The South Luangwa National Park is famous for its outstanding wildlife and world-class safari guiding.
But safari is not the only thing that makes this place very special indeed.
Here are our top 10 tips for the best things to do in and around the South Luangwa to give you the best experience possible.
1. Eat out in Mfuwe
We know it can be difficult wrenching yourself away from the regular meals served up by your safari lodge. But if you fancy experiencing something different, head to Dorphil’s Restaurant in Mfuwe Village.
This friendly little place is run by Dorica, a lovely local lady with an enterprising spirit. We love the chicken schnitzel, but the beef stew and the chargrilled chicken are also very good. You need to order ahead and bring your own bottle.
Opposite the Mayana shopping centre : +26 (0)966 860859
If you just fancy grabbing a coffee, head to the Kakumbi Green Market. This little place serves hot drinks, softies and locally made peanut butter cookies. Alec, who runs the shop, can tell you all about the conservation friendly It’s Wild products on offer, and you can browse the small but fascinating bookshop.
Next to the Oasis fuel station : Open Monday-Friday 07:30-16:30.
2. Shop at the market
An African market is the perfect place to get an authentic cultural experience. Mfuwe’s market is small by Zambian standards, but it’s still a fun and eye-opening adventure.
Seek out Charity, one of the local marketeers with good English, and she’ll help you discover everything from pumpkins to mopane worms. Don’t miss the opportunity to buy baobab fruits if they’re in season; your lodge can prepare a delicious drink from them.
If you have time to explore, nip across to Uncle Petty’s Grocery store and marvel at the thousands of products intricately stacked up to the ceiling. Centre of Mfuwe Village, open Monday-Saturday.
Create your very own colourful African print at Tribal Textiles
3. Create your own one-off African textile
Tribal Textiles is an iconic name in the South Luangwa; they’ve been employing local artists and creating unique fabrics for over 25 years.
Something that not many people know is that you can join them for an ‘Art Safari’ to design and make your very own African textiles. You can either use their distinctive flour and water resist technique, or try your hand at screen printing to create a cushion cover or wall hanging, all in the vibrant surroundings of their workshop. One of the artists is on hand to help you and you can choose your own paint colours. Afterwards you can shop for artisan gifts in their large store, or explore the community craft market.
You need to give 24 hours’ notice for an art safari. 6 kms from Mfuwe Airport : Art Safaris available Monday – Friday +260 216 245137 or +260 216 245162 or firstname.lastname@example.org/about/art_safari.html
4. Support conservation
One of the greatest threats to South Luangwa’s amazing wildlife is the steadily increasing human population in the area. Chipembele Wildlife Conservation Centre are leading the way in conservation education here, offering award winning educational support to local schools to help motive young people to protect the environment and wildlife around them.
They have an absolutely outstanding education centre that you can visit for free. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is just for kids; you will leave informed and inspired, and your safari experience will be all the richer for it.
Chipembele is off the beaten track and you will need a full morning or afternoon to visit. You also need to get in touch beforehand to arrange a time to visit. 20 km from Mfuwe Village : +260 216 246108 or email@example.com www.chipembele.org/where-we-are/
Watch the moonrise from the southern banks of the Luangwa
5. Watch the moon rise
There’s something fundamentally magical about watching the moon rise over the timeless African bush, especially if you have a G&T to hand. TimeandDate.com will tell you the timing of the moonrise – it’s best viewed between 17:00 and 18:30, when it glows an incredible golden yellow colour from the setting sun. If you happen to visit during a supermoon phase, you’re in for a real treat and some incredible photos.
Moonrise is best viewed from the south bank of the Luangwa River so that you can watch the reflection too. Marula Lodge and Croc Valley Camp both offer a good view east, and friendly bars from where you can buy that all-important G&T.
6. Read a great book about Zambia
What better way to while away a few hours than lounging in a shady spot, with a good book and a view? And if, like us, you love to read about the destination you’ve travelled to, there are plenty of titles covering Zambia to choose from.
For a candid and engaging story of growing up in Zambia, check out Alexandra Fuller’s Don’t Let’s Go To The Dogs Tonight. Her other titles are equally readable. If you love history, don’t miss Christina Lamb’s The Africa House; it’s an utterly fascinating biography of Stewart Gore-Brown, country gentleman and creator of the Shiwa Ng’andu country estate in Northern Zambia.
Bringing things right back up to date, Dead Aid is a controversial look at the role aid money plays in stunting development in third world countries, written by one of Zambia’s leading thinkers Dambisa Moyo. And for something a little lighter, why not delve into Town Nyanja, an unusual phrasebook for Zambia that covers everything from shopping for underwear to breaking yourself out of jail! Guaranteed to impress your safari guide and keep you entertained between drives.
7. Champion girls’ education
Project Luangwa has been supporting education in the Mfuwe area for eight years. Funded by local lodges, the initiative provides sponsorship for schoolchildren, wages for teachers and builds classrooms and libraries.
Recently they’ve launched a much needed campaign to support teenage girls’ education by producing reusable sanitary wear that enables girls to attend school full time – without this, many girls miss a week of school each month. You can buy a pack of pads for a local schoolgirl at their shop in Mfuwe along with locally made greetings cards, jewellery, bags and Luangwa-inspired block printed artwork.
Open Monday-Sunday 07:00-16:00.
8. Experience creative conservation
While staying in Mfuwe you can visit Mulberry Mongoose, a small business making a huge impact on preventing illegal snaring in South Luangwa.
The company uses wire snares collected by wildlife patrols to make unique jewellery, the sale of which funds more anti-snaring patrols. In four years they’ve raised over $60,000 and their jewellery has been worn by celebs such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Whoopi Goldberg and the Clintons!
You can visit the workshop, watch the ladies creating the jewellery, try bending the snare wire for yourself (it is ridiculously hard!) and of course buy your very own piece of jewellery to help. Mulberry Mongoose will even organise a free taxi transfer from your lodge too.
Open Monday-Sunday 08:00-16:00: +26 (0) 978051814 firstname.lastname@example.org
SEKA’s performances are interactive and huge fun. Image courtesy of SEKA
9. Learn to drum the Luangwa way!
For a truly unique cultural experience, why not get involved with Mfuwe’s SEKA theatre group?
SEKA performs educational plays for local communities to help spread messages about issues like health and the environment in an engaging and humourous way. They perform interactive plays and offer drumming performances for visitors to help raise money, where you can try your hand at pounding out a rhythm and receive some expert tuition in the process.
Drumming and plays are $200-$250 per performance, contact + 260 (0) 979 828 777 for more information.
Crowned cranes often gather at Kakumbi Spring
10. Visit a secret wildlife spot
The South Luangwa National Park is rightly regarded as one of Africa’s best safari parks, but there are also a few secret wildlife spots outside the national park to explore.
If you have a free afternoon, why not visit the Kakumbi Hot Springs on the way to Chipembele Education Centre? Here it’s possible to spot amazing birdlife in the cathedral mopane forests as well as a large colony of crowned cranes from May-August.
It’s best to ask your lodge to organise this trip as the remote hot springs are tricky to find, but it’s worth the journey just for the sheer tranquillity, and knowing you’ll have the spot completely to yourself for the duration of your visit. Ask your lodge for more details.
And bonus number 11…!
Head to the Bush Spa by Mfuwe Lodge for an absolute South Luangwa must-do; a totally incredible, one-of-a-kind pampering experience.
Our favourite treatments include a classic full body massage using locally sourced and all natural products, the Bush Spa rejuvenating facial, and the essential pedicure for hot and dusty feet. The best bit has to be the hippos honking in the background as you sink into a totally indulgent spa experience. Definitely one of our favourite insider tips for the South Luangwa, enjoy!
What are your insider tips for things to do in South Luangwa? Leave your comment below and let us know you thoughts!