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The Luangwa ... Zambia

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The Luangwa River, one of the Zambezi's biggest tributaries flows south through a deep valley of fertile grasslands, woodlands and riverine forests. The Luangwa Valley itself is the southern extension of the Great Rift Valley that stretches from North Africa down to the Zambezi River.

The Luangwa Valley has a long history of game protection despite which horrendous decimation of its great herds occurred in the mid-70's and 80's following independence. The valley has recovered steadily over the last decade thanks to subsequent government intervention and the work of amongst others, organisations such as Save the Rhino Trust and the Luangwa Independent Rural Development Project.

Safari operators in the valley since the 1960's and particulary over the last few years are largely responsible for the ongoing conservation efforts and positive results seen today.

The valley contains 4 designated conservation areas including the South and North Luangwa National Parks, the Luambe and Lukusuzi National Parks. The latter two parks have no safari facilities and the state of their game populations remains uncertain with poaching an ever-present reality.

The Luangwa is essentially a dry-season safari destination. As all of the camps are small and relatively exclusive, advance bookings are essential.

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South Luangwa National Park

Unquestionably Zambia's most famous wildlife sanctuary, the South Luangwa covers a vast 9050 square kilometres and is dominated by a flood plain and savannah that extends from the Luangwa River to the Muchinga escarpment rising over 800 metres from the valley floor in the west. The annual rains fill the valley's sandy rivers and feed the Luangwa which becomes a raging torrent in its journey down to the Zambezi - this annual flooding replenishes the Luangwa's game carrying capacity as it fills the low-lying plains and spawns new ox-bow lakes. The green season (November to April) although practically off limits at that time is when large herds of elephant congregate.

Norman Carr, perhaps Zambia's greatest conservationist, active in the South Luangwa for over 50 years, was responsible for what we now know as the modern walking safari. A safari activity that ranges from casual nature walks in the vicinity of camp to full-blown portered trails. The South Luangwa is unquestionably one of the best locations in Africa to experience a walking safari.

The park itself although not having a massive diversity of game is renowned for its leopards (particularly in the Mfuwe area) and other predators and holds strong populations of buffalo and antelope. The Luangwa has important populations of Thornicroft's giraffe and Cookson's wildebeest. Birdlife is excellent in the Luangwa with over 400 species having been recorded.

Most of Zambia's best safari operators are found in the Luangwa, all in the east of the park in close proximity to the river itself. Permanent safari lodges are the main bases for safari activities but there are a number of excellent seasonal bush camps in the remoter areas that should be considered by more serious and active safari-goers. Portered trails, reminiscent of the old pioneering ways are available - a very special safari option.

North Luangwa National Park

The North Luangwa, about half the size of its southern counterpart is an undeveloped and entry-restricted gem in the African bush. If you're looking for exclusivity and remoteness, then you'll find few places in Africa to compare!

Similar in terms of game and vegetation to the South Luangwa, this wilderness area is renowned for its buffalo herds and attendant lions. Mark and Delia Owens brought the North Luangwa to public attention through their book "The Eye of the Elephant" (also available under the title "Survivor's Song"). The Park remains totally off-limits to the public as it has for nearly 4 decades, only two operators have access to this pristine wildlife area - speak to us about Mwaleshi!

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