Widely recognised as the home of the walking safari and one of Africa’s best safari parks, South Luangwa National Park is Zambia’s prime wildlife destination. It is home to an abundance of game rarely seen in other game reserves, and a beautiful habitat. Mfuwe is the gateway to the park and arguably the area with the highest density of game.
South Luangwa National Park claims 9050km² of Zambia’s Eastern province, boasting an ever-changing terrain and habitat wherever you go. Naturally the rivers attract the highest concentration of wildlife, especially during the drier months, so this is where most of the park’s camps and lodges are found.
The Luangwa Valley
Mfuwe, the gateway to the Luangwa valley, is home to the Luangwa and a superb concentration of game and as a result has become increasingly busy recently. There are some fantastic lodges here that offer a somewhat protected safari, by contrast with the more rustic bushcamps inside the park. The Mfuwe area is a useful stop off for new arrivals to acclimatise and do some game driving, before heading in to one of the bushcamps in the heart of the National Park to do some walking.
The bushcamps are located in quieter areas of the park at least an hour's drive from the busy Mfuwe area, and therefore the game driving is very private, and virtually exclusive. All the bushcamps are small, good value and exceptionally high quality. The quality of the game viewing here is outstanding, and the guiding is some of the best on the continent; Africa's very best walking safari companies operate here.
Getting here can be tricky though, however there are a number of internal flights which can connect you to Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe or Zambia side) and the rest of Southern Africa.
South Luangwa National Park, Mfuwe: Lodges
Mfuwe is home to the flagship properties of both Time and Tide Safaris (Norman Carr) and Robin Pope Safaris. Time and Tides Nsolo and Pope's Nkwali are both great value lodges, quite similar in style, that are both well-respected for their quality of guiding and general high levels of service. If pushed, we slightly prefer Nsolo.
Nearby is the most impressive lodge in the area, Time and Tides Chinzombo. Chinzombo sets a whole new standard of service and accommodation for the valley, and we absolutely love it.
Our vote for best private house goes to the famous Luangwa Safari House - a four-roomed house that is utterly beautiful and our number one choice in the whole country for small groups. Robin's House, also run by Robin Pope, is a similar private house, however as it is less attractive and shares its pool with Nkwali Lodge, it is not in the same league as Luangwa Safari House.
South Luangwa Bushcamps: Lodges
Remote Africa work north of the Mfuwe area, and is one of the two owner-run companies in the valley. The basecamp Tafika is a sublime camp, home to John and Carol Coppinger, who aim to be there for your stay. John runs microlight flights from Tafika - a unique experience, and highly recommended. Remote also run two satellite bushcamps as Chikoko Trails, the only camps in the valley that just offer walking safaris. Remote have a truly exceptional team of guides.
Robin Pope and Time and Tide are the most famous names in the area, and in the realm of walking safaris generally. The quality of their camps and the efficiency of their service are exceptional. We prefer the Time and Tide camps, which we think have a more genuine, authentic ambiance. Mchenja is the most luxurious of the four, very popular with honeymooners for its romantic air, and a perfect last stop on the walking trail.
Also by Time and Tide, Nsolo is a stunning 5-bed camp, located fairly close to Kakuli and a short walk up the Luwi river to the beautifully simple Luwi Bushcamp. Here the focus is very much on walking and getting back to nature. Sleepouts under the stars are available in a nearby dry riverbed, a mind-blowing experience.
The Bushcamp Company are the only company working bushcamps south of Mfuwe. They offer a great walking circuit around six high-quality bushcamps, with varying styles and levels of luxury. The most famous of these is Kuyenda, which is home to Phil Berry, one of Zambia's best and longest-standing guides.
Most walking safari itineraries involve a minimum of two camps, and we would usually book a series of camps from the same operator, for continuity purposes and for best value. However, cross-company trips are easily arranged and sometimes best suit a client's particular requirements.
South Luangwa Game Viewing
With the abundance of rain-fall that occurs between November and April, Zambia is generally a very seasonal safari destination and a South Luangwa safari is no different. The dry season is when game viewing is at its best, however the river and water sources are always bubbling with pods of hippos and general game such as impala, puku and giraffe are in abundant numbers. When there is plenty of prey, this also attracts many predators, big lion prides and the endangered wild dog are often seen. Unknown to most, Zambia's South Luangwa has leopard sightings that rival the famous Sabi Sands of South Africa. Other big game such as herds of elephant and buffalo also frequent this riverine habitat.
During the wet months, many of the camps close, but after the rains have stopped, May and June become perfect months for those who enjoy birding and want a great rate for their South Luangwa safari. This is the emerald season and whilst game is notoriously harder to find, the migratory birds and vibrant colour make photography spectacular at this time of year.
Night drives are also a popular activity in the South Luangwa, especially after a glorious sundowner. For more information on walking safaris in the South Luangwa please see our blog post
on just this.