South Luangwa National Park

By far the most famous National Park in Zambia and famous around the world for some of the best game viewing in Africa and also for exhilarating nighttime game drives which are incredibly successful for leopard sightings. Walking safaris in South Luangwa give you a completely different wildlife safari experience with the resident wildlife of the National Park and many of the South Luangwa National Park lodges offer this as an alternative experience to vehicle safaris and are lucky enough to have some of the best wildlife guides in Africa; several of which have won global and national awards. Another big positive for many clients is the ease of getting to South Luangwa. There are regular flights from the capital Lusaka to Mfuwe and from there it is a relatively short drive to your South Luangwa safari camp.

A walking safari in South Luangwa is one of the most exhilarating and intimate Zambia wildlife safaris you can do and it has rightly gained a reputation as the best palace in Africa to take a walking safari. One of the cool things about these safaris is that the best South Luangwa safari camps are set up to allow walking safaris between them, so you stay at one camp for a few nights and then you walk to the next one; which might be next to a river for watching hippos and elephants or with a different type of habitat. South Luangwa National Park lodges are often family-owned and they have in effect made a fantastic ‘wildlife circuit’ between their lodges and camps, so you can experience game drives, nighttime safaris and walking safaris all on the same South Luangwa safari.

Popular Itineraries in zambia

Big Cats Galore on this Bespoke Zambia Safari

Zikomo Lodge is a real gem and is attracting a lot of interest from film companies like the BBC and Smithsonian channel; due to regular sightings of Wild Dogs, Lion and Leopard. From here we continue our journey through the most famous game reserve in Zambia, staying 4 nights at Flatdogs Camp where we can continue to observe game by both vehicle and high adrenaline walking safaris. The South Luangwa is one of the few parks in Africa to allow night drives, and the Flatdogs guides’ knowledge of animal behaviour really pays off after dark – get ready for action. After our stay at South Luangwa, we fly back to Lusaka and then drive south to Mukambi Lodge; gateway to the beautiful and less visitied Kafue national park. After a night in Mukambi, we can enjoy a morning game drive as we head towards the superbly located Busanga Plains Camp. Busanga Plains Camp is strategically located between the teeming floodplains frequented by several lion prides and the papyrus-edged Busanga Swamps, abundant with birdlife and home of the shy sitatunga. Famed for its tree-climbing lions, Busanga Plains is also known for its endless parade of wildlife and birds – huge herds of lechwe, puku and buffalo, which in turn sustain the top predators, including cheetah and wild dog.

Style - Bespoke Wildlife
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 15
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
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Price (Excl. flights)
£6500
Lower Zambezi and South Luangwa Zambia Safari

This bespoke Zambia wildlife holiday focuses on quality long stays at two fabulous safari lodges in two very different and diverse parks. First you will fly from Lusaka to Livingstone and transfer to the Lower Zambezi . There is a lot of wildlife in this park, although the variety isn’t as diverse as in Kafue or South Luangwa. The lower Zambezi is know for its large elephant and buffalo herds and the birding is spectacular. The main apex predators seen here are leopard, spotted hyena and large prides of lion. From here you will fly to Mfuwe, which is the gateway to South Luangwa national park, rightly known as one of the best national parks to see big cats in the whole of Africa. You will be staying at Flatdogs Camp, whose naturalists have won international awards for their quality of guiding. Expect full on action during both the game drives and the night time safaris, as you are allowed to stay inside the park until 20:00.

Style - Bespoke Wildlife
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 8
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
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Price (Excl. flights)
£5000
Safari in South Luangwa, Zambia

Zambia safaris nearly always deliver a spectacular wildlife experience and it is particularly famous for its night time safaris and the incredibly high number of leopard encounters. Many of these safaris take place in the famous Luangwa valley and we feel the perfect budget Zambia safari combines an extended stay in comfortable chalet accommodation close to the beautiful Luangwa river, with a couple of exhilarating nights at a nearby bush camp. Listen to the roar of Lions and other nocutrnal wildlife as you experience an African safari in the truest sense.

Style - Bespoke Wildlife
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 11
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
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Price (Excl. flights)
£3500
Wild Camping Safari with Robin Pope

A walking safari in Zambia, particuarly in the South Luangwa valley, is one of the most exhilarating and immersive safari experiences in Africa. Walking with guides who have intimate knowledge of the land and its animals, dipping deeper into the bush from the fixed camps by camping out for a couple of nights, dinner and stories around the fire, simple but delicious food… When staying at Tena Tena and Nsefu you can walk between the two for two or three days, camping on the way. This is simple camping but with that extra touch of comfort. There are stand up tents, mattresses on the ground, sheets and blankets, wash basins, shared 60L bucket shower, bush loo, full bar and food service, fully serviced camp.

Style - Bespoke Wildlife
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 8
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
Price (Excl. flights)
£5500

Best time to visit South Luangwa National Park

Again, there will be a push from many tour operators towards the high season from July to October and it is true to say that many South Luangwa safari camps close during the green season from December to March. However, there are some real specialist operators like Robin Pope safaris who actively promote the stunning ‘Emerald Season’ in the South Luangwa valley. Instead of safari vehicles, you will switch to boat safaris and with fewer visitors and lots of newborn animals around – as well as migrant birds – you are going to see a completely different side of the park on this green season South Luangwa safari.

You can also consider travelling to South Luangwa in April and May when the heaviest rains have stopped, but the landscapes are still green and lush and the wildlife will be looking its best after a season of plenty. You should still be able to get some good discounts at your favourite South Luangwa National Park lodges in what is in effect, the shoulder season.

Wildlife of South Luangwa

What wildlife can you expect to see during your South Luangwa National Park safari? Most National Parks in Africa do not allow nighttime safaris inside the park or the use of spotlighting to identify and watch nocturnal wildlife. Because this has always been a way of seeing big cats like leopards, lions and hyenas in South Luangwa, this activity is permitted and provides the visitor with a chance to witness how the park comes alive at night; especially for these apex predators. Expect to see large lion prides, hunting leopards, scavenging packs of hyena and maybe with some luck, African hunting dogs and 

Interestingly there are three endemic herbivores found in South Luangwa National Park. The beautifully marked Thornicroft’s Giraffe, Cookson’s Wildebeest and Crawshay’s Zebra. A lot of the antelope species during the dry season will be found close to the South Luangwa river and this, in turn, will attract the most common predators.

South Luangwa safari camps and park lodges – where is the best place to stay?

There are many world-class safari lodges and camps in South Luangwa National Park. Many of which have been owned by the same family for generations. There are also new upcoming camps and lodges to suit all budgets, although many of the best camps come with a relatively high price tag. People do expect an intimate safari experience at South Luangwa and therefore it is a good decision to choose a lodge or camp further away from the main Mfuwe gate. Simply because there is a cluster of properties here and therefore by definition, you will have more vehicles on safari in that area.

A personal favourite of Wildlife Trails clients is Zikomo Lodge located in the Nsefu sector of South Luangwa National Park. Its location on the South Luangwa river but in an area away from other lodges allows its guests to take wildlife safaris in one of the best locations in Africa for predators. Great opportunities to see and photograph leopards and lions.

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