At a time when commercialisation seems to have tightened its grip on most of the world, Zambia remains true to its roots. This is the real Africa, with all the charm, beauty and occasional challenges that this entails.
In Zambia, mother nature is queen. From the thundering cascades of Victoria Falls to the untouched bush of the South Luangwa, the little-explored Bangweulu Swamps to the wild Lower Zambezi, the country is a tribute to the awe-inspiring diversity of the natural world and a wildlife lover’s dream.
Zambia, and in particular the South Luangwa National Park, remains the finest place in Africa for walking safaris. The prolific game and unrivalled expertise of the local guides mean that sightings of leopard, elephant, hippo, lion and wild dog are not just rare experiences, but commonplace.
The country gained its independence from the British in 1964. While English is still the official national language, Zambia’s remoteness and strong sense of identity has ensured that traditional culture remains strong among its people. Ancient ceremonies are still observed today among the different tribal groups, and they are well known for their artistic skills using local ceramics and traditional textile designs.
Maize is the staple food crop for much of the population. The more drought-resistant millet and sorghum are also grown, along with cassava, cowpeas, peanuts, pumpkins and sweet potatoes. Lakes and rivers supply a constant supply of fish, while cattle, pigs and poultry are reared on the land. The national dish is nshima, a maize porridge-like dish that is eaten with beans or meat and the local lager, Mosi, is a particularly good brew.
National flag of Zambia
Population: 11.5 million
Area: 752,610 sq km
Language: English, plus numerous other languages
Currency: Kwacha (KW)
Time: GMT + 2
International dialing code: +260
Climate: Tropical, with varying temperatures according to altitude. The rainy season runs from October to April.
For wildlife, and wildlife-lovers, it doesn’t get any better than the South Luangwa National Park. With its verdant floodplains rustling with huge herds of game, mopane woodlands and indigenous hardwood forests filled with over 400 species of birds, and a mighty river that attracts thirsty animals like a magnet, it’s a natural utopia and one of Africa’s truly great wildlife sanctuaries.
Bordered on one side by the Muchinga Escarpment and the Luangwa River on the other, the park consists of 9,050 square kilometres (half the size of Wales or Massachusetts) of untouched wilderness supporting one of the greatest concentrations of wildlife in Africa.
It was none other than explorer David Livingstone who first recognised the extraordinary allure and unique nature of the South Luangwa Valley. Crossing the Luangwa River in 1866, he declared, “I will make this land better known to men that it may become one of their haunts. It is impossible to describe its luxuriance.” It wasn’t until 1938 that the area was proclaimed a game reserve, and then given national park status in 1971. In 1961 the legendary Norman Carr put the Luangwa on the map as a safari destination leading the first walking safari in the reserve.
Over 60 different species of mammal call the South Luangwa National Park their home, drawn by the diverse range of habitats from sandy seasonal river courses to the mineral-rich alluvial floodplains that stretch out to distant blue hills. Predators such as lion, leopard and wild dog stalk the smaller game, whilst primates such as yellow baboons and vervet monkeys swing through the trees. Down on the river, huge densities of elephant, hippo and crocodile enjoy the cool waters.
There are two distinct seasons, during which the park completely changes its appearance. In the dry season (May to October) the landscape is arid and vegetation is sparse, providing optimum conditions for viewing game, especially as animals congregate at the waterholes and rivers. During the wet summer (November to April), the park is lush and green. Wildlife is harder to spot but the park is arguably at its most beautiful in this ‘emerald’ season.
Unlike some other African national parks, in the South Luangwa the focus is always on the wildlife. Sprawling visitor centres and restaurant complexes are nowhere to be found here – just traditional safari lodges and intimate, rustic bushcamps that merge discreetly into the landscape, from where you can enjoy the true pleasure of being surrounded by an unspoilt African wilderness.
Elephants crossing the Luangwa River
South Luangwa National Park
Not until you’ve followed in the footsteps of the great explorers and experienced the compelling mix of excitement, fear, vulnerability, respect and awe that a walking safari delivers, can you really understand the true nature of the African wilderness.
There’s nothing quite like the thrill of feeling your heart pound in your chest as you tiptoe your way through the bush, alarm calls from other animals echoing in the air, inching towards a small clearing and peering through the branches where… yes, there it is… a pride of lions is busy devouring a recent kill.
The South Luangwa is the home of the walking safari – this is where it was first pioneered by Norman Carr back in the 1960s and, with the continent’s finest local guides to lead you, we’re proud to say that nobody does it better. To stride out on your own two feet is the only way to understand the wilderness, and it’s the best zoology lesson you’ll ever have.
Our guides will let you in on the secrets of the bush, from teaching you how to track a leopard by identifying spoor and listening for tell-tale alarm calls, to explaining how to soothe insect bites with the juice of a sausage tree. If you have a particular interest in a specific area such as birding or local bushcraft, then just let your safari guide know and he will tailor the walk accordingly. With every step there is something new to learn, a new bird or animal to spot and a new unforgettable experience.
Safety is, of course, paramount. Our guides are highly trained and they will instruct you on how to behave when approaching some of the larger animals. Alongside your guide, an armed national park escort scout, provided by the Zambian Wildlife Authority (ZAWA), is required to accompany you on walks. We are proud of our untarnished safety record so whilst your heart may inevitably race, you need not fear that you will come to any harm.
The final member of your walking safari group is the all-important tea-porter. As well as being another valuable set of eyes and ears, he will carry refreshments for your walk. At a suitably scenic point, his bag will open to produce tea and biscuits in the morning, or cold beers and G&Ts in the evening. Should you need a drink of water at any point during the walk, he’s the person to ask.
It is a rare privilege to be able to walk in an African national park. With so many different habitats to explore, from open plains to sandy river banks, eerie mopane forests to swampy lagoons, no two outings will ever be the same, but we guarantee that you will remember every one.
* Please note that per ZAWA regulations, children under 12 years of age are not allowed on walking safaris.
From a vehicle you see Africa. On foot you feel, hear and smell Africa
As one of Africa’s most unspoilt and remote national parks, the South Luangwa is renowned for its wide diversity of habitats and high game density. With more than 60 different mammal species in the park, there is an abundance and diversity of wildlife that sets the Luangwa apart from other wildlife destinations. The survival of these animals depends on the meandering Luangwa River; crowded with hippos, crocodiles and wading waterfowl.
Elephants, baboons and vervet monkeys seem to be everywhere from the moment you enter the park. Antelopes, zebra and other plains game congregate on the open floodplains and grasslands along the River and its numerous tributaries that course through the Park. Large herds of buffalo roam the park, impala are ubiquitous, the puku – rarely seen outside Zambia — is almost as common and there are plenty of waterbucks and bushbucks too. The endemic Thornicroft's giraffe is indigenous to the park, as are Crawshay's zebra and Cookson’s Wildebeest. The South Luangwa has become one of the best places in Africa to see wild dogs – which are endangered – with numerous resident packs requiring large traversing areas to hunt. Night drives are renowned for sighting lion on the hunt and leopard (the density of leopards is among the highest in the world). And even rarely seen nocturnal animals like the honey badger, porcupine and civet, are often seen by spotlight.
Birdwatching is superb in the Luangwa Valley; with over 400 species of birds recorded you could easily see over 100 different species in a three day visit. Some particularly attractive ones include; Carmine Bee-eaters, Malachite Kingfishers, Lilac-breasted Rollers, Bateleur Eagles, Saddle-billed Storks, Crowned Cranes, Pel’s Fishing Owls and Fish Eagles. Before you set out on safari, download Derek Solomon’s Checklist of Common Birds & Mammals of the South Luangwa National Park here.
We recommend that all guests purchase travel and medical insurance before leaving home.
Dress at all of our camps is informal. During the day time light weight clothes such as T-shirts and shorts are the right choice. For most of the year, a light weight jacket for the evenings is sufficient, however we advise you to take a warm jumper or fleece jacket for the cold morning and night drives during the months of June, July, and August. Comfortable, closed walking shoes/boots are strongly advised for your walk. Acceptable bush colours for your clothing are dull, neutral colours, such as khaki, green, brown or grey. We do NOT recommend you wear blue or black, as this attracts tsetse flies, while bright colours, especially white, can stand out to animals & may be dangerous. A hat/cap, sunglasses and sun screen are also strongly recommended. Mfuwe Lodge & all our Bushcamps have a complimentary daily laundry service – so there is no need to bring too much (towels are also provided).
All our Bushcamps and Mfuwe Lodge offer a complimentary laundry service that should return your clothes within 24 hours, allowing you to take fewer clothes on your safari.
It is important not to forget items like your hat, sunglasses, sun block, and insect repellent to be able to have a comfortable and relaxing safari. A swimming costume/bathing suit will allow you to cool down in the pool at Mfuwe Lodge (or if you are feeling adventurous the Kapamba River when at some of our Bushcamps) during the hottest hours of the day. Make sure you have enough memory for your cameras, and that you take the correct battery charger for your camcorder. Good binoculars are essential!
There is a 23kg/50lb luggage allowance restriction per person on all flights to and from Mfuwe Airport (packed in soft bags) - please remember this and if you have excess luggage we should be able to arrange for our Meet & Greet service to look after the excess bags until you return to Lusaka Airport.
All camps have charging facilities for camera batteries, iPods etc. These are limited as they run from solar power or generators. At Mfuwe Lodge 240 volts electricity is available from the national grid. Throughout Zambia three-pin square ‘British’ plug sockets are used.
Currently most visitors to Zambia are required to pay for an entry visa – please check with your travel agent or local Zambian Consulate/Embassy for details.
When in Zambia it is possible to pay for any extras, airport taxes, curios etc. in US Dollars or in the local currency - the Zambian Kwacha. Dollars, Pounds Sterling and Euros can be changed at one of the banks at Lusaka and Mfuwe Airports, or you can draw Zambian Kwacha from the ATM machines also at these Airports. We also accept payment by MasterCard or Visa. Certain other establishments also accept payment by card, but we strongly advise that you carry a supply of cash with you on your safari. The US Dollar tends to be the foreign currency that is most easily changed by banks in Zambia, although please note that bills with any sort of tears or marks are not legal tender, nor are the pre-2006 “small-headed” bills. It is advisable to bring a range of US Dollar note denominations ($5 to $100) with you on safari. It is currently not possible to purchase Kwacha outside of Zambia.
All guests that require special dietary arrangements should kindly notify their safari agent at the time of making the booking and prior to departure. Please also remember to inform the camp manager upon arrival.
Anti-malaria tablets, as prescribed by the guest's GP, should be taken when travelling to the Valley. Guests should also make sure that they take sufficient stocks of any prescription or over-the-counter drug they may require, as they will not be readily available in our part of the world. A doctor is available in the Valley and Medical evacuation is offered. More info.
We strongly advise you to consult your doctor before you travel to Zambia and get accurate and up-to-date advice on current inoculation requirements. Your doctor may also advise you about any recently recognised medical precautions that may be necessary. While we operate in a remote wilderness part of Zambia we normally have a Western doctor available for medical consultation (at a fee) should the need arise during your safari.
Common medical concerns on safari...
Malaria is caused by a mosquito borne parasite and is endemic in Zambia; but experience has found that the worst time of the year for malaria is generally from mid February to the end of June. The incidence of malaria diminishes as the season gets drier and cooler, but there is still a risk even at the end of the dry season before the new rains. The best precautions are physical barriers in the early evenings and at night (long trousers and sleeves, insect repellents and mosquito nets – which all of our camps are equipped with). You need to watch for the symptoms for several months after your return home - if you develop flu-like symptoms then get a quick and simple blood test without any delay to be on the safe side.
Diarrhoea is a common problem when travelling anywhere in Africa. But the reality is that food preparation and presentation in some of the remotest camps is better than the fare you'll get in many well known hotels in Europe and North America. We would say just be sensible about what you eat and drink and bring suitable medication just in case.
From May to June and October to December the African sun is fierce. There's no need to get extreme with precautions unless you're particularly sensitive to the sun. Be sure to bring a wide brimmed hat, long sleeves, a strong sun barrier cream/spray that suits your skin type and wear sunglasses.
Even though our camps are remote, we are reasonably well geared to handle minor mishaps, with many of our staff trained first aiders. For illnesses and minor emergencies the safari operators in the Luangwa sponsor a Western doctor to be available in Mfuwe who should be available to offer medical advice (for a small fee). In the event of a serious accident, Johannesburg in South Africa is the only real option for immediate high care evacuation - ensure that you have adequate medical insurance.
The Bushcamp Company does NOT dispense medical advice, but we have provided you with some useful information and links below.
You are strongly advised NOT to leave home without adequate insurance cover. Travel insurance is your responsibility and you MUST have it. Medical Insurance is a pre-requisite for any safari, please remember that all safari activities are potentially hazardous.
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Below is a collection of useful documents and other media for download. This section of The Bushcamp Company website is updated from time to time, so please check back for any updates.
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