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SOUTH Luangwa, which largely attracts tourists from America, Europe, the United Kingdom, Asia and South Africa, is best renowned for its brilliant guiding principles.

Tourism isn’t just for foreigners

PERHAPS unknown to many Zambians, the South Luangwa National Park has been ranked as one of the best wildlife sanctuaries in the world.
The park, which is located in the Eastern Province, measures 9050 square kilometres and the fenceless sanctuary, borders the steep Muchinga escarpment to the west and Luangwa river on the eastern part.
The Luangwa river is crowded with hippos, crocodiles and provides a lifeline for one of the greatest diversities of habitat and wildlife.
The late Norman Carr, a British conservationist and wildlife photographer, pioneered the birth of South Luangwa in 1950.
He also worked in central and southern Africa and was influential in setting up national parks in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, in the 1950s and 1960s.
The South Luangwa, which has now become a gem for holiday makers, supports more than 400 bird species, 60 species of mammals, which include cats, buffaloes, gazelles, yellow baboons, honey badgers, tortoises, kudu, bushbucks and duikers.
It is the home to three endemic sub-species; the thorncroft’s giraffe, crawshay’s zebra and cooksson’s wildebeest.
According to reviews and comments recorded in various visitor’s books, the South Luangwa, and Mfuwe in particular, have been rated and recognised as one of the greatest destinations to view a leopard during the day or night time in Africa.
Dave, Jill, Duncan, Clare and Rodgers of England, who visited TenaTena wild life safari under Robbin Pope, noted that: “It is really lush, simply awesome standard service and food. This experience was just a defining moment of African beauty and tourism in Zambia.”
Howard and Ivy Cobell who stayed at Robbin Pope, TenaTena Safari camp in Mfuwe in 2014 remarked: “This is beyond superlative, the guiding was so informative and the wildlife was just incredible to watch, the lions, elephants, hyenas and wild dogs.”
The South Luangwa, which largely attracts tourists from America, Europe, the United Kingdom, Asia and South Africa, is best renowned for its brilliant guiding principles as espoused by Mr Carr who first set his foot in Zambia in 1938.
Zambia is still respected and regarded as having some of the best guides in the world namely Jason Mchenga and Masumba Mwanza who are such a marvel to be with.
These are some of the best guides who exude so much information and wide knowledge of the flora and fauna. Most lodges in Mfuwe employ a none intrusive game viewing.
This encourages normal animal behaviour as opposed to intrusion such as hunting and gun toting. The wildlife, when uninterrupted, enjoys the natural space and is a phenomenal to watch.
Mfuwe has a mish mash of holiday destinations. The lodges in the national park and game management areas offer five star accommodation to low budget packages depending on how the clients propose to spend their stay while enjoying the rustic environment in the wild.
This writer, who visited the area during a familirisation tour organised by a consortium of tour operators from Livingstone and Lusaka, discovered that many lodges actually offered affordable accommodation for local tourists [Zambians].
For instance, some of the rates on offer for Zambian tourists were as low as K200 per person per night, like at Marula Lodge.
Similarly, Wildlife Camp, Croc Valley, Kafunra, Flatdogs, Track and Trail, Norman Carr and TenaTena under Robin Pope, Mfuwe and Zikomo equally offer affordable rates during peak and off peak season holiday packages.
Mfuwe, an award-winning safari lodge, which is set in the most prolific game area of the South Luangwa, is a perfect place to enjoy excellent game viewing as well as bush camping.
Robin House under Robin Pope management is a wonder resort for a couple seeking honey moon.
“This is the place to be. We have had Americans, British, and Europeans who have married from here while others fall in love with this house which is so serene and spacious as you watch the wild,” says lodge manager Kick Nkwali.
Chinzombo, operated by Robin Pope, is one of the first star-tented accommodations and has hosted a number of holiday stars since its establishment.
The lodge offers state of the art energy saving, but efficient air conditioning facilitates just around the circumference of the king-sized bed.
A cross section of lodge owners have recommended to Zambian tourists to develop a culture of making reservations way in advance as opposed to the spot booking.
“Our biggest market is Malawi and my marketing strategy is to offer inexpensive rates for local and international markets by offering same-rice same-category for as long as you make advance bookings,” says Jenny Waterhouse of Chinzombo.
At Track Trail River Camp, holiday packages range from as low as K120 per person per night for self-camping for both domestic and international clients.
Track and Trail also offer accommodation on the river front
“We offer game drives during the day and night time, walking safaris, bird watching, and our clients can either come through here by road or via proflight,” says Track Trail’s Erick Banda.
Maxwell Masempela of Max Mars Tours, who led the delegation during the familirisation tour of South Luangwa, appealed to domestic tourists to develop a culture of saving finances for future holiday packages.
He says domestic tourism has a huge potential to turn around the fortunes in the industry as opposed to largely depending on foreign tourists.
“Our middle class spend their money in holiday resorts away from home. It doesn’t make sense really to leave this gorgeous hinterland. We should be proud of our own natural reserves endowed upon Zambia,” Mr Masempela said.
Bantu Pathfinder Limited owner Patrick Chifumbe noted that his trip to South Luangwa was a great adventure and he will endeavour to market his tourism packages broadly.
Shadrick Luyanga of Luciano Travel and Tours commended lodge owners in South Luangwa national park and Game Management Areas for offering fantastic holiday packages that are affordable to many domestic tourists planning on a holiday.