The South Luangwa is Zambia’s finest national park and is widely considered to be one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world. Bounded by the Mchinga Escarpment to the west and the Luangwa River to the east, the park supports over 60 species of mammal and almost 500 species of bird, plus a concentration of wildlife unsurpassed in southern Africa. The sweeping turns of the beautiful Luangwa River, full of Hippos and Nile Crocodiles, and its complex, everchanging pans and ox-bow lagoons, provide the backdrop for Lion, Elephant, Greater Kudu, Eland, Puku and a multitude of other animals. The park is most famous for its large population of Leopards, which we will hope to see on night drives, and a wealth of waterbirds and other riverside bird species which include colonies of the exquisite Southern Carmine Bee-eater. During the dry season, when we visit, the concentration of game amassed along the Luangwa River and its associated lagoons is as great as any in Africa, indeed the world. It is an unspoiled wilderness, the likes of which are hard to find today, and the wealth of mammals, birds and other natural history within this ecosystem is the focus of this ‘ultimate’ safari. In particular, the special feature of this holiday is a 7-night stay within the park. Here, by using four small and exclusive bush camps that are situated, in individual isolation, at intervals along the Luwi Valley, we are able to offer you the opportunity to walk from camp to camp — a fascinating trek through a peaceful region of the park in which you will be able to track and watch wildlife on foot, and are most unlikely to encounter any other tourists! Should you prefer not to walk between the camps, you may choose to drive instead, reserving your energy for the morning and evening walking safaris that we also offer each day, and for the night-time spotlighting drives that are such a feature of a South Luangwa safari (as they are not permitted in many other African countries).
Each of our groups will be limited to a maximum of eight participants, since the bush camps are very small. Each will be led by local English-speaking naturalist guides, and also accompanied by an armed scout during walking safaris, all of whom will point out the tracks and signs that they use to interpret the bush. These guides are amongst Africa’s best, part of a tradition of excellence in local guiding established by the late Norman Carr, the renowned pioneer of walking safaris in Zambia in the 1950s.
Following a night in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, we begin our tour with a 2-night stay at Kafunta River Lodge. This delightful and very comfortable thatched lodge lies at the edge of the park and overlooks the Luangwa River which teems with birdlife, Nile Crocodiles, Hippos and much other wildlife. Above all, it provides the ideal level of comfort and facilities (including a lovely swimming pool) amongst which to relax and unwind. Being close to the main gates of South Luangwa National Park, it is also the ideal place from which to begin an exploration of the park on morning and evening safari drives. The latter are completed in the dark, when we attempt to spotlight such nocturnal mammals as Crested Porcupine, Honey Badger, Large-spotted Genet, African Civet and, above all, Leopard, which is seen in South Luangwa more frequently than in any other park in the world.
Next we drive for 30 kilometres, deep into the bush of the park, to Luwi Bush Camp, a wonderfully rustic camp set in the shade of large trees close to a permanent lagoon. The rooms at Luwi have grass walls and thatched roofs, with bathrooms that are open to the trees and stars above. It is simple and idyllic; utterly peaceful … except for the noises of the night, as Lions, Leopards, Honey Badgers and others hunt in the vicinity of — or even through — the camp! Nsolo, the next bush camp on our agenda, is similarly small and exquisite — its stilted grass and thatched huts offering bedroom and balcony views straight into the bush. Further down the Luwi River, a journey we can again complete on foot, is Kakuli Camp. Sited at the confluence of the Luwi and Luangwa Rivers, Kakuli is a tented camp that offers stunning views of the river — together with Elephants, other animals and birds, and literally hundreds of Hippos and Nile Crocodiles. Game-viewing here again takes place on foot, although, with a few roads in this area, it is possible to use vehicles to greater effect — night drives being particularly rewarding on account of the dense population of Leopards in this area.
Finally, a real taste of luxury awaits us at Mchenja. This, the last of our camps, is set under the shade of immense Ebony Trees, the individually designed tents each having a bath inside, as well as an outside shower and toilet. The main chitenje houses a small pool alongside the bar and meals are usually taken on the river bank. The game in this area of the park is abundant, so if there is anything you have yet to see, the chances are you may find it here!
Our guide and leader, Som G.C. was superb in every way. An outstanding birder and tremendous enthusiast, and a real asset for Naturetrek.
Firstly it was superb – Alejandro was a master guide and we saw just about everything we might have reasonably expected..we probably saw 365 species between the four of us there, though the group trip made 370 or more.
An excellent two weeks! The walking provided a different dimension to safaris in Zambia. Highly recommended.
S.H and D.H.
Although this was a very expensive trip it far exceeded our expectations. The standard of accommodation in the bush was superb, as was the standard of meals (and the quantity!). We could not believe (and certainly had not expected) to eat and drink so well. We felt the staff at all the camps were attentive to the highest degree - the surprise sun downer on our second night at Nsolo when the camp host and her staff set up an impromptu bar in the middle of nowhere and served fresh popcorn was amazing - as was the dinner that night when the whole dining area was moved to the dry riverbed and we ate by candlelight and with our bare feet in soft, cool sand - that is a memory which we will hold forever. There is little we can say to do justice to the experience of being guided by Sam - his knowledge of the bush was outstanding (as was his knowledge of the English premier league which prompted many discussions around the campfire!... Brilliant, trip of a lifetime. Thanks and well done to everyone involved.
I have to say thank you for a fantastic holiday - it was a lifetimes dream come true. May I especially name Brian Mukumbuta, our leader, as being exceptional! His knowledge was remarkable, his eyesight unbelievable and his sense of humour made each day a joy. Hang on to him, hes a huge asset. Thank you again.