A South Luangwa Safari

Following on from my blog post on my safari experience, I have pulled together some logistical information for your safari in Zambia. Whether you’re coming from Malawi or flying into Zambia direct it should help you on your way!

A safari, wherever you are, is a not-to-be-missed adventure and so if you do happen to be passing Malawi or Zambia by I can not recommend a visit to South Luangwa National Park enough. Often overlooked in preference of parks in Kenya and South Africa, South Luangwa National Park is, in my opinion is a special park that still retains a true wild feeling, unspoilt by too much tourism so far.

What can you expect to see?

The South Luangwa National Park is a rich and diverse sanctuary of flora and fauna with a high concentration of wildlife living around the Luangwa River and many curves of the Ox-bow lakes.. With over 60 animal species and 400 species of birds you will not be disappointed. Lions, huge numbers of elephants, zebra, hippos, crocs, hyenas, 14 different species of antelope, leopard, buffalo, wild dogs, civets, porcupine, the list goes on. The only ‘Big Five’ member that is sadly missing is the rhino.

safari

Getting there:

– Drive time from Malawi: South Luangwa is a 4 – 6 hour drive from Lilongwe depending on the vehicle you’re driving in and how long the admin at the border takes. I have done it on an impressively vintage bus complete with fan belt screech which was on the slower side of this! But overall the roads are clear in comparison to the M25, the most hectic of traffic usually being the goats who cross back into your path and the cows that saunter across in no hurry whatsoever. If you’re wondering whether to self-drive or take a guide have a look at a blog post I did with more information.

– In Zambia already?: You may want to drive and make your own way there if you’re on a road trip, or you may choose to save time and fly internally, both of which are possible. Zambia tourism has some good advice on routes and which months to avoid driving because of the rains.

The Border:

– Malawi/Zambia border control and visas: At the border you will first need to fill in paperwork to exit Malawi and then enter Zambia. Malawi has recently introduced in a new visa requirement – previously there was no charge to enter. There is now a cost of $75 each time you enter ($150 for multi-entry), and then $50 for entering Zambia. This does unfortunately make it a little on the expensive side if you are combining a Malawi and Zambia holiday but you do get the best of both worlds…safari and lake time!

The car will also need relevant documents to get onto Zambian turf and this involves a bit of paperwork admin too at the border getting various signatures and making various payments. (prices valid as of December 2015)

  • Carbon tax – 50 Zambian Kwacha (ZK)
  • Council tax 20 ZK
  • Car insurance 30 USD

 

 Don’t forget…

Your Driving license – there are a lot of police stops where they’ll ask to see it and you will most probably get a fine if you don’t have it unless you have a particularly good way of words.

Yellow Fever Certificate – Sometimes they check and sometimes they don’t, it’s hard to tell, but better to have it and avoid any potential difficulties at the border. It all really depends what mood they’re in.

Accommodation;

Lodges; there are many options to choose from when it comes to your accommodation. Something for every budget, I have only sampled a couple so far but have also listed a few others that we work closely with, you can also find more information on our South Luangwa Safari’s site

From my experience;

Croc Valley is great. It’s simple but very acceptable accommodation from camping to rooms, to chalets and is situated on the edge of the river which is currently completely dry. I really like the vibe here – it is relaxed and friendly with more than its fair share of mischievous velvet monkeys and baboons. Hold on to your hats….and in fact your breakfast. We also had a visit from a few elephants while here and the architecture of the pool is due to a resident hippo in the past so wildlife is very much on your doorstep.

I hear this is also the most active of bars in the valley so you’ll be sure to find someone to swap your travel and adventure tales with.

 

I was lucky enough to stay a couple of nights at Kafunta Lodge. After initially adopting the view that it was unnecessary to splash-the-cash on more luxurious accommodation, I perhaps take this back. Still rustic in feel with safari charm, Kafunta was pretty special. It retained a relaxed vibe and the setting really gives it the ‘wow’ factor. The bar, dining area and pool overlook the mass of the river bed which was of course dry in October when I visited allowing you to sit and watch the warthogs, impala, elephants and bird life interact; it really is the perfect African Savannah scene. Again the staff, guides and spotters can’t do enough for you and are an extremely friendly bunch! As mentioned previously the elephants had taken up residency here from some mango feeding time. This just adds to the overall magic of the experience. Go on treat yourself!

 Other options;

Budget;

Marula Lodge

Mid range:

Track and TrailWildlife campFlatdogs Camp

Treat yourself:

Lion Camp, Mfuwe Lodge, Tena Tena

Ultimate luxury;

Chinzombo 

a Safari – what to expect:

Before going on safari I didn’t really know what to expect, apart from the obvious. Below is a standard outline of your day to day timings but obviously differs a bit between some lodges. On arrival the lodge gives you a briefing so you know what to expect and what time to set your early wake up call for!

5:30 am – Breakfast time

6- 10:30am – Morning drive with coffee break

11:30am – lunch/brunch

Free time to relax by the pool, read siesta.

3:30pm – tea-time

4 -7:30/8pm – Afternoon/evening drive with sundowners and light snacks

8pm – Dinner

 Malawi – Zambia differences;

Plugs; some of the lodges have UK/Malawi style plugs or areas by the bar with access to these plug sockets. In some places you will see the other style of Zambian plug socket but if you’re heading to the main tourist areas you’ll probably be ok.

Currency; Zambia’s currency is called Kwacha, the same as Malawi however bear in mind they are different. If you’re solely going on safari, you can pay for bar tabs/visas etc with USD but may be useful having a few Zambian Kwacha just in case. There are a lot of guys at the border who will offer to exchange money for you but make sure you check the exchange rate in advance as they will try to get a good deal out of you!

What to pack;

  • Head-torch – a lot of the camps have reduced hours of power, especially in the dry season so a head-torch is extremely useful for navigating your way around the camp and your room at night, after-power-hours.
  • Your camera to keep hold of those memories – there will always be someone else with a bigger lens than yours, no jealousy now!
  • Binoculars – I didn’t have any of these with me but they would have been useful.If your camera has a good enough zoom this also works well as a magnifier.
  • Neutral shades although no one’s going to refuse you onto the drive (not that I have encountered anyway) – neon/bright shades should really be avoided for bext viewing opportunities.
  • Footwear – whatever you feel most comfortable in. If you’re doing a walking safari, sturdier shoes would be needed but I was fine in flip flops!
  • Hat – A lot of the jeeps are covered with a canopy to give a bit of relief from the rising sun and heat so a hat isn’t necessary but probably good to bring just in case.

What are you waiting for, start planning that safari.