Experts have dubbed South Luangwa as one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world, and not without reason. The concentration of game around the Luangwa river and it’s ox bow lagoons is among the most intense in Africa.
The Luangwa River is the most intact major river system in Africa and is the life blood of the park's 9050km2. The Park hosts a wide variety of wildlife birds and vegetation. The now famous ‘walking safari’ originated in this park and is still one of the finest ways to experience this pristine wilderness first hand. The changing seasons add to the Park’s richness ranging from dry, bare bushveld in the winter to a lush green wonderland in the summer months. There are 60 different animal species and over 400 different bird species. The only notable exception is the rhino, sadly poached to extinction.
If you’re staying at one of the Valley’s lodges, the guides will ensure you have every opportunity to see all that the valley has to offer of its wildlife, birds and varying vegetation and habitats. If you’re in your own vehicle, be sure to get a map of the park from the Crocodile Farm at the park entrance and follow the loop roads graded in the park, past dambos bursting with hippos, crowned cranes, grazing antelope and scurrying baboons. Further out on the plains you’re bound to see the large elephant herds, reaching up to 70 in number. Buffalo are abundant and spread throughout the valley.
The hippopotamus is one animal you won’t miss. As you cross over the bridge into the park there are usually between 30 and 70 hippos lounging in the river below and most of the dambos and lagoons will reveal many. There is estimated to be at least 50 hippos per kilometre of the Luangwa River!
Zebra can be seen running in small herds of about a dozen. The difference between Zambia’s zebras and those in the south and east of Africa are in the stripes. Here they are evenly spaced as opposed to broad light stripes with a faint shadow stripe in-between.
Thornicroft’s Giraffe, unique to Luangwa Valley should be easily spotted.
The park has 14 different antelope species, most of which are easily seen on game and night drives. Watch out for the elusive bushbuck, preferring to inhabit densely covered areas. The common duiker is not that common near the Luangwa river but inhabits the back country of the Luangwa Valley. The largest of the antelope is the eland, usually near the Nsefu sector of the park. The most numerous antelope is the impala, these gregarious animals can be seen in herds all over the park. Not to be confused with the Puku, of similar size but a much fluffier buck with a rich orange coat and also prolific.
Perhaps the most beautiful is the Kudu, with its majestic spiral horns and delicate face. Although fairly common, they’re not always easy to find due to their retiring habits and preference for dense bush.. Reedbuck, roan, sable, hartebeest, grysbok, klipspringer and oribi are all here but not prolific in the central tourist area of the Park. They tend to stay deeper in the remote parts towards the Muchinga escarpment.
Of the primates, baboons and vervet monkeys are prolific. More scarce is Maloney’s monkey. Present, but unlikely to be seen except on night drives is the night ape, and the nocturnal bushbaby.
Hyenas are fairly common throughout the valley and their plaintive, eerie cry, so characteristic of the African bush can be heard on most nights.
South Luangwa has a good population of leopard but they are not that easy to spot and tend to retreat when they hear vehicles. Many of the Lodge’s game trackers are skilled in finding leopards on night drives however, and often visitors are rewarded with a full view of a kill.
Lions are as plentiful in the Luangwa as anywhere else in Africa, but when a kill is made away from the central tourist area, the pride may stay away for several days and may not be seen by visitors on a short stay. Very often they roam in prides of up to thirty.
Of the other carnivores present but not often seen is the caracal, wild dog, serval and side striped jackal.
The Luangwa river also has an extraordinarily high number of crocodiles. It is not uncommon to see several basking on the riverbanks or even floating down the river tearing at a dead animal.
Night drives are fascinating in the Luangwa. Not only for the chance of seeing a leopard but for the many interesting animals that only come to life at night. Genets, civets, servals, hyenas, and bushbabies as well as owls, nightjars, the foraging hippos, honey badgers and lion.
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