South Luangwa

The lush and beautiful riverine vegetation of the South Luangwa attract some of the greatest wildlife concentrations in Africa.


May to November (but some camps stay open all year)


The South Luangwa National Park in Zambia lies at the southern tip of the Rift Valley. This is quite simply one of the premier wildlife sanctuaries in Africa. Here the brooding Luangwa River meanders through this luxuriant valley. The rift valley escarpment is the park's natural boundary to the east, whilst the river marks its western boundary. In between you bask in its beautiful landscapes:  from primeval forest, to lush savanna, to huge ox bow lagoons of verdant green and finally, groves of majestic ebony trees. This variety attracts a diversity of wildlife including the famous Luangwa leopards and thousands of hippo and crocodile. Birding is also excellent with over 450 species in the park.

An ideal South Luangwa safari is 6-8 nights, staying in 2 or 3 different South Luangwa safari lodges. Many visitors spend a couple of nights maxing out their camera’s memory cards in the central South Luangwa lodges such as Chinzombo LodgeNkwali or Mfuwe. Here the animals are relaxed and used to vehicles. (but it can get busy.) Then you head to some of the more remote Luangwa lodges. Delightful bush camps occupy prime sites on ancient oxbow lakes amidst shady ebony groves. (If you remember your school geography, these are the only reminders of the original water course).

The South Luangwa is particularly known for its walking safaris. Both multi-day set tours, but also simply walking from one bush camp to another. Or simply exchanging a morning game drive for a bush walk, or perhaps combining the two. The safari camps are super-flexible, compared to many other safari destinations.

South Luangwa safari - carmine bee-eaters


Why you may love it

  • Zambia’s premier wildlife sanctuary.
  • Excellent chances of seeing leopard.
  • Night drives on offer to spot nocturnal wildlife.
  • Wide choice of safari camps to suit all temperaments and budgets.
  • Excellent mobile walking safaris.

When to visit South Luangwa

November to March

Summer in South Luangwa

Much of the South Luangwa is closed for safari visitors during the summer rainy season. Somewhere in November, the summer rains start. This heralds the closure of the remote bush camps. (Depending on specific location, some camps remain open until the end of the year.) Only the larger camps in the central Luangwa can remain open during the Emerald Season (The seasonal camps are cut off due to the high water levels.) Interestingly though, this means that in contrast to most other safari destinations, the wildlife tends to be more concentrated around the central area. Plus the vegetation is lush and green and many babies are being born which in turn attracts predators. Summer is also a great time for birding in the South Luangwa as the summer migrants arrive. Afternoon thunder showers can also affect the safari activities. And summer is the time for mosquitos so ensure you have taken malaria prophylactics and cover up at night. However the more reasonable safari prices in the South Luangwa help to offset this.
MAX TEMP 30 ℃ / 86 ℉
MIN TEMP 20 ℃ / 68 ℉

April to May

Dry season in South Luangwa

This is the start of the dry season and the safari season in Zambia. The landscape is still green and lush but grasses start dying down. The sunsets are superb as the skies are clearer. However the remote bush camps in the Luangwa stay closed. The game-viewing is not as prolific as later in the dry season and safari prices reflect this. This is quite a mosquito time of year so ensure you have taken malaria prophylactics and cover up at night.
MAX TEMP 29 ℃ / 84 ℉
MIN TEMP 16 ℃ / 61 ℉

June to August

Dry season in South Luangwa

Traditionally this is the best time to visit as the dry season continues. The bush is less dense and the animals flock to the Luangwa River to drink. Mornings on the game drive vehicle can be cold so pack warm clothing. Note that June is often a time of slightly lower safari prices in the South Luangwa so it could be a good option of you are on a budget.
MAX TEMP 28 ℃ / 82 ℉
MIN TEMP 11 ℃ / 52 ℉

September to October

Summer and very hot in South Luangwa

It is hot, hot, hot in late September and October prior to the start of the summer rains. Make sure you are comfortable with heat! Game-viewing remains very good though the very high temperatures in late October make for uncomfortable game-viewing and some distressed animals.
MAX TEMP 36 ℃ / 97 ℉
MIN TEMP 20 ℃ / 68 ℉

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Ginny Russell

Co-founder & Director

Hi I'm Ginny, I'm here to help you plan your ideal holiday experience
Did you know
  • WaterThe Luangwa River is the most intact major river system in Africa
  • SafariConcept of a ‘walking safari’ originated here

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