South Luangwa National Park is home to over 400 species of bird and 60 animal species, it is a true wildlife sanctuary. Now, it isn’t just the wildlife that get to enjoy this African oasis, thousands of visitors – of the two-legged variety – flock to this corner of Zambia each year.
So, why do people chose South Luangwa for their safari experience when there are so many options across Africa?
We’re going to touch on 4. Believe us, there are more!
South Luangwa attracts many visitors each year but not as many as the Serengeti National Park or Maasai Mara National Reserve. These two parks are the best known in the world, and if someone thinks of safari they think of these two, located in Tanzania and Kenya respectively. According to Wikipedia, the Serengeti welcomes 350,000 visitors per year – we don’t know the visitor figures for South Luangwa National Park but we are certain they aren’t close to that. 350,000 visitors per year that’s close to 1,000 visitors a day, that’s a very busy park, okay the park spans 14,750km2 but most visitors will congregate in an area much smaller than that.
Thanks to the mass number of tourists visiting the best-known parks, South Luangwa has become somewhat of an exclusive safari experience. Yes, you will pass safari vehicles during your time on safari but it is seldom you will watch a leopard drag its kill up a tree surrounded by 10’s of vehicles and their blinding spotlights – which let’s be honest spoils the magic somewhat. South Luangwa gives safari goers the opportunity to get closer to nature and embrace the safari experience without feeling like they’re part of a Hollywood film set; (no) Lights, camera, action!
South Luangwa is the birthplace of the walking safari. Norman Carr pioneered walking safaris back in the 1950’s. Today many of the lodges within the park provide walking safaris. Their highly knowledgeable guides escort visitors through the park, getting closer to nature and educating visitors on the wildlife that is often neglected during a game drive such as dung beetles and tortoises. Not only do people learn more about the smaller wildlife of the park but a new perspective is obtained when observing elephants and antelopes on foot (from a safe distance, of course).
Time and time again experts state that South Luangwa National Park offers the best walking safaris. With companies such as Robin Pope Safaris and Norman Carr Safaris leading the way, it’s no surprise. There are bush camps scattered throughout the park designed with walking safaris in mind. Guests can walk for up to 8 hours a day from bush camp to bush camp or in some cases have their camp set up each night.
Very few national parks allow night drives, fortunately for visitors to South Luangwa this park does. Once the sun sets visitors enter a whole new world! The nocturnal creatures come to life and the park is transformed. Night safaris provide the best opportunity to see the most elusive of the big cats, the leopard. Furthermore, after a day of resting, lions begin to prowl and every creature is on high alert.
A game drive in the dark is a privileged experience, many people go on safari throughout the course of a year but not so many will get to observe the nocturnal world. Guests depart for an evening game drive around 4 pm, as the sun sets they stop for a sundowner, or two, and watch the sun disappear over the horizon, the sky lights up – momentarily – displaying a mix of rich colours: reds, pinks, oranges and yellows, before the light fades and the bush turns pitch black. Spotlight on, it’s time to explore the wilds of the night.
The fundamental reason for most people opting for a safari is they want to see wildlife. If you aren’t interested in birds and big game it’s unlikely you will spend money or annual holiday on travelling to Africa to go on safari.
So, what does South Luangwa offer? Well, South Luangwa welcomes 400 bird species each year (some sources say over 450 species), these include residents throughout the year such as Dickinson’s Kestrel, Miombo Wren-Warbler and Nyasa Lovebird as well as migrants in the winter months including carmine bee-eater – which flock in their thousands –, yellow-billed stork and the African Spoonbill.
Not everyone is a birder (but after visiting South Luangwa we guarantee you will become one), so it’s fortunate South Luangwa also has 60+ animal species, including 4 of the big 5; Cape buffalo, African elephant, lion and leopard. It is said after going on three game drives you will see a leopard, but nothing is guaranteed in the bush, the only guarantee is that you will leave wanting to embrace bush life again!
There are more than 4 reasons to visit South Luangwa National Park but you’ll have to visit for yourself to discover them and witness the magic of this park first hand.
Have you been to the park? Leave a comment telling us what you love most about South Luangwa.