• South Luangwa wildlife - elephant
  • Wildlife in South Luangwa - leopard
  • Lion in South Luangwa - wildlife safari
  • Wildlife safari in South Luangwa National Park - hyena
  • Wildlife and birding in South Luangwa National Park in Zambia

Wildlife in South Luangwa National Park

Countless wildlife and bird species can be found in South Luangwa National Park. On this page we summarise the highlights for you.

South Luangwa landscape

If you look at the flora in South Luangwa National Park, you immediately understand why this is such a great place to see a lot of wildlife in a relatively small area. While much of the park is covered with thick bush – which makes game viewing difficult – there is little  permanent water in these areas. So, where does wildlife go? It gathers around the Luangwa River. On the fertile banks of the river, elephant herds and other herbivores feast on juicy green leaves. Rich soil, tall green trees, elephants, birds and other wildlife: the result is a stunningly beautiful rich landscape, a true utopia for anybody seeking pure Africa.

The Big Four (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard)

So what kind of wildlife inhabits this lush green landscape? Well, all the big species you would expect to see during a safari trip, except for the rhino. Unfortunately, and despite efforts to repopulate the endangered species, poaching has has had a devastating effect on rhino populations here, so you’ll still have one animal left unchecked on your Big Five bucket list. But, let us emphasize that a safari in Zambia is not only about seeing the Big Five. There is so much to discover, big and small, that you will be overwhelmed by all the nature splendor you encounter on your adventure.

Mammals and predators

There is a strong, diverse population of of big game in the Luangwa River valley and surrounding areas. Elephant and Cape buffalo sightings are common (and trust us, seeing them never gets old) as they like to swim between the mosaic of islands on the river. A delightful variety of antelope can be found grazing throughout the park, along with the startling patterns of Crawshay’s zebra. Vervet monkey and baboon have made their homes in various parts of the park, and can be heard calling to each other in the canopy of trees. Lions, spotted hyenas, wild dogs (which just reappeared in 2015) and leopards are the main predators in the areas. Leopards feel especially at home in this area because of the many large trees, in which this slightly elusive cat likes to hide. And don’t forget the Thornicroft’s giraffes and Cookson’s wildebeest, which are found only in this region.

Birdlife in South Luangwa National Park

Whether you are already a hardcore bird enthusiast or have never thought twice about ‘birding’ before in your life, after your first safari to South Luangwa, birds will win over your heart. The come in endless shapes and sizes: 378 species have been recorded here, including many species of eagle, heron, stork and bee-eater. And just consider the kingfishers alone, either the beautifully coloured or the black and white species; you'll find that the pied, giant, woodland, malachite and brown-hooded kingfishers are all common here. Similarly, the river is frequented by darters, cormorants, egrets, storks and fish eagles that are often seen perching in trees, overlooking the water. The valley shores are also rich in wading birds, both resident and migrant; uncommon residents include ospreys, spoonbills and African skimmers. Don’t worry a but if these names don’t ring a bell. Your guide will tell you where to focus your binoculars and share plenty of bird-facts.