HTML Document South Luangwa National Park

Experts have dubbed South Luangwa as one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world, and not without reason. The concentration of game around the Luangwa river and it’s ox bow lagoons is among the most intense in Africa.

The park was proclaimed in February 1972 following a new legislation which turned most of the game reserves into national parks though the histioy of the park dates back to as far as 1904. Nesting at the tail end of the Great Rift Valley, in the Luangwa Valley, the South Luangwa National Park is 9050 sq km of wild and remote bushveld with the Mopane/ dry Miombo type of ecosystem.

South Luangwa is perhaps Zambia's finest example of an enlightened policy that has set aside large portions of the country as wildlife reserves.

Release date 30/03/2006
Contributor Nkula Mwanza

The South Luangwa, a huge area of pristine wilderness, is home to a large variety of game and birds, as well as the bigger predators. There are 60 different animal species and 400 different bird species. The only notable exception is the rhino, sadly poached to extinction.

The survival of the valley depends on the winding Luangwa River, crowded with hippos, crocodiles and wading waterfowl. The hippo is one animal you definitely won't miss. As you cross over the bridge into the park there are usually between 30 to 70 hippos lounging around in the river below. There are estimated to be at least 50 hippos per kilometre of the Luangwa River.

The park has 14 different  antelope species, most of which are easily seen on game and night drives. Bushbuck are elusive, prefer to inhabit densely covered areas. The common duiker is not that common near the Luangwa river but inhabits the back country of the Luangwa Valley. The largest of the antelope is the eland, usually near the Nsefu sector of the park. The most numerous antelope is the impala, these gregarious animals can be seen in herds all over the park. Not to be confused with the Puku, of similar size but a much fluffier buck with a rich orange coat and also prolific.

Birdwatching is superb in the valley. Near the end of the dry season, when the river and oxbow lagoons begin to recede, hundreds of large waterbirds can be seen wading through the shallows. Of the most beautiful are the elegant crowned cranes with their golden tufts, which congregate in large flocks at the salt pans.

The red faced yellow billed storks  move along with their beaks open underwater, disturbing the muddy liquid with their feet until the fish flop into their mouths. The pelicans tend to operate in lines abreast, driving the fish before them into shallows before scooping them up into their beak pouches. The striking 1.6m saddle bill stork makes quick darting movements into the water. Then there’s the marabou stork, great white egrets, black headed herons, open billed storks and the stately goliath heron that can stand in the same position for hours before pouncing. Of the most beautiful are the elegant crowned cranes, with their golden tufts congregating in large flocks at the salt pans.

There is a variety of trees and plants of varying vegetation which are very rewarding. Some magnificent trees grow in the valley among which are the mopane, leadwood and winterthorn. There are also some beautiful specimens of baobab, large ebony forests, teh tall vegetable ivory palm, marula and the magnificent tamarind tree.

Seasonal changes are very pronounced in the Luangwa Valley. The dry season begins in April and intensifies through to October, the hottest month, when game concentrations are at their height. Warm sunny days and chilly nights typify teh dry winter months of May to August.

The wet season begins in November as the leaves turn green and the dry terrain becomes a lush jungle. The rainy season lasts until the end of March and migrant birds arrive in droves. Lodges in South Luangwa stay open for as long as access is possible, depending on their location.

For more information on the South Luangwa National Park and other game reserves, see also:

Zambia National Tourist Board (ZNTB) - zambiatourism_website

Zambia Nationa Tourist Board (ZNTB) - game reserves