South Luangwa truly is the Valley of Leopards

South Luangwa is the valley of leopards, of that there is little doubt.  Having just returned from two weeks in a piece of paradise, it once again reminded me why I love South Luangwa so much.

South Luangwa was initially established in 1904 with British conservationist Norman Carr being extremely influential in setting up the park.  The park was initially set aside mainly for hunting purposes, but with the vision of Norman Carr, South Luangwa was turned into more of a conservation project with tourism the main source of income.

Since the first time I set foot in South Luangwa National Park, it has stolen a piece of my heart and this time was no different.

Our Best of South Luangwa safari sees us spending our first 3 nights at Nsefu Camp, a place filled with history and incredible game viewing. Nsefu Camp is situated within the private Nsefu sector which means you not only have a prime game viewing concession, but you are also away from most of the public areas and self drive vehicles.

There is a sense of going back in time when you're at Nsefu, doing safaris in the old traditional style which starts with a cup of coffee and breakfast around a campfire on the banks of the Luangwa River.  Naturally, leopards are one of the key species that one looks for when visiting South Luangwa, and the Nsefu sector did not disappoint in this regard, with a total of 6 different individuals that we saw during our 3 nights here.

From Nsefu we made our way across the river to Kaingo Camp, another one of my favourite camps in Southern Africa.  Kaingo Camp, meaning Camp of the Leopard in the local Nyanja language is owned by the Shenton family and has over the years provided the highest of standards of guiding and hospitality.

The experience, led by guide and friend Patrick Njobvu was once again out of the top drawer and we were treated to some incredible moments and experiences during our 4 nights at Kaingo.

The dry season in South Luangwa can be a brutal time for a lot of the herbivores, with little to no water or food around.  This does mean that one can get big concentrations of animals around the Luangwa River, which in turn attracts the large predators.  One sighting that stands out from our time at Kaingo and which was definitely the hardest to watch as well was seeing a pride of Lions take advantage of five Buffalo bulls that got stuck in the mud as they went for a drink.

The scene, as I mentioned is as brutal as it comes, made it feel like we were living in a documentary.  It had everything!  There were vultures, crocodiles, the lions, the buffalo struggling in the mud, it was a scene that comes around once in a decade!

Over the next two days the lions parked off at the site, later known as carnage corner, picking off one buffalo at a time, often sharing it with a bunch of crocodiles, with the vultures taking advantage of the left overs from the lions.  It was without a doubt one of the hardest sightings I have ever watched, but it was nature doing what nature does and, as I explained to my guests, this was also giving a break to some of the other herbivores which Lions would usually prefer to target.

The hides at Kaingo also offers something unique and different.  The Carmine Bee Eater hide, best experienced in the mornings, is a great way to test your photographic capabilities with these beautiful birds.  It's a fascinating morning out, trying to capture these birds in flight as they deliver food to the nests.  It is very challenging photographing carmine bee eaters, but when it does come off the rewards outweigh the frustrations.

Our final three nights were spent at Mfuwe Lodge, close to Mfuwe gate.

Although there are more vehicles around the Mfuwe sector, the game viewing yet again did not disappoint.  One of the highlights during our time at Mfuwe was seeing a pack of 23 African wild dogs, the one species that eluded us at the previous two camps.  With numbers plummeting in many parts of Africa it was incredible to see such a big pack do so well.

Mfuwe Lodge, yet again being a little bit bigger than our previous two camps, does offer some more luxuries, most notably having air conditioning in the rooms. Believe me, during October this is absolute heaven and a great way to end the safari. The fact that you are also close to Mfuwe gate means that you do not have to travel too far on the final day when you make your way to Mfuwe airport.

South Luangwa once again just proved why it is such a special destination.  It is a breathtakingly beautiful park, offers amazing game viewing, and still has not gone over the top in luxury like so many other destinations which creates a unique "old school" safari feel.  After all it is not known as the valley of leopards for no reason.

I cannot wait to get back here in 2023 and would encourage you to add this special place onto your bucket list.

Until next time...

Johan 

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