North Luangwa offers some of the finest walking safaris in Africa, a true wilderness with plenty to see, best explored on foot.
North Luangwa Safaris
With the crystal-clear Mwaleshi River dissecting the park perfectly in two, North Luangwa National Park requires no additional bells and whistles.
Almost exactly half the size of its more famous southern neighbour, the northern part of these twin parks were split by a chiefdom on the Munyamadzi River. With the colonial administration’s decision not to move them, a parallel evolution ultimately created two entirely different Parks within the same ecosystem. Had Chief Nabwalya’s people not lived in the narrow strip now the corridor between the two parks, it is probable that the Luangwa would be one mega-park, like the Kafue in the west of the country.
A newly independent Zambian government in the early 1970s, awash with copper dollars, commenced an ambitious project to develop the South Luangwa into Zambia’s premier wildlife destination to rival the Kafue. At the same time it was decided that the North Luangwa should be left untouched, a legacy which, to a large extent, remains intact.
This laissez-faire policy was all well and good until the copper price collapsed and Zambia’s first President steered the country down a path of economic decline. The country’s national parks went from a priority with a reasonable budget to a luxury that the country could ill-afford. This opened the doors to poachers, and North Luangwa was the worst hit of the parks, with all of Zambia’s black rhino population killed by the end of the 1980s, along with tens of thousands of elephants.
Fortunately, the worldwide ban on the ivory trade brought about a sudden drop in demand, and after years of neglect, protection arrived in the guise of the North Luangwa Conservation Project. Funded by the Frankfurt Zoological Society, the North Luangwa suddenly had the resources it has always needed. Through decades of support, the FZS are currently winning the battle, turning North Luangwa into the best-protected park in the country, and home to Zambia’s only black rhino reintroduction project.
The end result? North Luangwa has all the game of the South but without the development and therefore remains very, very wild. Visitors have a vast wilderness area at their disposal, with wonderful wildlife, and no other soul around. A North Luangwa walking safari is best booked after a stay in the South, giving you a “big-game-fix” before you head out on foot, where results are less assured.
Access is by light aircraft charter — a worthwhile expedition on its own. Following the crazily-meandering Luangwa is a lesson in geography, illustrating exactly why the riverine belts of the Luangwa Valley are so rich.
Our very own Rod Tether ran North Luangwa’s highly acclaimed Kutandala Camp for more than a decade, leading walking safaris in this park almost daily. Get in touch with us today to discuss your visit to North Luangwa.
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- Strike out on foot
- More rhinos than visitors
- Authentic and traditional bush camps
- Remote wilderness
Top Reasons To Visit North Luangwa National Park
Often the best safaris involve looking beyond the obvious highlights. It’s about the exhilarating encounters that will make your heart sing. These are encounters that nobody could ever predict, but that make your safari genuinely unique.
Best time to go visit NorthLuangwa National Park
Visit between July and October to be where the buffalo roam
The floodplains of the Mwaleshi River are more open than those on the Luangwa, which makes the area the perfect place to spot herds of buffalo. These animals are remarkably adaptable, and can live pretty much anywhere with grazing grounds and easy access to water.
As the park dries out, massive congregations of buffalo make a twice-daily pilgrimage to drink from the river which in turn makes for happy hunting grounds for lions. Never a beast to over-exert itself, lions can lie in the shade on the banks of the river waiting for their prey to arrive.
This serendipitous situation for the lion makes for some awe-inspiring game-viewing on foot. Walk a section of the Mwaleshi River in the late dry season and you are extremely likely to come across very wild lions who will snarl and growl at your presence, making you feel incredibly alive.
North Luangwa is closed to visitors during the low season.
Best time to go visit NorthLuangwa National Park
Our Favourite Camps & Lodges
Mwaleshi was one of the first camps ever in the North Luangwa National park. Overlooking the Mwaleshi River this camp is just heaven on earth.Learn More
North Luangwa Safari (FAQS) NEED TO KNOW
Is it possible to combine North Luangwa and South Luangwa in a single trip?
Not only is it possible to visit both South and North Luangwa in a single trip — it’s highly recommended. The South offers a far more traditional safari experience, with a plethora of animals and all of the hustle and bustle you would expect from one of Africa’s major National Parks. By comparison, North Luangwa’s charms are more subtle and unpredictable, offering you the best of both sides of Zambia’s diverse wildlife.
What is the best way to explore North Luangwa National Park?
With sprawling plains that stretch for miles, North Luangwa is best seen on foot. Originally, the popularity of North Luangwa walking safaris stemmed from the relative lack of roads and camps, making it the only real opportunity to explore the park’s majestic wilderness. However, as camps have begun appearing on the landscape, the tradition of exploring the park’s trails has remained, giving you the best opportunity to experience its unique atmosphere up close and personal.
What is the accommodation at North Luangwa National Park like?
As we mentioned above, the development of North Luangwa is a relatively recent one, and has left visitors with only a few options of places to stay. From an operator’s point of view, running a camp there has always been a labour of love, because the economics of operating a short season a long way from anywhere has always been marginal at best.
However, we would strongly recommend staying at Mwaleshi Camp, which was once run by Natural High team member Rod Tether. Rod has remained close with its current owners, and will ensure that your stay in this riverfront paradise meets your every requirement.
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WHAT PEOPLE SAY
Our second unforgettable trip with Natural High, hopefully not the last!
Fantastic Christmas trip to Tanzania and Zanzibar, organised at very short notice. Wonderful staff at every camp, an unforgettable family experience. …
Claire & George
Outstanding customer service well above the call of duty.
Natural High arranged a trip to remember …accommodation first class, transportation on very long road trips was excellent. Spotless . air conditioni…
Personal service and excellent organisation
This was our first holiday to be organised by Natural High. We made the enquiry on New Year’s Eve for a departure in February and within a few days…
Ken and Caroline
Fantasic Natural High
Brilliant, everything is so well organised. We have had two trips of a lifetime organised by Rod Tether who is also a guide extraordinaire!…
Antony & Jane Braithwaite RT
Fantastic Natural High
Perfectly organised trip to two great Nomad camps in Tanzania!…
Natural High nailed it again
Sledding in Sweden was our second wonderful holiday with Natural High. From the moment you speak to them to when you get home the service and attentio…
Fantasic Natural High
We are repeat customers and NH never fail to deliver an exceptional trip. They understand exactly what we want to experience and tailor the adventure …
Ruth Maxwell AH
Enjoyed EVERY second of an action- packed two weeks in Kenya. Asante Sana👏
This was my fourth safari booked with Natural High and, as previously, it surpassed my expectations. Vanessa’s Itinerary was spot on – the three cam…
Julie Baxter VJ
Fantasic Natural High
They picked out good places to stay that fitted the criteria. Very thoughtful and attentive. They called back and they sent emails with suggestions….
Morroco was a pleasant surprise
This was certainly not our first trip with natural high. As any other trip, organization was great, ie pick up, vehicles, local guides, food, all well…
Don and Bernice Willoughby RT
The holiday was absolutely perfect. The recommended places to stay were spot on, excellent service throughout. It shows that each property has been vi…
Susan And Russell Holdsworth VJ
Everything went smoothly and selection of accommodation was perect for us
Excellent, no problems…
Fantastic Kenya 🇰🇪 Safari thanks Vanessa
We stayed at three beautiful lodges; The Emakoko Nairobi National Park, Tortillis Camp Amboseli National Park and Kicheche Valley Camp Mara Conservati…
David Poninghaus VJ
Seamless service, Catherine was able to accommodate my changing needs, even last minute changes that were my fault, and ended up with a wonderful vaca…
Very helpful and accomodating
Very helpful and Catherine went out of her way to accommodate us. It was also short notice from our side and yet it all worked very well. Good advice …
Phenomenal Safari which will certainly stay with us for years to come
Our main contact, Rod, was extremely knowledgeable in all aspects of the Safari that we ultimately decided upon. We trusted his recommendations throug…
Matt & Lucy Worthy RT
First class. Experts in the holiday adventure field. Great to deal with
First class! Natural High are experts in their field. All the boxes are ticked which leaves you to travel without any worries. Excellent destinations…
Perfect family Safari!!
Our family Kenyan safari trip to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary was perfectly planned by Catherine from the moment we landed in Nairobi, to ou…