Luangwa Valley, Zambia


Luangwa-shutterstock_223620178The Luangwa River cuts a deep valley through plains, woodland and forests en route down the Zambezi. This massive conservation area contains four national parks, of which the South Luangwa and the ‘North Park’ (or North Luangwa) are renowned for big game and first-class safaris hosted by some of Africa’s top professional guides.

The valley has a long history of wildlife protection and, particularly over the past two decades, safari operators have been largely responsible for the region’s remarkable conservation success. It’s renowned for leopards and other predators and hosts strong populations of elephant, buffalo and antelope. Hippos and crocodiles are plentiful in the lagoons and seasonal pools left after the rains. There are also significant numbers of Thornicroft’s giraffe and Cookson’s wildebeest.

The legendary South Luangwa covers a vast 9050sq km and is dominated by floodplains and savannah that extend from the Luangwa River to the Muchinga Escarpment, rising over 800m from the valley floor in the west. Annual flooding (between January and April) replenishes the area’s game, as rainwater fills the low-lying plains and spawns new ox-bow lakes.

The North Luangwa, about half the size of the southern park, is an undeveloped entry-restricted gem in the African bush. Similar in terms of game and vegetation, this wilderness area is known for its big buffalo herds and attendant lions. The park still remains largely off-limits to the public, as it has for nearly five decades… If you’re looking for exclusivity and remoteness, then you’ll find few places in Africa to compare.

The Valley is essentially a dry-season safari destination. As all of the camps are small and relatively exclusive, advance bookings are recommended in the ‘high season’ (from July to September). However, the ‘green season’ (during the warm rainy period from November to April) is especially good for birding.

This is one of our favourite regions in southern Africa and it’s ideal for safari first-timers and seasoned travellers alike. You’ll find top-notch guides in small camps, abundant wildlife, night drives and especially good walking safaris. Aside from mainstream options in the south, there’s relatively simple access into some more remote areas for specialists.


John and Trish Berry loved travelling around their native Zambezi Valley so much they started Zambezi Safari and Travel. Nearly 21 years later the company prides itself on its specialist knowledge of the region’s national parks. To read their personal advice and to find out more about the Luangwa Valley, click here

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