The most beautiful parts of a country are usually the National Parks. Untouched nature and a lot of animals are always worth a visit, right? We would love to visit far more parks then we did so far, if it weren’t for one big problem: entrance fees! (In the case of South Luangwa 30 US$ pp. and 15 US$ for your car – that is per day of course) We understand that they have to be quite high to maintain the park but its not easy to spend so much money if you are on a budget. In South Africa for example you can buy a Wild Card that gives you unlimited access to over 80 parks and nature reserves. It costs about 1770 ZAR for one person, 2770 ZAR for a couple and 3310 ZAR for a family of 7 and is valid not for a week, not for a month, but for one whole year. We’d like to see something like that in other countries, but as far as we know there is nothing like it anywhere else. And thats why we don’t spend as much time as we want in national parks. But that is not what this post is about. We want to show you how we found a way to see a lot of wildlife without spending a fortune on fees.
If you are ever going to Zambia we would definitely recommend the South Luangwa National Park. Experts claim that this park is one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries worldwide, mainly because of the Luangwa River and it’s lagoons. They create one of the most intense concentrations of animals in parks. You will find a huge variety of wildlife (only the poor Rhinos are missing because they’ve been poached extensively) and vegetation. There are about 60 different animal species and more than 400 different birdies.
In and around the park are a lot of places where you can stay. If you don’t want to stay inside of the park and still want to have an extraordinary place to stay, this post might help you.
We stayed at the Wildlife Camp and would really recommend it. It is not the closest to the park entrance (but it will only take you about 15 minutes to get there) and with 12$ for camping it’s not the cheapest either (although 60% of the money goes to a wildlife foundation and into social projects, so we think the price is more than okay). It does have a pool, overlooking the riverbed as well, which helps a lot with the crazy temperatures out there. Best thing to do: Pretend to be a hippo and spend the whole day in the water!
We’ve stayed there for about a week and only spent one day in the park. Early in the morning (around 6 o’clock) we drove into the park and finally saw a leopard (yay!). We had to get back at the point where it got too hot inside the car to continue driving though. After some hours in the pool, watching hippos and elephants pass by, we went on a night drive organized by the camp, which was really cool. We saw a lot of animals, and we even spotted the same leopard we saw that morning. But if we think about it now … it wasn’t really worth the money. We spent quite a lot for the fact that we could have just stayed at the campsite to see as much as we did in the park.
The wonderful thing about this campsite is it’s location. It is right next to the park, only separated by the Luangwe River. That means, especially in the dry season, the animals will show up regularly to have a drink at the river. We had elephant families walking by, just a few meters away from us. Usually twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. We also had a curious civet cat at night in the campsite and a lot of monkeys everywhere. We also got to see hippos and giraffes, the latter looking awkward while drinking. On our last morning we woke up to the monkeys alarm calling happily. We got up to have a look at what scared them so much. And you know what we saw? Seven lions crossing the riverbed and lying down on the other side to have an early morning nap. The day before we spent the whole day in the park, spending a lot of money to try and find them. And the next morning they came to visit us, thank you bigscarycats!
And thats why we enjoyed our stay here so much and would recommend it to everyone coming to Zambia. Of course it’s always worth it do drive into the park yourself or go on a game drive (especially the night drives are really cool because you can stay much longer in the park then you can when you are on your own vehicle), but the nice thing is that you don’t have to do anything to get the animals close by. Just sit back and relax and they will come to you eventually. All in all, if you’re ever coming to Zambia while being on a budget – visit this place! It’s worth it.
If you are not on a budget, you can stay in one of their beautiful safaritents or chalets as well!