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Where to find Leopards in Zambia

Best parks in Zambia for spotting these beautiful big cats

Gabriella

Gabriella

Malawi and Zambia guest writer
Published on

23 Oct 2023

Updated on

02 Jan 2024

Leopards in Zambia Banner Photo

If you’ve ever seen a leopard, you’ll still remember the first time you locked eyes with this most graceful of creatures. Utterly wild, powerful and beguiling, the African Leopard is a very special animal indeed. The iconic black and bronze rosettes spattered over its muscular form, the downy snow-white fluff of its tummy, the elegant curve of its strong tail, and the sharp golden eyes piercing into your own make the leopard a sight to behold.

South Luangwa National Park

Easily recognized but difficult to find, a leopard sighting is in high demand by any safari goer, laying the responsibility on their guide to fulfill this order. While in some areas, this pressure can result in a steady sheen of sweat on a guide’s brow as they struggle to deliver, there are other areas where the guides will relish the task. Zambia is home to a number of these areas. Blessed with a high population of leopards throughout its most notable national parks, sightings are plentiful, and nowhere more so than in South Luangwa National Park.

Leopard tummy South Luangawa Zambia C Gabriella Constantini
A leopard rolling in South Luangwa National Park (C) Gabriella Constantini

With one of the highest densities of leopards in the world, this iconic national park has earned the nickname “The Valley of Leopards”. A subtropical climate combined with the Luangwa River feeding through the park sustains a wealth of flora and fauna, providing a haven for herbivores and predators alike. The abundance of antelope ensures a steady feast for the carnivores of Luangwa, and the leopards make up no small part of that ecosystem. Named ‘Kaingo’ in the local language Nyanja, it only seems fitting that a visit to Shenton Safaris’ Kaingo Camp would be a good place to start your leopard-viewing adventure.

Built in 1992, Kaingo Camp is located in the more remote northern part of the park. Its name came during its build when a female leopard, or ‘kaingo’, took up residence at the camp and settled in one of the chalets. Luckily for you, Goldie the leopard has moved on so you’ll have your chalet all to yourself overlooking the fabulous Luangwa River.

If you’re feeling adventurous, Kaingo Camp also offers the spectacular opportunity to sleep out in the wilderness in their Elephant Hide star-bed. A viewing platform fully equipped with a double bed, mosquito net, wash basin, and a few added comforts has been erected in the branches of a grand ebony tree on the banks of the river, offering a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be totally immersed in the beauty of nature and the nocturnal wildlife with just a mosquito net between you and the African night’s sky. You will be equipped with a radio, and an armed guard will be camped nearby should you need anything or have a change of heart!

Leopard Luangwa
Leopard lounging in South Luangwa

With Kaingo Camp being a good two-and-a-half-hour drive from South Luangwa’s Mfuwe Airport, if you’ve had a long journey you may be looking for somewhere a little closer for your first/last night or two. Robin Pope Safaris’ Nkwali Camp is ideally located for several reasons. It is one of the closest lodges to the airport; it is situated in a private game management area (GMA) on a stretch of the grand Luangwa River and your game-viewing activities begin with a short boat ride across and into the national park, meaning you avoid the hustle and bustle of the main gate and the game concentrations in the area in which you start your activities are exceptional, particularly the leopard numbers. The guides at Nkwali (and all the Robin Pope camps for that matter) are famed in the Luangwa Valley for their skill, professionalism, passion, experience, and personable characters, so, if you want nothing more than to see a leopard, they’re going to pull out all the stops to try and make that happen!

To try and find the spotted cats on foot, take a look at our 11-day Remote Luangwa Walking Safari itinerary.

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Leopard in South Luangwa Zambia Anna Campbell landscape
Leopard watching impala in South Luangwa

Lower Zambezi National Park

A relatively small area set between the Zambezi River and the rugged Zambezi Escarpment, Lower Zambezi National Park possesses a wildlife density like no other. Famed for its beauty and impressive elephant population, Lower Zambezi is also the territory for a number of exciting predators, from hyenas to wild dogs, lions to leopards. The decorated felines thrive in this habitat, enjoying the rocky outcrops of the escarpment and the riverine forest density, offering plenty of trees to lay their weary heads and stash their conquered prey.

For your best chance of leopard viewings, make your way deep into the park, to the riverside camp of Old Mondoro. This small and authentic camp offers rustic luxury in one of the best locations of the park for wildlife viewing, just four chalets make up Old Mondoro so intimate ambience and personalized attention to detail is what you can expect from your stay here. The chalets and main lodge display exquisite view across the Zambezi River, often encumbered by the large grey forms of honking hippo pods and bathing elephants – utter serenity to observe from your open-air bathtub or private deck.

The guides here are truly top-notch, and the modest size and natural boundaries of the park mean they know the area like the back of their hands. With most past guests reporting leopard sightings, some lucky folk have been treated to as many as ten different leopards around the area on different sightings - day or night, snoozing, stalking, patrolling, on a kill, fending off scavengers, or caring for some fuzzy cubs, these cats never cease to amaze.

Leopard Lower Zambezi Zambia Unsplash min
Leopard close up in Lower Zambezi

Another accommodation option in this area is the fabulous Sausage Tree Camp if you’re looking for something chicer. Sweeping villas with private plunge pools and outdoor showers are lined along the banks of the river. Each room gets their own private vehicle, guide, and even a personal butler tending to your every need. Set deep into the park and a good drive from the main gate, the area is quiet and unspoiled so wildlife sightings are often all to yourself, adding to the magic of the moment and giving you the freedom to admire and photograph from different angles, and for as long as you desire.

To experience a combo of South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi for that doubled-up chance to find a leopard, check out our 10-day Classic Zambia itinerary.

Leopards at night Zambia Canva Pro
Leopard and cub, night-time Zambia

Kafue National Park

The final spot for leopard viewing would have to be Kafue National Park. Zambia’s largest national park (and one of the largest in the whole of Africa), Kafue spans an impressive 22,400km² - that’s bigger than Wales! Rigorous counter-poaching initiatives and efforts in the area have seen the population of leopards increase significantly over the last few years and many guests of the park are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them. Found mostly in the drier central Kafue area there is a selection of fabulous lodges to stay at in order to get a chance of seeing one, namely KaingU Safari Lodge (not to be confused with the aforementioned Kaingo Camp in South Luangwa!).

KaingU Safari Lodge offers intimate and cosy accommodations in a pristine area of the park. This owner-run lodge overlooks the river and is the ideal location for couples, families, or small groups looking for an authentic and exciting getaway. Offering game drives, walking safaris, fishing, boat cruises, picnics, birding, and canoeing, there’s something for every type of safari-goer. If it’s leopards you’re after, game drives are your best bet of finding them. Let your guide transport you into the deep wilds of this magnificent park to find the elusive cats.

Despite its size, Kafue enjoys plenty of space and is not overrun with too many lodges and tourists so you are able to get away from the hustle and bustle of the main gate area and venture into the thick bush where a walking safari is an exceptional experience. Leopards are easily spooked by commotion or loud noises, so trying to find them on foot could prove to be a fruitful and thrilling activity.

To explore the delights of the Kafue National Park and more, check out our 12-day Wild Western Zambia itinerary.

Leopard drinking Zambia

Leopards can be found all year round but you will find the best time of year is the mid to late dry season (June to October) when much of the foliage has died back, the trees are bare and the grasses are sparse, this allows you a better view into the trees where they do much of their dwelling, plus a longer range of view on the ground to see them walking or hunting without the tall grasses to conceal them.

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Ready to book your Leopard-spotting safari in Zambia?

To find out more about booking a Zambia Holiday give our experts a call on 01768 603715. Our Zambia experts have spent plenty of time in Zambia on safari looking for leopards so they know exactly how to help you.

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    Lucie

    Africa Specalist

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Read more about leopard sightings and Zambia on our blog

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