User Reviews – South Luangwa NP

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an amazing wildlife experience
Overall rating
5/5

South Luangwa National Park

We had our trip to South Luangwa National Park on April 2015.
The journey has been organized by me and some friends of mine, very fond of African Safaris, using a local agency, Jackalberry Safaris, led by a south african guide, Mr Gavin Opie, a deep expert of the area.
We flew with Ehiopian Airlines from Italy to Malawi, and then drove to Zambia.
We staid in a small cottages in a camp, in the nearby of the Park entrance.
We decided to have the trip on April because we wanted to visit the Park at the end of the rainy and green season, in order to see Nature in its all magnificence. Sure we took some rain (and with open cars could be a problem ) but I must admit that it has been worth. Furthermore we could watch lots of birds, particularly present in the Park in this period.
The Park is very different form the classical African savannah of Kenya and Tanzania. Open areas are limited, and bush and woods are predominant… it is not so easy to spot animals, first of all predators, but when it happens ..the images that you catch are wonderful.
One of the targets of the safari were wild dogs.. but unfortunately we didn’t succed in spotting them…we saw the paws … we looked for them a lot..but nothing.
We did some night safaris, an interesting experience. During one of those safaris we had the privilege to watch an amazing hunting scene: eight lionesses captured and devoured in few minutes an imapala right in front of us. Unforgettable moments.
Because of the dense vegetation (and so the difficulty in spotting quickly predators) and because of the mud, we could not have walking safaris, another particularity of this Park….a good excuse to come back soon….
At the end I must say the a Safari in the South Luangwa National Park is a really amazing wildlife experience (few people, few cars… only Nature) even if for photography maybe less interesting than a trip to open areas like Kenya or Tanzania.

First Safari and after this trip will not be my last
Overall rating
5/5

The Park is fantastic, not crowded with load of vehicles and people, the wildlife is always very close and relatively safe, the guides really know there stuff and are brilliant at their job, we stayed at the Lion Camp, which is up market for a Safari, very comfortable, brilliant food and transportation was always there on time and always safe. Highlights were the six Leopards we saw - beautiful animals, we also saw Lion, Buffalo, Elephant, Antelope and too many bird species to mention. Night Drives were fun, but you need a good camera to capture the views on film, walking safari's are very educational - you will learn a lot about POO. Overall a great experience, wish we had seen two camps rather than just one to allow us to make a comparison, apart from that fantastic, but we were very tired when we got home - not used to 05.30 starts.

Contact with the animals and the people of Zambia caused me to leave a piece of my heart there.
Overall rating
5/5

Before leaving home, I told my friends that if after going all that way and spending what it took to go on the trip, if all I saw were impala and other grazing animals, I would be really upset. Ten minutes into the South Luangwa National Park near Mfuwe, we encountered our first elephants, then giraffe, then zebra. Thirty minutes into the park we came across our first lion pride sleeping in the bush. We passed by a tree where a leopard had carried its kill to keep away other predators.

By the end of the day, we had seen nearly all of the animals we were to experience over the next two weeks.
We later came across a leopard that came out of the bush and walked around a companion vehicle on its way to a kill it had stashed in the bush. We followed it and watched as it began eating. We came back on our night ride to find the leopard asleep in a tree near where we had encountered it earlier in the day. We took a tea break along the river and observed a bloat of hippos dozing in the middle of the river with red and yellow billed oxpeckers scrambling over them.

We went back to the park in the evening for a night drive and came across about a dozen elephants or more that appeared to be three separate families. There was tension in the air as they stood around on the bank of the river until two adolescents from two families approached each other and started playfully pushing each other. We watched the interaction of these elephants for about an hour. Just about dusk, they slowly made their way down the embankment to the waters edge. We started to drive away and then heard a mighty elephant trumpet and then sound like something had crashed into the water. We went back to find that the matriarch had signaled with her sound and they all began to wade across the river to start a night of foraging outside the park and safety.

We spent two weeks in Zambia in three different safari camps. Everyday was packed with encounters with animals. Temperatures were mild (60-80 F 16-24 C). Sunshine every day. We slept under mosquito netting, but were never aware that there were any. We ate all our meals in the open air, some under cover of the thatched dining halls, some in the open. We did not experience any insects flying around us. Meals were expertly prepared and managed to handle several with dietary issues with ease.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect that has left a memory that I can't shake is how outstanding the people and guides at each of our camps were. The guides were eerily superb in being able to spot wildlife, from the largest animals to the smallest of insects. On one night drive, the guide stopped at a small bush and began pulling away the branches to point out a chameleon he had spotted from the headlight reflecting off the eye of the creature.

Our interaction with our guides and staff at the camps showed they had great pride in their work and wanted us to have the best experience possible. Saying that they were warm and friendly sounds like a cliché. But I found my wife wanting to hug them all in greeting and saying good bye. As we pulled away from our third camp to begin our journey home, I looked over to find tears running down my wife's cheeks. She said that for all the wildlife and experiences that we had, she was going to miss the people we met the most.

Even in Ultra-Dry Conditions, South Luangwa NP is not to be Missed
Overall rating
5/5

I traveled to South Luangwa National Park in late November, during one of the driest portion of an already dry-spell. Even so, the scenic beauty and wildlife were spectacular - and concentrated around the dwindling river systems. Although not a "birder" per se, the southern portions of the park are highly recommended for bird lovers.

Simple, serene and superb
Overall rating
5/5

South Luangwa National Park is fantastic for all sorts of reasons. We stayed at the very affordable Marula Lodge, which facilitated an authentic and enjoyable experience. We had an elephant come into the dining room to eat my son's fish and potato and hippos grazing on the grounds during the night. The atmosphere was calm and quiet, save for the noise from the hippos and the splashing of elephants in the river as the crossed from one side to the other. Once in the park itself for the 'safari experience', we saw lions eating their buffalo kill, as well as leopards, zebra, giraffe, hyena and countless other species.
South Luangwa NP, in my experience (and I've been to a few other places in Africa), is simply superb for the balance it manages to have in terms of the quality of the wildlife viewing and the limited number of other tourists. Other parks are plagued by too many tourists, all packed in around trying to watch the same thing - whether it be a lion kill or a lazy leopard in a tree. South Luangwa was great because we often had the view of a leopard or lions to ourselves without the pressure to move on and make space for others.
I highly recommend this place as a tourist destination. It must also be said that we visited as a family (i.e. we had two kids with us both under the age of 5). It was still relaxing and a great place to unwind.

A weekend in South Luangwa
Overall rating
5/5

Saturday morning, 5.30am.

A whisper disturbs my lazy dream about ice creams. "Excuse me? Wake up call!" Wrenched out of sleep I find myself wondering who is waking me up at 5.30am on a Saturday morning and why, when I make out the unfamiliar outline of a net surrounding me, and I remember I'm Zambia, and I'm being woken up to go on safari.

Half an hour later, not knowing what I'm wearing and still partially asleep, I'm ushered out of our campsite, Flatdogs, and greeted by two smiling safari guides. Not until I am shown to our car do I definitely understand what's happening, and instantly I'm fully awake. Our safari car is the biggest jeep I've ever seen, a three-tiered, nine-seater, brown-green monster, and sitting on it with the chilly dawn wind rushing past me is incredibly exciting.

As soon as we enter South Luangwa National Park, we are greeted by a breath-taking sunrise over the Luangwa river. We've been in the park for less than ten minutes, and I've already spotted a gorgeous family of elephants with two babies sleepily crossing the river bed, a group of impalas looking at us with bewildered black eyes, and of course, the Park guards, two attentive baboons sitting right by the entrance, ushering us inside.

The next three hours are an unbelievable whirlwind of exotic animals, interesting facts told by our guides, and unforgettable scenery. Crocodiles and hippos seem to cohabit in the river, alongside fishermen on their slender wooden boats; elephants and giraffes slowly make their way around, in contrast with the hundreds of impalas, gazelles and antelopes darting around or fiercely fighting to reclaim their territory and the ladies' attention, their elegant horns locked together. Zebras move in dazzles, their hypnotic skin glistening in the sun, and countless species of birds, plants and flowers are everywhere we look. We even spot a leopard for a few minutes, shiny and regal in his stride. We drive around a stinking bush, where a pack of lions has clearly just had a kill. The lions, however, seem to know everyone is looking for them, and they don't come out until the evening.

On our sunset safari, we spot a pride of 14 lionesses and 3 young males, lazily lounging on the river bed. They look so inoffensive and chilled out, it is hard to imagine they are one of the deadliest predators in the animal world. A baby elephant and his mum tentatively cross the river a couple of hundred yards away. Immediately a few of the lionesses stir, stand up, and look at them, pondering on whether they are hungry enough to attack. They decide against it eventually, but for a few minutes the atmosphere grows tense as we are all torn between witnessing a kill or chasing what promises to be a spectacular sunset. We decide for the sunset eventually, and what a good choice that was: the sun was the biggest I've ever seen it, a huge incandescent, perfectly round circle, so enormous and close you could have reached out and touched it.

After sunset we are heading back to camp, thinking we've been as lucky as it gets, when out of nowhere on the road, two pairs of eyes pierce the darkness, and the silhouettes of two lions emerge just ahead of us. They are approaching a small pond to have a drink, when a crocodile jumps out of the water and they recede quickly. That's when they spot us. They turn around and slowly walk towards our car, looking suspiciously at this big dark mass smelling of humans. They are the most beautiful creatures I've ever seen, and they are promenading a couple of meters away from me. We reverse to let them go through undisturbed, and admire the powerful muscles and joints moving effortlessly under their taut skin, manes flowing around the faces, tails whipping the air.

And after all this, when we thought we had seen everything South Luangwa had to offer, our safari guide stopped the car, killed the engine and told us to look up, where the sky had almost disappeared under hundreds of constellations, the Milky Way and a million glistening stars.

If Remote, Luxury & Lions are the some of criteria you seek, then South Luangwa has it in spades!
Overall rating
5/5

After being spoiled on safaris in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, where do you go to maintain that standard? Zambia we thought, South Luangwa, we'd not been there before, and it seemed sufficiently expensive and remote to get away from the safari crowds; we were not disappointed. Two beautiful lodges, South Kafunta and Lion Camp complimented by a real back to nature experience at Kafunta Bush Camp comprised our accommodation. When you've been woken in the dead of night by two hyenas communicating with each other, one across the river, the other just feet away at the bottom of the open steps to your stilted bedroom, you've had a real wildlife experience.

Breakfast at Bush Camp was taken on old camp chairs circled around the braai over which we toasted the most delicious home baked bread, then it was off on a walking safari to learn about all creatures great and small that make up the local ecosystem, and of course the evening walks always finished adjacent to a river, with a sundowner, mine's a G&T please. The other delight of this remote camp, apart from there only being six guests there, was Klaus, the elderly German camp manager. What a wealth of knowledge about all things Africa, could just sit and listen to him for hours, very entertaining.

Although I'm not a "Birder", I am a photographer and I was able to take many shots of my favourite bird, the Lilac Breasted Roller, such beautiful colours, and they do pose longer and allow you to get closer than some of the others, they are obviously the posers of the bird world, and don't they know it. On the other hand the Carmine Bee Eater, hundreds of them, just will not stay still, and I never managed to get any shots quite as good as those of the the Roller.

Plenty of elephants, some fairly docile, others quite aggressive, just hope your driver doesn't switch the engine off when they decide to come closer. Some of the most beautiful giraffe we had seen, large herds of buffalo, lots of antelope, especially Puku, and Kudu.

Then on to Lion Camp, about three hours drive through the park from Mfuwe, and as usual sitting in the jeep is like sitting behind a jet engine prior to take off, very hot air blasting through, hold on to your hat and make sure you have plenty of water. The reward for all this is an extremely remote camp in a beautiful corner of the park alongside the South Luangwa river, and of course the famous Hollywood pride. The pride was 19 strong when we visited, a dominant male, six or seven lionesses and numerous cubs from just a few months old to stroppy teenagers, always looking for trouble when the elders wanted to sleep. They are called the Hollywood pride because they have been featured in several wildlife films, and it was no different when we saw them, they were being filmed from afar by a seriously big camera outfit.

Five glorious days at Lion camp, being waited on hand and foot, served the most delicious food, along with a maximum of six other guests was heaven, well all except for one mega-opinionated retired US marine Colonel, just had to blank him out, tosser!

Game drives each morning and evening, each day concluded by the ubiquitous sundowner, with many sightings including one drive where we sat in the same riverbank position for two hours just watching the Hollywood pride resting and playing, and keeping their wary eyes on a group of five elderly buffalo; little did we know what awaited us the following morning, our last day and our last game drive.

Just two vehicles from Lion camp on an open plain looking for the first sighting of the day, and what a sighting, maybe a once in a lifetime sighting, the male and six lionesses chasing, catching and bringing down one of the elderly buffalo we had seen by the river the previous evening. If you haven't seen a kill before, or more to the point if you haven't heard a kill before, it's not easy viewing or listening, especially from a mere 20 metres away, for the hour it took the buffalo to succumb. In some parks there would have been dozens of jeeps homing in on such an event, here in South Luangwa, there was just the two vehicles from our camp, and the film crew, some mile away across the river.

We took a break and drove a safe distance for coffee and cake, and to look at the photos we had all taken. While we were doing this, the male and one of the lionesses strolled off across the river, and after a few rests along the way, brought all the cubs back for some grub, but woe betide they got in the way of the grown ups, if they did a swift thwack with a giant paw soon taught them some meal time etiquette.

We will never forget this spellbinding experience in South Luangwa National Park, shared with just the small number of friends we had made at Lion camp; the marine Colonel had left the previous day, such a shame!

Probably the most beutifull place I have been to.
Overall rating
5/5

There were many excellent sightings, beautifull landscapes, freedom of movement. It was no easy to get there by car, as we did, but I am sure there is other modes of travel

We went as a family with teenagers and they really enjoyed it as well. We camped and did not use the accomodation on offer, but it seemed good. We did a self drive excursion. No guides.

One night we did a night drive with guides, lots of animals, great knowlegeable guide.

Camping on the lUangwa river bend was definitely a highlight.

Wonderful park with lots of cats, elephants, and birds. Stay on the river at Track & Trail Lodge
Overall rating
5/5

Great park with heaps of animals. A brand new tar road leads from Chipata to Mfuwe which cuts down that drive time from 7hrs to 1-2hrs, but also increases the traffic in the park. Mfuwe airport is also an easy place to fly into on Pro-flight and many lodges offer pickup on the spot.

Park is known for it's cats. This park probably gives you the best chance of seeing lions and leopards. We drove into the park and immediately stumbled on 10 lions feeding on a carcass followed by a elderly leopard hunting. Birds are fantastic too, as always in Zambia. Lots of hippos, crocs and elephants. It can get crowded with safari vehicles in the busy season, but still enough lions to go around and the river at low water is beautiful.

Stay at one of the lodges on the river and you will not be disappointed -- I chose Track&Trail which was superb. I'm an avid photographer, but the owner is a real pro. Shooting with him, getting pointers, and most importantly having a photographer driving the vehicle made a HUGE difference. Elephants, hippos, and monkeys regularly walked through the camp. I packed my own food and camped on a platform at the lodge, but dinner at the lodge was great -- family style barbeque which was delicious and there was a great homemade aioli sauce.

I've also heard there are some great lodges in this area if you have small children. Ask the lodge if they have babysitting or nanny services.

Great for leopards, saw wild dogs, lions, very nice lodge
Overall rating
5/5

We stayed at Flat Dogs Camp just across the river from the Park for 5 nights. That is a lovely facility with great food. The elephants wander freely by the hatched-roof "tents". sometimes snacking on them. It was the dry season so most of the wildlife was crowded near the river which meant lots of wildlife sightings, but also quite a few other vehicles. Our drives away from the river had far fewer vehicles and found wild dogs, and other good wildlife. One nice feature is the park allows night drives (until 8pm) which were not allowed in Botswana parks. We greatly enjoyed seeing the nocturnal animals. The weather was warm but not too hot, there were almost no bugs. Everyone in our group of 7 had a great time there and highly recommend it.

Average User Rating

  • 4.8/5
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