South Luangwa National Park

Zambia's South Luangwa National Park is a vast, unspoilt wilderness that lies to the north east of the country. Within its boundaries are swathes of thick woodland, wide open savannah plains and great sections of the broad, unfettered Luangwa River whose sandy banks attract an abundance of wild game. We came here to see leopard and we weren't disappointed. Here are our top reasons to visit: 

Walking safaris are de riguer 

This park is the so-called "birthplace of the walking safari" and a number of reputable operators take small groups on foot throughout the park. If you've been on safari before and find all the sitting a bit tiresome, the South Luangwa offers the opportunity to stretch your legs in pristine wilderness over several days, using comfortable bush camps as a base. We spent about a week on the Chikoko Trails with Remote Africa Safaris, staying at two rustic bushcamps - Crocodile and Chikoko Tree. Read about our experience and the camps here.

Leopards, leopards, leopards

Another thing the South Luangwa is famous for: leopard. While we didn't encounter any leopard on foot - probably due to the vegetation being too thick - we saw plenty of these big cats on game drives from Flatdogs Camp

Lions, more lions and so much more

The South Luangwa is rich in wildlife, birdlife and all kinds of interesting plants including massive sausage trees whose hard pods can pose a health hazard. We saw lions every single day we were in the park - particularly when we were walking! We also came across a leopard and her impala kill, which was promptly stolen by a pair of hyena. 

Night drives are possible

Lodges in and around the park are allowed to undertake spot-lit night drives. After dark, our guides uncovered species that we hadn't seen before including porcupine, honey badger and civet. Of course, for us, lions made a few appearances! Hippos also come out of the water when dusk falls, while leopards take advantage of the darkness to stalk their prey - we saw both of these species on our evening game drives.

It's wild!

The South Luangwa is a truly unspoilt environment - there are relatively few lodges here and as such, human visitors are thin on the ground. Parks such as Kruger, Etosha, Chobe and even parts of the Okavango Delta these days feel crowded compared to the South Luangwa. We found the quality of accommodations here to be very high and the park was quite easy to get to from Lusaka, which had direct flights to Mfuwe Airport. 

Combining this walking safari with a walking/canoeing adventure in Zimbabwe's Mana Pools National Park was actually quite straightforward. If you're interested in visiting Mana Pools, you can read about our experience with Natureways here.