The Luangwa Valley

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:

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Next on the Top Ten – the finale – No 10:  the famous Serengeti National Park.



The Selous Game Reserve

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Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve has gained almost mythical status within safari circles, as the largest game reserve on the continent, home to the most animals and was always renowned as a place with very few visitors.  Great numbers of elephant and lion, as well as hippo and crocs on the Rufiji River.  Named after the famous hunter turned conservationaist, Frederick Selous, it was also home to some action during the First World War.


Where:   Located around a one hour flight or an eight hour drive west of Dar Es Salaam in southern Tanzania, with easy access by scheduled flights to the other southern Tanzanian parks or the island of Zanzibar.

Why:  The scope of the Selous is huge : over 22,000 square miles making it almost four times the size of the Serengeti, with many opportunities for game walks and, boat trips as well as game drives.  It is this range of activities along with the relative remoteness and exclusivity of the safari experience that makes the Selous such a draw.

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When: The Selous is more geographically and climatically similar to Southern Africa than the rest of East Africa, and so its game viewing is at its best during the dry season from June to October.  Even then, be aware that the sheer size of the Reserve makes statistics deceptive: the Selous might have the biggest populations of elephant and lion in East Africa, but the elephant herds are much smaller and often shyer than in other areas and there is a huge amount of cover to hide in – even for an elephant!

Where in the Reserve: Don’t be fooled by the size of the Selous.  Although it’s over 22,000 sq. miles in size, in reality it’s only the portion, around a sixth of the Reserve, north of the Rufiji River which is readily accessible to visitors, whilst much of the southern portion is relatively uninteresting and hard to get through, miombo woodland.   Most camps are therefore located along the river and beautiful floodplains that surround it,  This is also the most game-rich area with good numbers of predators including opportunities to see the endangered wild dog.

How long: You need at least 3 nights in the Selous, 4 or 5 if you want to visit two camps.

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What to do: Game viewing by open safari vehicle, as well as escorted game walks and boat trips on the Rufiiji River.  Longer walking safaris and fly camps are also possibilitiies from some camps.  Terrific bird watching particularly in the flood plain areas and along the river.

My View:  A place for the safari connoisseur!  You need to want to use the activities on offer in the Selous: walking and boats as well as game drives and to be prepared to work a little harder for your game than in the parks to the north. In short, that you are prepared to sacrifice the big herds and easier game viewing of the northern parks to enjoy a more pristine, wilderness safari experience  with extra activities.   Easy access to Zanzibar makes the Selous an ideal choice if you want to combine safari and beach and are short of time.

For more information on the Selous and Tanzania’s other safari destinations visit:

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Next on the Top Ten – Zambia’s Luangwa National Park.