South Luangwa Unveiled
1. Loads of Leopard
It is no wonder that Zambia’s South Luangwa is dubbed the Valley of the Leopard with the highest density of Leopard in the world! We were elated that because of the abundance of this beautiful big cat, we were fortunate enough to see and marvel Leopard on each and every one of our 7 consecutive game drives departing from Nkwali Lodge and Nsefu Camp! We saw Leopard lazily perched upon imposing shady Fig Trees’ branches, prowling the banks of the Luangwa River that runs through the National Park and (our favourite) interactions between other animals such as; an unsuspecting elephant and a surprised leopard, hungry vultures waking up wild dogs from their “audacious” siesta and even an egret hanging ten catching a free ride from one end of the Oxbow to the other on his hippo surfboard.
2. Bush Walking Safaris, Baby!
The home and origin of walking safaris, South Luangwa offers a unique and fully immersive walking experiences allowing us to get really up close and personal with the pristine flora and fauna of the park. The overnight walking safari offered by Robin Pope Safaris is done between camps along the banks of the Luangwa River. With hippo chuffing, ground-reverberating lion roars and the cackling of hyenas all serenading you to sleep under a star-studded night sky. All camping (more like glamping!) gear and luggage is transported and set up by the Camps prior to arriving at the campsite, allowing clients to sit back, relax and soak it all in once they reach their campsite.
3. Wings of Wonder
With over 400 bird species within the Park, there is never a shortage of bird life to spot. All the Robin Pope Lodges guests are given a tick off list or logbook to keep track of all the birds they spot during their stay because there are just so many on every game drive. We were fortunate enough to have visited during the yellow-billed stork breeding season where large flocks nest in African Ebony trees along a stream that runs from the Great Salt Pans. We were able to observe and listen to the cacophony of hundreds of chicks impatiently hurrying up their parents to bring back food.
4. Wild Dog – Africa’s Most Endangered Carnivores
We learnt very quickly that South Luangwa National Park is a top wild dog destination when we were able to follow a just over 20 strong pack on a hunt in the late afternoon on our second game drive! The pack used to be huge with over 34 members but has recently split onto 2 smaller packs. We witnessed the dogs conferring and strategizing for the hunt and which they carried out with military precision – it’s no wonder that they have an incredible 75% success rate. On another drive we watched vultures wake up the resting wild dogs to get them started for that evening’s hunt. The matriarch, still lactating to feed her young, stayed behind at the den while the others once again held a meeting and then fanned out along the Nsefu plains in search of their next meal.
5. Epic Endemic Species
Exploring the captivating realm of the South Luangwa National Park, we encounter a tapestry of life that is completely unique to South Luangwa. The Thornicroft Giraffe is a genetically unique subspecies of Giraffe. You can spot the Thornicroft Giraffe by it’s unique pattern and size. The Thornicroft Giraffe does not have a patterned hide below its knees and it is slightly smaller than other giraffe species in Africa.
The strikingly beautiful reddish-brown and contrasting white belly of the lesser- known and endemic Puku makes for a truly picturesque scene against the backdrop of the park’s stunning landscapes. What sets the Puku apart from other antelope species is its remarkable adaptation to the marshy habitats found near the riverbeds. Equipped with remarkable agility and having a keen sense of balance, Pukus are exceptional swimmers, enabling them to traverse waterways with ease. This ability allows them to access fresh grazing lands, ensuring their survival even in the harsh dry season.