We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again and again… The Emerald Season is the most UNDERRATED time of the year. From November through to April the Luangwa Valley is transformed into a lush emerald green wonderland thanks to the arrival of the seasonal rains. The Luangwa River is at its fullest and the South Luangwa National Park becomes inundated with excess water, which results in some exceptional boating safaris, walks and the occasional drive. It’s a period of rejuvenation within the wilderness but also a chance to get away from the usual safari crowds and take advantage of some attractive green season deals. But that’s not all, as the Emerald Season is also a phenomenal time for birding!
When it comes to bird watching, South Luangwa is held in high esteem amongst birding enthusiasts, clocking over 450 species! During the Emerald Season, there is a bonus as several species of migratory birds such as the Palearctic migrants from Northern Europe and the intra-African migrants arrive to take advantage of the food that the rains bring as well as to roost. These include the Red chested Cuckoo, Eurasian swallows. Swifts, hobbies and several Bee-eaters, as well as birds of prey such as the Steppe eagles and even Steppe buzzards, that come all the way from Russia! The Amur Falcons who also come in from the steppes of Russia in their thousands, fly over 7000 kilometres to get to us.
One of the most sought after birds to see, on most twitchers’ wish list is none other than the African Pitta. This extremely elusive migratory bird arrives in mid to late November and love to hang out deep in the dense thickets making it rather impossible to see. Their distinctive call however is what usually alerts our seasoned guides to their location and are often rewarded with a fleeting glimpse and if lucky a photo opportunity. Timing is critical though as the moment the pittas start breeding, they stop ‘calling’. Simon Cousins, an ex-guide of RPS and now regular guest was fortunate to get this snap of what’s described by many in the birding world as ‘Africa’s most wanted’.
During the green season, it’s not just the landscape that undergoes a colourful transformation. As it’s breeding season, the birdlife also gets an extra burst of colour, with the males proudly showing off their breeding plumage in the hope of snagging a mate. The Stork Colony up at Nsefu is in full swing during the green season and the yellow billed storks proudly display their crimson breeding plumage as do the Sacred Ibis. During our River Journeys, our guides take our guests up by boat to see this spectacle.
The sky is filled with colours of the rainbow, with birds such as the African Ground Hornbill, a variety of Kingfishers, Lilac Breasted Rollers and Lilian’s Lovebirds. It’s a sight for sore eyes seeing all the colours. There’s also the added bonus of the crisp air, free of dust after the rains which creates the best photographic conditions, which means your clients are able to take full advantage when capturing these stunning plumages.
Renowned photographer David Rogers has been visiting the Luangwa during the Emerald Season for over a decade, running his photographic safaris, and had this to say about photographing birds:
“The birding in the summer season is outstanding. Great backgrounds, migrant species.
Also the diffused and soft lighting often allows you to shoot all day.”
There is still space on his March 2023 Safari which is not specific to birds, and is a great itinerary that encapsulate the magic of this wonderful time of year!
As if there were not already enough reasons for you to visit us during the Emerald Season! Whether a keen birder or a newbie to the safari world, the birds of the Luangwa will leave you in absolute ‘awe’!