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Protected Area South Luangwa National Park

ID: w149303 View large map

Located in Zambia :: Luangwa Basin
Category: Protected Areas :: Protected Area


In the 50s, a British conservationist, Norman Carr, convinced the paramount chief in the Luangwa Valley to set aside tribal land for a game reserve where game wouldn’t be hunted. He also conducted photographic and walking safaris in the reserve, with proceeds going back to the community. In this manner a large game reserve was established in the Luangwa Valley. In 1972, the South Luangwa National Park was proclaimed, whose 9 050 km² spans the Northern, Eastern and Central Provinces of Zambia. Bordered to the east by the Luangwa River, and to the west and northwest by the Muchinga Escarpment, South Luangwa is considered to be one of the most beautiful wildlife parks in all of Africa.

Traveller Description

Rising in the Mafinga Hills in northeastern Zambia, the Luangwa River flows strongly during the rainy season, usually from December to March. In South Luangwa, the river slows and creates a flood plain approximately 10 km wide, this makes travel impossible in the rainy season. Once the rain stops, the water levels drop, forming large pools and oxbow lakes which provide water to the wildlife and vegetation all year round. This explains why the park has some of the densest concentrations of wildlife on the continent.

Mopane trees, which tolerate the higher heat of the valley, dominate the lower plains, while along the escarpment, you can find Miombo Woodlands. The last rhino was poached in 1987 but the park is still home to four of the Big Five, with a total of 60 mammal species including wild dogs, spotted hyenas, Masai giraffes (previously Thornicroft’s), Cookson’s Wildebeest and Crawshay’s zebras.

Masai Giraffe has a different coat pattern; it’s generally darker than other species and the brown ‘patches’ usually has jagged edges, resembling vine leaves. The lower legs are a creamy colour, with no patches. In Zambia they only occur in the South Luangwa, but are also found in parts of Tanzania and Kenya. They have recently been classified as their own species, Giraffa tippelskirchi or Masai giraffe and not as a subspecies (Thornicroft’s) of the South African giraffe.

Cookson’s Wildebeest is a subspecies of the southern African blue wildebeest and only occurs in the Luangwa valley. It’s much bigger than the blue wildebeest, and generally a slightly lighter colour with a black face and long mane.

Crawshay’s Zebra is a subspecies of the plains zebra of Southern Africa, that only occurs in Eastern Zambia, Malawi, southeast Tanzania and Mozambique, from Gorongosa NP northwards. It differs from the plains zebra in that it lacks the brown shadow-stripe, and the stripes are much narrower, giving it a darker appearance. Plus, the stripes run all the way down underneath the belly and down to the hooves.

There are over 400 bird species in the park, including king fishers, storks, cormorants and inter-Africa migrants, such as steppe buzzard and steppe eagle. Less commonly seen are ospreys and African Skimmers.

The remote Nsefu Sector is found on the eastern banks of the Luangwa River and hosts far fewer visitors than the park’s main section. But it contains just as much wildlife which makes this area perfect for photographers as animal sightings are less crowded. Be on the lookout for the crowned cranes regularly seen here. Chichele Hot Springs provides water throughout the year and is good for birding. Zikomo Camp is located on the riverbank at the entrance to Nsefu, and as there are no fences around the park, game frequently wanders through the campgrounds. This is a great base from which to explore the park, although access may be limited in the rainy season.

If you need a break from all the game viewing, there are some places to visit outside the park, around Mfuwe area. Kawaza Cultural Village is home to the Kunda Tribe and offers a true African experience. Visitors can experience traditional African life and overnight in a traditional thatched hut. Chipembele Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Centre educate the local community on the value of wildlife and tourism in order to curb poaching, and they rehabilitate injured animals. Visitors are welcome by prior arrangement. At the Mulberry Mongoose you’ll find beautiful jewelry, handmade by local women using locally-sourced materials. Closer to the Mfuwe airport, Tribal Textiles produces quality hand-printed table cloths, pillow cases, duvet covers and much more; visit their retail outlet, Tribe, in Mfuwe town.

If you are en route between South and North Luangwa National Park, the small Luambe National Park is well worth a visit. It receives few visitors and remains a secluded, unspoiled wilderness far away from the main tourist routes. It has a diverse habitat, ranging from riverine forest, mopane woodland, to acacia thickets and grassland plains. With the conservation efforts of the Luambe Conservation Ltd, elephant and lion numbers are on the increase, and hyena and wild dog are regularly seen. There are more than 200 bird species in Luambe, including African Skimmer, Pel’s Fishing Owl and Angola Pitta. In September and October large colonies of southern carmine bee-eaters nest in the banks of the Luangwa River, making for spectacular colour displays. Accommodation inside the park is only in a tented camp, at Luambe Lodge, but the park is easily explored from Kalovia Campsite.

If you want to wander even further off the beaten track, east of Luambe National Park, the Lukusuzi National Park is completely undeveloped with no facilities. Together with Kasangu NP in Malawi, it forms the Lukusuzi-Kasangu Transfrontier Component of the Malawi-Zambia Transfrontier Conservation Area, still separated by a narrow strip of land where communities live. Peace Parks Foundation is in the process of training the communities on farming techniques and bee keeping in order to curb poaching in the region. The park is only accessible with an off-road vehicle and there’s only one road. The nearest accommodation is in Luambe NP (tented camp) or Kalovia Campsite (South Luangwa).

Address :  Luangwa, Zambia
Email :  Click Here
Host Website :  Click Here
Cellphone Reception :  Intermittent Main Cellular Network :  MTN, Airtel

Opening Times : 

All year

Time Information
Best Time to Visit :  May - November

Rates and Payment
Updated for :  2019
Comments :  (Rate info updated Apr-2019)
Fee/s :  Park Entry Fees: Citizens: ZMK41.70 pp per day; Residents/SADC Nationals: USD20 pp per day; International: USD25 pp per day; Self Drives (Residents/Non-Residents): USD30 pp per day. (2019)

Destination Information
Lodging Camping Airstrip
Facilities :  Tour Services

Game Viewing Game Drives 4WD Trails Guided Walks Bird Watching
Game to View :  Black Rhino. Elephant. Hippo. Buffalo. Lion. Leopard. Spotted Hyena. Roan Antelope.

Travelling Information

Self Drive Access :  Yes

There are no campsites inside the park but some of the lodges situated in the adjacent game management areas offer shady campsites along the Luangwa River’s eastern banks. There are no fences around the park, so you still have a good chance of wildlife wandering through your camp at night.

Try these camps for camping options: Croc Valley Camp, Track and Trail River Camp and Wildlife Camp.

If going to the Nsefu sector of the park (south of the river), there is a very nice little camp, Zikomo Safari Camp.
Camps, like the Wildlife Camp in the park, attract large overland groups and these tag along tour operators.

Rainy season starts in December.

Tow-in services: Try: +27(0)97 473 7848 / +260(0)96 676 1647 (Based in Lusaka).

Precaution should be taken against Malaria and Tsetse Fly.

NOTE: Visitors to Zambia are advised to have their own personal travel insurance. Local police, hospitals, clinics etc. cannot be relied upon.
Please note that any emergency numbers indicated on our data will be for the local police, hospital, clinic etc. and most of the times, don't work. Many tourism sites show the numbers like 999 for police, they often don’t work.

If you have a medical problem when in Zambia, Specialty Emergency Services has a Call Centre (24 hours). Phone them on 737. This company has offices in Livingstone, Lusaka and Kitwe. But they will fly anywhere to assist if visitors have the right insurance. If you want to check your insurance, contact SES on [email protected]. (

Motorbikes may possibly not be allowed in the park. Write to the Department of National Parks & Wildlife, to get definitive answer.

There are no services in the park, and Mfuwe, at the southern entrance gate, is the last place to refuel and do some basic shopping when travelling from Lusaka or Chipata to South Luangwa National Park. A few small shops, a bank and a fuel station stretch along the road between the park’s entrance gate and Mfuwe Airport. Just outside Mfuwe Gate you’ll find Wency's Autoworks which offers mechanical repairs.

For tyre repairs try the local market.

If you are travelling from the T2, do your shopping and refueling at Mpika or Serenje, but before continuing to the park via Chifungwe Gate, you may want to check whether the road is accessible, as heavy rains can close it. Travelling from the south, it’s possible to enter the park at Lusangazi gate. This will make the town of Petauke your last place to refuel; there are only small kuka shops here so don’t bank on restocking here. The road from Petauke to Lusangazi Gate is rough going in the rainy season, and subject to flooding from the Kafue River, so make enquiries in Petauke before continuing on this route. Alternatively, you can do what most people do, and from Petauke continue to Chipata where there are two large supermarkets and numerous refueling options.

This is a very busy park, with many camps and visitors. But South Luangwa has the best wildlife.

 Travel Tip!

The camps along the Luangwa River are very popular which has led to the situation that animals here have learnt that food is available at camping sites. So, make sure you securely store your food (day & night). Visits by elephants, hyenas and other animals looking for a quick meal can lead to dangerous situations.

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