the “valley of leopards.” Vast herds of buffalos, elephants, and giraffes are equally abundant in the park, and visit the camps, villages, and small towns on the opposite side of the Luangwa River. Get more about Zambia Wildlife.

What To Experience

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South Luangwa National Park

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Useful Facts About South Luangwa That Make It An Unmissable Safari Destination

  • Established in 1972, South Luangwa covers an area of 9050 km2. The park extends over three of Zambia’s provinces, Northern, Eastern, and Central Zambia. Apart from its incredible wildlife and being a pioneer in walking safaris, this Zambia National Park has earned accolades for its anti-poaching approach and innovative conservation success in 2019.
  • The South Luangwa National Park is home to three endemic animals, which won’t be found anywhere else. They are Thornicroft’s giraffes, Crawshay’s zebras, and Cookson’e wildebeest. This serves as a major attraction for travelers visiting South Luangwa for Zambia Wildlife Safari.
  • The national park premises hosts the most significant number of African wild dogs in Zambia, around 350 of them. This has been made possible because of the collaborative efforts of the Zambian Carnivore Programme and the Conservation South Luangwa program.
  • The national park is a dream destination for avid bird watchers. This is because of the southern carmine bee-eaters who follow a unique migration pattern and arrive banks of the Luangwa River in mid-August. Visit the park between September and October to witness the colorful assortment of birds and take back with you an unforgettable birding experience.
  • The tourism of Zambia supports responsible tourism and takes initiatives toward conservation efforts. Visit Mulberry Mongoose in Mfuwe to witness local craftswomen use recovered wire from poaching traps to create beautiful jewelry designs.
  • Buying any of these will not provide economic support to the women and their families but also contribute funds towards local conservation efforts towards protecting breathtaking Zambia Wildlife.
  • The South Luangwa National Park has an incredible number of accommodation options for its guests. The staying-in options are spectacular, from small and intimate camps to slightly larger lodges. In addition, there is an option for everyone who seeks an authentic safari experience during their Zambia Safari Tours.

Map And Geography

The following South Luangwa National Park Map shows all the geographical details of the place. Also, the location of all its lodges is shown for our reader’s convenience.

south luangawa national park

Geographical Details Of South Luangwa National Park

South Luangwa National Park extends over an area of 9050 km2. The western side of the park is bounded by the Muchinga escarpment, which gradually steeps down to the eastern side, bordered by the meandering Luangwa River.

The National Park area is generally flat near the Luangwa River and is dominated by mature woodlands. A mixture of small bushes and grasslands are interspersed by the presence of large beautiful trees which are 10-20 m apart.

Occasionally there are wide open grasslands which are not the usual Serengeti-type plains with short grasses. Instead, they are covered by tall species of grasses with bushes. The lack of trees makes it an open plains area.

When To Visit South Luangwa National Park

South Luangwa is a seasonal Zambia Safari Destination. Most of its lodges are only operated in the dry season, particularly from the end of March to the end of October. The early part of the dry season, starting from May and running through September, is the best time for wildlife viewing.

Wild animals from the bush areas of South Luangwa Valley conglomerate around the meandering Luangwa River in search of fresh drinking water. Also, the dry vegetation with thinner bushes makes it easy to spot wildlife during safari drives.

An insight: The temperature and low-humid conditions in Luangwa valley are optimal for Zambia Safari Tours during the dry months of May to October. However, the temperature starts soaring in October. Day-time temperatures can rise to 40 degree Celsius and drop to around 26 degrees at night.

Despite good wildlife sightings opportunities, the high temperatures and humid conditions are not suitable for South Luangwa National Safaris during October. But, if you don’t have any problem dealing with heat and humidity, go ahead with the safari to South Luangwa in the later part of the dry season.

As we know that the Luangwa Valley majorly experiences two safari seasons- The Dry Season and The Wet Season. Let’s look at the highlights of each season and what it has in store for you.

The Dry Season- May To October

Advantages of visiting South Luangwa from May to October

  • Cool and Dry weather conditions with clear skies and lots of sunshine.
  • After the rains, the luscious green grass turns golden which gives excellent photographic opportunities.
  • Animals gather around the Luangwa River and other watercourses.
  • The cooler conditions prevailing in the early morning and late evenings witnessed heightened predator activity.
  • With fewer bugs and mosquitoes around, there are lesser chances of spreading malaria.

Disadvantages of the Dry Season

  • Sometimes rivers can be too crowded as the number of visitors peaks around this time.
  • The dusty atmosphere and arid climate might make you uncomfortable during game drives.

The Wet Season- November To April

Advantages of visiting South Luangwa during the Wet Season

  • The wet season is often regarded as the “emerald season” in Zambia. The rains turn the dry vegetation into a lush, green scenery.
  • Fewer tourists arrive at the place; hence the rates are lower.
  • As the birthing season begins, you can spot newborns around the place.
  • The presence of migrant birds makes it the best time for bird-watching safaris.

Disadvantages of the Wet Season

  • Prevailing hot and humid conditions are not suitable for South Luangwa National Park Safari.
  • Most lodges are shut down from December to March as rains make it difficult to commute within the national park premises.
  • As there is water everywhere, Malaria is a big concern.
  • Some roads are inaccessible and impassable due to the rains.

Good to Know: Some lodges in South Luangwa National Park, especially in the central part of the park remain open during the wet season as long as they can be accessed by travelers. Recently, some bush camps have also opened access during the wet season.

Regardless of the time of the year you choose to visit, it should be kept in mind that wildlife behavior can be unpredictable, and sightings can never be guaranteed (except for the peak of the dry season). So, it’s advisable to contact us about the best time to visit the park and what you can expect during your Safaris To Zambia.

Getting To South Luangwa National Park

Though located in a remote location, South Luangwa is still easily accessible. The national park is situated near the village of Mfuwe and is at a distance of 700 km from the capital city, Lusaka.

The most preferred route to reach South Luangwa is to fly to the park from the capital city of Lusaka via the Mfuwe airport. Take down the flights to Mfuwe airport from Lusaka. Mfuwe airport is the primary access point to reach South Luangwa National Park.

Let’s look at all the ways by which South Luangwa National Park can be accessed by travelers.

By Air

International Air Travel

During the main safari season, from May to October, most visitors to the national park start from Lusaka and fly into Mfuwe airport. The starting point is Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka. The airport has multiple daily connections with other important locations in the world. These locations include Nairobi, Johannesburg and Dubai, and Ethiopia.

Domestic Air Travel

Visitors to South Luangwa can also choose to travel domestically. Start from Livingstone to Lusaka or vice versa, which is generally opted by travelers who visit Victoria Falls and Chobe National Park areas.

From Lusaka to South Luangwa

After your international flight lands at Lusaka, your Zambia Safari is about to start. You just now need to take a 70 minutes short flight to Mfuwe airport. All further connections to the Zambia Safari Park are assisted by Proflight Zambia.  There are about three flights scheduled per day.

-Lusaka > Mfuwe

-Livingstone (via Lusaka) >Mfuwe

-Lower Zambezi (via Lusaka)> Mfuwe

Note: The one-way trip between Lusaka and Mfuwe will cost around US $ 282 per person. With return tickets, the cost is going to double.

By Road

Travelers can reach South Luangwa National Park from Lusaka (Lusaka- Chipata-Mfuwe) by either using a public bus or by hiring a private/rental vehicle. This drive can take you at least 10 hours long. You can also take a direct bus from Lusaka to Mfuwe to reach South Luangwa. But, the time duration for this route will be a little more.

The second option is to combine South Luangwa National Park Safari with a visit to Malawi. From Lilongwe (Malawi’s capital), a trip to Mfuwe takes much lesser time than from Lusaka.

Summary of Prices to Reach South Luangwa National Park

Mode of Transport

Prices

Time Taken To Complete the journey

Public bus (Lusaka-Chipata- Mfuwe)

130.000 ZMW + 60.000 ZMW

8-9 hours

Public bus (direct bus)

220.000 ZMW

12 hours

Private car

N/A

6-7 hours

Flight from Lusaka (ProFlight Zambia)

US $ 150-200

45 mins

Note: Mfuwe is 20-30 minutes from the main gate of South Luangwa National Park. So, transfers to the national park from Mfuwe can be easily arranged. Also, the lodges or guest houses can arrange pickups (sometimes free of cost).

Zambia Visa Information

By far as we know, travelers tend to enter through Lusaka, Livingstone, or Mfuwe on arriving in Zambia. Foreign travelers will require to obtain visas. The list of countries that need to obtain a visa and those who are exempt can be obtained by contacting the nearest Zambian Embassy or Consulate.

The present Zambia Visa rates for single-entry and double-entry visas are US $ 50 and US $ 80, respectively. In addition, a departure tax is also required to be paid in cash during the time of departure from all the main airports. The domestic departure tax is US $ 8, and the international departure tax is US $ 25.

Park Entrance Fees At South Luangwa

The South Luangwa National Park entrance fees for different categories of travelers are given below:

Travelers Category

 Park Fees (per person per day)

International Visitors

US $ 25

Residents and SADC Members

US $ 20

Zambian Citizens

K 41.70

Self-drive (Residents and Non-residents)

US $ 30

South Luangwa Wildlife

Due to its rich vegetation, South Luangwa National Park shelters a diverse range of wildlife, including many species which are exclusive to the region. Some of the notable animals present in the national park are:

  • Antelopes and Other Herbivores:

Luangwa Valley is popular among safari enthusiasts for several ‘specialties’ including the rare Thornicroft’s giraffe which has a strikingly different coloration.

Other rare species found in the valley are Cookson’s wildebeest, a subspecies of the blue wildebeest, and Crawshay’s zebra, a subspecies of plains zebra.

Many species of antelopes are on the park premises, including impalas, puku, kudus, and bushbucks. Apart from that, the valley also supports high densities of game such as huge herds of buffalos and groups of elephants.

The hundreds of hippos and crocodiles that are abundantly present in and around the Luangwa River deserve a special mention here. The best time to observe the dense population of hippos is towards the end of the dry season when the river water is at its lowest.

  • Predators

The predominant predators of Luangwa Valley are lions, leopards, spotted hyenas, and wild dogs. A large pride of lions can be easily spotted at the end of the dry season when the vegetation is scarce all around.

Also, South Luangwa has earned a name among its competitors for providing incredible sightings of Leopards, especially during night game drives. Recently, high incidences of Wild dog sightings have been reported near the Nkwali pontoon in the south of Mfuwe around February to May.

On the contrary, there have been no reports of Cheetah sightings in the park for some decades. This is why cheetahs are believed to be extinct inside South Luangwa.

Wildlife Of South Luangwa National Park

There are different categories of animals spotted inside the South Luangwa. While some are common and can be easily sighted inside the park premises during a Zambia Wildlife, some others might be uncommon or completely rare to sight. Take a look at the list of these animals.

Categories

 Names of the animals

Common

Leopard, lion, buffalo, elephant, zebra, giraffe, warthog, impala, waterbuck, bushbuck, and impala.

Uncommon

Wildebeest, eland, greater kudu, spotted hyena, civet, and porcupine.

Rare

Cheetah, African wild dog, roan antelope, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest and sable antelope.

South Luangwa Birdlife

With about 400 recorded species of birds, South Luangwa is renowned for its rich tropical birdlife. Some bird species prefer a dry habitat of plains and forests, while others live close to water.

The best time for bird watching is during the summer rainy season. The birds have an abundant food supply during this time and the summer migrants are also thriving in the park.

Some of the notable birds of South Luangwa, which can be seen during a birding safari in the national park, are given below.

  • African Skimmer - This distinctive bird is easily recognizable by its long, thin bill, which it uses to skim the water's surface for fish.
  • Pel's Fishing Owl - This large owl is one of the most sought-after bird species in the park and is known for its distinctive, circular facial disks and yellow eyes.
  • Carmine Bee-eater - This brightly colored bird is a common sight in the park, and is often seen perching on branches or flying over the river.
  • African Grey Hornbill - This large bird is easily recognizable by its distinctive bill and grey plumage.
  • African Fish Eagle - This powerful bird of prey is one of the most iconic bird species in Africa, and its distinctive call is often heard echoing across the river.
  • Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill - This striking bird is easily recognizable by its large bill, which is yellow with a black tip.
  • Bohm's Bee-eater - This brightly colored bird is a common sight in the park and is often seen perching on branches or flying over the river.
  • Cuckoo Hawk - This bird of prey is easily recognizable by its long, narrow wings and distinctive call.

Check out the table below that displays a list of notable species of birds of South Luangwa and where they could be noted easily during a Safaris To Zambia.

Species of Birds of South Luangwa

Where/When  to Spot them

Flocks of crowned cranes

On the marshes of the Nsefu sector

Carmine bee-eaters

Nesting on sandy river banks in September and October

African Skimmers

Found along the river

The giant eagle owls

Spotted during night drives

Flocks of egrets, herons, and storks

Breeding in the shallow water of the Nsefu sector

Getting Around South Luangwa

By Car

Most visitors to South Luangwa use a car to tour the park premises. In addition, they use a car for safari drives which are organized by the lodges. Sometimes visitors can also rent a 4WD vehicle or tour around by using their vehicle.

In the latter case, traveling on your own can be a little risky as there are plenty of trails with no proper signposting, so picking up a map from the gate is advised to ensure a hassle-free safari experience.

By Boat

The water levels in the Luangwa River are deficient during the dry season which doesn’t allow using a boat to get around the national park. However, some operators/lodges can arrange canoe safaris in the green season. These canoe safaris are limited to occasional transfers only and are carried out under our expert guidance.

Word of Caution:

Using a boat as a means of communication to get around the national park is not advisable. This is because the Luangwa River can behave unpredictably during high water levels in the rainy season.

Also, a large number of hippos present in the river can capsize the canoes, and the crocodiles present may attack the capsized canoes in the river.

On Foot

Although travelers to the park are not permitted to independently travel on foot, you can still join the guided walking safaris on your Holidays In Zambia.

Where To Stay

South Luangwa National Park runs a spectrum of accommodation options catering to every type of traveler. From luxurious tented camps and lodges to budget-friendly bush camps, there are options to suit all budgets and preferences.

 These wide ranges of Zambia Accommodations are mainly situated along the Luangwa River’s edge to ensure uninterrupted wildlife viewing without leaving the comfort of your rooms.

However, one more thing that should be noted here is that these accommodation options located just outside the park can go as low as US $ 40 per night. In contrast, other accommodations inside the national park premises can cost US $ 300-350 per night per person. So, if you are traveling on a budget Zambia Safari, go for accommodation options outside the park premises.

Keeping the above things in mind, let’s look at all the types of accommodations offered at South Luangwa:

  • Luxurious Lodges:

If you are someone who is looking to stay at high-end accommodations when visiting South Luangwa, then Zambia Luxury Safari packages are the thing for you. These packages provide you with an all-inclusive experience.

Along with offering comfortable rooms equipped with luxurious facilities, they serve delicious cuisines and give opportunities to participate in various activities such as game drives, walking safaris, and boat trips.

  • Tented camps

For a raw and truly authentic safari experience, choose to stay at one of the tented camps in South Luangwa. This canvas-type of tented camp is remotely located and offers a truly immersive African safari experience.

  • Budget-friendly camps

Travelers coming to South Luangwa on a budget can opt to stay at these affordable camps. These accommodations offer basic facilities, yet they are comfortable. Also, they may be located in remote areas of the park for a more immersive safari experience.

  • Self-catering accommodations

Visitors to South Luangwa who are picky about their meals and accommodations can consider staying at self-catering options. There are both budget camps and luxury lodges available under this category.

With so many accommodation options available, travelers coming for a South Luangwa National Park Safari on their visit to Zambia often have to choose one location depending on their style of travel and the budget involved. Also, the overall Zambia Safari Cost will considerably get influenced by the type of accommodation you choose.

Still, no matter which style of accommodation you are finally opting for, one thing for sure is that you will have the best adventure of your lifetime when visiting the magnificent Zambia Safari Park, South Luangwa.

Things To Do At South Luangwa

South Luangwa National Park is famous for being home to vast concentrations of wildlife. However, if we compare the concentration of wildlife to the number of visitors, the ratio suggests that there are very few tourists relative to the wildlife population and park size. This makes the park one of the best places for Zambia Wildlife Safari.

This national park is applauded for being the first of its kind to organize walking safaris. They are one of the most effective ways to explore the unspoiled and untamed wilderness of the park while following the footprints of animals all around.

During the winter season, the prevailing cool and dry atmosphere attracts wild animals to the meandering Luangwa River, and the scarce vegetation makes it easy for wildlife viewing.

On the other hand, the wet summers turn the dry landscape into a luscious green woodland which provides perfect weather conditions for birding. But, it is harder to spot large mammals around this time.

In short, South Luangwa offers a wide range of activities and experiences depending on the time of the visit for various travelers. Along with wildlife safaris, there are plenty of other Things to Do in Zambia’s premier national park that travelers can try to have a completely different perspective of the place.

Let’s look at a few of the most popular activities on offer in South Luangwa.

Safari Activities

  • Game Drives – Spot some rare species of antelope unique to the park

Off course, the first thing to do and see is to go on South Luangwa National Park Safari. All the lodges in the national park area arrange game drives. Here, a trained guide with extensive knowledge takes visitors around the park by a safari jeep.

Typically, safaris are organized at dawn (before 6:00 pm) and in the evening (after 4:00 pm). The temperatures start to come down during this time, making amicable conditions for safari drives.

  • Mobile Walking Safaris – Full-day or half-day walks between camps

South Luangwa is one of the best places in the world which offers walking safaris. These safaris provide travelers with the unique opportunity to access the remote areas of the park on the foot along with an armed ranger or guide.

Generally, guests are taken from one overnight camp to another, which is located further in deep locations in the park. While moving on foot, the guests at the park will get the opportunity to encounter nothing but wildlife while exploring remote regions along the river banks and areas where there is no road access.

  • Birding Safaris- A visual retreat to the eyes

With about 400 species, South Luangwa has a vibrant array of birds. Birding safaris are the best way for bird lovers to experience their diversity and locate them around the park.

These safaris are usually conducted in the presence of an ornithologist or an experienced guide.

So appreciate the beautiful collection of colorful birds while enjoying their songs and calls and get the best birding experience.

  • Boating Safaris – Witness the wildlife spectacle safely from the boat

Boating safaris in the Luangwa River are conducted during the rainy months when the water levels are full. The shores of the river are crowded by the presence of huge numbers of hippos and crocodiles. Herds of elephants gather near the Luangwa River too.

One thing to keep in mind is that this river can behave unpredictably at any time, so these safaris are always organized under expert guidance.

  • Photographic Safaris – Get some of the best wildlife shots

South Luangwa is nothing sort of a photographer’s dreamland. However, the stunning landscapes, rich wildlife, and extraordinary birdlife offer numerous opportunities for capturing some immensely beautiful shots that could be preserved as a memory for lifetimes.

Other Activities At South Luangwa

  • Bush Spas carried at the center of the national park area are the best way to relax and rejuvenate during your Safaris To Zambia. These spa treatments are done with traditional therapeutic ingredients and are the best to calm you while alleviating all the stress and pain.
  • Visit the local Kawaza Village, which is located outside of the park premises. This will enable you to meet the Kunda Tribe, where you will get to experience the local people and get to stay at the simple African thatched hut.
  • Take a tour of the local outlet, located on the road between Mfuwe airport and the national park. You can buy some souvenirs to keep some memories of your visit to South Luangwa.

 

Prices Of Various Activities In South Luangwa

There are plenty of Things to Do in Zambia when visiting its most important wildlife sanctuary, South Luangwa. Some of the activities and their corresponding charges are mentioned below to get you an overall picture of their costs.

Activities Offered Inside South Luangwa

Prices (per person)

Game Drive

Starting from US $ 25 (minimum 3-4 per vehicle)

Safari walk ( for 1-2 hours)

Starting from US $ 25 (minimum 3-4 per vehicle)

Safari walk (full-day)

Starting from US $ 150-200 per day

Night Safari

Starting from US $ 30 (minimum 3-4 per vehicle)

Camping

Starting from the US $ 5 fees from the national park

Canoeing/Rafting

Starts from US $ 20

Boating

Starts from US $ 20

Tips And Other Safety Advice

  • Malaria and Safety

South Luangwa is a place that is affected by malaria. So, make sure to get yourself vaccinated before your next trip to Zambia. You can find out the specific vaccinations needed for you by making an appointment with your clinic/doctor before your visit.  Also, wearing long clothes and using mosquito repellants (containing DEET) is recommended to protect you against mosquito bites.

  • Precautions During Wildlife Viewing

Until you are listening to your guide’s instructions and following the rules and regulations of the park, wildlife viewing is considered safe during South Luangwa National Park Safaris.

As most accommodations inside the park premises are unfenced, a safety briefing for the guests is arranged to ensure your well-being and avoid any hazards.  

  • What to Pack during South Luangwa Safaris

Some essentials to pack during safaris to South Luangwa are long-sleeved comfortable clothing, sturdy and comfortable walking shoes, insect repellants, sun protection cream with high SPF, binoculars, a camera with extra memory cards, and batteries.

  • Insurance and Medical evacuation cover

As the risks of traveling to remote locations are involved, getting appropriate insurance and medical evacuation coverage is advisable.

  • Level of fitness

Most travelers to South Luangwa generally opt to participate in mobile walking safaris. But, this safari option requires a moderate level of fitness as participants have to walk around 10 km a day with frequent stops.

Conclusion

South Luangwa National Park Safaris are the best way to explore the raw, unspoiled, and remote areas Intrinsic to the park. The diverse ecosystems sheltering abundant wildlife make it one of the must-visit national parks during Zambia Safaris.

Whether you are a seasoned safari-goer or a first-timer, the unspoiled wilderness with a huge variety of games is going to blow your mind. From game drives and walking safaris to bird watching and cultural tours, this Zambia’s most celebrated national park has got something for everyone.

So, on your next trip to Zambia, do not forget to visit the incredible destination of South Luangwa to experience the truest sense of African wilderness.

best month to Visit South Luangwa National Park

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Peak

Low

Mixed

South Luangwa National Park in January

January is the height of Zambia’s summer rainy season and most guide books will tell you it’s the worst time to visit. By January, heavy downpours have turned Zambia’s dirt and gravel roads to an impassable mush, rivers break their banks, and many camps and lodges close completely, only reopening once the waters have subsided. Daytime temperatures average about 30°C, with nights around 20°C across most of the country.

South Luangwa National Park in February

February in Zambia is much the same as January, with short, fierce afternoon thunderstorms, swollen rivers and washed-out roads. It can be a difficult time to visit in Zambia, unless you’re flying into a specialist lodge that operates throughout the season. These usually offer their best safari deals from January to April and will sometimes have discounts for families and children. Expect day-time temperatures around 30°C and nights falling below 20°C by the end of the month.

South Luangwa National Park in March

Zambia’s wet season is nearing its end in March, but there’s still plenty of rain, especially in the north. Up north, the season lasts longer, but gradually the rains retreat from the south, first from Livingstone and then Lusaka. Hot days remain around 30°C, but the nights get slowly cooler – down to around 15°C by the end of March.

South Luangwa National Park in April

Although not considered prime game-viewing season, April is an excellent time to Safari In Zambia . Rates tend to be lower, the weather drier and slightly cooler, and the atmosphere clear and crisp and scattered with fluffy clouds. It’s an ideal month for photography enthusiasts and for those who want to see the greener side of Southern Africa without the afternoon downpours. Hot days will still touch 30°C, with colder nights falling to between 10°C and 15°C. By mid-April the rains have almost completely left the south, but may linger in the north into the first few weeks of May.

South Luangwa National Park in May

May is arguably Zambia’s most beautiful month, with the vegetation at its lush best and Victoria Falls in full flow. By May, all of Zambia’s southern camps and lodges have reopened after the rains and across the south the dirt roads are drying, allowing self-drivers back into the parks. May is not yet prime time for wildlife viewing – the thick vegetation makes animals harder to spot. That said, Zambia’s guides are experts and guided game drives can still produce great sightings.

South Luangwa National Park in June

June marks the start of Zambia’s prime safari season, but many lodges still offer reduced ‘shoulder season’ rates so it’s one of the best months to visit. Later in the season conditions can get very hot, but June is cool and pleasant, with daytime highs not much over 25°C and nightly lows around 10°C. Pack thick socks and a warm jacket for early morning walks and game drives. And prepare yourself for one of Zambia’s best months for a walking safari.

South Luangwa National Park in July

July to October is peak season in Zambia, when game-viewing is at its finest, but lodges and camps also charge their highest rates. This is this the best time to go on Zambia Safari, with the thinning vegetation making wildlife easier to spot. It’s also the coldest month to visit Zambia, with daytime temperatures around 25°C in the south. Hot days can still reach 30°C, especially in the north, but expect some chilly nights and take a fleece, or better yet a windproof jacket, for early morning walks and game drives.

South Luangwa National Park in August

Zambia’s peak season extends into August and the combination of cool, dry weather and increasingly thinning vegetation makes it one of the best months to go on Zambia Safari. Across the country, surface water is rapidly drying and by the end of the month the animals begin to mass along the rivers, congregating near permanent water in ever increasing numbers. As pools dry, fish are trapped, and a variety of birds, including the supremely ugly marabou stork, descend for an easy meal.

South Luangwa National Park in September

By September things are hotting up in Zambia, as temperatures rise and the increasingly water-stressed animals compete for resources. As more pools dry, fish are exposed – an easy meal for hungry eagles, storks and scavengers. Both predators and prey stay close to the rivers and lion sightings are more common as their range decreases and their movements become more predictable. By the end of September hot days can easily reach 35°C, with nightly lows of between 15°C and 20°C.

South Luangwa National Park in October

October is peak safari season in Zambia – but it’s hot! Known locally as ‘suicide month’ the relentless heat hits the low-lying regions hardest, especially the Luangwa and Zambezi valleys where temperatures in the shade can reach well above 40°C. This includes Livingstone and Victoria Falls where white-water rafting is no longer just about the world-class rapids, for many it’s simply a great way to cool down. A stint on Lake Kariba is ideal at this time of year. It’s arguably the best month to catch giant tigerfish and in the deeper waters it’s also safe to swim.

South Luangwa National Park in November

November is the spring ‘shoulder’ season in Zambia when many lodges offer reduced rates or close completely, mostly on account of the unpredictable weather. Nobody knows exactly when the rains will begin, but they usually start in the north of Zambia first, then slowly move south over the course of the month. Lodges with fly-in access are more likely to stay open, but even some of these shut down for the wet season. As soon as the rains set in most dirt roads become impassable and lodges replying on road transfers generally close by mid-November at the latest.

South Luangwa National Park in December

December is the start of Zambia’s rainy season – generally cooler than the previous few months, but nevertheless still hot and humid. Expect daytime averages of roughly 30°C and nights down to only around 20°C. Rainstorms can be fierce, with heavy downpours rapidly turning the dirt roads to mud. Camps and lodges without fly-in access close completely and many close anyway due to flooding. Few safari operators continue through the wet season, but those that do stay open usually offer lower rates. It can still be a rewarding time to visit, especially for bird lovers, as the migrant species return in full force and the breeding season begins in earnest across the dambos and swamps.

Frequently Asked Questions

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South Luangwa National Park is home to the elusive leopards and it is one of the best places in southern Africa to spot them. Also, the park is famous for its huge herds of elephants and buffalo. The hundreds of hippo populations that reside in the lagoons of South Luangwa provide extraordinary sightings for Zambia Safari goers.

The only river that flows through South Luangwa National Park is the Luangwa River. The park is named after this river which is the major source of water for the wildlife residing inside the park.

One can expect to encounter a variety of wildlife species inside the South Luangwa National Park. Some of the noted animals present are elephants, hippos, cape buffaloes, lions, crocodiles, warthogs, puku, impala, spotted hyenas, elands, and greater kudus. Other rare species which are unique to South Luangwa are Thornicroft’s giraffe, Cookson’s wildebeest, and Crawshay’s giraffe.

Travelers can commute to South Luangwa National either by air or by road. The nearest airport to the national park is Mfuwe airport which is approximately 45 minutes away from the park. After landing at the Mfuwe airport, you can either hire a shuttle or a private vehicle to the park.

The varieties of accommodations available inside South Luangwa are lodges, tented camps, and campsites. While some of these lodges offer luxurious accommodations with top-notch infrastructure, others give a more rustic feel and are not on the pricier side.

Some of the most popular activities that are offered to our visitors inside the park are wildlife viewing on game drives, guided walks, bird watching, boating excursions, and walking safaris.

The best time to visit South Luangwa National Park is between May and October. Wildlife viewing is at its best around this time as a large number of wild animals gather around the meandering Luangwa River, making the sightings easy. The weather conditions are also dry and pleasant which is conducive for going on a Zambia Safari to the national park.

No, South Luangwa National Park doesn’t have cheetahs. Also, the park has got no rhinos too. The large mammals which are present inside the park include buffalos and elephants only. The park also boasts huge numbers of crocodiles and hippos. It has also got a wide variety of antelopes including kudu, bushbuck, waterbuck, puku, and impala.

There are no photographic restrictions inside South Luangwa National Park. Still, travelers are advised to adhere to park rules and regulations and not disturb wildlife or damage any natural environment.

While hiring guides on a safari to South Luangwa is not mandatory, its’ generally advised hiring someone because of the sheer knowledge they carry about the place, and its’ flora and fauna. Also, guides ensure the safety of visitors and protect them against any untoward incident.

Travelers coming on a Zambia Safari to South Luangwa are generally advised to pack some light, breathable, and neutral-colored clothing. This is because brightly colored clothes attract the attention of wildlife. Also, travelers to the national park are recommended to wear comfortable and sturdy footwear for game drives and walking safaris.

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