Join wildlife presenter Iolo Williams on a wildlife packed safari to South Luangwa National Park in Zambia.
For wildlife, and wildlife-lovers, it doesn’t get any better than the South Luangwa National Park. With its verdant floodplains rustling with huge herds of game, mopane woodlands and indigenous hardwood forests filled with over 400 species of birds, and a mighty river that attracts thirsty animals like a magnet, it’s a natural utopia and one of Africa’s truly great wildlife sanctuaries.
Bordered on one side by the Muchinga Escarpment and the Luangwa River on the other, the park consists of 9,050 square kilometres (half the size of Wales or Massachusetts) of untouched wilderness supporting one of the greatest concentrations of wildlife in Africa.
It was none other than explorer David Livingstone who first recognised the extraordinary allure and unique nature of the South Luangwa Valley. Crossing the Luangwa River in 1866, he declared, “I will make this land better known to men that it may become one of their haunts. It is impossible to describe its luxuriance.” It wasn’t until 1938 that the area was proclaimed a game reserve, and then given national park status in 1971. In 1961 the legendary Norman Carr put the Luangwa on the map as a safari destination leading the first walking safari in the reserve.
Over 60 different species of mammal call the South Luangwa National Park their home, drawn by the diverse range of habitats from sandy seasonal river courses to the mineral-rich alluvial floodplains that stretch out to distant blue hills. Predators such as lion, leopard and wild dog stalk the smaller game, whilst primates such as yellow baboons and vervet monkeys swing through the trees. Down on the river, huge densities of elephant, hippo and crocodile enjoy the cool waters.
Unlike some other African national parks, in the South Luangwa the focus is always on the wildlife. Sprawling visitor centres and restaurant complexes are nowhere to be found here just traditional safari lodges and intimate, rustic bushcamps that merge discreetly into the landscape, from where you can enjoy the true pleasure of being surrounded by an unspoilt African wilderness.
Not until you’ve followed in the footsteps of the great explorers and experienced the compelling mix of excitement, fear, vulnerability, respect and awe that a walking safari delivers, can you really understand the true nature of the African wilderness.
There’s nothing quite like the thrill of feeling your heart pound in your chest as you tiptoe your way through the bush, alarm calls from other animals echoing in the air, inching towards a small clearing and peering through the branches where yes, there it is a pride of lions is busy devouring a recent kill.
The South Luangwa is the home of the walking safari this is where it was first pioneered by Norman Carr back in the 1960s and, with the continent’s finest local guides to lead you, we’re proud to say that nobody does it better. To stride out on your own two feet is the only way to understand the wilderness, and it’s the best zoology lesson you’ll ever have.
Our guides will let you in on the secrets of the bush, from teaching you how to track a leopard by identifying spoor and listening for tell-tale alarm calls, to explaining how to soothe insect bites with the juice of a sausage tree. If you have a particular interest in a specific area such as birding or local bushcraft, then just let your safari guide know and he will tailor the walk accordingly. With every step there is something new to learn, a new bird or animal to spot and a new unforgettable experience.
Safety is, of course, paramount. Our guides are highly trained and they will instruct you on how to behave when approaching some of the larger animals. Alongside your guide, an armed national park escort scout, provided by the Zambian Wildlife Authority (ZAWA), is required to accompany you on walks. We are proud of our untarnished safety record so whilst your heart may inevitably race, you need not fear that you will come to any harm.
It is a rare privilege to be able to walk in an African national park. With so many different habitats to explore, from open plains to sandy river banks, eerie mopane forests to swampy lagoons, no two outings will ever be the same, but we guarantee that you will remember every one.
* Please note that per ZAWA regulations, children under 12 years of age are not allowed on walking safaris.
- One of the greatest concentrations of wildlife in Africa
- Impressive diversity of habitats
- Over 60 species of mammal and 400 species of bird
- Unspoilt with relatively few tourist visitors
- Home of the walking safari with the finest expert guides