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