South Luangwa

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The South Luangwa National Park is one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world. The concentration of game around the Luangwa River and its ox-bow lagoons is among the most intense in Africa.

The Luangwa River is the most intact major river system in Africa and is the life blood of the park's 9050 square km. The Park hosts a wide variety of wildlife, birds and vegetation. The now famous 'walking safari' originated in this park and is still one of the finest ways to experience this pristine wilderness first hand.

The changing seasons add to the Park's richness, ranging from dry, bare bushveld in the winter to a lush green wonderland in the summer months. There are 60 different animal species and over 400 different bird species. The only notable exception is the rhino, poached to extinction in the 1970s.

The hippopotamus is one animal that visitors to the park are guaranteed to spot. As you cross over the [cont.]

bridge into the park there are usually between 30 and 70 hippos lounging in the river below and most of the dambos and lagoons will reveal examples of this noisy species. There are estimated to be at least 50 hippos per kilometre of the Luangwa River.

The zebras in the valley are an endemic sub species: the Crawshay's Zebra have evenly spaced stripes resulting in a very distinct black and white pattern, whereas Zebras to the south and in the east Africa have broad light stripes on their flanks with a faint shadow stripe in between.

The other endemic species to the Park is the Thornicroft's Giraffe. This majestic animal is common throughout the valley with its unique skin pattern. The giraffes spend much of their lives peacefully feeding on the tallest of vegetation the South Luangwa Valley has to offer, looking in interest at all the attention they cause when a game vehicle arrives.

The park has 14 different antelope species, most of which are easily seen on game and night drives. Watch out for the elusive bushbuck, preferring 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 seen 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. It should not be confused with the similarly sized puku.

Of the primates, baboons and vervet monkeys are found in abundance. More scarce is Maloney's monkey. Present, but unlikely to be seen except on night drives, are the night ape, and the nocturnal bushbaby.

Hyenas are fairly common throughout the valley and their plaintive, eerie cry, so characteristic of the African bush, can be heard sometimes at night.

South Luangwa is famous for its large population of leopard. Many of the Safari operator's game trackers are skilled in finding the elusive leopards on night drives.

Lions are as plentiful in the Luangwa as anywhere else in Africa, but when a kill is made away from the central tourist area, the pride may stay away for several days and may not be seen by visitors on a short stay. Very often they roam in prides of up to thirty.

The other carnivores present in the Valley are packs of wild dog, serval and side striped jackal.

The Luangwa River also has an extraordinarily high number of crocodiles. It is not uncommon to see several basking on the riverbanks or even floating down the river tearing at a dead animal.

Night drives are fascinating in the Luangwa. Not only for the chance of seeing a leopard but for the many interesting animals that only come to life at night. These include genets, civets, servals, hyaena, and bush babies as well as owls, nightjars, foraging hippos, honey badgers and lion.

As well as being famous for its leopard population, the South Luangwa National Park is also well known as the home of ‘walking safaris'. First conducted here by the legendary guide Norman Carr in the early 60's, they are now seen as a ‘must do' exhilirating activity for all visitors to the Valley.

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