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South Luangwa is undoubtedly the jewel of Zambia’s national parks and the place to see leopards. It lies in the north-eastern part of Zambia and comprises some 9,050 square kilometres of unspoilt African wilderness.

The meandering Luangwa River creates scenic oxbow lagoons set amongst beautiful riverine vegetation of evergreen mahogany and ebony trees, and the area is a magnet to outstanding wildlife. You can expect to encounter numerous large animals here - elephant, Cape buffalo, hippo, lion, Nile crocodile, warthog, puku, impala, spotted hyena, greater kudu and eland are all common. Unique to the Luangwa are the Thornicroft's giraffe, Cookson's wildebeest and Crawshay's zebra, which are found nowhere else. However, for many the most exciting aspect of the Luangwa Valley is that it has the world’s highest naturally occurring population of leopard.

Concentrations of game along the riverine area increase throughout the dry season and are at their maximum during September and October. Buffalo herds of over a thousand and large herds of elephant are frequent sightings. Hippos collect in huge numbers, often several hundred strong, in the deep-water channels of the river, accompanied by unknown numbers of Nile crocodile.

For the birdwatcher too, Luangwa could hardly be better with some 400 species of bird. The sun-scorched riverbanks play host to vast colonies of carmine bee-eaters, which together with numerous raptors, lovebirds, weavers and kingfishers lend more than a splash of colour to this beautiful destination.

The beautiful ‘green season’ begins with the first rains in early November. There is a glorious cleansing of the dust and haze that has built up during the intense heat of the dry season and a wonderful green burst adorns the previously parched earth. Flowering trees and plants come into bloom, and the young of most animals are born, including African wild dog puppies. Our Rivers & Rainbows trip is perfect for those who wish to travel during the green season. 

View suggested itineraries

Key info

  • Ideal for viewing: leopard, Cookson’s wildebeest, Thornicroft’s giraffe, Crawshay’s zebra, African elephant, puku, lion, Nile crocodile
  • Where: Eastern Province, Zambia

Wildlife trips

This wildlife location is featured in the following itineraries:

Carnivores of South Luangwa

Join researchers from the Zambian Carnivore Programme for a behind-the-scenes view of conservation in action in South Luangwa National Park, and take part in research into its populations of lion, leopard, cheetah and wild dog. The riverside lodge accommodation at Nkwali is ideal for wildlife viewing.

  • When to go: Nov
  • Duration inc. flights: 11 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £4,595 pp
  • Trip type: Group tour

Bats, Rhinos & Reptiles

Kasanka National Park plays hosts to a remarkable annual wildlife spectacle; from mid-November onwards an estimated 12 million fruitbats arrive. Guided walks will take you to witness this marvellous spectacle, and will be combined with time on safari in the national parks of Zambia and Malawi.

  • When to go: Nov-Dec
  • Duration inc. flights: 13 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £6,345 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea

Batty about Kasanka

Every November and December, millions of fruit bats take up residence in Kasanka National Park - witness this incredible sight while staying in a comfortable tented camp near the renowned Fibwe Hide. The trip also includes time in South Luangwa where walking safaris and night drives are a highlight.

  • When to go: Nov-Dec
  • Duration inc. flights: 12 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £4,995 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea

Classic Africa Explorer

This 37-day comprehensive itinerary, which visits no less than seven countries, delivers the ultimate African safari experience and a wealth of contrasts. Travel to some of Africa’s best National Parks and stay in a range of classic lodges, hotels and tented camps on this wildlife trip of a lifetime.

  • When to go: Apr-Dec
  • Duration inc. flights: 37 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £16,495 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea

Classic Luangwa Walking

Zambia is the home of the walking safari, and this small group trip along the Mupamadzi River offers the quintessential bush experience. Staying in well-equipped tents and accompanied by expert safari guides, the trip covers three different camps to experience each location’s unique wildlife and habitats.

  • When to go: Jun-Sep
  • Duration inc. flights: 14 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £6,545 pp
  • Trip type: Group tour

Leopards of Luangwa

This is our single most popular safari – we’ve been selling it for years and it’s just as popular now as when we first introduced it. South Luangwa has the world’s highest naturally occurring population of leopard – spot them on early morning, afternoon and night drives, as well as glorious walking safaris.

  • When to go: May-Nov
  • Duration inc. flights: 11 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £5,395 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea

Luangwa & a Blizzard of Bats

Brush up your photography skills with wildlife photographer Nick Garbutt and witness the extraordinary annual event of millions of fruit bats roosting in Kasanka National Park. You can also expect to encounter prolific wildlife in South Luangwa, including elephant, spotted hyena, hippo and lion.

  • When to go: Nov
  • Duration inc. flights: 11 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £5,195 pp
  • Trip type: Group tour

Luangwa Valley & Lower Zambezi

Combine the beauty of the Luangwa Valley with the delights of the Lower Zambezi. In South Luangwa, you will find the world’s highest naturally occurring population of leopard, and boat trips on the Lower Zambezi add another dimension to watching wildlife, with elephant and huge herds of buffalo.

  • When to go: Jun-Nov
  • Duration inc. flights: 13 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £5,995 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea

Rivers & Rainbows

Travel during the ultimate green season when the rains have restored river levels, and you can travel by boat along the Luangwa River to view crocodiles and hippos. Flowering trees and plants come into bloom, and the young of most animals are born, including African wild dog puppies.

  • When to go: Jan-Apr
  • Duration inc. flights: 11 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £4,525 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea

Sacred Combe Safari

This small group trip visits Zambia’s sensational South Luangwa National Park - home of the walking safari - and is jointly led by author Simon Barnes and Wildlife Worldwide founder Chris Breen. Their shared passion for the area and its abundant wildlife guarantee an illuminating and fun experience!

  • When to go: Sep-Oct
  • Duration inc. flights: 12 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £7,375 pp
  • Trip type: Group tour

Shoebills, Lechwe & Luangwa

If you are a connoisseur who yearns for untouched wilderness, this is the safari for you! Zambia's vast Bangweulu wetland is home to over 30,000 black lechwe and the highly endangered shoebill, and Kasanka famously has over 400 bird species, including the rare Pel’s fishing owl.

  • When to go: Mar-Jun
  • Duration inc. flights: 13 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £5,995 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea

South Luangwa Photo Safari

Zambia's South Luangwa National Park is a photographer’s paradise with exquisite light, stunning wildlife and some of the best guides in Africa. This ten-day tour, with award-winning photographer Bret Charman, has been designed specifically to maximise wildlife photography opportunities.

  • When to go: Nov
  • Duration inc. flights: 10 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £3,395 pp
  • Trip type: Group tour

Zambezi Wonders & Wilderness

A fabulous family safari offering the perfect combination of outstanding natural wonders, unspoilt wilderness, incredible wildlife and fun activities. From the spectacular Victoria Falls and the astonishing wildlife of South Luangwa, to the pristine shores of Lake Malawi, enjoy the very best of Zambia and Malawi.

  • When to go: Apr-Dec
  • Duration inc. flights: 13 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £5,995 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea
Suggested accommodation options are shown below. Please contact us for further recommendations.

Chikoko Tree Camp

This exclusive camp is set amidst an acacia grove, right on the bank of the Luangwa River. Consisting of just three grass-walled chalets raised off the ground, all have en suite bathroom and offer views of wildlife throughout the course of the day. Walking safaris are the highlight of any stay here.

Chinzombo Camp

Secluded, stylish and innovative, this idyllic camp - which takes its name from the eponymous fruit - occupies a pristine area on the banks of the meandering Luangwa River, alive with wildlife. Each villa has separate living and sleeping areas, a private plunge pool, luxurious bathroom and wide deck.

Crocodile River Camp

This comfortable and intimate camp is situated beneath a grove of muchenja (ebony) trees in South Luangwa National Park. Constructed using a combination of natural materials, its three en suite chalets overlook a dambo, attracting an abundance of wildlife, which can be seen from the room.

Flatdogs Camp

Situated on the banks of the Luangwa River, Flatdogs Camp offers a good range of accommodation from safari tents with en suite facilities to luxurious chalet rooms. It is the closest camp to the Mfuwe main gate, providing easy access to South Luangwa National Park and its abundant wildlife.

Kaingo Camp

This stylish camp nestles on the banks of the Luangwa River, deep in South Luangwa National Park. It has six chalets with stunning views, and a deck built out over the river from where you can watch wildlife. The camp also has dedicated hides for watching elephant, hippo and carmine bee-eaters.

Kakuli Bush Camp

Kakuli is a luxurious ten-bedded tented camp located on an elevated section of the Luangwa’s west bank. As well as offering walking safaris, and day and night drives, you can watch wildlife on the river and even the lawn right in front of you, from the camp’s central thatched dining area.

Luangwa River Camp

Nestled under an ancient ebony grove, the intimate and exclusive Luangwa River Camp is made up of just five bush suites. The surrounding oxbow lagoon and plains of the Luangwa Valley hold vast concentrations of wildlife, including elephant, leopard, lion, hippo and puku, as well as over 400 bird species.

Luangwa Safari House

This stunning four-bedroom private house is situated on the edge of a seasonal lagoon where herds of elephant and giraffe feed and drink throughout the day. It provides a large living area, verandahs, a swimming pool and an open-air terrace for dining, as well as hosted activities for children.

Luwi Bush Camp

Luwi is a superb camp constructed on the site of legendary Norman Carr’s first every walking safari in the South Luangwa National Park. Five reed-and-thatch chalets, accommodating a maximum of ten guests, sit in a beautiful shady grove and offer probably the perfect bush camp - remote yet comfortable.

Mchenja Bush Camp

Set under the shade of ebony trees, this stylish and luxurious camp overlooks the Luangwa River in an impossibly picturesque location. Each of the five spacious tents stands on a wooden deck under a thatched roof. Activities from the camp consist of day and night drives and walking safaris.

Mfuwe Lodge

This award-winning lodge lies inside South Luangwa National Park, a few minutes’ drive from the main gate. Thatched chalets are set around two lagoons, and after a game drive you can relax on the open deck or take a dip in the swimming pool while an endless stream of wildlife keeps you enthralled.

Mwamba Bush Camp

Mwamba is a satellite camp of Kaingo in South Luangwa National Park, and is located deep in the park, offering solitude far from other safari vehicles. With only six beds, it offers a perfect contrast to the main camp, while still offering the superlative quality and feel of its larger relative.

Nkwali Camp

Located on private land just outside South Luangwa National Park, this lodge lies in an area of ebony woodland and open grassland that is superb for wildlife viewing. It consists of six cool and spacious chalets - including one for a family - built from woven bamboo with stone floors and thatched roofs.

Nsefu Camp

On a sweeping bend of the river, in the heart of the South Luangwa National Park, lies what was the first photographic safari camp in Zambia, dating back to the early 1950s. The dining room overlooks the river where elephants come to drink and cross, with the bar overlooking a busy waterhole.

Nsolo Bush Camp

Nsolo is a simple, yet luxurious tented camp with five open-fronted chalets overlooking a nearby waterhole. One of the more historic camps in Zambia, it is also one of South Luangwa’s more remote. Walking safaris are a speciality, and there are also opportunities for night drives to see nocturnal animals.

Robin’s House

Robin’s House lies in a beautiful position on the Luangwa River with a stunning view across to the park. It is a small private and exclusive house, ideal for families or friends seeking a more indulgent type of safari, and offers both flexibility and comfort, with its own private plunge pool and team of staff.

Tafika Camp

Tafika is superbly situated just to the north of the Nsefu sector of the South Luangwa National Park on a magnificent stretch of the Luangwa River. The camp consists of six comfortable chalets and offers a highly personalised, friendly service and flexible wildlife-viewing activities.

Tena Tena

One of the most stunning sites in the Luangwa Valley, this remote, small camp stands in a grove of mahogany trees on a wide sweep of river. It consists of six beautifully designed safari tents, and a charming open-sided dining room and bar. Morning, evening and night drives and walking safaris are all offered.