Friday, May 18, 2012

South Luangwa National Park

After a year and a half of living in Zambia, FINALLY I was able to visit South Luangwa National Park, in the East of Zambia.

I had pretty high expectations for South Luangwa having heard such great things about the park and animal viewing and I can now gladly say that I wasn’t disappointed! I loved, loved, loved this park. Like Kaufe National Park it also felt a little bit wilder than some of the other parks we've been too, but at the same time developed enough that we could have still done self-drive if we had wanted to.

Unfortunately the road to actually get to South Luangwa is not at major tourist site standard and it took us just over 3 hours to travel the 130km from the provincial town of Chipata to the park. On the way we had LOTS of children and adults for that matter, with their hands out indicating they wanted food or money; that was a clear sign of a major tourist attraction ahead! Making it worse was that it was dark by the time we arrived, after we had sworn that we would never drive in the dark.

The road up to South Luangwa NP. It wasn't all as bad as this, but bad enough!
We stayed at Croc Valley Camp who gave us a great price on tented accommodation, including full board and two activities per day. What we paid per person per day is normally what it would cost just for the activities alone, so we felt pretty happy with ourselves!

Our tent at Croc Valley Camp
When we arrived at Croc Valley Camp the power had just gone out, so we sat at a dark camp with no people or cars wondering if we were at the right place. Fortunately we were and after a few minutes some of the staff came out to meet us and help us settle in. The power outage a good reminder that we were still in Zambia.

Beware of wild animals! They weren't kidding!
The camp is set on the Luangwa River and the park is on the opposite side. While the river wasn’t the nicest we’ve seen, the hippos in it were great and I loved just sitting there listening to them. 

Not a nice river but cool hippos
Facilities were basic but nice; food was basic (carb central!) but we never went hungry and couldn’t complain given the price we were paying. And we did have animals in the camp at night, so we had to be escorted every night back to our tent after dinner. Pretty cool!

Croc Valley Camp pool and relaxation
Never seen frogs like these before- Weird!
Entree: Tuna pancakes
Main: Beef stew and rice
Inside, the park was green everywhere! The plants, which normally I don’t really notice, were different than I’d seen in other parks and the smell very fragrant.

Safari ride
South Luangwa landscape at sunset
South Luangwa landscape
Sausage tree :-)
I had been told that South Luangwa has a higher ratio of leopards compared to other parks, so I felt pretty certain they’d I’d get to see my second leopard ever. I’d also heard reports that the elephants in the park were feisty, although they seemed pretty easy going to me and we got quite close to a few of them.

We didn’t do any early game drives in the park (we’re a bit lazy), doing two afternoon/ night drives. But that was all we needed to see not one, but two leopards (yay!), a male lion, elephants (with babies), a ton of hippos, hyena, giraffe and zebra. And this was all in low season!

Mum and baby elephant
Two mums and two babies (one baby is hiding)
Zebra filling up on grass
Beautiful Baobab tree
Mum and baby elephants
Good spotting at night: Male lion on the hunt for dinner
Leopard "hanging out" in a tree at night
How cute are Spotted Hyena?
More great photography from Mike!
South Luangwa is a very pretty park and definitely one of my favourites! Had we been based in Chipata as volunteers, I’m sure that we would have made many trips there despite the condition of the road. 

Loving the animals...

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