Luangwa Valley

Leopard lazing in a tree at night, South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
Leopard lazing in a tree at night, South Luangwa National Park, Zambia


LOCATION The Luangwa Valley is in eastern Zambia, close to the border with Malawi. The gateway town of Mfuwe is about 310 miles (500 km) northeast of the capital, Lusaka AREA 5,290 sq miles (13,700 sq km)

KEY WILDLIFE Leopards, Thornicroft’s giraffes, hippos, elephants, puku antelopes

Africa at its most primal, this southern extension of the Great Rift Valley, named after the Luangwa River, is rendered inaccessible by flooding for several months each year. Its spectacular concentrations of buffalos, hippos, zebras, and elephants, and some 14 antelope species, are protected in two national parks, South and North Luangwa. The larger and more developed southerly park is notable for night drives, which repeatedly strike gold when it comes to leopards, genets, civets, and other nocturnal creatures.

North Luangwa, though not accessible on a budget, is one of Africa’s greatest wilderness areas, studded with a few small camps that specialize in walking safaris.


Getting There Fly in to Mfuwe, where you will be met by someone from your lodge, or the operator running your safari.

When to Go The dry southern winter (May–Sep) is best for game viewing and also the most comfortable time of year temperature-wise. The parks usually close in the southern summer due to flooding.

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