No 9 on my Top Ten African Safari destinations is Zambia’s Luangwa Valley, long renowned for its leopard sightings, range of reasonably accessible wildlife and the ‘home’ of the walking safari.
Where: Head by light aircraft north-east of Zambia’s capital Lusaka, most visitors fly into the Mfuwe Airstrip on scheduled flights.
Why: Lovely secnery and plenty of wildlife, including good herds of elephant, some huge bufaalo herds, good lion and terrific numbers of hippo and crocodile. The Luangwa is renowned for its leopard sightings, particularly at night using a spotlight and for its excellent walking safaris. Some small and very genuine safari camps add hugely to the safari experience.
When: The Luangwa Valley is at its best in the dry season, June to October and although later into the dry season before the November rains it can get very hot , (the brain-fever season!), the game viewing is also at its best as the number of hippo and crocs in the rapidy diminishing Luangwa River can be astonishing, and much wildlife is drawn to the river banks.
During Luangwa’s off-season, the ‘Emerald season’, game viewing is harder, but to compensate there are plenty of young around, the vegetation is green and verdant, there are low season prices at the camps and the photography light and birding is at its best!
Where in the Park: South Luangwa has the most visitors and probably the easiest and most accessible game viewing, but even here going further south away from the Mfuwe area gives some lovely wilderness experiences. North Luangwa has fewer people, fewer camps and fewer roads and tracks, and hence is more of a walking safari destination.
How long: You need at least 4 nights in the Luangwa, 6 nights or more if you want to visit two or more camps properly.
What to do: Game viewing by open safari vehicle, including night game drives with a spotlight to look for nocturnal animals, as well as escorted game walks from many camps. Zambia has a very well-developed walking safari system using licensed walking guides working in tandem with a park ramger scout. From some camps it’s possible to walk to the next camp – a wonderful way to arrive at an African bush camp.
My View: A great alternative to Tanzania or Botswana particularly for those looking for a real walking safari. Combining Luangwa with some of Zambia’s other great parks such as Kafue or the Lower Zambezi and finishing at the incomparable Victoria Falls makes Zambia a favoured safari destination for many.
For more information on the Luangwa and Zambia’s safari destinations visit: www.journeyintoafrica.com
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Next on the Top Ten – the finale – No 10: the famous Serengeti National Park.