Luangwa Valley is one of Africa’s prime wildlife sanctuaries, with concentrations and varieties of game and birdlife that have made it world famous.
This is the landscape of the ‘Real Africa’, with herds of antelope sheltering under thorn trees, or roaming the plains, predators skulking in the shadows and primordial drama in every vale.
The ‘Valley’ lies at the tail end of the Great Rift Valley, that continental fault which runs from the Red Sea down the length of East Africa. This accounts for the spectacular escarpment scenery in East Africa as well as the African Lakes.
As the Rift reaches Zambia, it divides; one arm to the east encompasses Lake Malawi and the western arm becomes the Luangwa Valley, which stretches some seven hundred kilometres at an average width of about one hundred kilometres.
In the west, the Muchinga Mountain range forms the limit of both the Valley and the parks. In the east is a similar, though less well defined escarpment. The Valley floor is about a thousand meters lower than the surrounding plateau.
Down the centre of the valley flows the Luangwa River, fed by dozens of sand rivers that come down during the rainy season. The Luangwa carves a tortuous course along the floor and when in flood rapidly erodes the outer bends, depositing silt within the loops.
Eventually the river cuts a new course, leaving the old course to silt up, forming ‘ox bow’ lagoons. These lagoons are very important to the ecology of the riverine zone and account for the high carrying capacity of the area.
The countryside is spectacular in its rugged beauty, the vegetation thick and, near the Luangwa River and its many tributaries; a lush riverine forest occurs that is green all year round.
Flanking the rivers western banks are the North and South Luangwa National Parks separated by the 30km Munyamadzi corridor.
To the east, between the two main parks is another small and as yet undeveloped Park called Luambe. Further east on the rocky uplands beyond the flood plain is the Lukusuzi National Park, also undeveloped but plans are in the pipeline.