ONE of the most beautiful and abundant wildlife reserves is found in a branch of Africa's Great Rift Valley in the Luangwa National Park.
This area will richly reward the safari enthusiast, with both a profusion of game and a natural wilderness of epic beauty and grandeur. Luangwa is good enough reason to seriously consider including this corner of Zambia into a Southern African safari.
Experts have dubbed this as one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world, as the concentration of game around the Luangwa River and its ox-bow lakes is among the most intense in Africa, and birdwatching in the valley is superb.
The now famous "walking safari" originated in this park and is still one of the finest ways to experience this pristine wilderness. Accommodation is in premium tented camps at various sites of astounding beauty, while accommodation on the walking safari is in fully staffed mobile camps.
The South Luangwa National Park is more accessible than her northern neighbor, as the airport at Mfuwe has regular arrivals from Lilongwe in Malawi, although the traveler can also fly from Zambia's capital, Lusaka.
This glorious corner of a glorious continent is in constant flux - every year the Luangwa River comes down in an almighty flood, tearing away at riverbanks and forging new watercourses. When the waters subside, the floodplain is left with a profusion of ox-bow lakes, while some channels dry out and are replaced by a luxuriant growth of grass, called dambos, which become key grazing grounds during the dry winter months.
Shady forests grow on old riverbanks alongside lagoons, while steep hills mark the dramatic escarpments of this 60 mile wide valley - a self-contained ecosystem large enough for seasonal migrations.
Although poaching has destroyed much of Luangwa's once mighty 100 000 elephant population, these great pachyderms are recovering with herds up to 70 strong being widespread. Other species in the valley are thriving, and the visitor will see - often at close quarters on a walking safari - numerous antelope species, buffalo, zebra, giraffe, lion, leopard, wild dog, hyena, jackal, hippos and crocodiles.
Birdwatching in the Valley is superb, with over 400 species being present, including 39 birds of prey. This is one of Africa's greatest wilderness experiences in the company of trained guides and rangers.
Game viewing on the rich alluvial floodplains rivals the best found anywhere else in Africa.
Think about it! Do it! Luangwa is well worth it!