The Luangwa River has carved a valley through eastern Zambia protected by the North Luangwa Park, the South Luangwa Park and some ground-breaking community conservation projects.
The Luangwa Valley becomes a photogenic haven of abundance: rivers and ox-bow lakes fill up; riparian forests plump up, fill out and turn every shade of green; the drab brown plains become inviting meadows and heavy clouds patch up the bright clear blue sky.
Buffered by Game Management Areas (GMA) that extend almost to the Lower Zambezi National Park, the Luangwa GMA wildlife is owned and managed by the villagers who live off the river's abundance. The concept has turned rampant poaching into rampant protection and it shows.
Leopard are particularly common in the South Luangwa, though not so common as to be routine encounters. With habitats varying from dense riverine forests to large open savannah woodland, the concentration and variety of wildlife is astonishing including elephant, lion, hyena, eland, buffalo, red lechwe, waterbuck, hartebeest, impala, puku and three Luangwa Valley sub-species: Thornicroft giraffe, Crawshey's zebra and Cookson's wildebeest.
Birding in the Luangwa is excellent with about 400 species recorded during the rainy season including Pel's fishing owls, African skimmers, African broadbills and over 40 raptors. And game viewing takes on a new meaning on your Zambia walking safari or as you boat your way through the lush abundance of an African Eden.