Our next stop in Zambia after the Victoria Falls was the South Luangwa National Park, famous for its high concentration of leopards. To get there we had to take an eight hour bus from Livingstone to Lusaka and stayed there one night. Then at 5am the next day, we departed on a 12 hour bus to Mfuwe.
We made it up until 20 kms before our final destination when our bus broke down and it didn’t look like an easy fix. Luckily, our lodge could arrange a pick-up and greeted us with a welcome drink and a refreshing towel once we were there.
South Luangwa National Park
The next days at the Marula Lodge felt like a little holiday from traveling, especially after spending two days on cramped buses. Whereas other lodges charge about $600 USD for a game drive package we got 3 nights in a dorm, 4 game drives and all meals for 210 USD pp (yes pricey, but honestly the cheapest option we found together with the Crocodile Valley). We especially loved the break of cooking and having vegan meals served to us for a couple of days without worrying about groceries or doing the dishes.
Hunting for leopards
After spotting elephants, buffalos, lions, and rhinos we were especially coming to South Luangwa to see leopards and complete the big five. For that, we got up at 5 am to have a little breakfast and start the morning drive at 6 am. We right away saw an elephant on the road ahead and then kept looking out for the big cat.
Another car pointed out a leopard in the bushes and we got excited but it was pretty far away and quite camouflaged in the bushes so we weren’t really satisfied with that (so spoiled, I know). The rest of the drive we saw plenty of the usual like zebras, impalas, hippos, crocodiles, giraffes, and birds. However, the leopards were hiding from us.
After the morning drive we went back to the lodge and enjoyed a bit of the high life and Geoff invited us to a round of cocktails by the pool, the good life! After some delicious lunch and a nap we were off on the afternoon drive where we spotted more of the common animals but no leopards so we were a bit disappointed. However, we had a beautiful sunset over the river and saw two lions but in the far, far distance. The drive in the dark was also a really cool experience. The driver had an assistant who shone around with a big flashlight looking out for the reflection in the animals’ eyes. We saw a hyena next to the road and one running towards us. At night, the hippos come out of the water to feed and we saw some munching on the grass during our drive but also within the perimeter of the lodge where we were staying.
The next morning, we started our second day of wildlife watching with high hopes. But it felt a bit off and we didn’t see a lot of animals. Our hopes grew a bit when another car told us that they had just seen a leopard (it’s so much about being lucky) so our driver went to that area to look for the cat. And how happy were we, when we finally found it lying in the shade, hiding from the sun. We got really close and could enjoy that moment for some minutes.
With our goal accomplished, we enjoyed the rest of the day at the pool, then another afternoon drive and a delicious dinner before getting our stuff ready to head to Malawi the next day.