SOUTH LUANGWA SAFARI CAMPS AND LODGES
Whatever your preference or budget, visitors to South Luangwa National Park are spoiled for choice in terms of accommodation. Most lodges and camps are located along the edges of the Luangwa River, offering spectacular views of the water (and the animals that come there to drink). Some of the best camps include those run by South Luangwa pioneers Robin Pope Safaris ...
and Norman Carr Safaris. The former company has six luxurious accommodation options in or near the park, including magnificent tented camp Tena Tena and private
Luangwa Safari House. While there are a number of excellent lodges and mobile camps available, the most famous of these is
Mfuwe Lodge, which is frequented by curious, habituated elephants who are not above walking through the main lodge’s reception area. Lion are also known to visit on occasion, getting up to all sorts of mischief.
Operated by an amazing safari company, Norman Carr Safaris, Chinzombo is easily the most luxurious safari lodge in Zambia. South Luangwa boasts several world-class safari camps which all offer exciting safari walks and drives with first-class guides. Some also offer excellent mobile and fly-camp options. Almost all the South Luangwa safari camps and lodges lie in natural bush along the Luangwa River or one of its tributaries, with game regularly roaming through camp. Most of the camps recommended by Expert Africa lie away from the main Mfuwe gate, spaced a considerable distance from each other, where it is unusual to see vehicles from other camps during your game drive. Closer to the gate, however, there is more activity and other vehicles are less of a rarity.
In style, the safari camps in the South Luangwa National Park differ widely, from sophisticated safari lodges to the simplest of bush camps. Many, such as
Tafika Camp, Kaingo and Kafunta, with their tiny satellite walking camps, are still owner run; others, such as
Nkwali and Kapani, are operated by companies that retain the strong personal ethic of their founders.
For families or small groups, a safari house might be a good option, while the more adventurous can choose to spend a night or two camping. At the other end of the spectrum, you could even stay in chandeliered splendour at the old presidential lodge. Just ask us about the many options; we know all these camps from first-hand experience!
• Emirates flies every day of the week from Dubai to Lusaka.
• Kenya Airways flies to Lusaka regularly via Nairobi.
• Ethiopian Airways flies to Lusaka regularly via Addis Ababa
... • South African Airways flies daily from Johannesburg to Lusaka (and everyone flies to Johannesburg!!)
• Rwandair – flies regularly from London via Kigali If you are flying through South Africa with kids be sure to check requirements to carry birth certificates of the kids.
The closest airport to South Luangwa National Park is Mfuwe Airport (MFU), a small domestic gateway with connecting flights to Lusaka, Livingstone and Lilongwe. Most visitors fly into Mfuwe, where they are collected by a representative from their lodge or camp for the 30-minute drive to the park itself. All lodges do transfers to and from the airport. Charter planes at seat rate – Executive Air and Nyasa Air Taxis. Mfuwe Airport recently achieved international status and various airlines were looking at scheduled flights from abroad. Proflight Zambia is the only airline flying scheduled domestic flights in Zambia. They fly daily to South Luangwa and Livingstone from Lusaka all year (frequencies increase in high season). Charter planes from outside the country can now fly direct without clearing customs at Lusaka and there are a number of charter companies in Zambia, that can fly to and from Zambia’s top destinations.
One can approach from three directions. The usual route is from Chipata. This is a good road if a little corrugated and the 123km drive takes about two hours to Mfuwe, just outside the Park. If travelling in a robust 4x4 from Lusaka, it is possible to take a short cut from the Great East Road at Petauke, up alongside the Luangwa River to Mfuwe. Only to be attempted well into the dry season. A good overnight stop along the way is at the Luangwa River Bridge at Bridge Camp. It is also possible to get to the park by hire car, or even by public transport. For the latter, take the daily minibus from Chipata city to Mfuwe town and connect with your lodge transfer there. The Northern access is from Mpika on the Great North Road or Lundazi, near Zambia’s eastern border with Malawi. Just below Mpika, there is a road running down the Munyamadzi Corridor between North and South Luangwa Parks. It is passable but is only open between August and October and only in 4WD and preferably with two vehicles as help is a long way away. The mountain pass down the escarpment is quite formidable, very rocky and bumpy but the view over this, the tail end of the Great Rift Valley, is quite spectacular.
Travelling From Lusaka By Road
Take the Great East Road to Chipata. You can get fuel in Petauke and Chipata on the way and also at the Oasis filling station here in Mfuwe. As you arrive in Chipata:
• Turn left to Lundazi/Mfuwe just after the Protea Hotel on your right and before Fast Wheels motor parts (on your right). The sign pointing to the left actually only says LUNDAZI, but this is the road to Mfuwe too.
• If you go into the town of Chipata, then you’ll need to turn back along the Great East Road heading west (back towards Lusaka), then turn right 200m after Fast Wheels. If you reach the Protea Hotel, you have gone too far. The sign again directs you to LUNDAZI at this turn, rather than Mfuwe or the South Luangwa.
• Continue on the tarmac road for around 112 km. After around 112kms, you will reach a T- junction. Turn right onto the tar road opposite the Zesco (electricity) sub-station. If you turn left here you will reach Mfuwe airport where there are banks and a post office.
• Please drive slowly past schools and bicycles. If you see some green branches lying in the road, this either means that there is a vehicle with a breakdown or that there is a funeral in progress. If it is the latter, please go dead slow in first gear (you will notice that even cyclists dismount) until you come to more branches. Proceed on tarmac for approx 25 km and you will pass the Oasis fuel station on your left and a sign for the South Luangwa Conservation Society on your right. Continue straight on, then after a further kilometre or so, you will see our entrance ramp and sign on your LEFT. Please engage a low gear and drive down the ramp very slowly, then follow the road for another 750 m and you will arrive at reception. Be aware that you might meet wildlife on any of the roads, so please drive slowly. Elephant have right of way!
Travelling From Lilongwe by Road
• Take the Mchinji Border road out of Lilongwe. After just over an hour you will reach the border where you can complete exit formalities. You can walk across to the Zambian side of the border, called Mwami, where you will need to complete Zambian entry formalities, including Carbon tax payments and vehicle insurance.
• If you are driving yourselves, there is a new requirement that you get police clearance for your vehicle to prove it is not stolen. To do this, you will need to take your vehicle and vehicle papers to the police headquarters, opposite Ufulu Road, and go to Interpol to get the clearance. It will cost you MK5000.00. It can take at least half an hour for them to give you the clearance, so do leave yourselves plenty of time to do this.
• At the border, you will also need to purchase 3rd party insurance for Zambia and also Carbon Tax on arrival in Zambia. The Carbon Tax along with all other payments in Zambia now have to be made in Zambian Kwacha, but there is a Bureau de Change at most border posts now so you do not have to deal with the moneychangers who are often fraudsters.
• A self-drive safari in Luangwa is not recommended. The landscape is unsurpassable during the rains and it takes an experienced driver and guide to navigate the region.
• Walking safaris are very popular during the open season but it is extremely hot during October and November so heat-sensitive travellers should be aware of this.
• Highly recommend packing safari boots in your bag to protect your feet in the bush.
• It’s not a good idea to drive at night in Zambia due to the high number of cars and bicycles without lights and unfenced wildlife.
• Availability during the open season is hard to come by, so booking in advance is vital. Booking through us rather than directly at the lodges will make the whole process much easier for your dream African safari.
WHEN TO VISIT SOUTH LUANGWA NATIONAL PARK
The best time to visit South Luangwa National Park all depends on what kind of safari you’d like to experience. The changing seasons each come with their own unique wildlife experiences, transforming the terrain into a lush, green wonderland or dry bushveld. South Luangwa National Park is a year-round destination with pros and cons for every season.
Generally, the dry winter months (April to October) are considered the best time for game-viewing, because animals congregate at the river and waterholes and are therefore easier to spot. And it’s not uncommon to see buffalo forming super-herds of 500! Daytime temperatures are cooler and more pleasant for walking safaris; while insects are at a minimum. The cooler mornings up until August make for fantastic morning drives as the big cats are active for longer. You’ll have more opportunities to spot the park’s leopard population and Garlic and Ginger (the park’s famous lions) are easily spotted sleeping the day away with their pride.
The wet season in South Luangwa begins in November and lasts until the end of March. It turns the parched terrain into a lush jungle, and it’s the best time to spot the park’s varied birdlife as thousands of migrant birds return to the park. This season has plenty of benefits for those that don't mind high temperatures and the occasional afternoon downpour. Birdlife is better at this time of year, the park's scenery is breathtakingly green and prices are often cheaper. While the rains aren’t perfect for game viewing, the short grass makes it easier to spot the park’s wildlife. There’s also are plenty of baby animals to see, and you’re more likely to see predators such as lions, hyena or leopard walking along the roads.
Note: Malaria is a risk throughout the year, but especially in summer. Make sure to take precautions to avoid the disease, including taking anti-malaria prophylactics.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
Malaria is a real threat in South Luangwa National Park, and there is a high chance that you’ll get bitten by a mosquito carrying the disease. It’s best to visit your local travel clinic before you arrive and get an anti-malarial prescription for the duration of your stay. I’d also recommend bringing a strong mosquito repellent and covering up as much of your skin as possible from dusk into the evening. If you’re camping, it’s a good idea to bring along a portable mosquito net to minimise your risk even further.
Always check with your accommodation if the water is safe to drink. Some lodges do have their own private boreholes that have drinkable water, but you can buy bottled water from the shops or nearby restaurants.