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South Luangwa National Park

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Travel Guide Africa Zambia South Luangwa National Park

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Introduction

Zebra

Zebra

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The South Luangwa National Park is 9,050 square kilometres big and is located in the east of Zambia, towards the border with Malawi and is one of the finest parks in Africa with high densities regarding animals, especially around the central river. The park is one of the pioneers regarding walking safaris and nothing beats standing eye to eye with an elephants or lion, of course at a safe distance. There are around 60 different species of mammal, and over 400 species of birds, making it one of the most diversified parks in Africa as well. Access to the park is limited during the rainy season from the end of November until April, sometimes even impossible.

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Opening Hours

The park is open year-round. The peak travel season is May to October. May to August it's still pleasantly cool and dry. September and October are very hot and the humidity is building up, but these are the best months to spot the game as they gather close to the river and watering holes. November to December is hot and humid and January to April is the rainy (or "green") season, some lodges close during this period, other give reduced rates. The rainy season is the best time to go birdwatching. From March to June is the best time to spot the elusive African wild dog.

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Cost

As of September 2016, the basic park fee is US$25 per day for non-Zambians. Extra fees are levied for bringing in your own vehicles ($15 foreign reg or 12,500 ZKch for local). Note: Entry permit is valid for a single calendar day (6:00 - 18:00).

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Getting There

There are two major access points for the park: Mfuwe Gate, near the village of Mfuwe and connected by bridge, and the less used Nyamaluma 50 km to the southwest, where a pontoon ferries vehicles across the river.

Most tour groups will offer either the option to fly into Mfuwe or have a private vehicle pick you up (i.e., from Lusaka, Chipata, Lilongwe, etc.).

Although these options offer the most convenient and comfortable means of getting to the park, they are not the only means of entry, and one can also access Mfuwe by means of public transport through much of the year.

The nearest airport is in Mfuwe, which offers flights to Lusaka and Livingstone, as well as Lilongwe (Malawi). Note that flight schedules are cut down in the green season. The airport is about 30 minutes away by car from the park entrance, and most lodges offer free transfers.

Mfuwe is 123 kilometres by car from Chipata and mostly paved, though road quality varies. It's possible to complete the journey in as little as 2 hours in the dry season in a high clearance vehicle (longer if a public vehicle is being used), but travel is more difficult, occasionally even impossible, in the wet season. Trucks ply the road, but can take more than seven very bumpy hours.

From Chipata, it's 1.5 hours (2-3 hours public transport) to Lilongwe depending on the time it takes to cross the border and 8-10 hours to Lusaka.

There is a rarely used very scenic track from Petauke down the escapement and along the Luangwa northward to Mfuwe, but it's best not attempted unless you're traveling in convoy and can repair any problems that crop up. Expect 8 hours for this unforgettable trip of 180 km.

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Getting Around

Most visitors tour South Luangwa by car, either on safari drives organized by their lodge, or by their own 4WD vehicle. If going on your own, there are plenty of trails but the signposting can be a little haphazard, so pick up a map from the gate.

The Personal Touch Ltd (ben@tptouch.com) tel: +260 978 459965 has well equipped game viewing cars available for the hire to established lodges or individuals needing rental vehicles, transfers or transport in the valley. Beside high quality game viewing vehicles, Personal Touch offers a variety of transport options within the Mfuwe area. For volunteers assisting at various community projects wishing to hire a vehicle, to specific transfer needs to lodges, camps, or even researchers or filmcrews.

It is possible to rent 4WD open top Land Cruiser from a local company in Mfuwe (Hardies Engineering, near airport).

During the dry season the water levels in the Luangwa River are too low to permit travel by boat. In the green season, however, some operators arrange canoe safaris, but trying this on your own is not recommended due to the large number of hippos (which capsize canoes) and crocodiles (which attack capsized canoes) in the river.

Independent travel on foot is not permitted, but you can join a walking safari.

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Eat/Drink

There are no public shops or restaurants in the park itself. Safari lodges usually provide three meals a day.

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Sleep

In the July-September peak season demand often outstrips supply, so book in as far advance as possible. During the green season, however, many lodges close down and those that are still open can offer steep discounts.

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This is version 3. Last edited at 7:30 on May 1, 17 by Utrecht. 5 articles link to this page.

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