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South Luangwa National Park

    A Safari Destination par excellence

 

 

South Luangwa is often described as one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries and unspoilt wilderness areas on the African continent, and not without reason.

The concentration of wildlife around the Luangwa River and its oxbow lagoons is among the most intense in Africa, with varieties of game and birdlife that have made the park world famous and let it become the premier safari destination in Zambia.

The national park covers an area of 9050 square km, the seasonal floodplains create a biologically rich environment which is home to over 450 bird species, 110 species of mammels as well as a seldom variety of reptiles, insects, amphibians and plants. The meandering Luangwa River –the life-blood of the park – is the most intact major river system in Africa, with outstanding concentrations of crocodiles and hippos that can hardly be found elsewhere on the continent. Lion prides can group up to 20 individuals and the park is renowned for the highest naturally occuring population of leopards, which are commonly seen during night game drives.

You will also find some magnificent tree species such as baobabs or sausage trees as well as exotic wildflowers growing in South Luangwa, certainly adding to the richness of the African bush experience.

Come and join one of Croc Valley’s licensed Game Drives or Walking Safaris into the park and experience South Luangwa’s pristine wilderness first-hand! We offer morning and night Game Drives (4 hours duration each) throughout the whole year as well as Walking Safaris in dry Season.

More information on our Safari and Game Drive Activities

Also have a look through our image galleries of Croc Valley’s Game Drives and the extraordinary Bird Life in the National Park.

Before visiting this beautiful spot on earth, you might be interested in learning more about South Luangwa’s unique ecology, widlife and history – in best preparation for your unforgettable safari holidays.

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   Learn more about:

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 Geography

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Together with the North Luangwa and Luambe National Park, South Luangwa forms part of the Luangwa Valley situated in Zambia’s Eastern Province. Geographically the Luangwa Valley is an extention of the Great East African Rift Valley, a continental fault which runs from the Red Sea downwards the length of East Africa. As the Rift reaches Zambia, it divides into two arms: The East encompasses Lake Malawi and the Western arm creates the Luangwa Valley, which stretches over 700 km at an average width of 100 km.

The South Luangwa National Park itself  is bordered by the Muchinga Escarpment in the West and the Luangwa River in the East, although the Park also extends east of the river in two areas, called the Nsefu and Luamfwa sector.

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The Luangwa River is a major tributary of the Zambezi River and flows south-west from its source at an altitude of around 2133 m to its confluence with the Zambezi at 335 m. During the rainy season, it gets fed by lots of small sand rivers and eventually carves a tortuous course along the Valley floor, rapidly eroding the outer bends and depositing silt within the loops. When the river cuts a new course, the old course is left to silt up, forming the commonly found “Ox bow lagoons”. These lagoons constitute an integral part of the valley’s ecology and greatly account for the high carrying capacity and abundance of wildlife in the South Luangwa region.

 Vegetation

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In South Luangwa you will find a patchwork of different vegetation zones, including the evergreen Miombo forests, interspersed with open, herby “dambos”, or shallow lakes, seasonal floodplains, oxbow lagoons and the most commonly found mopane woodlands, which cover 55% of the valley floor. Large open plains are not very common, most famous is the plain in the heart of the Nsefu Sector, where you will find natural salt springs which attract crowned cranes in their thousands.

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The lush riverine vegetation on the banks of the Luangwa River offers beautiful views of red mahagony trees, sausage trees as well as knobthorns and black ebony. You can also admire the leadwood, winterthorn, the tall vegetable ivory palm, the marula and magnificent specimens of baobab.

Baobab Tree South Luangwa Vegetation South Luangwa Vegetation South Luangwa National Park River Vegetation South Luangwa 

 Seasons

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Seasonal changes are very pronounced in the Valley and add to the park’s richness, ranging from a dried-up, scraggy bushveld in the winter to a lush green landscape during summer months.

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The wet season begins with first occasional rain showers in November and turns the dry bush terrain into a stunning emerald green. During this time many animals produce their young and the short grass offers excellent game viewing opportunities.

The rainy season reaches its peak during January to March, when the Luangwa River is in full flood and the landscape changes into a green dense jungle. Large clouds form on the horizon and heavy, but usually short afternoon showers with roaring thunder and lightning become more frequent, also filling up the water in all the pools and lagoons. It is mid-summer with early sun risings and late sunsets, safari days are long with high humidity and maximum temperatures of mid-30s.

You will still be able to enjoy many predator sightings such as lions, hyena or leopard, which are more likely to use the roads to avoid the long, wet grass in the Bush. Also don’t miss the chance and look out for black bulky blobs in the river, which are most likely to be elephants swimming and playing together in the muddy water.

Birdlife is the richest during the “emerald” wet season, when insects are thriving and migrant birds arrive in their thousands. Many birds are nesting during this time and displaying their full breeding plumage.

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Impressions from the green season

Luangwa River Rainy Season Luangwa River during rainy season Elephants in Luangwa River Buffalo_greenseason Hippo during green season

In April/Mai the rains stop and the bush starts to dry out and turns back into a golden brown.  The water level of the Luangwa River drops and exposes the vast sandbanks typically seen in the Valley. Until July you will be able to enjoy cool mornings and warm clear days, with maximum temperatures of 30C. But don’t forget to bring warm clothes for the evenings, as the temperature usually drops fast after sunset. Cold mornings mean that predators are often active until later into the day, which will increase the chance of sightings.

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Impressions from the dry season

 Lion Kill Luangwa Valley  Buffalo herd Luangwa Valley Kudu South Luangwa

The dry season is heading towards its climax between August and October, with temperatures to mid 40’s and very little humidity. During this time, game concentrations are at their height and wildlife watching opportunities will be excellent. Since there is so little water around, animals concentrate along the river and lagoons. Seeking protection, small buffalo herds congregate together and form super-herds with up to 500 individuals. For the animals it will be the time of survival, so some sightings might not be easy to watch.

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Important notice: Croc Valley Camp stays open throughout the whole year and continues to offer Game Drives during Green Season. This will give you the perfect opportunity to witness birdlife in abundance as well as lots of wildlife species in a stunning lush green environment   

 Mammals

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There are 110 recorded species of mammal in the South Luangwa National Park. Some are common and frequently seen (puku, impala), whilst others are rare (caracal), infrequently seen (aardvark), or occur in different areas of the park (Moloney’s monkey). Where the game thrives, predators follow and we have frequent sightings of large lion prides, leopards, hyeana and smaller predators such as civet, genet and mongooses. The large quantities of leopards, hippos as well as crocodiles in the park are exceptional.

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A story of success is the resurgence of the African Wild Dog population, which got almost wiped out by anthrax in the late 1980s. But over the past decade, they have strengthened  in numbers and the population was able to recover tremendously. During our Game Drives, it is not uncommon to see large packs of wild dogs with over 10 individuals.

Previously titled as the “Elephant Valley”, South Luangwa will offer you the great opportunity to encounter lots of elephant herds as well as buffalos, which can group up to hundreds in dry season. The South Luangwa National Park is furthermore home to two endemic species, which can only be found in the park: The Thornicroft Giraffe and Cookson’s Wildebeest.

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A checklist of all mammals in South Luangwa can be found here

 Birdlife

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South Luangwa is a superb destination for birders, as it proudly boasts a bird list totaling more than 450 species. The riverbanks are home to high populations of camine bee-eaters as well as numerous raptors, lovebirds, weavers and kingfishers. When the dry season comes to an end, you will be able to see hundreds of large waterbirds such as the red faced yellow billed storks, pelicans, marabous, great white egrets or black headed herons wading through the shallow, muddy water.

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One of the most beautiful birds is probably the elegant crowned crane, with its golden tufts congregating in large flocks at the salt pan areas. At around November, lots of palearctic migrants arrive in the valley in search for the excellent feedings opportunities that the warm rainy season brings. These birds include the white storks, European swallows, hobbes, bee-eaters as well as the Steppe eagles and Steppe buzzards. All in all, the diversity and availability of colorful birds the South Luangwa is extraordinary and will guarantee some perfect photo opportunities for all bird lovers.

Download your Croc Valley bird checklist here: Croc Valley bird check off

 History of man in the Valley

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The main tourist area of South Luangwa National Park is centered on the rapidly growing rural settlement of Mfuwe, an area occupied and surrounded by people of the Kunda tribe. Like many tribes in Zambia, the Kunda trace their origins to the Luba Empire of the Congo, who began to arrive in the area in 14th century.

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In the 1830’s people of the Ngoni tribe, having invaded from the south, settled on the Eastern plateau. The Kunda peope, who originated from the Luba, invaded the Valley from the West and settled within it. There were to be many conflicts between the two tribes during the remainder of the 19th century.

Dr David Livingstone crossed the Luangwa Valley in 1866 and commented:

“I will make this land better known to men that it may become one of their haunts. It is impossible to describe its luxuriance”

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European settlers greatly influenced the area while populations of local people continued to grow and expand. By the end of the 20th century the Luangwa Valley had become renowned for its wildlife and tourists from all over the world started to visit the now famous South Luangwa National Park.

Mfuwe Village Community

History of Game Protection in the Area

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Game Protection in the Luangwa Valley began in the late 19th century when the British South Africa Company imposed a total ban on the hunting of hippo and elephant, resulting in an over-abundance of hippos along the Luangwa River which is still noticeable today.

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With the recovery of elephant numbers, the BSAC established the first Game Reserve in the Luamfwa region in 1904, also intending to protect the last remaining species of the Valley’s endemic Thornicroft’s Giraffe. But soon elephant populations began to get out of control, threatening the livelihood of local villagers in the area. Certain hunting licences were handed out to shoot the crop raiding elephants, but the poaching of elephants for their tusks became a lucrative business at the same time. An in-depth survey was conducted in 1932 recommending the proclamation of game reserves and the creation of an elephant control department.

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The story of Normann Carr

Normann Carr

picture source: http://www.normancarrsafaris.com/about/history

An account of the history of the South Luangwa National Park cannot be complete without reference to the life of the great conservationist and philanthropist Norman Carr, one of the most visionary and influential people in the development of South Luangwa.

Norman Carr was born in Chinde, a Portugese concession, in 1912 and was appointed as a Game Ranger in the Luangwa Valley in 1939. As early in the 1940’s and 50’s Norman Carr was working with the local people to establish protected areas for the wildlife and to ensure parts of the income generated from tourism went to the community.

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“He was one of the first people in Africa to realize that sustainable conservation could only be realized in close cooperation with the local community.”

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In 1949, he persuaded Senior Chef Nsefu to set aside some of his tribal land for photographic safaris, allowing him to keep the revenue for his people. He also recommended that hunting safaris be operated with the revenues going to the local tribe. In 1958, Norman acquired two orphaned lion cubs, the raising of which resulted in the book and subsequent movie “Return to the Wild”. The two lions were released in 1961 as mature males into North Luangwa National Park, thus concluding successful rehabilitation to the wild.

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In 1973 the elephant population was estimated to be 100 000 and found to be causing a major impact on the surrounding areas, but poaching was rampant too and numbers of elephant and the endangered rhino, began to decline steadily.

During the 1980’s, Norman was one of the main facilitators of the “Save the Rhino Trust”, which assisted the government in sending out patrols to combat poachers who had seriously depleted the rhino and elephant populations in the valley. Elephant poaching was curbed to some extent but rhinos unfortunately could not be saved and today they are entirely absent from the area.

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Norman Carr also devoted himself to welfare, charitable projects and was the first person to establish a public lodge in Zambia  and to introduce walking safaris in Africa in the 1950’s. A memorial site was built for him after this death in 1997 in a beautiful ebony grove in the National Park.

In 1998, the Conservation South Luangwa (CSL, formerly South Luangwa Conservation Society) was created by local stakeholders to fight the battle against poaching, human wildlife conflicts, encroachment, habitat loss and to support sustainable community development in the Valley. Through the combined efforts of CSL and lodge owners to restore and protect their natural resources, South Luangwa has become Zambia’s flagship national park and a true remaining wilderness region with a stable population of elephants.

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Elephants on Safari

National Park Rules and Entry Fees

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Whether you explore the Park by self-drive or join one of our lisenced Game Drives or Walking Safaris, there are certain rules that have to be considered while inside the Park.

All park fees are payable directly to the National Park as you enter the main gate in either US $ or Zambian Kwacha. Below you will find a complete list of park-fees for the year 2017. All prices are quoted per person per calendar day, children under the age of 12 will get a 50% discount. Please also note that the park fees are subject to change without prior notice.

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ZAWA Entry Fees

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US $ 25 per person per day Non residents
US $ 20 per person per day Residents/ SADC members
US $ 30 per person per day + US $ 15 per vehicle for self-drive
K       20 per person per day Zambian Citizens

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Self-driving visitors are allowed inside the park from 06:00 AM until 18:00 PM. For guests joining our licensed Game Drives the park gates will be open from 06:00 in the morning until 20:00 in the evening. Unless stated otherwise, the park-fees are excluded from the Croc Valley Camp rates and have to be paid in cash at the gate.

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National Park Rules

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Speed Limit is 40 km/h: If you go faster than the speed limit, you will risk the lives of the animals, you lower the chances of seeing any game and you create dust for other visitors

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Animals always have the right of way when crossing the roads

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Self-drive visitors are not allowed to leave their vehicles at any time while inside the national park

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Do not leave litter or start Bush Fires: You could cause harm the wildlife and will spoil the park for other visitors

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Drive only on specified Game Viewing Roads: Driving off-road damages the vegetation and threatens the animals

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At kills or sightings where there are several cars, take your place in the queue, switch off your engine and enable everyone else to enjoy the experience too. No more than 4 vehicles are allowed at any sighting

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Minimize unnecessary noise from music, cell phones or loud talking

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Keep a safety distance to all animals and do not force any reaction from them

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4×4 vehicles are strongly recommended and no trucks are allowed inside the National Park.

Map of the South Luangwa National Park 

 

South Luangwa National Park Map

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Want to prepare your trip to Croc Valley?

Useful information to enjoy carefree Safari Holidays in South Luangwa