THE LUANGWA VALLEY - like no other place on this earth
At first glance as your small charter aircraft glides down through the haze, the valley floor seems dry and unforgiving, a landscape devoid of life, a dull selection of browns and grays like the waters of the Luangwa river itself. Occasionally an elephant appears against the shimmering white sandbanks and hippos line the waters edge sunning themselves amidst the crocodiles.
Then as you get closer to the ground and see the tiny strip ahead of you suddenly out of the surrounding bush kudu's, impalas, pukus, warthogs flee in blind panic across the runway ahead while glimmering oxbow lakes teem with varied life, barking baboons, solitary hippos, elephants at play, buffalo cooling off.
Luangwa is like no other place in Zambia or Africa for that matter - it is a wilderness system that has remained, in it's further reaches, essentially wild and untouched. It supports a magnitude of species yet the unique aspect of Luangwa lies in the people that live there amongst the wildlife as they did many centuries ago. As you hunt, you are in the lands of a chief and a tribe, who continue daily life amidst wildlife and in the wilderness without much influence from our world.
Luangwa lies at the southern end of Africa's great rift system with the sluggish Luangwa river its lifeblood eventually spilling into the waters of the mighty Zambezi. From it's humble almost English countryside beginnings in the Muchinga escarpment the Luangwa forms one of Africa's great valleys supporting the greatest body of wildlife in this central part of Africa. Essentially the Valley with the north and south Luangwa National parks making up great swathes of protected land are Zambia's best kept wilderness repository and will remain so into the future.
The Valley is a result of down-faulting dating back to pre-dinosaur days. It is intersected by the 247km Luangwa River, a shallow wide muddy river, that teems with hippo and crocodile. Its banks are lined by riverine woodland and ox-bow lakes are a prominent feature. Inland,mopane woodland covers the valley floor interspersed by deciduous thickets. At the escarpment edges the bush becomes thicker again, varying from thorn thickets to open miombo woodland. It is this varying habitat that plays host to the valley's numerous species from elephant down to grysbok.
The Luangwa National Park is divided into the North and South Luangwa and GMA's are concentrated between and around these two parks.
Luangwa is known for the quality buffalo shot there each season, particularly in the later months of September - November in the northern GMA's.
Lion and leopard hunting has been varied with the better concessions yielding decent, full maned bush lion and larger male leopard. However, it is thought that the quality is on the decline due to hunting pressure and one needs a good deal of time to be sure of a good trophy. There are many lion and leopard throughout the valley and baits are regularly "hit". Often the most difficult part of a hunt is exercising patience waiting for the bigger males to show up.
The Cookson's wildebeest, a subspecies of the more common blue wildebeest, is found only here as well as the puku which are mostly hunted in Zambia. Hippo, southern greater kudu, Chobe bushbuck, southern roan, Livingstone eland, southern impala, warthog, Sharpe's Grysbok, Lichtenstein's hartebeest, common waterbuck, spotted hyena, chacma baboon and common reedbuck are all resident in the valley and huntable.
The Classic Safari synonymous with Zambian safari hunting is probably best taken here, in this gem of wilderness - nowhere else in Africa will you encounter the remote abundance and feeling that you have stepped back in time to a world which was far richer and more sensible.