South Luangwa wildlife

of the big 5
Mammal species
Bird species

Wildlife of South Luangwa

South Luangwa offers incredible wildlife viewing. It is undoubtedly the jewel of Zambia’s national parks and the place to see big cats. Located in the north-eastern part of Zambia and spanning over 9,050 square kilometres of unspoilt African wilderness, South Luangwa is a thriving national park with excellent game viewing.

The park’s savannah grasslands are populated by 60 species of wildlife and over 400 species of birdlife.

4 of the big 5

South Luangwa National Park is home to 4 of the big 5. You can spot elephant, lion, leopard and Cape buffalo at the park. Sadly, the rhino was poached to extinction around 20 years ago.

Elephant and Cape buffalo are abundant in the park, hundreds of buffalo are often counted. Elephants passing through camps is not an uncommon sight. It is an awe-inspiring sight watching these great mammals meander across the park in their herds. The herd is made up of the oldest and largest matriarch who leads her daughters and their offspring. A herd can consist of anywhere between 2 and 50 elephants.

Lion and leopard are common in the park. South Luangwa has even been coined as the “Valley of the Leopard”, this most secretive cat can be readily seen lounging in the trees and skulking in the shadows.

Wildlife viewing at South Luangwa isn’t just about the big 4, there is so much more to see…

Mammals of South Luangwa

At every turn, you will see one or more of the parks 60 animal species having what looks like a friendly gathering. Fictitious images of antelope grazing with zebra whilst Vervet monkeys dig for fruits is a reality. Such a sight epitomises the African safari.

Not all sightings are a friendly gathering and what appears to be a pleasant crowd can quickly transpire into a nervy horde with the appearance of a spotted hyena, lion, leopard, Serval cat or wild dog.

A selection of mammals you may see on safari in South Luangwa:

  • Lion
  • Leopard
  • Elephant
  • Cape Buffalo
  • Wild dog
  • Hippo
  • Hyena
  • Crawshay’s Zebra
  • Thornicroft Giraffe
  • Vervet monkey
  • Baboon
  • Genet
  • Bushbaby
  • Porcupine
  • Warthog
  • Puku
  • Impala
  • Kudu
  • Eland
  • Cookson’s Wildebeest

birdlife of south luangwa

The birdlife in South Luangwa is extraordinary, with about 450 of Zambia’s 732 species being recorded at the park.

The birdlife spotted at the park includes many species typical of Southern Africa and those more usually known from East Africa.

A very popular spectacle is the summer migrant to South Luangwa National Park, the southern carmine bee-eater. They gather in their hundreds and select a breeding site on the sandy banks of the Luangwa River. They arrive in August and early September and leave in early December. It is a site not to be missed and always a memorable sighting for any safari-goer.

Notable birds include:

  • African skimmer
  • Great white pelican
  • Little bee-eater
  • Verreaux’s eagle owl
  • Yellow-billed stork
  • Pel’s fishing owl
  • African Hawk Eagle

Reptiles of South Luangwa

The most notable reptile in Zambia is the Nile crocodile. You’re almost guaranteed to see crocodiles in South Luangwa, you may even see them basking on the river bank as you cross the bridge into the park.

There are snakes in the park, however, sightings are rare. The largest snake is the python which grows to over 5metres in length. Monitor lizard and tortoise are also found in the park. You will likely see Geckos’ bordering your campsite!

We're here to help

No matter what you want to see on safari, there is a strong chance you will see it at South Luangwa. There is an abundance of wildlife and the setting is absolutely stunning.

View our safari itineraries to inspire your trip.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us

Subscribe below and receive 10% off the Bradt Guide to Zambia