Day 17 – 18: South Luangwa NP


135 km in South Luangwa NP
4 561 km trip to date

We camped at Wildlife Camp on the banks of the Luangwa river only a few km from the South Luangwa NP main entrance gate. There are no public campsites in the park, only a handful of luxury concession lodges.

Sunset over the Luangwa river viewed from Wildlife Camp
  • The park is located in the Luangwa valley at the end of the Great Rift Valley.
  • Founded in 1972
  • 9 050 sq km
  • 500 – 800 m above sea level – extremely hot and humid – we experienced midday temperatures around 40 degrees celcius with high humidity as it was building up to rain
  • 60 animal species and 400 bird species recorded – used to be a ‘big five’ park until the black rhino had been poached to extinction.

We visited this park in the dry season just before the rains. We could see that the park has had a few scattered rain showers, as there were patches of new growth, but the rest of the park where we travelled was extremely dry. The road network consists of a few built gravel central roads and numerous small two spoor tracks. Where it was wet and the tracks went through ditches, the tracks became deep black cotton mud.

The beauty of the Zambian parks is that one is allowed to exit your vehicle anywhere in the park, as long as you stay within 10 meters from your vehicle. We used this to find the nicest shade trees and enjoyed our breakfast and lunch outside our vehicle watching the animals around us.

We had the advantage that we could drive on all of the tracks, but in the rainy season one will have to keep to the few main gravel roads – even the flat areas are black cotton soil.


Due to the high park entry fee – USD 75 per day for 2 persons + vehicle – we decided to enter the park only once and spend the whole day there. We literally criss-crossed the park by driving all the tracks except the two roads exiting the park at the north (route 05 and route 40). We did not enter the small Nsefu sector, as upon enquiry the officer at the main gate told us that it is not worth going there now due to the drought – very little animals to be seen. We encountered one hired vehicle and three safari vehicles from nearby lodges throughout our whole day game drive – low season.

Because of what we researched beforehand, we expected to see large and diverse quantities of animals, but we did not see as many. Did they move elsewhere because of the drought (not logical, as the further areas are more dry than the central and riverine areas), or is our perception of large quantities of animals different? Maybe they meant elephant, hippo, impala, puku and warthog as these animals we saw in abundance. Or maybe we are spoilt.

What we saw:

  • Elephant – Large quantities of elephant – Everywhere.
  • Hippo – many, many hippos along the river.
  • Rhodesian giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis thornicrofti), more commonly known as Thornicroft’s giraffe, is a subspecies of giraffe. It is geographically isolated, occurring only in Zambia’s South Luangwa Valley. This giraffe is now grouped with the almost similar Giraffe tippelskirchi of Tanzania. We saw one of these giraffes, but could not take a decent photo, as the giraffe stood in deep shade and moved off when we moved too near. The skin patterns are different from our southern giraffe and stock photos included below show the difference in the skin patterns.
  • Crawshay’s zebra is a subspecies of the plains zebra. It has no shadow stripes and the white stripes are very narrow. Crawshay’s Zebra occurs in northern Mozambique, in Malawi and in eastern Zambia. We saw several small groups of these zebra in the park.
  • TZN2018-8-SLNP-3
    Crawshay’s Zebra – no shadow stripes
  • Buffalo – We saw small groups of the normal African Buffalo as we know it in the dry northern areas of the park. And disturbingly also several instances of buffalo carcasses in dry pans where they got stuck in the black cotton mud and died.
  • Puku – many groups everywhere in the park.
  • Impala – many groups everywhere in the park. They had lots of newborns with them.
  • Bushbuck – several, and they were huge.
  • Kudu – a few in the riverine area.
  • Common Waterbuck – a few in the riverine area.
  • Warthog – plenty, everywhere.
  • Vervet monkey – several groups with newborns.
  • Yellow baboon – several groups.
  • Predators – none.


Elephant inside park
Hippo pool in Luangwa river inside park


Buffalo carcasses
Buffalo carcasses
Impala with baby
Vervet monkey protecting the tiniest baby
Carmine bee-eater scaring off a leguan from the nests


Wildlife Camp is an excellent camp for a bush experience. Basic ablutions with hot water showers and a thatch shelter with table for each site. Electricity for every site – one round 3-point (southern Africa) and one flat 3-point (British). Huge shade trees right on the river edge. Swimming pool that was a life-saver in this heat and a bar where you cannot afford to buy a beer as it is priced in USD.

Yellow baboon
Hide in camp with elephant in the background


Pool and bar
Stripe-bellied sand snake on ant hill in camp

At the back of the camp is a waterhole with a hide where the elephants hang out.

Elephant at the campsite waterhole with 2 hippos cooling off in the water – they look dead, but are not dead


We had elephant and hippo next to our tent at night.


Elephant in camping area

The yellow baboons in the camp did well to entertained us. We kept our vehicle closed and as our fridges and foodstuff are in the vehicle permanently, the baboons behaved remarkably well around us. They would sit and scratch for seedpods within a meter or two from us, or where we pass them to the taps or ablutions they did not even move away, busy doing their own thing. The third night an overland bus and another camper arrived, and it was as if the baboons had a personality change. Suddenly they would grab food from those tables and ammoboxes and challenge the people if they chased them away. We decided that the baboons exactly know what an ammobox and a dinner table means, and we did not display them, so to them we did not have food. Our braai took place after dark when they had already gone to bed, and our other meals were not formally displayed the way they expected, so it went unnoticed.

This guy scratched the leaves away for seedpods less than 5 meters from us sitting in the shade

Firewood – KZM 50 per medium size bag
Insects – NO mosquitos, NO tsetse flies

We would definitely want to visit this park again somewhere during July to September to see the ’emerald season’ of this park.

Next: back to Lusaka and onto Kasanka NP for the bat migration…


  1. Dit lyk heerlik. Is lekker jaloers en volg julle elke dag! Een keer moet jul asb bietjie uitwei oor jul kar, tent, en kampopset en hoe julle ingerig en “uitgekit” is!


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