The South Luangwa National Park is well-known for its thriving wildlife, remote bush experiences like walking safaris and mobile camping, and photographic safaris. During the Emerald Season, the South Luangwa becomes a dazzling, verdant jewel in Zambia’s wilderness crown. The flooding of the Luangwa River transforms the park into a watery playground for its wildlife from about November to April each year.
Aerial view of the overflowing Luangwa River © David Rogers
The South Luangwa photo safari led by professional wildlife photographer, David Rogers, takes place in February and is based at two Robin Pope Safaris’ camps. This is the height of the park’s Emerald Season, characterized by lush landscapes immersed in soft light and the birthing of new animal and birdlife. David hosts small and interactive photographic safaris that are suitable for both beginners with a burgeoning interest in the craft and advanced photographers wanting to learn some tips and tricks from a pro.
The South Luangwa is a great year-round place for a photo safari. The three points below will delve into why the Emerald Season, in particular, is a truly magical time for this type of safari:
The South Luangwa, and broader Luangwa Valley, is at its most dramatic in the Emerald Season, with the Luangwa River now flowing over into the full lagoons.
Exploring the lagoons by boat during the Emerald Season © Robin Pope Safaris
This incredible seasonal change and resulting rich floodplain river system make for excellent photographic opportunities while on walking safaris, day and evening game drives as well as boating safaris. Along with these other modes of getting around the park, boating into the lagoons, flooded ebony groves, and flowing channels offer a perspective of this area that is normally inaccessible.
A journey of giraffe roam the drier areas of the South Luangwa © David Rogers
It is as though nature turns up the saturation of the colours in the park. These bold and bright hues of the South Luangwa make for captivating landscape photography, without even needing any wildlife in the picture.
David Rogers has chosen this time of the year with a true photographer’s eye. During the Emerald Season, the natural light is much softer than in the drier months, which means less high contrast light scenarios.
Elephants graze under a moody sky © David Rogers
As gentle sunshine falls through the ebony groves and onto the still water or accents special parts of the green hillsides in front, there will likely never be a point that the camera is not being used to capture some special moment. This is the photographer’s dream situation, yet it is still challenging enough to ask for advice on how to get the exact shot you want.
A pod of hippo wallow in a lagoon at sunset © David Rogers
The morning and evening game drives will, of course, give you the chance to get snapping at the time when the light is at its very best. Dawn and dusk remain the ultimate time for getting that perfectly warm glow without any chance of sharp contrasts or overexposure.
The Luangwa Valley, which marks the end of the Great Rift Valley, is one of the last unspoiled wilderness areas and possibly the finest wildlife sanctuary in Africa.
Elephants frolic in a full river © David Rogers
Harrumphing hippos, sun-bathing crocodiles and playful elephants can be seen in the brimming rivers and lagoons. Large herds of buffalo along with other plains game will be grazing on the newly sprouted grasses and drinking their fill along the riverbanks. Many of these animals will be giving birth to young in this time of surplus food. The predators look to make the most of these hunting opportunities. Sightings of two of the big cats, lion and leopard, can be numerous and the park is also a refuge for the endangered wild dog.
Yellow-billed storks cool off © Robin Pope Safaris
The wet season is always the best time for birding so photographers with a penchant for images of the feathered kind will certainly appreciate the Emerald Season. There is a huge yellow-billed stork colony that is part of the photo safari and an incredible adventure by boat.
The set departure for this Photographic Safari is 14 February 2020 and a maximum of five guests can join. For more information, contact Robin Pope Safaris.
Feature image courtesy of David Rogers.