The Luangwa Valley has one of the highest concentrations of game in Africa, making it a fantastic destination for a safari. The lush riverine vegetation is interspersed with fertile grazing lawns and numerous ox-bow lagoons close to the river itself.
Large pods of hippos occupy many stretches of the river particularly within the Park itself, there are estimated to be at least 50 - 100 hippos per kilometre in the most heavily populated stretches. South Luangwa National Park is one of the best places in Africa to see leopard, they are usually a secretive animal but in the Luangwa their habits have changed somewhat as a result of the density of their population and whist there’s no guarantee – guests staying longer than 2 or 3 days would be extremely unlucky not to see leopard.
Prides of up to 30 lions are common throughout the Valley and the areas around our various bush camps are particularly good for lion. Hyenas are fairly common and their eerie cry, so characteristic of the African bush, can be heard on most nights and often late at night when you’re lying in bed ready for sleep.
Other carnivores that may be seen on your wildlife safari in Zambia's Luangwa Valley are; caracal, serval and side striped jackal. The wild dog population in the Luangwa is worthy of note as this has been steadily increasing over recent years and sightings of this endangered creature are now quite common.
Baboons and vervet monkeys are the most prolific primates but the nocturnal bush-baby and night apes are also seen.
The Luangwa River also has an extraordinarily high number of crocodiles. It is not uncommon to see several basking on the riverbanks and sandbanks.
Night drives are a fascinating treat on any safari but particularly so in the Luangwa Valley. Not only is this the time that you are most likely to see the predators hunting but there are a whole host of animals to be seen which are normally not active during daylight hours. Genets, civets and mongoose are all common whilst the porcupines and honey-badgers are always very entertaining.
Birdwatching is superb in the Luangwa Valley, with over 400 of Zambia's 732 species of birds occurring here. There are 39 species of raptor and 47 migrant species, so there is plenty for any birdwatcher to spot throughout the year. Whatever the main emphasis of your safari you can’t fail to be impressed by the birds with their ridiculously bright colours and intricate songs.
Near the end of the dry season, when the river and oxbow lagoons begin to recede, hundreds of waterbirds can be seen wading through the shallows. The red faced yellow billed storks move with their beaks open underwater, disturbing the muddy water with their feet until the fish stray into their mouths. The pelicans tend to operate in lines abreast, driving the fish before them into shallows before scooping them up into their beak pouches. The striking 1.6m saddle bill stork makes quick darting movements into the water. Then there's the marabou stork, great white egrets, black headed herons, open billed storks and the stately goliath heron. Amongst the most beautiful are the elegant crowned cranes, with their golden tufts congregating in large flocks at the salt pans and haunting “owani” calls.
Around the same time, just before the rains set in, in November, the palearctic migrants from Northern Europe and the intra-African migrants arrive to exploit the feeding opportunities the warm rainy season brings. These include numerous species of cuckoo, many of which are quite vociferous, white storks and European swallows, as well as swifts, hobbies and bee-eaters. Birds of prey such as the Steppe eagles and Steppe buzzards also migrate all the way from Russia.
Birdsong is an ever-present aspect of any safari and it may take some getting used to. An early caller is the ground hornbill, looking like a well-dressed turkey, but emitting the sound of a deep base drum. Then there is the melodious Heuglin's robin, or the shrill cry of the fish eagle and the background cooing of doves and larks which accompany any safari in Zambia.
Below you will find a list of birds that may be seen on a visit to the Luangwa Valley. This list is by no means comprehensive as there are over 470 species recorded in the Valley but it will give you an idea of some of the common and also some of the more interesting birds.