Venturing into the African bush without 6,000 lbs of Land Rover wrapped around you feels intimidating. Nevermind the experienced, armed ranger accompanying you, along with a guide that has safely walked hundreds, if not thousands of days through the African wilderness. This is YOU taking your first steps into one of the last truly wild places on earth, and you’re not entirely sure what to expect.
Most people thinking of a safari in Africa imagine the traditional game drive. It’s a fantastic way to get close to wildlife, as travelers get to sit in the comfort and safety of a vehicle and are able to get remarkably close to wild animals without disturbing them. Less known is the walking safari, and it’s a whole different beast.
Those first steps in the bush may be scary, but once you start walking, a new world opens up. Things you never noticed from the height of the vehicle reveal themselves (with a little help from your expert guide) – how a lion ant traps its prey, the Sisyphean efforts of the dung beetle, the tracks of a lion (and how old they are!) – there’s way more going on out here than you ever realized. The walk also takes you back to your ancestors – how to read the signs of the bush…how to track prey (and predators!). As your guide brings you to a safe distance to view a herd of elephants, you’re suddenly cowed by their size – they never looked that big from a vehicle! What else will you discover on foot?
Zambia remains one of Africa’s least known safari destinations, and it is the birthplace of the walking safari. We’ll let you in on a secret…Zambia is one of the most special places to visit on the African continent, and one of our favorite spots in Zambia is South Luangwa National Park! Here’s why…
Game Viewing on Foot: Zambia, and more specifically South Luangwa National Park, is known as the birthplace of the walking safari. Some of Africa’s best walking guides and best on-foot experiences can be had here. From learning about the small things (do you know your ‘little 5?’) to observing big game from a safe distance on foot, a walking safari is an unforgettable experience. We can’t say enough about the contrast between a driving safari (which is still available here!) and a walking safari. To experience both is incredible. BONUS: walking also gives you a chance to work off a few calories from the sumptuous food you’ll enjoy while on safari.
Big Cat Haven: We never tire of seeing big cats, and leopards are the most elusive. Game-rich South Luangwa National Park is consistently named as one of the top five places in Africa to see leopards. In addition to daytime game drives, night drives are available in this remote park, allowing for a better chance of seeing leopards in an active state (rather than dozing during the heat of the day).
Chichele Presidential Lodge…
My first thought upon arriving at Chichele was how improbable it felt to be among such luxury in the Zambian bush. My second thought was how fantastic it was going to be to enjoy that luxury by staying in past Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda’s former private lodge – just wow! We had amazing wildlife sightings along with incredible views and amenities – there was no need to rough it while on safari!
Bird Nerds, Rejoice!: The fertile valley of South Luangwa is a bird-lover’s paradise. Its latitude, rainfall and soil nutrients help to form the incredible ecosystem that is home to an abundance of avian life. 400 out of 740 species of Zambia’s birds have been recorded in and around the park. It also has a high population of raptors, including four species of vulture, various large eagles, smaller goshawks, sparrow hawks, and many owl varieties. Ask us about the best time to visit for birding. TIP: South Luangwa is situated between Southern and East Africa, so keen birders may want to bring along two field guides – one for each region.
A CORNUCOPIA OF CREATURES
It’s All About the Wildlife: South Luangwa has over 60 mammal species, including 3 subspecies that are endemic to the valley – Thornicroft’s Giraffe, Cookson’s Wildebeest and Crawshay’s Zebra. The diverse and highly productive woodland and floodplain supports many herbivores which in turn provides the perfect place for predators to make their home. Predators seen in South Luangwa include lions, caracal, wild dog, serval and side-striped jackals. Also, it is almost impossible to visit the South Luangwa without seeing hippo – population estimates calculate 50 hippos per kilometer of the Luangwa River!
The highlight of our stay at South Luangwa’s Puku Ridge was walking through the Zambian bush with our expert guide while learning more than I ever thought possible, followed closely by knock-my-socks-off nighttime game drives. The camp itself is stunning (I especially loved the outdoor shower!) and the food is fabulous, but it’s the wildlife that will stay with me forever!
Beyond Luangwa: South Luangwa is one of the brightest gems in Zambia’s crown, but there are many others. Just to name a few – Victoria Falls is a must-see wonder that everyone loves, the Lower Zambezi is ripe for adventure, Kafue National Park has a huge and diverse range of antelope species (and predators to feed upon them), and Kasanka National Park is home to the largest mammal migration on earth – ask us what animals form the migration! If you’d like to learn more about a safari in Zambia, contact one of our safari specialists.