Going on safari in South Luangwa
Preparing for a South Luangwa safari will generate much anticipation and great fun, but it will also generate a couple of questions.
No worries: we’ll try to provide you with as many answers as possible. If this is your first trip to Africa, cherish this season of planning and expectation; the first time you set foot on African soil is unforgettable. But admittedly, the concept of a ‘safari’ might feel somewhat intangible right now.
Below are recommendations when it comes to clothing, tools and safety. Please do not hesitate to contact us for further information. Remember: what you pack also depends on how you are traveling, with who, and where you are going. If you are flying in for a short stay (no more than ten days), don’t to pack too much. Laundry facilities are often included in the camps and your staff will quickly take care of your clothing.
Do note that smaller chartered planes limit carry-on baggage to 10 to 12 kilo, packed in a soft bag.
You don’t have to prepare for a shopping-binge when you go on a safari. Just leave your brightly coloured outfits at home and pack light. Here are some tips shared by seasoned Africa travelers.
- Bring some light fabrics and loose-fit clothing that dries quickly, in tranquil colours;
- Bring a warm sweater (or jacket) and scarf. Temperatures plummet in mornings and evenings; warm clothes during a game drive are a necessity;
- Shorts for men and women are fine in the bush, but longer trousers are socially acceptable in rural villages;
- You may dress casually in safari camps;
- A squashable hat and sunglasses with good UV protection are essential;
- Leave all your camouflage or military themed clothes at home: in Africa this is not considered appropriate and the police might actually question you;
- Wear lightweight footwear with ankle support if possible. Make sure the shoes feel comfortable and that you can walk in them for an extended period;
- Bring a few pair of thin socks, rather than one pair of thick socks in your shoes. A few layers of thin socks is often more comfortable.
Useful tools for a South Luangwa safari
Although camps in South Luangwa usually make sure all your needs are met, bringing some of your own tools can be fun and useful. Here are a few items we always grab before we go:
- Binoculars (to view animals from your private deck at any time and anywhere else);
- Camera (of course!) and a telephoto lens, if you have one;
- An inexpensive, waterproof watch (leave expensive jewelry at home);
- Sunblock and lipsalve;
- A small pocket torch;
- Insect repellent;
- Camps often provide water bottles, but you can bring one yourself, too;
- Adaptor (three pin square British style plug is used in Zambia).
What to expect in South Luangwa National Park
With the twisting curves of the substantial Luangwa River flowing through this east part of Africa, it is no surprise that some of the best wildlife viewing on your Zambia safari will take place near and along the river itself. Boat trips are a great way to be ‘wowed’ by the greatness of Luangwa River, so considering choosing a lodge that offers this special treat as part of your safari trip./p>
All of the guides and rangers working in the lodges are extremely skilled, experienced, and professional. Most of them were born and raised in the area and have been working in guiding service for decades. Not only do they know how to track big game (it often seems like they have an extra pair of eyes and ears for animal sounds and other clues), but they also have a great eye for detail. Of course it is thrilling to see a lion on the kill, or hundreds of buffaloes crossing, but it is a natural environment with shifting populations; one day you’ll see more than the other. To get the most out of the safari experience, we encourage you to go on a guided safari walk. A skilled guide can teach you much more about the environment by pointing out smaller animals, birds, and plants – you’ll be surprised to hear about all the often-overlooked secrets of the bush. This way you will see a greater variety of species from an entirely different perspective. Each step will bring you closer to understanding how precious areas like this are, and why we should protect them.
What does a safari day in South Luangwa look like?
You probably already have some daydreamy images in your mind of what your trip will be like, and you will soon realise that a safari in Zambia will actually meet many of these expectations, and even surprise you in ways you haven’t even imagined yet! But what does a safari day typically look like? Although options vary a bit from camp to camp, most lodges follow the rhythm of the wildlife. That means rising early with the sun, enjoying a long siesta between brunch and high-tea, and then venturing out again in the afternoon until sunset. Don’t worry, if you are not a morning person then the sound of hundreds of eager birds in the morning will likely turn you into one, at least for the time you spend in this magical place. Or you can select a lodge where late morning drives are also offered, and stick to a schedule a bit closer to what you’re used to.
A typical day in South Luangwa National Park
05.30 hours: the gentle wake up call of a soft knock and animal sounds, 06.30 hours: after fresh coffee or hot tea and a morning snack (often yummy homemade pastries), the morning safari activity starts (this is typically a game drive or walking safari) 09.30 hours: extensive breakfast. 10.00 hours - 15.00 hours: time to relax and explore camp, watch the game from your own deck or the communal camp areas, and then have lunch. Some lodges offer guided walking tours after lunch. 15.00 hours: enjoy high-tea with more indulgent treats to choose from 16.00 hours: leave for your second safari activity (an evening game drive, or perhaps a boat trip). 19.00 hours: return to the lodge for refreshing sundowners and a sumptuous dinner. 21.00 hours: coffee, drinks, and leisure time with fellow travelers. Sometimes camp owners or hosts will join camp at this time and share exciting safari stories. 22.00 hours: time to rest your head full of amazing memories... sleep well!
South Luangwa’s bush cuisine & drinks
Attention foodies and gourmets: prepare yourself for some taste bud treats. Your ‘problem’ will probably be trying not to eat too much, since delicious food will be offered during breakfast, brunch, lunch, high-tea, sundowner-time (what is a good cocktail worth without some great snacks?) and dinner. Most chefs will serve a combination of Western cuisine and Zambian traditional food, made with fresh, local ingredients. If you have a chance, definitely try the traditional Zambian food called nshima. A rich porridge made from ground maize, it’s often served with spicy relish or chicken. Most lodges will serve it on request and it can be very rewarding after an exhilarating safari-morning or afternoon.
Zambia bush cuisine
All meals, as well as coffee and tea and and (often) local brand drinks, are included in the price. For many travellers, food is a highlight of the safari day. (That is, of course, after spotting wildlife.) Safari activities make for hungry bellies, and you won’t be anything but pampered when it comes to food. But the best part can’t be put into a delicious crème brulee or an awarded South African wine: it is dining under that incredible dark sky perforated with millions of stars – almost like you can pick them and have a true, five-star dining experience.
If you have any dietary requirements, please inform your lodge accordingly; the chefs are more than happy to oblige. Arriving late? Please call the lodge ahead, so they can prepare a late night dinner for you.
Photography: frame your South Luangwa safari memories
An elephant shrouded in the soft multicolored light of sunset, the dynamic Luangwa River in the foreground. A close-up of a yawning hippo’s wide profile, rising out of a still lagoon. A lion family resting after the feast of a fresh kill, their paws and faces stained a vibrant red. You get the picture: South Luangwa is a true paradise for even the most novice photographer. To make sure you bring home the best results, here a few photo-friendly recommendations. Also, many guides are more than happy to help you get that perfect shot.
The best results are achieved by using a (digital) SLR camera with one or more lenses. Consider a telephoto lens for capturing amazing detail and texture. For photography of wild animals, a lens with a minimum range of 200mm is crucial, preferably a 300mm lens. For landscape photography, a wide-angle lens (24mm or less) is recommended. Beautiful portraits can be taken with lenses with a fixed focal length (usually a 50mm lens provides good results) and large aperture. Don't feel like carrying big bags of photo equipment? An 18-200 mm telezoom lens produces beautiful pictures, and pretty much all subjects are within range. Because you will probably drive on unpaved roads, dust can easily migrate onto your camera gear, so protect your equipment with a quality camera bag and lens covers, so they’re in top condition for capturing all the flawless memories.
A few words on safari safety
Going on a safari is extremely thrilling and exciting, but it comes with a few safety issues.
In private game reserves and national parks with big game it is absolutely prohibited to get out of your car, unless accompanied by armed rangers or/and guides.
You will usually arrive at the lodge by 4x4 vehicle, where you will be promptly welcomed by the staff. Once you are in the lodge, listen carefully to the briefing provided by your ranger or accommodation staff. They always know what game is currently roaming in the vicinity of the lodge, and will give you important safety instructions.
Many lodges are not fenced; wildlife can freely enter the premises. For this reason it is not allowed to walk unaccompanied around the lodge after sunset. Would you like to go to the main building, restaurant or bar? Just call the reception and they will send someone to escort you from your room.
If you are traveling with (young) children, make sure they are never out of sight and keep them close at all times. Be aware that most lodges come with certain age restrictions. If they allow children of all ages, you can be confident that the lodge will take care of your family. (And you have a great trip.)