© Elephants at Luangwa Safari House
If you truly love the concept of a superb safari away from the crowds, then wild and unspoiled North Luangwa National Park in Zambia is the place for you. It's the connoisseur's choice for a remote African adventure.
North Luangwa National Park is extremely remote and can only be reached on a fly-in safari or with a skilled guide experienced in bush driving. The quickest way to get to North Luangwa is on a 45 minute charter flight from South Luangwa National Park (Mfuwe Airstrip). There are only a few roads and tracks in the park. Access is strictly controlled and selected operators may conduct safaris here. The camps are open between June and November.
There are 2 airstrips that service North Luangwa National Park, in most cases visitors are flown in from Mfuwe Airport in South Luangwa National Park or from Lusaka to one of these airstrips.
Wild and undeveloped, North Luangwa covers about 5 000 square km (1 931 square miles) and is located above South Luangwa National Park in the north east section of Zambia. This park is closed to the general public and only a few operators have been granted permission to conduct safari activities and set up seasonal camps. The park is bordered by the Luangwa River and the Muchinga Escarpment and the beautiful Mwaleshi River runs through the centre. North Luangwa is not accessible in the wet season.
There are different sectors within North Luangwa and some areas are strictly controlled from an activity or wildlife point of view, one such area is set aside for a Rhino Conservation Project. Scientific research has been conducted in the park and you can read up on this in the book "The Eye of the Elephant" by the renowned authors Delia and Mark Owens of "Cry of the Kalahari" fame.
North Luangwa National Park is for the safari connoisseur. It is one of the finest destinations for an authentic walking safari. The park offers a truly remote setting and you are unlikely to bump into another visitor. Every wildlife encounter will be a thrilling experience as you will be on foot with your highly trained guides in an untouched wilderness.
Tracking game through the bush is the main highlight, but it is not for the impatient traveller. Time is spent moving through the bush, reading the signs left by passing wildlife and following the trails. It's a waiting game and intensely fascinating. Anything could happen. It is an unpredictable adventure and the chances of encountering Lion are good. The park is remote and not easy to get to, but once you are in it and able to see the game, all your travel weariness and city worries will simply disappear in a flash. You will be immersed in a very different world that is far removed from your own.
North Luangwa is a model for conservation projects and has certain areas set aside for this. The park is especially suitable for walking safaris due to limited development. Walking safaris are led by highly trained Zambian guides and an armed Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) scout always accompanies the group. Certain camps also offer guided game drives, night drives and outings to scenic attractions such as Mwaleshi and Chipopma Falls.
The dry season includes the months from June to early November when the camps are open for guests. Game viewing is at its peak during this period because the vegetation dies back and the animals are easier to see. Also inland water resources dry up so the animals congregate around waterholes and along rivers.
This is the only time to go on safari in North Luangwa as the park is inaccessible once the rains have set in. June and July are the coolest months (winter), the days are sunny but the nights and early mornings are cold with a drop of about 10 degrees, the average daily temperature is 22 degrees C / 71 degrees F. October is the hottest month just before the rains and the humidity set in and the average daily temperature is 33 degrees C / 91 degrees F or higher.
North Luangwa is for the wild at heart - those who love being deep in the wilderness. The camps offer a high quality experience but you won't find plunge pools and opulence. Instead you will enjoy a personalised and intimate safari experience where the emphasis is on the wildlife.
This is walking safari country and you should be prepared for in-depth guided adventures where you could be out for 4 to 5 hours and in some cases all day. There will be rest stops and refreshments served but you will be in the thick of things following in the footsteps of animals on your daily walks. Some camps also offer game drives and night drives, which are wonderful for spotting animals that hunt at night.
To get the most out of your walking safari you will benefit from a minimum stay of 3 nights. The camps are exclusive in that there are usually just 6 guests staying at a time. Wildlife in the park includes Lion, Elephant, Buffalo, Leopard and Hyena, Wild dog, Hippo, Rhino, Giraffe as well as 2 special species Cookson's Wildebeest and Crawshay's Zebra. Birdlife is excellent with African Finfoot, Narina Trogon and White Winged Starling being some of the specialities.
There are only a few camps in the park and they operate on a pre-booked basis between June and November. The camps are located alongside the Mwaleshi or Luangwa Rivers and offer an intimate, high quality experience without frills.
What You Need to Know
You will need to get good advice about any required vaccinations and a suitable malaria prophylactic particularly if you are travelling to other safari zones. You can prevent being bitten by mosquitoes by covering up exposed skin (especially wrists and ankles) at dawn and dusk and using repellents.
The days will be sunny and warm getting progressively hotter towards October. Safari activities take place in the very early morning and in the late afternoon when the temperatures are cooler and the animals are active. To avoid dehydration make sure you drink plenty of water, the camps usually provided bottled water.