Think you know all there is about green season safaris in South Luangwa? Jacob Shawa, head guide and safari guide extraordinaire at Shawa Luangwa Camp, helps us bust some myths about what visitors can expect from this great Zambian wilderness from November to April.
South Luangwa National Park is characterised by its changing seasons, each radically transforming the landscapes and wildlife movements. The dry, chilly winter turns the park brown and bare, forcing animals to congregate around permanent waterholes and exposing them to the predators that follow them to the water. As the summer rains sweep over the park, the Luangwa River generally bursts its banks, rejuvenating the vegetation, colouring the park in gorgeous green hues. The regular afternoon downpours leave the sky a clear blue until the setting sun covers it in golden light.
Jacob loves this season, and each year the team at Shawa get to watch the bush coming back to life after the first heavy downpours. But he knows that certain safari myths can make people hesitant to experience a ‘green season’ safari in the South Luangwa. He is always keen to share his love and passion for the bush, revealing stories and knowledge that only a seasoned guide knows about the South Luangwa. So here, with the help of Jacob, we set the record straight on what is actually a very special time of year.
Myth 1: Green Season safaris are not good for regular game sightings
Truth: The park is quieter than at other times of the year because there are fewer people visiting. So, while the vegetation is thick and lush, the shyer game animals like bushbuck and duiker will come out to graze more freely. Plus, our solar-powered e-Cruiser moves through the bush with minimal noise and disturbance. After the winter months, when trees become bare and grass dies back, the animals feast on the new shoots that are plump and sweet. You can see happy herbivores that are in a lovely, healthy condition.
Bonus: This is baby boom season! Conditions are ideal for buck and antelope to give birth, and the South Luangwa turns into a big green nursery. This brings a major cute factor to your safari.
Myth 2: Carnivores are impossible to spot in thick vegetation
Truth: Just like their domestic counterparts, big cats don’t like getting wet. Lions and leopards – cheetahs are rare in South Luangwa – will move away from the river and its many surrounding lagoons to stay dry. African wild dogs and hyena will do the same. They can be spotted along or near to the roads that are above the water level and so used by our game vehicles during the wet season. If you head out into the bush after a rain shower, you might well see a wet cat or two looking miserable as they dry out on the road.
Bonus: Photographers love this time of year because the dramatic heavy clouds followed by clear skies and rainbows after the downpour create amazing light and backdrops. Can you picture it? A pack of wild dogs running along the road ahead under a grey sky, a lioness drying herself in the sun after a quick downpour. Magical!
Myth 3: High water levels and rainfall means limited movement around the park
Truth: We love our e-Cruisers, and they are the first of their kind in South Luangwa, which makes them that little bit more special for Shawa. But there is another fantastic way to explore this national park – by foot – and it was in South Luangwa that walking safaris were ‘born’. Instead of the traditional multi-day mobile walking safaris, Jacob leads walks through the bush that are a few hours. This activity is weather-permitting, and the group will of course walk on higher ground. It is an exciting way to get up close to animals, birds and insects that thrive in an environment bursting with fresh food and water.
Bonus: A remarkable sight is the thousands-strong, yellow-billed stork colony that breed and nest in trees in the park’s Nsefu Sector in April. It is one of the biggest breeding colonies in Southern Africa! Dozens of other migratory bird species arrive in time for the rain and the perfect breeding conditions it creates.
After busting these myths, it is clear why a green season safari in South Luangwa is one of Jacob’s favourite times of the year. If you want to experience it for yourself, contact us or enquire and book using our online form. Don’t forget our amazing Itineraries and Specials to inspire you as well as our special discount of up to $150 per person for inter-property flights on select routes.
Take a virtual tour of Shawa Luangwa Camp and the South Luangwa National Park below: