South Luangwa’s Dynamic Diversity

For my first visit to Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park, I visited a number of camps and portfolios for a wonderful introduction to this storied safari destination. 

The big takeaway for me was that South Luangwa should be on more peoples’ lists, and travelers should consider really exploring the park with a 6-8 night stay visiting a few different areas. For me, I think a wonderful trip would start off in Livingstone/Vic Falls, then continue on to the Luangwa Valley for big game wildlife viewing followed by canoeing and river safaris on the Lower Zambezi, and maybe a nice city finish in Cape Town. 

The good news is that connections into and around Zambia are getting better every year. I flew directly into Lusaka from Dubai, and there are now direct flights from Nairobi to Livingstone to Cape Town, so Zambia can be easily combined with other destinations in East and Southern Africa.

Photos & Report by Jeremy Townsend


Early-November was an exciting time to visit Luangwa, right at the end of the dry season when all the guides and the animals are eagerly awaiting the first rains. I was lucky to visit some of the remote bush camps as most were getting ready to close in preparation for the coming rains, and it was fascinating to see the variety of landscapes and ecosystems at this dynamic time of year.

You can see the evidence of the park’s dramatic seasonal changes everywhere. It seems impossible that the vast sandy river banks, some half a kilometer across and 10 feet high, could fill and overflow during what is known as the Emerald Season in January and February. When the rainwater from the Muchinga Escarpment at the southern end of the Great East African Rift funnels into the Luangwa River and its tributaries, the area becomes a waterworld with boating safaris over what was parched open plains during the dry season of June-October.

With these seasonal fluctuations, the backcountry dries up, and an amazing diversity of wildlife congregates along the river and the oxbow lagoons scattered throughout the park. Over the course of 9 nights, I saw lion and leopard on almost every drive. I saw impressive numbers of zebra, Thornicroft Giraffe, Cookson’s Wildebeest, huge herds of buffalo and families of elephant making their way from the forests to the dry riverbeds and across the plains in search of water or mangos.

I saw 4 packs of wild dogs which was unbelievable, and a very rare sighting of wild pigs, a wide variety of antelope including eland, kudu, reed buck, bush buck, waterbuck and the first of the tiny baby impala and warthogs that arrive with the first rains. The night drives were especially exciting with genets, civets, hyena, lots of different mongoose and porcupines, twice!!!

There’s such an amazing contrast between the cracked dry earth and the busy waterholes. In one area, we watched a lonely hippo and a baby crocodile sharing a shrinking puddle with yellow-billed and saddle-billed storks, a hammerkop, kingfishers, egrets, spoonbills and a fisheagle awaiting its turn on the bank. 

Out near the hot springs in the Nsefu sector, I watched a five-minute boxing match between two Egyptian geese that will go down as one of my most interesting and exciting wildlife sightings as they locked their beaks and traded punches while the rest of the flock cheered them on!

And perhaps the best part was that we weren’t crowded or jostled by multiple vehicles; it seemed like we had the park all to ourselves… The guides are excellent, and they take special care to spread out into the park and give guests a great experience.

There are so many things that make Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park a special destination, but perhaps it’s best feature is that it is relatively unknown to the masses. In terms of wildlife viewing and the quality of camps and guiding, the park offers incredible value while avoiding the crowds that we find in more popular destinations.

I was struck by the intimate size of most of the camps and lodges in the park. Mfuwe Lodge, famous for the elephants who stroll through its lobby during the mango fruiting season, is perceived as being a big lodge, but, with only 18 chalets, it’s still pretty cozy compared to the safari resorts found in some other destinations. 

Once travelers get out to the more remote parts of the park, most camps have only 4-6 units which makes for a truly special and personalized experience. The small camp size has roots in the park being the home of the walking safari, and a lot of the camps still offer morning or even multi-day hikes so you can really immerse yourself in this wild environment. With a wide range of options from top-of-the-line luxury like Chinzombo and the new Puku Ridge Camp to comfy classic lodges like Kapamba and Nsefu to true backcountry adventure camps like Nsolo, there’s something for everyone at every budget. 

We’re so grateful to see Zambia staying true to its wild African character as a leader in conservation and ecotourism with exceptional guides, spectacular wildlife and so many possibilities!!!




Walking Safaris in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe has a well-earned reputation for some of the best guides and most picturesque wildlife and wilderness areas in Africa.

We’re excited to offer creative walking safari packages that let you explore on foot with expert guides between lightweight fly-camps and spectacular camps & lodges.

Mana Pools


Hwange

Hwange Sunset on walking safari

Johnson Family Walking Safari

WALKING in HWANGE with Wilderness Safaris

Lewa Walking Wild

Lewa Walking Wild Fly Camping
Walking Wild is a camel safari outfit based out of Lewa Wilderness. This venture offers guests the unique opportunity to explore by foot the remote valleys, hills and plains of both Lewa and neighboring Maasai community conservation areas. Guests spend the days walking, whilst the camels and Maasai transport the camp, meeting up each evening for unforgettable nights camping out in the bush.

Sleeping tents are dome shade netting tents, PVC floor, 3 meters by 3 meters and 3.5 meters high, insect and reptile proof, with flysheet in case of rain. Bedding is a bedroll on the floor with sheets and blankets. Ablutions are two loos – short drop type and two showers canvas bucket type. This is a walking safari supported by camels, however camels can be ridden when the terrain or route allows.

Laikipia

The patchwork of private conservancies, ranches and farms knit together the Laikipia Plateau, the gateway to Kenya’s little-visited northern territory. Amid spectacular scenery, traditional ways of pastoral life coexist with an abundance of free-roaming wildlife. Laikipia has one of the biggest and most diverse mammal populations in Kenya—only the Masai Mara boasts more game. The big five are present, plus wide-ranging wild dogs; there’s even a chance of seeing the rare aquatic Sitatunga antelope. Laikipia is also home to about 25% of the world’s population of rare Grevy’s zebra and half of Kenya’s black rhino population. This is also the best place to view such northern species as reticulated giraffe, Somali ostrich, Beisa oryx, Jackson’s hartebeest and gerenuk. Numerous impala and Grant’s gazelle ensure healthy predator populations of lion, leopard and cheetah.

What to expect from Laikipia: Seclusion! Rawness! Rarity! The amazing thing about Laikipia is the cooperation between humans that make this wildlife habitat sustainable. The rugged beauty of the semi-arid deserts and escarpments is simply stunning. You will see rare animal species but rare visitors in Laikipia. Keep in mind that the plateau is high, with altitudes from 5,500 feet to 8,500 feet, so bring sweaters and jackets year round.

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy
Set against the backdrop of snow-capped Mount Kenya, the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is a magical place for the ultimate Kenyan safari experience. The diversity of scenery from open plains, rolling hills, valleys, escarpments and rivers brings rich game viewing opportunities while supporting community initiatives and sustainable development. LWC is home to all of the “Big Five” and due to the establishment of a rhino sanctuary and breeding program in 1984, it is one of the only areas where visitors are almost guaranteed to see both the endangered black and white rhino. Through the protection and management of endangered species, the initiation and support of community conservation and development programs, and the education of neighboring areas in the value of wildlife, Lewa has become Kenya’s leading model for wildlife conservation on private land. LWC is leading the way for low-impact conservation tourism resulting in direct benefits for communities across the region.

Guests of the four lodges on the conservancy are welcome to walk with a trained guide, view the terrain and wildlife on horse or camelback or perhaps on a scenic flight. Some of these activities are at extra cost and not all are available at every property.

What to expect from Lewa Wildlife Conservancy: Remoteness! Culture! Rhinos! One big advantage of this conservancy is how few guests visit such an immense area. You will feel like this wilderness is your own private haven. There are many cultural experiences available from the various lodges on the LWC and most guests feel that they are respectful and authentically enriching.

Mike & Sheila’s Serengeti Plains and Virungas Mountains

img_3488Mike & Sheila want to make sure we mention their ages (71 & 72) and these three points:

  1. Good guiding makes all the difference.
  2. A camping safari is a 24-hour experience.
  3. Tracking gorillas shouldn’t be intimidating

For their first safari back in 2011, we focused Mike & Sheila’s itinerary on a mobile camping safari in Botswana. It was a great fit. For this year’s trip we turned to East Africa, splitting their time between northern Tanzania, with camping and walking in the Serengeti, and tracking gorillas in Rwanda.

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Hwange Sunset on walking safari

Walking in Hwange with the Johnson Family

The Johnson Family Shadows

The Johnson Family Shadows

So much of what we do here at Next Adventure is getting to know each client and pairing them with just the right selection of destinations and experiences. The Johnson Family, a group of 7 travelers, was looking for something unique and adventurous, an active safari for the whole family. After considering a lot of options, we crafted a customized tour of Zimbabwe that featured extensive time in Hwange National Park including a 3-day walking safari with specialist guides and platform sleepouts and 2 nights at the luxurious Linkwasha Camp followed by 3 nights on the Zambezi at the spectacular Ruckomechi Camp near Mana Pools.

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