Overview – South Luangwa NP

Alan Murphy
Expert
By Alan Murphy

Alan is a renowned Africa expert and has authored many Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guide to Zambia.

Alan is a renowned Africa expert and has authored many Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guide to Zambia.

Alan is a renowned Africa expert and authored the Lonely Planet guidebook to Zambia.

Alan has authored the Lonely Planet guide to Zambia.

South Luangwa National Park is Zambia’s most-visited park. This is because four of the Big Five are easily seen here: the lion, leopard, elephant and buffalo (only rhino is missing). That makes it a real treat if it’s your first safari. But the park also gets lots of repeat visitors because it’s home to a great number and variety of different animals. You get to see all this on wonderful game drives and walking safaris, led by some of Africa’s best guides.

Best Time to Go July to the mid-November (Animals are easy to find)
High Season July to October (Busy and high season rates apply)
Size 9,050km² / 3,494mi²
Altitude 482-1,687m / 1,581-5,535ft

Pros & Cons

  • Excellent wildlife viewing
  • Some of the best guides in Africa work in South Luangwa
  • Great night drives and walking safaris
  • Lots of choice for upmarket accommodation
  • The sky gets very hazy in the Dry season
  • All budget accommodation is outside the park

South Luangwa NP Safari Reviews

  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

Wildlife

You can’t miss seeing big herds of elephant and buffalo in South Luangwa, and probably some lion and leopard too, because there are so many animals here. A couple of them you won’t see anywhere else except in Zambia: Thornicroft's giraffe, Crawshay's zebra and Cookson's wildebeest.

Scenery

South Luangwa is one of the most beautiful parks in southern Africa, especially when the late-afternoon light reflects off the Luangwa River. Locally known as 'The Valley', it is incredibly scenic too. It’s a mix of mopane and miombo woodland, acacia shrub, grassland savannah and riverine forest. A walking safari will give you time to really appreciate it.

Weather & Climate

South Luangwa gets parched in the Dry season (May to October), when rain just refuses to fall. The heat really starts building from June/July and is at its worst in October. You’d think things would get better in the Wet season (November to April) but the humidity can be very unpleasant. It’s only at the park’s higher altitudes that you’ll start to cool off.

Best Time to Visit

If you visit South Luangwa during the wetter months (November to April), you’ll understand why this is called the ‘emerald season’: beautiful greenery and really fresh air. But this isn’t the best time for safaris because the animals are spread across the park and hard to find. Then there’s the heat and waterlogged roads. The drier, sunnier months are much better for spotting animals – especially July to September, before the real heat kicks in.

Want to Visit South Luangwa NP?

South Luangwa NP Safari Reviews

  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
Most Helpful Expert Review
Expert
Alan Murphy  –  
Australia AU

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
5/5

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...

Full Review

Latest User Review
Graeme  –  
United Kingdom UK
Reviewed: Jul 29, 2019
5/5

Game density and diversity are both excellent in the park, with four of the Big Five present as well as hippos, giraffes, greater kudu, spotted hyenas and many other incredible species. The park's vistas over the river are beautiful,...

Full Review