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Zambia: The Valley of the Leopards

south luangwa zambia

In 2013 I spent 4 month in Zambia, and that is where I discovered nestled within in the valley of the South Luangwa river, a magical place often referred to as the “Valley of the Leopard”. With only a few dirt roads that intrude upon the otherwise untouched wild it has become a sacred haven for Leopards.

It’s here where I, like many nature enthusiasts really feel the Spirit of Africa. Its hypnotic vibration hums through every blade of grass, beckoning every lover of animals and beauty, every seeker of connection and meaning, to come and embrace paradise found and preserved.

Begun as a ‘game’ reserve back in 1938, the South Luangwa National Park became an official national park in 1972 and now provides an enchanting 9,000km wilderness home for leopards, elephants and a variety of wildlife including the rare Thornicroft Giraffe and Crawshay's Zebra.

When it comes to spotting the infamously reclusive big cat, the leopard, it is common to see them lounge around in the trees, lurking through the bush, and even dominating the clearings in pursuit of prey.

The leopards in the South Luangwa National Park are anything but shy and often I spotted more than one during a safari drive. In many other locations in Africa people are steadily invading more and more natural habitats and forcing the wildlife to adapt or die and so the elusive leopard has become a rare sighting. In South Luangwa however, the leopards rule, they walked past my vehicle without a hint of hesitation or pause and I’ve been told they can even be seen hunting in broad daylight.

Fortunately South Luangwa is not as well known as Kruger or the Masai Mara and that means never having to run the gauntlet of tourist crowds. Compared to all my safari adventures South Luangwa provided me with that REAL Africa experience. The wilderness here is pristine and tranquil and I found myself indulging in its healing energy. South Luangwa is indeed a very special place where people and nature come together in perfect harmony. It can be a real healing retreat a long way away from ‘normal’ life.

There are a variety of safari camps and lodges situated outside the national park that offer a relaxing escape, they range from budget to luxury. But what adds to a meaningful African safari is indeed the ambience and location of the accommodation. Within the South Luangwa National Park there are a number of camps, some close to the main gate and some further inside the park. Being inside the park there is more opportunity for remarkable and surprising wildlife encounters without any disturbance. My personal choice is small camps accommodating no more than 12 guests within the park that have a home away from home feel. Being a conscious traveler I always look out for camps that are ‘conscious’, they have a natural respect for wildlife and are mindful of their impact on the local community and environment. If you really want to be one with nature then being remote is the best option.

Going on an African safari is one of those essential adventures everyone must have at least once in their life and it’s easy to fall deeply in love with the spirit of Africa and be ‘moved’ to visit again and again like I have.

Witnessing leopards and other wildlife so close wild and free can only be described as magical. It opens the heart and stills the mind like nothing else. Deep down it changes us in seemingly subtle ways, it has the power to shift our perspective of the natural world and perhaps life itself. It’s incredibly humbling… and it’s an experience and a memory that lingers beyond the adventure.

Join me in Kenya June 2018 on my photography safari, simply contact me for more information or download the brochure from the homepage.