Eventually we are standing on the Luangwa Bridge. Crocodiles sunbathe on the other side of the river, baboons and impalas roam through the woods. The call of the African Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer) is the final proof. That’s Africa!,
Luangwa Bridge offers already great photo opportunities. The Luangwa Bridge leads into the park. Immediately you are introduced to the scourge of South Luangwa, the tsetse flies (Glossina sp.). This noiseless, painful stabbing tormentor is not a disease carrier in this area, but allows only two alternatives: driving with closed car-window and switched on air conditioning or to be equipped with enough fly swatters. Taking pictures with the window open requires a certain degree of self-control, so that the shots do not blur.
South Luangwa is normally be visited during the dry season from June to October. During the heavy rainy season, the park is largely flooded and only a handful of specially created road on upper levels provide very limited movement possibilities. It will be very hot from the end of August. In September and October, the Luangwa River has reached its lowest level and the water holes are drying. But in contrast to some other parks in Zambia, accommodations are also available during the rainy season when the birds are in the breeding plumage.
The fees are heavy. $ 30 per person and $ 15 per vehicle will be charged at the park entrance. Attention: There is also a charge for Commercial Filming & Sound Recording, which is also $ 60 / person / day. With elaborate camera equipment you should therefore show a certain restraint. On this side of the border of the National Park and the Luangwa River there are numerous lodges. There are cheaper camps and campsites on fantastic locations along the Luangwa River.
An absolute recommendation is the Croc Valley Camp with campsite and simple but clean chalets. The camp is only three or four minutes from the park entrance. Here there is a pleasantly relaxed atmosphere. The few lodges within the park are expensive, although, as in the case of the Sanctuary Puku Ridge Camp, a lodge of superlatives stands right in the middle of South Luangwa National Park. From the balcony of the tent and from the main building you have a great view on a wide plain with many animals. Especially the safari trips are excellent. So there are evening trips with the chance to see Leopards. Unfortunately, not all accommodations in the park can cater to individual travelers.
The park has a very extensive network of roads and trails. Photographically, the easiest way to reach it, and perhaps the most productive, is the Mfuwe sector, just opposite the entrance and the bridge. With its numerous paths along the Luangwa River, its lagoons and water holes, this area offers the opportunity to find and photograph almost all species of the park. Only cheetahs and blue wildebeest feel better in the open savanna areas in the northern part of the park. While in the advanced stage of the dry season patient waiting at a waterhole is certainly not a bad proceedure, despite the tsetse flies plague there, the quite common Leopard is best discovered on a slow ride through the banks near the shore.
Striking are the red, trumpet-shaped flowers of the Sausage tree (Kigelia afneana). Together with the African baobab tree (Adansonia digitata) these are the most conspicuous and photogenic tree species of the South Luangwa. Hippos and crocodiles are other main characters in the Luangwa and its lagoons. Huge herds of buffalo are starting to migrate from mid-September to dry areas in the Mfuwe sector and the Luangwa River. The endemic Thornicroft giraffe of South Luangwa is a geographically isolated subspecies. South Luangwa is a park of superlatives
As long as there is enough water, of course, there is no lack of avifauna. A total of 487 bird species are reported. Pelicans, Saddle-billed Storks (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis) and African fish eagle are probably among the more striking representatives. Further, there are 46 different birds of prey and hawks species such as African Fish Eagle, Martial Eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus) and the endangered species Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotos) and White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus). Even the Secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius), classified as “vulnerable”, is seen with luck. On acacias you will often see the Southern Red-billed Hornbill (Tockus rufirostris). A special feature is the Denham’s Bustard (Neotis denhami). Several species of kingfishers, Bee-eaters and several species of egrets and ducks also live in the national park. Especially the Southern Carmine Bee-eater (Merops nubicoides) are unmistakable. In big colonies Southern Carmine Bee-eater breed during the dry season in up to two-meter-deep nest holes in the vertical cliffs of the Luangwa River. Spectacular sightings.
South Luangwa is a paradise for wildlife photographers, too. If necessary, the very generously designed route network can also be left for a few meters, which considerably increases the freedom of choice of subject and picture design. The park also offers a varied landscape with river meadows, forest areas, savannah-like open spaces, water holes and lagoons. However, the latter will become increasingly unattractive from mid-September on due to the decline in the water level. This considerable diversity also makes it possible to exploit the full spectrum of nature photography. The photo equipment should therefore be complete and include at least a 500 mm lens. Since most of the time it is photographed from the car, a sturdy car windshield or at least a bean bag is indispensable.
Pel’s Fishing Owl (Scotopelia peli) and Pennant-winged Nightjar (Caprimulgus vexillarius) are easier to see here than in many other parks. Other birds of interest are Lilian’s Lovebird (Agapornis lilianae) and the Dusky Lark (Pinarocorys nigricans). While the birding is very good, the park is not usually visited just for birding. It’s the combination of birding and mammal watching, especially on foot, that makes the park special. Unlike some other parks in Zambia, accommodations are available even in rainy season when birds are in breeding plumage. The rains begin in November and this is when many species begin nesting. It’s also when Eurasian migrant birds arrive in the park.
With a local guide who can identify and locate most bird species based on the calls and songs, the chances of finding and photographing the best birds on the Luangwa are, of course, even better. Of course, he will know better which lagoon is currently favored by Pel’s Fishing Owl or at what time of day a particular colony of Southern Carmine Bee-eater (a beautiful red Bee-eater) needs to be visited to ensure that the light is used optimally. Likewise a guide will hear better the shrill, pitch-descending alarm call of a squirrel indicating that a large bird of prey is approaching up in the sky.
As in basically all national parks of Africa with large animals, leaving the roads is not allowed. The animals can often only be photographed when approaching the road, as the terrain is overgrown with tall grass and many shrubs despite the wide savannas. Not always you have such a free view to the river when there is a crossing of elephants. That’s why photography mainly takes place at the roadside. A 600 mm lens is then very helpful. Sometimes, however, a 1, 4 or 2 converter must solve a problem. The individual freedom of movement is quite large. South Luangwa is not overcrowded even during the main visit. The number of off-road vehicles from lodges and camps that go on safari with their guests is still far from East African conditions.
Finally, a word on disease precaution: Without yellow fever vaccination and anti-malaria care you should not go to Zambia. Vaccinations against hepatitis A and tetanus are more than recommended.
Nature photographers often limit their visits to southern Africa to the Kruger National Park. But there are alternatives as well. E.g. despite its low level of awareness, there are plenty of animals in Pilanesberg National Park. For photographers, there are many possibilities, especially to photograph birds. Because in Pilanesberg NP too the bird life is highly diverse. It includes 400 species
In order to satisfy the growing demand for top shots of the rarer species of Palearctic, Bird-lens.com has undertaken targeted trips to distant bird areas and destinations nearby. This is to be able to do anything to provide excellent images of the birds of the Western Palearctic.
Additionally bird-lens.com is keen to provide images of other birds of other parts of the world – especially if these birds are rarely photographed. The results in images of rare birds are very good. Very nice images bird-lens.com could be brought back from all over the world. The beautiful image of the blog is only first impressions of what you will find in behind “Picture Shop” very soon. Simply contact bird-lens.com if you need an image of a bird before even more new pictures are online.