Africa’s Original Luxury Walking Safari: Exploring South Luangwa on Foot

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Total Trip:

10 Days
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Countries Visited:

Zambia
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Places Visited:

South Luangwa National Park, Luangwa River, Kapamba River
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Departure Dates:

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
You see Africa from a safari vehicle. You feel Africa when traveling on foot. South Luangwa is where the multi-day walking safari was born. And it’s where walking remains king. Every sound. Each subtle change in smell. The intangible atmosphere that rises from the ground. The tingling goosebumps. It’s a version of Africa that lives on in your soul, refusing to be captured in a mere photograph or tamed. This unique Zambia

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Day 1

South Luangwa (Mfuwe) – Luxury Lodge Welcome to South Luangwa and Nighttime Drive

The plane touches down at Mfuwe Airport, and you can immediately sense the remote atmosphere of South Luangwa. A valley stretches out beyond the horizon, nothing artificial breaking the panorama. A rugged dirt road is the only sign that people have been here and it leads you beneath a woodland canopy to the Luangwa River, the lifeblood of the national park. Getting from home to South Luangwa will have required a couple of flight changes, so this first day is all about taking it easy. Check into Mfuwe Lodge, a mid-sized luxury lodge on the eastern boundary of the park. If it’s November or December, then you’ll see dozens of elephants in and around the lodge, feasting on fallen wild mango fruit – sometimes they roam through the lodge buildings, a touching scene that epitomizes the intimacy of a South Luangwa safari.

This larger lodge is good for resting and recuperating, as well as satisfying your curiosity with dreamy views over the savannah. Take a siesta and wild sounds keep you company, perhaps the vibrant huff of a buffalo herd or the surreptitious chewing of a small puku herd close to your verandah. Make yourself comfortable and slowly succumb to the atmosphere, particularly noting how notions of time are dictated by the position of the sun rather than a watch. After dark, there’s the opportunity to head out on a nighttime game drive, an activity that further heightens your connection with the wilderness.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Activity

included

Dinner

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Day 2

South Luangwa (Kuyenda) – Redolent Game Drives Around the Luangwa River

Over the next six days, you’ll journey south and west through the park, loosely following the Luangwa River before connecting to its most important tributary, the Kapamba River. Today’s journey is mostly by vehicle, taking you far away from the more visitor-populated areas of the park. However, there will be a couple of opportunities to walk, providing a gentle introduction to what the experience is all about. It’s certainly not a race. You mostly follow ancient animal trails, sticking to the floodplains found on either side of the water. This open habitat provides excellent visibility, allowing you and the guides to keep track of the animals in the surrounding area. This is much safer than walking through dense woodlands where wildlife is harder to see.

Guides and trackers understand the behavior of each of South Luangwa’s residents. You’ll notice that many mammals skip away at the sound and sight of the safari vehicle. See the same animals on foot, and they aren’t as frightened. Most react with curiosity, staring straight back at you and ascertaining if you’re a threat. Run towards a herd of duiker or impala, and they’ll gallop away. But move slowly and silently, patiently getting closer, and the proximity you enjoy is remarkable. You’ll arrive at Kuyenda Camp in the late afternoon and explore its authentic charm, before a leisurely evening watching the drama on the rippling grasses below.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 3

South Luangwa (Chamilandu) – Walking and Driving to Remote South Luangwa

Today there’s more walking and less driving, the guides taking you deeper into the remote southern reaches of South Luangwa. The game drives are an opportunity to follow the big cats, notably the resident lions and leopards. Walking safaris can’t come to close to these dangerous predators, although they will pick up on prints and you may even see these cats from a distance – notably sleepy lions that are resting in the late-morning sun. On the walks, guides and trackers slowly teach you about the clues, like how to recognize a predator’s presence and how to identify animals from their spoor.

The ambiance of the land begins to give you goosebumps as you walk past an array of mammals. Lichtenstein’s hartebeests return your gaze, their red skins glowing in the afternoon sun. Oribi bound past in herds of 20 – 30, picturesque animals with an endearing style. White-tailed mongooses peek from their hiding places while side-striped jackals aren’t afraid to approach you. Arrive at the exclusive Chamilandu Camp in the late afternoon and relax in your elegant stilted treehouse. Wildlife plays in the Luangwa River directly below, offering a relaxed evening where the safari comes to you.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 4

South Luangwa (Chindeni) – The Exhilarating Walking Safari Begins

Dawn breaks and you listen to your own footsteps. Any semblance of a vehicle trail is left behind, and you make your own tracks, crossing the scorched plains around the river. Throughout dry season, animals must stay within reach of water, so not only are the floodplains a safe route, they lead you through the park’s main wildlife corridor. Spotted hyenas scamper about in the distance, and the guides steer you away. However, they have a scent and sound that contributes to this feeling of Africa. Even from 200 meters, the hyenas can give you goosebumps.

Keep walking, marveling at the warthogs that scurry around, including the bossy males who always stand their ground. Pass a herd of buffalo and absorb the guide’s instruction, telling you how harems pose little threat but bachelor herds should be avoided. How can you tell? On a multi-day South Luangwa walking safari, you’ll be able to answer this question before even seeing the buffalo, by distinguishing the sex through feces on the ground. On the afternoon walk, you pass herds of bushbucks, admire the majestic horns of roan antelopes, then follow a herd of elephants towards Chindeni Camp. Return to your beautiful canvas suite and spend the next few hours watching over the lagoon, where elephants bathe, and hippos wallow away the day.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 5

South Luangwa (Bilimungwe) – Onwards Past the Hippos and Elephants

Wave farewell to the camp and continue your journey. Hippos are returning to the river, and there’s a brief pause as you let them pass. Walking safaris must respond to nature, and sometimes you’re held up for 20 minutes like this. Creep closer to a herd of waterbuck, returning the gaze from lucid eyes. Pass a cluster of reedbucks and watch them peacefully graze, seemingly oblivious to your presence. Find klipspringers dancing around the rocks, nimble jumps taking them down towards the river. Impalas and oribis continue to keep you company while the rare Sharpe’s grysbok adds new charm to the journey.

Walking allows you to see some of Africa’s rarer animals, those that are quick to hide when they hear a vehicle. Rock and tree hyraxes aren’t afraid of those approaching on foot. Soon you come to identify dwarf mongoose from bushy-tailed mongoose and Meller’s mongoose. As you become one with the landscape, you uncover the hiding places of porcupines and sun squirrels. Yellow baboons meet you in large troops, and you must keep walking, recognizing that they have the power. Vervet monkeys allow you to walk closer but don’t get too close as they have a mean snarl. Step, step, step, you continue this immersion in the landscape, and it’s commonplace to be walking past elephants, both large herds, and nomadic males.

What's Included:

included

Activity

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 6

South Luangwa (Kapamba) – Immersed in the Untrammeled Bushland

As the walking safari continues, you’ll become fully acclimatized to the rhythm of the land. Most mornings, you leave just after dawn and a light breakfast. Walk for a couple of hours then rest, eating a second light breakfast beneath a towering ebony or mahogany. It’s then a couple more hours of walking to the camp, with guides aiming for you to arrive in the late morning. Stop. Relax. Put your feet up. Soak up the inimitability of the camp and enjoy lunch with a view. Camps like Kapamba are exquisitely integrated with nature, although they do come with various luxurious extras. For example, at Kapamba, you soak in a private plunge pool, while watching elephants swimming in the river below.

All the handpicked camps are authentic bush camps. Yet they all have a permanence that allows for Western luxuries: hot outdoor baths, flowing showers, decadent en-suite bathrooms, spacious living areas, raised private decks for enjoying nature’s theater. In the afternoon, you explore the area around the camp on foot. While the morning is an expedition, the afternoon is more relaxed. It might be finding a lookout point and watching everything unfold for an hour. It could be seeking out resident animals, or animals that are yet to grace your safari. Often these afternoon walks will respond to the atmosphere; tracking a herd of Cookson’s wildebeest, understanding the behavior of endemic Thornicroft’s giraffes, following the spore left by caracal or serval. Then in the evenings, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show: the river gets really active after dusk.

What's Included:

included

Activity

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 7

South Luangwa (Zungulila) – Continuing on Foot Through Big Game Paradise

It’s the last day of the walking expedition, and it’s remarkable how much knowledge you’ve absorbed. You recognize clues immediately, understand their importance, and predict which way the guides will lead you. You know how to react to different animals, whether to approach slowly, keep your distance, or present an air of confidence. You come to realize that the feeling of Africa is pulsing through you. On the first day, you’ll have seen. By the third, you’ll have heard and smelt. By today, you’ll notice every subtle change in the environment. The wilderness becomes your home, and it’s almost impossible to imagine that other world, the one you came from. This safari isn’t just about the animals you see, nor the behavior you witness. It’s about discovering the intangible feeling of Africa and knowing that it will always stay with you.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 8 - 9

South Luangwa (Zungulila) – Walks and Drives in the Remotest Corners of South Luangwa

Walking four to six hours a day can be a challenge, and you’ll probably welcome the very relaxed vibe at Zungulila Camp. Tucked away in the southwest of the park, this is the most remote of South Luangwa’s camps. It’s a classic bush camp, with just three tented suites fitted out with all the necessary comforts. Just open the curtains for views over the Kapamba River, or relax on the raised wooden decks to take in the wildlife. These two days are completely at your leisure, and a private guide will organize activities that suit your mood and energy levels. Walks, game drives, and nighttime drives are all possible. And don’t feel like you’re missing out when spending a morning at the camp. Zungulila is the sort of place that encourages you to take things very slowly.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 10

South Luangwa – Departure From Kapamba Airstrip

You depart from South Luangwa’s remote southern airstrip, Kapamba, a light aircraft taking you north towards Zambia’s international airports and your homebound departure.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast

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Trip Highlights

  • Intimately explore one of Africa’s most untrammeled wildernesses by spending ten days in the southern reaches of South Luangwa National Park
  • Truly immerse yourself in the wild with a 4-day walking expedition around the Luangwa and Kapamba Rivers, savoring the authenticity of being just another mammal on the landscape
  • Combine walks and drives on the other five days of the safari, exploring new angles and uncovering the secrets of this big-game paradise
  • Walk in style by staying at a handpicked selection of unique and luxurious camps, each offering a comforting opulence and staggering views over the water
  • Discover the most remote corners of South Luangwa National Park, many miles from other visitors and far, far away from the noise of safari vehicles
  • Safely encounter many of Africa’s giants on foot, expert guides getting you close to elephants, giraffes, buffalos, hippos, and even the trails left by the big cats
  • Bask in the sense of exploration as the multi-day walks take you through different habitats and landscapes, a one-way journey that hugs the park’s legendary water sources
  • Discover the true feeling of Africa as you immerse each of your senses in an intangible atmosphere that only a multi-day walking safari can provide
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Detailed Description

There are always wonderful sights from a safari vehicle. A buffalo herd protecting their young, an elephant herd wandering by, a dozen zebra drinking at a waterhole. But on a South Luangwa walking safari, you use more than just one sense. You smell the fear and tension of the buffalo, along with the subtle scents of the mahogany trees, the redolent aroma of the river, and the perfumed trail left behind by sable antelopes. The elephant herd becomes an orchestra, the soft crunch of footsteps and swinging trunks accompanied by the baritone of their trumpets. When you approach the zebras, you stand at eye level, a more intimate vantage point for appreciating the interactions within a herd.

With a walking safari, you feel Africa. An elusive atmosphere rises from the scorched savannah, floats through your body, and leaves something behind that can’t be captured in photos. At first, it’s a foreign world, so much going on, so much to take in. But with a multi-day walking safari, you become attuned to this wild world, blending into the rhythm of the wilderness, appreciating all of its nuances. South Luangwa was where Africa’s multi-day walking safari was born. It was this innovative Zambian park that pushed the boundaries and made this unique experience possible. While it’s been replicated in many parks across Africa, South Luangwa remains the king of the walking safari.

This exclusive multi-day walking safari has a new innovative element. Rather than using mobile camps, it takes you on a journey between remote luxury camps, permanent structures that provide all the necessary Western comforts. They are not lodges, but small three or four-suite camps that harmoniously blend into nature. You’ll still be firmly immersed in the wild, with elephants wandering past, giraffes and buffalos rumbling by, and expressive views over the landscapes. Yet if you want to travel more than a couple of days on foot, such luxury is difficult to find elsewhere in Africa.

This 10-day South Luangwa walking safari uses a lodge and seven different camps. Start at a lodge close to the airstrip for a relaxed first day in the wilderness, one that’s concluded with nighttime game drives. The next couple of days combines walking and driving, taking you further south along the Luangwa River. Then, you walk from luxury camp to luxury camp, usually around four hours of walking in the morning, followed by a shorter walk around the camp in the afternoon (this can be swapped for a game drive if you’re feeling tired). The last two nights are then spent at South Luangwa’s most remote camp, where there are flexible options for game drives, nighttime drives, and continuing the walking safari.

This is the land of the giants, but walking is a very safe experience. South Luangwa National Park has been operating walking safaris for longer than any other park on the continent; they’re the pioneers when it comes to safety and unique experiences. Guides know exactly when to keep distance and when to get closer. Using ancestral local knowledge, they track animals and understand animal behavior like few others in Africa. Elephants, buffalos, giraffes, zebras, hippos, baboons, a dozen species of antelopes, perhaps even the scent of one of the cats; while a walking safari isn’t about ticking off animals, spending ten days in South Luangwa provides astonishing moments with a huge wildlife cast. Consider reading some of our travelers' reviews for luxury safari trips to Zambia to gain further inspiration in customizing your own trip. 

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Starting Price

$4495 per person (excluding international flights)

This trip is customizable for your private travel.
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What's Included

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.

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