Croc Valley, South Luangwa

A wildlife lover’s paradise


There is a park in the eastern corner of Zambia which has some of the best concentrations of wildlife in the whole of Africa. Yet, even still this site is frequently forgotten and replaced by others more popular, with names like Kruger, Serengeti, Ngorongoro, etc.  I am talking about a wildlife reserve called South Luangwa National Park and a hidden gem of a campsite with the best access, a place known as Croc Valley Campgrounds.

I was lucky enough to spend three days and two nights at Croc Valley Camp, 130km north of Chipata in the south eastern corner of Zambia. The camp lies 2km from the main gate of the South Luangwa National Park on the edge of the Luangwa River. It is actually in a buffer zone designated by the park wardens as not literally in the park but an area where the animals can still roam wild without being in specific danger of getting shot by humans. You can build on this land and own parts of it, but within the buffer zone, the animals are still protected and can cross the river (and the parks boundaries) at will. This makes for an interesting sight when a rouge elephant decides to stroll on through the Croc Valley camp ground stopping to take a drink from the pool as it passes. Unfortunately I was unable to capture this site with my camera. Note to self, always have close access to camera.

The camp has been operating for 30 years and was originally a crocodile farm transformed into a safari lodge in order to turn a better profit. Over the years it has expanded to include a beautiful camp ground, bar, swimming pool, small restaurant, set safari tents, dorm style accommodations, and quaint bungalows all spread out nicely along the river’s edge.

The setup is all-inclusive accommodation, food, game drives and walks (in the park), or… do it yourself camping and cooking with optional game drives and walks. I ended up also participating in the latter. Croc Valley is a great set up for the independent traveller, with cheap camping and dorms, a fully stocked kitchen, individual prices on game drives, and cheap(ish) cold beer.

During my stay I went on three game drives within the park and bore witness to two of the most exhilarating wildlife encounters I have ever experienced. The first was spending an hour with a pride of lions lazing by the Luangwa rivers edge, and the second was watching as a male leopard munched gainfully on the skull of his most recent antelope victim. I could literally hear the soft crunches of teeth to bone and felt chills reverberate down my spine. It was incredible.

The park plays host to a number animals including four of the big five (no rhinos unfortunately). There are countless Puku, Antelope, and Bushbuck, a number of Giraffe and Elephants, Hyenas, Waterbuffalos, Crocodiles, Hippos, etc. etc. However the main draw is that the park is known as one of the best places to spot leopards in all of Africa. And judging by my experience, this is relatively true.

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SEE – Photos & Videos

WSE Travel - Croc Valley, South Luangwa - Night Photo of People
Croc Valley – Night Photo of People **All photo rights reserved to Gregor Snell**
WSE Travel - Croc Valley, South Luangwa - hammock
South Luanga hammock **All photo rights reserved to Gregor Snell**
WSE Travel - Croc Valley, South Luangwa - Leopard looking into camera
South Luangwa Leopard looking into camera **All photo rights reserved to Gregor Snell**
WSE Travel - Croc Valley, South Luangwa - Lion in National Park
Lion in South Luangwa National Park **All photo rights reserved to Gregor Snell**
WSE Travel - Croc Valley, South Luangwa - Elephant Family in National Park
Elephant Family in South Luangwa National Park **All photo rights reserved to Gregor Snell**
WSE Travel - Croc Valley, South Luangwa - Giraffes in National Park
Giraffes in South Luangwa National Park **All photo rights reserved to Gregor Snell**
WSE Travel - Croc Valley, South Luangwa - Lion pride in National Park
Lion pride in South Luangwa National Park **All photo rights reserved to Gregor Snell**

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GO – Getting There

WSE Travel - Croc Valley Camp (South Luangwa), Zambia - Map
Croc Valley Camp (South Luangwa), Zambia – Map

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Do – Activities & Attractions

Coming Soon!

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Stay – Accommodation

There are several options for accommodation while staying at Croc Valley, to suit any traveller’s needs.

There are Self Catering Chalets, Family Rooms, Tents not on the river, Luxury air conditioned river front tents. All categories have the options of Full board or Accommodation only.

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Eat – Restaurants

Coming Soon!

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Time – Seasonality & Schedules

Peak Season 1st July – 31st October – this is the driest season, when most animals can be found near watering holes, and the dry grass is much lower, making it easier to see some animals standing above it, though making it harder to spot those camouflaged.

Green Season 1st November – 30th June – this is the rainy season. Animals are more spread out, and the landscape is much greener and lush.

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Safety – Possible risks

Please Note: Travel inherently comes with an element of risk (just like crossing the road does). You are putting yourself in elements that are unfamiliar and foreign to your usual lifestyle and with that, become more susceptible to fall victim those who try to play off those unfamiliar to their local scams. There are also potential dangers in the environments to which you may not be accustomed to.

Please take extra care in travelling, ensure that you have adequate medical insurance (accidents seem to happen when you least expect them), and have let a trusted colleague, family member or friend know your whereabouts and activities.

Where Sidewalks End travel advises you to travel at your own risk, and to be extra aware of your surroundings (without letting it spoiling your time).

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Pay – How much does it cost?

There are various costs for staying at Croc Valley. Based on the accommodation chosen, to the types of activities you’d like to partake in while there, will be the influencing factors of how much your stay will tally up to cost in the end.

For a full list of current rates, please visit Croc Valley’s rates.

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Responsible Travel – Best Practices

Coming Soon!

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Reality Check – Be Aware

Croc Valley Camp is a hidden gem along the backpackers trail in Southern Africa and I highly suggest anyone travelling through Zambia seriously considers spending a few days here, chilling by the river, taking in the scenery, and visiting South Luangwa. The staff is incredibly friendly, the prices are good, and the location can’t be beat. It is somewhere I will not soon forget.

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JOIN US! WSE Travel Packages

This sounds like quite the adventure, right? We thought so too! Though we realize it can be pretty intimidating to get out there into the world on your own, especially when travelling to some of these off the beaten path locations. We love it when our readers give it a shot and try it for themselves! In fact, please leave us feedback if you do!! If trying something ‘this’ adventurous on your own is just a bit outside of your comfort zone, WSE Travel is here to help!

Follow this link for our ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Tours – packages that are highly personalized and tailored at your request.

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Have you ever been to a National Park that was teaming with Wildlife? If so, where was it, and what kind of animals did you see there? 

Please feel free to share your stories and thoughts in the comment section below!

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WSE Travel - Giraffes in South Luangwa
Giraffes in South Luangwa – All photo rights reserved to Gregor Snell

6 Responses

  1. We stayed at Croc Valley in July this year and also loved it, Greg. We had two of our best-ever sightings of leopard there, one on a guided drive with Croc Valley guides and the other we found for ourselves as we self-drove. South Luangwa is a stunning place.

  2. Roxanne,

    That is great news! I’m stoked you agree with my opinion of Croc Valley. S Luangwa is such an incredible place. I hope to return in the eventual future. Cheers from Cape Town, SA. Greg.

  3. Wow, I’m very impressed by the photos. How did you manage to take a photo of the lion from such a close distance? I went to Yala Park in Sri Lanka last week for my first Safari Experience, but this is awesome, greater than Sri Lanka.

    1. I believe Greg was using the 55-250 Canon telephoto lens… though based on my experience in game parks, sometimes the lions come right up to the safari vehicles! I had a pack of male simbas (lions) walk right between two of our jeeps! What kind of safari did you go on in Sri Lanka, Angess?

  4. Just finding this post now as we are planning a trip to Zambia and Kenya in 2016 and while I know that is far off it’s never too early to research! Despite the daunting name, Croc Valley seems like the perfect place for us and I am proud to say I have already made an e-mail inquiry!

  5. Hi Wendy, yes you’ll love Croc Valley, they are amazing and have some quality product and services!! Enjoy and hopefully you’ll spot a leopard 🙂

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