September in South Luangwa is a blog post from the BeetleCam, Zambia category.

September in South Luangwa

Posted by Will on

So this is my first proper post from Africa! I have been in Zambia for two months and I’ve been keeping myself busy! August was taken up with buying a capable 4×4 and moving into our new house in Katete. Once set-up I was then able to get on with the important task of photographing some wildlife!

In my car, under a sausage tree, on the banks of the Luangwa River!

In September I was able to make several trips up to South Luangwa National Park, courtesy of two of Zambia’s leading safari operators – The Bushcamp Company and Norman Carr Safaris. My aim for this year is to document the changing face of the park through the seasons. September is the height of the dry season. Animals are forced to congregate near the permanent water sources such as the Luangwa River and the few remaining waterholes. As a result, the pickings for the predators are plentiful.

A female leopard, South Luangwa.

The Luangwa Valley is well known as one of the best places in Africa to see the elusive leopard and it wasn’t long before it had lived up to its reputation; on my first visit to the park, I came across a mother with two 9-month-old cubs in daylight. This was the first time I’d had the opportunity to photograph a leopard with BeetleCam so I immediately deployed it.

The first leopard ever photographed by BeetleCam!
A curious leopard cub checks out BeetleCam.

The leopard cubs responded rather like the lion cubs from previous encounters – they were bold and inquisitive. Fortunately, they were slightly more respectful than their lion counterparts and I was spared the sight of my BeetleCam being carried off into the bush or up a tree!

A lioness in beautiful ebony grove.

On my next visit to the park, I headed further north. There I found some incredible old ebony groves. The towering black trunks, green canopy and carpet of fallen leaves reminded me of an enchanted forest rather than a habitat I expected to find in Africa. By a stroke of good fortune, I came across a pride of lions in one such grove and used BeetleCam to take the image above of a lioness in this unusual habitat.

A yawning lioness photographed with BeetleCam.
A pair of affectionate lions.

Next, I ventured further into the interior of the park, to a camp on the seasonal Luwi River. Here there is a permanent lagoon, which is the only source of water for many miles. This lagoon is stuffed full of crocodiles and hippos. During the day, the crocs haul themselves out of the water to bask in the sun. I decided to try and get a BeetleCam perspective of a croc emerging from the water. This turned out to be more difficult than expected… the crocs were very wary of BeetleCam and refused to come anywhere near it. Eventually, after several days of perseverance, I managed to the shot I wanted using a camouflaged remote camera.

A croc photographed with a remote camera.
Crocodile feeding on a dead hippo.

September is the month that thousands of carmine bee-eaters arrive in the valley to start building their nests in the banks of the Luangwa River. They form large, vibrant colonies, which add a dazzling splash of colour to the muted tones of the dry season.

Nesting carmine bee-eaters on the banks of the Luangwa.

Over the final weekend of the month, I headed down to a remote camp on the banks of the Kapamba River. Here the local pride of lions consists of two lionesses and five large cubs. At this time of year herds of buffalo, puku and impala have no choice but to congregate near the river and the lions take full advantage of the situation. In one afternoon I watched them take down two impala in the space of a minute. It all happened less than 50m away and it wasn’t long before BeetleCam was on the scene, inching towards five ravenous cubs and the rapidly disappearing antelope.

Lion cubs feeding on a fresh impala kill.

September flew by and was full of excitement and photographic opportunities. I have really been enjoying the freedom that comes from having my own vehicle and exploring the vast African wilderness on my own. It is also very refreshing to have the luxury of time to really become familiar with an area and its wildlife.

As September progressed, the days grew hotter and hotter, a trend that will continue through October until the first rains bring some relief at the end of the month. After the first downpour, the valley will change completely, almost overnight; the air will clear, dramatic skies will start building up overhead and everything will turn green. The impalas will all give birth in the space of a few days and migratory birds will start to arrive from far and wide. I can’t wait to document the transition into wet-season. If you would like to follow my year in Zambia, please subscribe to my email newsletter. I am also regularly posting my latest photos on Facebook, if you would like to receive my updates, please “like” my page.


  1. Andrea said: October 7, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    I used to be a Peace Corps volunteer in Katete! What a great place! I’m sure you’ve made friends with Isusya’s?

  2. Olivier Esnault said: October 7, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    The leopard’s cub is awesome ! I hope more pictures of the carmine bee-eater. It seems to be fantastic.
    Anyway, great images as usual.
    Best regards

  3. Dr Jane Phillips said: October 8, 2012 at 8:24 am

    Now, I’m expecting to see a decent rendtion of a lilac-brested warbler! That bird eveaded me and I left my main lenses in Harare, so it was always just out of reach. Beutiful though.
    Lovely definition in your pics and really great depth and colours. lovely work. keep it up.

  4. Celeda Rein said: October 8, 2012 at 8:33 am

    Your stories & photos are INcredible , thanks for letting us live in the moments through your eyes ! As I’ve never been out of the United States . May god forever embrace you and the family safe from harm

  5. Manas said: October 8, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Fantastic shots!
    Can’t wait to see the transition to the wet-season.

  6. Barb Moriarty said: October 8, 2012 at 10:46 am

    Wonderful, have been waiting for this brilliantly illustrated
    “September in South Luangwa”. Many thanks for sharing this with us.

  7. Malcy said: October 8, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Once again, super photos. Always a joy to see your work.

  8. Linda Vannelli said: October 8, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    These are great photos. Thanks for sharing them.

  9. johannes maurits said: October 8, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    Good work and great experiences. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Diana Fickling said: October 8, 2012 at 11:59 pm

    Really enjoyed your update from the South Luangwa – I stayed there in 4 camps for 10 days in July with Norman Carr Safaris and it was fabulous. How good is that hippo hide on the Luwi at the front of the camp? Could have sat there all day looking, looking….. Africa seems a long way away from my desk in Melbourne.

  11. ash said: October 9, 2012 at 5:40 am

    just awesome no words to express………..

  12. Evelyn Quinones said: October 9, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    Awesome photos! So close with the beetlecam. How does someone afford a trip like this?

  13. Kevin Inskip said: October 9, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    You have taken photography to another level with beetlecam.
    Keep up the excellent work & looking forward to more posts from beetlecam.
    All the best

  14. Nicole said: October 12, 2012 at 8:51 am

    Your photos look AMAZING! Good job! 🙂
    I especially like the bird one, and the lioness one that is completely centred and walking towards the camera.
    Goodluck too on future endeavours. I look forward to seeing what photos you take next on your adventures 🙂
    -Nicole xx

  15. Nigel Ivy said: October 13, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Great shots, Will! Looks like you guys are having lots of fun out there! 🙂

  16. Sue Mawer said: October 21, 2012 at 5:37 am

    Beautiful shots of the leopard, lions (feeding) and the colourful bee eaters. I noticed one of the birds flying upside down – never seen that before.

  17. Sue Mawer said: October 22, 2012 at 5:57 am

    Oops – lost my glasses for a while. No bird flies upside down. Didn’t see the beak pointing in the right direction (the wings were coming together under its chest). Colour always attract my eye to a photo. Super shot. Enjoyed all the pics though.

  18. Jens said: September 20, 2013 at 7:52 am

    I really love the way you use the BeetleCam because the perspective is just som different. Have you ever tried to use drones to get a higher perspective?
    I have been to many parks but Luangwa National Park is up on my bucket list because I really want to photograph some more leopards. They are so cool

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