Africa’s Ultimate Walking Safari: South & North Luangwa

A 11 day trip to Zambia 
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Zambia is Africa’s premier walking safari destination, and this handcrafted 11-day safari combines two exceptionally unique experiences. Relish the thrills of a one-way adventure through South Luangwa, with mobile camps along the game-rich Mupamadzi River. Then settle into the staggering ambiance of North Luangwa with four days of customized walks from one of the continent’s most remote luxury camps. Expect limitless adventure, unrivaled authenticity, and absolute wilderness.

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General Information

Photos
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

South Luangwa National Park, Mupamadzi River, Luangwa River, Mwaleshi, North Luangwa National Park

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: South Luangwa (Nkwali Camp) – Opening Game Drive and Introduction to the Wild

The journey to Nkwali Camp provides an indication of just how remote and wild the walk is going to be. Fly into Mfuwe International Airport then drive through local villages and vivid bushland to the Luangwa River, where your luxury room commands inspiring views over South Luangwa National Park. Check in for lunch and gaze over the escarpment, admiring the twists of the Great Rift Valley. Then explore the surrounding area on an afternoon game drive, an easy introduction to the safari experience and a chance to garner first impressions of South Luangwa’s wildlife. You’ll continue after dark, an introduction to the kind of mystical intimacy that a Zambian safari is all about. Spend the night listening to the soundtrack, from exotic birds to flamboyant hyenas and the grazers that come up to the canvas. You’re already deep within big-game country, and nothing breaks the enchantment.

What’s Included: accommodation at Nkwali Camp, airport transfer, safari, dinner

Day 2: South Luangwa (Mobile Camp) – The Wilderness Walking Adventure Begins

Before starting the walking safari, you drive another 60 miles deeper into South Luangwa National Park, bumping and twisting around the bush, passing beneath the sausage trees and rolling up to the Mupamadzi River. It’s a game drive the whole way, the guides stopping when they sense leopards and wildlife hiding in the trees. The ride is slow in such a dense landscape, and you won’t arrive at the trailhead until lunchtime. After eating in the shade, you spend the afternoon exploring the riverfront, footsteps taking you along one bank as elephants stand proudly on the other.

Zebras rush past, and you admire the contrasting stripes of this endemic Crawshay’s subspecies. A giraffe stands high above you, barely 20 meters away, munching slowly as you pass. Impala and puku congregate on the plains and with a little patience, you can walk amongst the scattered herds. It’s exhilarating and gets the heart racing, but you quickly learn to appreciate the natural speed of a walking safari. This isn’t a race. It’s immersion in nature, a chance to become part of the landscape. And with slow footsteps, you’ll learn the beautiful clues and magical wonders that make Africa what it is. Loop back to the mobile camp and dine beneath the stars, listening to the animals that rustle in the surrounding bush.

What’s Included: accommodation at a mobile camp, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 3 – 5: South Luangwa (Mobile Camp) – Tracking Africa’s Giants Along the Mupamadzi River

The first steps of the day are usually tentative, especially when zebras are grazing nearby and a herd of buffalo dominates the distance. The morning sun has pierced the horizon. You hear the ground crunch beneath your feet; watch the wisps of dust swirling about your ankles. There are animal tracks and markings on the ground, and with one glance, the guide knows the animal. Not just the species, but its rough age, health, and sex. You have a feel of the spoor and take in the tuition, another little interactive lesson that helps you understand the wilderness. Indentations in trees and bushes provide further clues, as do upturned stones, the obvious prints, and the change in the vegetation’s color.

With a multi-day walking safari, you’ll become an animal tracker, versed in the sights and sounds that dominate the bush. Guides and trackers have grown up here, and they spot all these clues in their periphery, changing direction at a second’s notice. Naturally, it takes you a little more time. But this ability to read the landscape will come, and with it will be a deeper connection with nature and its rhythmic atmosphere. Perhaps it’s an eland. Maybe a baby giraffe. Or it could be the unmistakable dung left by elephants. Either way, taking a look at the spoor is part of your walk and helps to subtly alter the route, bringing you closer to most animals yet keeping you a safe distance from anything that’s dangerous. It may sound unbelievable, but even tracking lions plays a part in these multi-day walks.

You keep walking, covering around six to seven miles per day. Most of the walking is done in the morning, the cooler hours making for easier progress. A team of scouts moves ahead of you, taking the camp with them and erecting it in time for your late-morning arrival. Enjoy lunch, take a siesta in the shade, and then spend the afternoon exploring the surrounding area. Note that the afternoon walks are very much optional and flexible, so they can be tailored dependent on how your body feels. Often you’ll head out to a natural concealment and spend an hour or two watching the world go by. Or the guides will be excited by the presence of a particular animal and aim to get you close.

The mobile camp is simple but comfortable. You have a spacious walk-in tent, a fold out bed raised above the ground, hot water facilities and a long-drop toilet with a Western toilet seat. Although they’re mobile, the camps are erected in the same places throughout the year, so some basic amenities have been dug. Throughout the evenings, you sit around the campfire and dine amongst this remote and remarkable landscape. Nature sings you a lullaby, and the ambiance is quite magical, just you and the local guides camped along the river, many miles from anything artificial.

Wake up, and the adventure continues. A one-way multi-day walk is like the journeys of old, traveling through a mysterious realm and appreciating the many facets of the bush. Buffalo herds cover the trail, and you wait for them to pass. The trackers’ machetes hack a path into the trees. Prints suggest hyenas are nearby and you hear them through the night. This habitat is completely unused to people, and the wildlife reacts naturally, inspecting you as they would inspect every other mammal. Without the noise of the vehicle, you’ll be able to get much closer, especially when you master the art of moving silently through the bushland. Continue the walk along the Mupamadzi River for three days, and you’ll have ventured where very few foreign feet have even been.

What’s Included: accommodation at mobile camps, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 6: South Luangwa (Tena Tena Camp) – Boat Safari and Game Drives to the Luangwa River

Perhaps it’s only on the journey away from the river that you can appreciate the isolation of your walk. After breakfast, it’s a four to five-hour game drive to the Luangwa River, then a boat safari to the opposite bank, and another 30 minutes in a vehicle until you reach Tena Tena Camp. This is the first permanent manmade structure you’ve seen for four days, and its modern luxury is a place to rest the legs and rejuvenate the body. There’s nothing planned for the rest of the afternoon, and the focus is on helping your body recover after being so deep in the bush. Dine beneath a mammoth mahogany tree then take an evening game drive should you wish for some more excitement.

What’s Included: accommodation at Tena Tena Camp, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 7: North Luangwa (Mwaleshi) – A Limitless Wilderness Untouched by Vehicles

After a transfer back to Mfuwe Airport, you fly 45 minutes north to Mwaleshi, an unmistakable wilderness in the northern sector of North Luangwa National Park. There are virtually no roads here, just a couple of very rough tracks that bring visitors to Mwaleshi Camp. The only way to get around is on foot, and that’s the mesmerizing appeal of North Luangwa. The wildlife is similar to South Luangwa, including a healthy population of leopards and three endemic subspecies that are high on the list of safari aficionados: Crawshay’s zebra, Cookson’s wildebeest, and Thornicroft’s giraffe.

The walking experience in Mwaleshi is unique. Mwaleshi Camp provides a luxurious base and is one of Africa’s most remote five-star camps. With just eight guests at any one time, the sense of privacy and exclusivity is almost absolute. Vehicles aren’t permitted here, and a local guide will inform you of all the different walking options. There are trails that last two hours, large unexplored areas packed with surprise, full-day loops, and narrow one-way tracks that lead you through the bush to a hidden trail where you can return to the camp by vehicle. This flexibility over a walking safari enables the next four days to be carefully crafted to your fitness levels, interests, and mood. Note that the trails you take are not made by man. Wherever you go, you’ll be following the routes created by the landscape’s four-legged residents.

What’s Included: accommodation at Mwaleshi Camp, airport transfer, domestic flight, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 8 – 10: North Luangwa (Mwaleshi) – Tailored Walking Safari From a Luxurious Base in the Mwaleshi Sector

Which way to go? Perhaps on the trail of a lion pride, keeping a very safe distance as goosebumps roll up your arm and you discover the intricacies of coexisting with the apex predator. Maybe through open woodlands, following a herd of elephants to the water. It could be crossing open savannah and tuning your senses into its variations. Or it could be walking to an elevated viewpoint and savoring the solitude. You don’t need a beach for an escape. There’s nothing artificial for hundreds of miles when you’re exploring North Luangwa, and you’ll soon come to identify the sensual wonders that only reveal themselves when you travel slowly.

Although many people go on a short walking safari, the advantage of a multi-day walk is this opportunity to become more deeply immersed in the environment. Even after nine days of walking, you’ll probably want to keep going and stay fully tuned into everything that makes Zambia such a special safari destination. By now, you’ll really understand the behavior of the animals, not merely have a photograph of them. Spot an elephant and immediately see that it’s a young bull that should be given a very respectful wide berth. Yet see a particular elephant herd, and you can sense their relaxed demeanor. So you find a patient place to wait and watch them cross in front of you.

Sometimes you spend the day following a particular herd, perhaps impala or Cookson’s wildebeest. Tiptoeing to the clues, you admire the large alpha male impala, how he stands proudly and defends his harem against a predatory threat. When baboons shout, and birds call, you watch the impala herd grow skittish, aware of danger yet unable to sense where it’s coming from. Trackers keep guard on your behalf, and you depart the scene, finding an open clearing from where it’s possible to watch the herd from afar. The legs and feet may be getting tired, but Mwaleshi Camp gently reenergizes, the contemporary features helping you stay out in the bush for a longer amount of time. After a day exploring, there’s nothing quite like a salubrious hot outdoor shower before sundowners on the verandah and an exquisite dinner under the stars.

What’s Included: accommodation at Mwaleshi Camp, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 11: North Luangwa – Departure

Drive back to the North Luangwa Airstrip, passing hundreds of animals, waving farewell to the wild on a relaxed game drive. The flight back to Lusaka is a relaxed aerial journey providing some stunning views over the two national parks and central Zambia. A representative then greets you at Lusaka Airport and assists in the transfer to your international departure.

What’s Included: airport transfer, domestic flight, breakfast

Price

Price 

Your custom trip package will include accommodations, transportation within the country, guided tours and activities, unique experiences, trip planning, and 24X7 support during your trip. 

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