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

A 10 day trip to Zambia 
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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 walking safari combines walking with luxurious camps for the ultimate feeling of Africa.

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General Information

Photos
Chobe National Park
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

South Luangwa National Park, Luangwa River, Kapamba River

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

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: accommodation at Mfuwe Lodge, transfer, safari, dinner

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: accommodation at Kuyenda Camp, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

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: accommodation at Chamilandu Camp, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

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: accommodation at Chindeni Camp, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

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: accommodation at Bilimungwe Camp, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner 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: accommodation at Kapamba Camp, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

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: accommodation at Zungulila Camp, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 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: accommodation at Zungulila Camp, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

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: airstrip transfer, breakfast

Price

Price 

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