One of the major reasons that the South Luangwa is so renowned for leopard sightings (in addition to the healthy populations) is the outstanding night drives that each of the camps are able to offer. Many national parks and wildlife reserves in Africa carry restrictions on night activities, but the South Luangwa’s regulations are as relaxed as you’ll find, meaning that training on nocturnal activities is an integral element of any guide’s education. Leopard is often the major attraction, arguably the most beautiful and elusive of the continent’s “Big Five.” There is a unique thrill to seeing your first leopard, captured in the spotlight on a night drive, perhaps prowling for prey or surveying the scene from a tree-branch vantage point.
Other nocturnal species are also fascinating, from the constant eyeshine of bushbabies in the trees and nightjars on the road, to civets and genets scrambling through the bush, scrub hares running for cover and hippos emerging from the river to graze. You will not see the sheer volume and diversity of wildlife as on a daytime drive, but the sight, sound and feel of being in the African bush after dark can send a shiver down the spine. Most night drives are preceded by an afternoon drive to a beautiful sundowner spot, where a cool beer or gin and tonic can be enjoyed as the sun pales through a vibrant spectrum of oranges and reds.