South Luangwa National Park – The Hidden Treasure of Africa

Have you ever wondered about what makes some parts of Africa look natural? You can come up with many answers, but one thing is certain that there are certain places in Africa which man does not want to interfere with the natural habitat. Everything looks the way Adam could have left the site. One such place is the South Luangwa National Park situated in the Eastern part of Zambia.

Leopard in South Luangwa


If you are looking for one of the world’s most fascinating wild safari camps, then look no further because South Luangwa National Park is definitely where safari camp lovers ought to be. It is between 500 to 800 meters above sea-level situated below the steep Muchinga Escarpment which covers the Muchinga and Central Provinces of Zambia while the eastern part provides the means of accessing the park from the Eastern Province of Zambia. The whole park covers an area of 9050 square kilometres.


South Luangwa National Park was founded in 1904 as the Luangwa Game Park. Later it was renamed Luangwa Game Reserve in 1938. In 1972, South Luangwa acquired its current name.

View Larger Map


Is there any African wild animal you would like to see in its natural habitat? Think of any wild animal and any bird and you are likely to see it in the South Luangwa National Park. It is home to over four hundred out of about seven hundred and fifty bird species found in Zambia. As for animals, a number of sixty different species provides a good variety for wild safari sight.


Alternatively known as the Rhodesian Giraffe, the Thornicroft’s Giraffe have found a comfortable home in the South Luangwa National Park in spite of predators such as lions. You can enjoy seeing them every now and then. This species restricts itself to South Luangwa National Park only.


The common phrase in Zambia used to be “THE BIG FIVE” referring to the Lion, the elephant, the buffalo, the rhinoceros and the leopard. In the past four decades, it was common to see more than ten thousand rhinoceros in the South Luangwa National Park alone. However, due to rampant poaching that existed without involving ownership of wildlife to the surrounding community, it is now rare to find a rhinoceros in the park. It has now become common only to see the big four instead of the big five. In this park alone, it is not uncommon to come across a pride with up to thirty lions.


Some tourists do not manage to see the elusive leopard during day tours and so they request for night tours when spotlights are used. The leopards make an amazing sight high up some big trees where they can easily spot their prey and easily pounce on them with admirable agility. It would descend in a stylish manner, pounce on its prey and kill it before dragging it up the tree to enjoy the night’s feast.


Apart from the Thornicroft’s giraffe and the big five animals, the South Luangwa National park hosts abundant wildlife that no park or game reserve can surpass it. The meandering Luangwa River has many oxbow pools that attract different species of animals in the dry season.  It is the time to see how densely populated the animals are in this awesome national park. That is the best time to visit the park and enjoy the walking safaris. The river is also infested with the crocodiles and hippopotamuses.


The origin of “walking safari” sprung from this national park with a high concentration of wildlife. Some tourists would be driven deep into the park and would then leave the vehicles to walk with game scouts to enjoy seeing both big and small animals. They would look at hiding holes for warthogs, rabbits and ant-eating animals. They would also marvel at the cunning crocodile trying to catch its prey as it comes to the river to drink water. Sometimes they would see how a python traps and kills its prey by squeezing the life out of its victim before enjoying its newfound meal.


Some animals are found in the park to sustain the livelihood of many predators. As you enjoy your walking safari, you would have to meet many antelopes and duikers in large numbers. Other animals would include the following: Crawshay’s Zebra, Cookson’s wildebeest, bush baby, eland, impala, puku, deer and porcupine. These and many other grazing animals are enough to sustain many prides of lions some of which are up to thirty. Apart from the lions, the cheetahs, leopards and hyenas have continuous feasts which other animals in other parks and game reserves are deprived of. Wild dogs are also a common sight in the South Luangwa National Park.


Some bird species one is likely to meet in this park include the hawks, vultures, crows, yellow-billed storks, the woodpecker, African skimmer, swallows, little bee-eater, white pelicans and many others. The bats enjoy their stay in the caves.


Some of the cultural traditional ceremonies for the Ngoni speaking people of Zambia where the park is situated celebrate their festivals in the rainy season. Therefore, it becomes general knowledge that some safari campers may join in the traditional ceremonies and have an unforgettable experience.


With the near-extinct of the white rhinoceros due to rampant poaching and for fear of wild animal depletion in this park, the government of the Republic of Zambia, with the assistance of WWF, moved into the community to sensitize the community against poaching. With the right incentives, the community promised to gather their resources and do whatever they could to discourage poachers.


The community realized the many benefits of wildlife in their area. Well-equipped schools and clinics were constructed for the community, while some locals were employed to be game scouts. Others were incorporated into the hospitality industry. The nearest town to the park is Mfuwe which has grown into a town from a simple rural set up because of the thriving tourism industry. With such visible benefits, there have been many media reports concerning the vigilance of the community against poaching.


Because of the Muchinga Escarpment, entrance into the park is done from the Eastern Province in Mfuwe town. You can come by plane from Lusaka or from Malawi. One thing is clear upon entering this national park. You shall relive your memories and enjoying every moment of it because you have had a chance to see the natural habitat of the animal kingdom.

22 thoughts on “South Luangwa National Park – The Hidden Treasure of Africa”

  1. Hello Edgar, I must say that this article is very helpful and informative. I heard so many great things about Africa but I did not hear about South Luangwa so far. Based on what I have read here, this is something I definitely should not miss. Thank you for sharing, I travel to Africa in June next year so this would be my first destination, kids will love it.

    1. Danijel, South Luangwa NP is one of the best-kept secrets of Africa where a walking safari is possible. Most safaris are in vehicles in most national parks but not in this one, yet it is home to a variety of wild animals.
      June 2020 is not far for Africa and specifically South Luangwa National Park to receive you and your family.
      I appreciate you for your comment.

  2. Thanks for letting us know that in some parts of Africa there are wonderful places with beautiful and attractive creatures good to go and visit and another amazing thing i have discovered about this national park is that it has a variety of creatures which are good to have a look for yourself without being told by a friend

    1. Mansoor, I can guarantee you that you would definitely have a good time in South Luangwa NP. The reviews have always been positive. This a national park that is rarely mentioned when it comes to Africa tourist destinations yet it is such a wonderful national park with a variety of creatures indeed.
      I hope you add this place on your list should you choose to travel to Zambia.
      Thank you for your comment Mansoor.

  3. Thanks for letting us know that in some parts of Africa there are different places with beautiful and attractive creatures which are good for tourism and if i get a chance to visit the south luangwa national park i want to see the meandering laungwa river, the elusive leopard, the bee eater because they are the one i have got interest with thanks a lot for the content

    1. It is great to read your message Mansoor. Your time and dedication to read my post are highly appreciated. I wish you the best with your plans to visit this wonderful national park.

  4. It is really amazing to realize the existance of some birds and animals……used to think they are extinct like yellow billed stork….white pelican …elan and puku. It is really important that we travel and see the amazing wonderful heavenly creatures……

    1. Travelling can be an amazing thing! You get to discover things you never knew existed. Some places have potential but are not known to many and this includes the wonderful South Luangwa National Park. Its is a wonderful place to visit whether on holiday with family or privately for personal leisure tours or research.
      I hope you get all thats needed to get you to this place.
      Thank you Joy for your regular contribution to my posts.

  5. That is really a huge number of bird species found in the South Luangwa National Park. How awesome it would be to hear them chirping all around the park. I am already thrilled at the thought of walking inside the park and encountering these animals. But a python meet would definately bring my heart rate to a 0. It is really great that wild safari could be merged with a cultural ceremony. This is the ultimate vacation plan. Thank you for this great highlight of the South Luangwa National Park.

    1. Carol, It seems to me that you are a bird watcher. I do believe this would be your ideal holiday destination to go bird watching on those walk safari with a tour guide of course. We wouldn’t want to lose you just because you met a python.
      I appreciate your comment and I hope your vacation plans will include this wonderful park.

  6. I found the picture powerful as it showed wild life at its most natural where animals have to hint to survive. It would appear that nothing goes to waste seeing those birds ready to participate in the left overs.

    Africa conjures up images of Safari Parks. One hears of people going to Africa for safari so often. It was great to learn about the details in your post. 

    Thanks for sharing.


    1. Edwin, I like your attention to detail. Your interpretation of the post picture is the exact same way I perceived it. The satisfaction of a kill in the leopard’s eyes as it monitors its surroundings; and the patience of the vultures, shows how life plays out in the wild. These are the moments that any traveller would want to witness first hand.
      Thank you, Edwin, for your feedback.


  7. It would be a dream come true to visit a place such as South Luangwa National Park! I love nature and places untouched by man in general but something about this particular park is more intriguing to me.

    The sheer number of animal species that can be found there is just amazing. The thought of having the ability to hike and camp in the middle of it is exciting and exhilarating. I especially would love to see the leopards – for as long as I can remember I have had a huge affinity for large cats of any species. To see them in their natural habitat would be amazing!

    Is there enough to do and see in South Luangwa to spend a few days or a week camping in the park? Would you suggest an entire vacation planned around it? Thanks so much for the insight and information!

    1. Shan, your desire to catch sight of the big cats like the leopard and lion can be sorted out at this national park. It provides the best habitat for these animals due to the presence of the zebras, wildebeests, elands, impalas and other herbivores. However, for the leopard, you may have to do the night tour since they can easily be seen at night than during the day.

      I would recommend to you a 4-day safari between July and mid-November which will guarantee you a fantastic view of the entire park and increase your chances of seeing most of the animals in their natural habitat.

  8. South Luangwa looks like a great place to see a wide variety of African wildlife. It would be fascinating to see leopards, rhinocerouses, zebras, and the like in their natural habitat. The birds also look interesting. Of course, one would have to see them with a guided safari, as the wilderness can be dangerous for people who don’t know it well.  

    1. Pascal, you are right about having a walking safari with a guide. Wild animals are full of surprises, they can show up at unexpected moments. However, they are the most exciting and it’s advisable that you carry your camera.
      Stunning scenes worth capturing would pass you by.

  9. WOW, great article,

    It’s really helpful for visitors who like nature. when I read your article I noticed South Luangwa national park is the one of best place located in Zambia. Look like that is one of a great place to get an unforgettable wild safari experience.

    My favorite thing is walking safari. that is the real adventure and awsome way to find out the behavior of animals.

    Thank you for sharing this valuable content. I realy appreciate it.

    1. Gihan, I support you with the idea of the walking safari. This is becasue they draw more excitement since they are more real. You become part of the natural park as compared to being in a vehicle. 
      Walking safaris normally take 2 to 3 hours without necessarily following a specific route, but following tracks identified by the safari guide. This gives visitors the opportunity to understand more about plant and animal life.

  10. What a good review! I knew that Africa offered great safaris (I think as a general culture), but nothing as detailed as this.
    I always liked the “ecological hunting” where you can take pictures of the animals. That is why I cannot understand even the poaching that is killing these great animals.

    By the way, my favourite animal of a lifetime is the Tiger, but I think they are more of Asia right? Can you find tigers in this park?

    I also didn’t know about safari on foot! Wow, it must be pure adrenaline to know that there can be a lion nearby hanging around!

    Can night camp also be carried out within the animal area?

    Well, thank you very much for this review. We will include it in our future ideas for great trips!


    1. Pablo, sadly there are no tigers in South Luangwa National Park. But with your camera, you can still have excellent picture moments in this national park. The lion and leopard are close to the tiger so you would still have your moments of excitement.
      Night camps are normally in safe places for both the visitors and the wild animals. 

  11. Hi Edgar,

    Going on safari has been on my list of things to do for a while. It is also something that my girlfriend has wanted to do for even longer than I have. We have a fairly large anniversary (10 years) coming up next year. So I’ve been researching Safari options. The South Luangwa National Park sounds like it might be ideal, we would probably do a week of Safari and then a week doing something slightly more relaxing. Is there another area of Zambia you could recommend visiting after we’ve finished with the Safari?

    1. Nate, what better gift can you give your girlfriend than fulfilling her desire to go for a safari! 
      You can also visit the Victoria Falls that lie along the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe though two-thirds of the falls can best be viewed from Zimbabwe. If it is the view of the moonbow that you seek, the Zambian side is better.
      You can combine the two sites in one 7-day Safari Tour. For more information, you can Click Here.
      I hope you have the time of your life while in Zambia.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *