Overview – South Luangwa NP
South Luangwa National Park is Zambia's flagship park. Four of the Big Five are present and easily seen; only rhino is absent. Aside from game drives, there are excellent walking safaris and night drives conducted by some of the best guides on the continent. This park appeals to both the novice safari-goer and the repeat visitor. There is plenty of larger wildlife around to satisfy everybody, as well as birds and smaller creatures of the bush.
Pros and Cons
- Excellent wildlife viewing with four of the Big Five present
- Some of the best guides in Africa work in South Luangwa
- Great night drives and walking safaris
- Lots of choice for upmarket lodging, with a few budget options
- It gets very hazy in the Dry season
- All budget accommodation is outside the park
Wildlife viewing in South Luangwa is superb, with excellent animal densities. Big herds of elephant and buffalo are almost guaranteed, and sightings of lion and leopard are common. There are lots of antelope around, and most interesting are the three unique subspecies that inhabit the park: Thornicroft's giraffe, Crawshay's zebra and Cookson's wildebeest.
South Luangwa is a beautiful park, one of the loveliest in southern Africa. Locally known as 'The Valley', it is the southern extension of Africa's Great Rift and is dominated by the Luangwa River. Mopane and miombo woodland, acacia shrub, grassland savannah and riverine forest are some of the habitats that make up this lush valley.
Weather & Climate
South Luangwa becomes parched in the Dry season (May to October), when rain simply refuses to fall. The heat starts building from the mid-year months of June/July, peaking unpleasantly in October before the rains finally arrive. The respite is only temporary, though, as the Wet season (November to April) keeps the weather on the boil. Only the park’s higher altitudes are exempt, where it gets cooler as you ascend.
Best Time to Visit
South Luangwa’s wetter months (November to April) are fittingly referred to as the ‘emerald season’, acknowledging the park’s lush transformation. But while the scenery is beautiful and the air is at its freshest, the wildlife watching is not ideal. The heat and waterlogged roads make safaris challenging. The drier, sunnier months (especially July to September before the real heat kicks in) are a better bet for spotting animals, which can easily be found down at the Luangwa River.
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South-Luangwa Safari Reviews
- Expert Rating
- Bush Vibe
- User Rating
- Bush Vibe
Most Helpful Expert Review
Alan is a travel writer and author of over 20 Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guides to Southern Africa and Zambia & Malawi.
South Luangwa walking safari
There is definitely something unnerving and rather intoxicating about plodding through the bush knowing you're in the sights of many wild animals - but in their domain. That's exactly how I was feeling in South Luangwa, Zambia's best known...
Latest User Review
Close to being the finest National Park in Africa
I've already been to South Luangwa National park 3 times and will be going again next year. This is simply an outstanding place in every way, shape and form. It has an outstanding bush vibe as well as exceptional guiding. The night drives...