During the emerald season (roughly November – April), the returning South Luangwa rains change the appearance and ambience of the park dramatically. Most of the bushcamps close, inaccessible by road and with impassable game drive tracks, although the Mfuwe camps do stay open and continue to operate drives. As the Luangwa becomes high and its tributaries are refilled with water, boat cruises provide a picturesque way to explore the area, and some of the bushcamps on higher ground or next to drier tributaries are now staying open to offer boat and walking activities.
Cruises are a tranquil, comfortable way to view the transformed flora and fauna, with none of the bumping around on game drives. This can be more about the scenery than game viewing, with abundant greenery, high grasses and beautiful sunsets shimmering on the river. It can be difficult to view certain wildlife from a boat, excluding the regular hippo pods, crocodiles and elephants coming to drink. However birdlife is outstanding, from kingfishers and lilac breasted rollers to carmine bee eaters and storks. It is notable that the animals you do see are healthy and happy, with far more drinking water available, and this is also the time that most mammals give birth to their young, so there is a tangibly warm atmosphere to game viewing experiences.