Zambia is arguably home to some of Africa’s best National Parks, but no many know about them, which is great for those who do.
In the east of the country is Zambia’s most exceptional game-viewing – in South Luangwa National Park. South Luangwa National Park lies alongside the Luangwa River, the former occupying around 5,000m2 of the valley floor and the latter about half that.
A blanket of mature woodland with beautiful tall trees, bushes and grasses covers the flat floodplains and harbours many interesting species of flora and fauna. Depending on where you are in the park, you are sure to come across a wide variety of game. The predators are lion, leopard, spotted hyena and wild dog, the most common of these being lion, that congregate in huge prides. Night drives yield excellent sightings of leopard but you are unlikely to see cheetah as sightings are extremely rare in this area. Rivers are infested with great numbers of hippos and crocodiles. Endemic to the valley are Crawshay’s zebra and Luangwa is also home to the wonderful Thornicroft’s giraffe with its striking contrastive colouration and white legs.
South Luangwa attracts a prolific birdlife too. Of particular note are the nests of the fabulous yellow-billed stork with its distinctive pink breeding plumage.
This is a small (but perfectly formed!) park on the banks of the River Zambezi where game-viewing by boat is a wonderful experience.
Much of the park is dominated by broad-leafed, thick woodland, which does not make for particularly easy game-viewing. However, during the dry season, the game is very much concentrated around the more exposed, riverine plain. The river is a busy place in this lovely park. It is home to hundreds of hippos and crocodiles as well as the unusual Cape clawless otter and the leguvaan or large water monitor lizard.
The game-viewing is fantastic and the only big game species that you will not see are rhino (owing to poaching), cheetah and giraffe. Buffalo and elephant are here in droves, often either in or beside the river, grazing the verdant banks and islands. Lion, leopard and spotted hyena are the major predators.
There are over 350 recorded bird species in the Lower Zambezi National Park and again, the river is a focal point for many of them.
The Victoria Falls are without doubt one of the world’s most remarkable sights. They occur where the enormous Zambezi (over a mile wide at this stage) plummets 350 feet into a steep gorge sending up swirls of spray to a background of thunderous noise. With an average of 550,000 cubic metres of water passing over the falls every minute, it is the largest curtain of water in the world.
The Falls are actually split into a number of separate waterfalls owing to the small islands dotted along the top. From west to east, they are called the Devil’s Cataract, the Main Falls, the Horseshoe Falls, the Rainbow Falls and the Eastern Cataract.
The higher water levels towards the end of the rainy season (around May) mean that the spray coming off the Falls is even greater than usual. The result is a dense, swirling mist that soaks everyone and everything beneath it. But once you catch your first glimpse of the Falls, this unceremonious dousing will be the last thing on your mind!
There’s just so much you could do in Zambia, and we’re full of ideas to suit you. In the meantime, here are three of our favourites.
Zambia is home to the walking safari. It was pioneered here, and the program has evolved ever since. Strict 3 year long guiding courses have guaranteed consistently high standards here for over 50 years. This combined with the great wildlife and top camps run by bush enthusiasts make Zambian walking safaris the best in Africa.
The type of walking safari you do can vary greatly, you can either do an outdoor over night experience where you walk through the bush for a couple of days at a time, or you can do a a morning activity where you can have an active morning out in the bush before returning to camp for a well deserved lunch. Almost every camp has trained walking guides, so it readily available should you decide at any moment that you would like to do one.
If you like the idea of walking, then a safari in Zambia is right for you. It’s such a lovely activity to do on safari as it has a completely different feel to any other activity. There are also camps in the Lower Zambezi National Park and Kafue National Park that offer fantastic walking safaris should you wish to do this in a mixture of locations.
Zambian’s are very proud of the heritage of the safari experience they offer, which you will see and hear why when on safari here.
Zambia took a forward thinking approach to safari back in the 1900’s – arguably without knowing about it at the time. As in the early 1900’s African safaris were advertised as a colonial hunting experience, and Zambia was one of the few countries quickly moved away from this.
We have African legends (and Zambian safari pioneers) Norman Carr and Robin Pope – who own a selection of camps that we fondly use – to thank for this. Robin and Norman took the initiative to promote looking and photographing animals, rather than killing them, which amazingly at the time seemed odd. Furthermore, they saw the local people, not as a hindrance, but as part of the experience – so capitalized on this and went on to involve them in wildlife management, guiding and other forms of sustainability.
Light-years ahead of its time, it was 50 years later before conservationists took action in Africa. This pioneering and innovative approach was the foundation of safaris in Zambia, and now the modern day conservation policy in Africa.
Game viewing by canoe is a wonderfully refreshing way to see the wildlife. It makes such a nice change from driving around in vehicles. It’s a very natural way to get up close to the animals without disturbing them.
This way you can explore the Zambezi, keeping an eye out for hippos, crocodile and an impressive array of birds as you go. It may sound a little daunting at first, but trust us when we say it something you’ll cherish forever. It’s an unforgettable experience.
Timing is everything, and when you choose to visit will play a huge part in the experience you have. Here’s some advice to help.
Victoria Falls throws up billows of spray, which can be seen from 19 miles away. Zambia is slightly larger than Texas and its nearest ocean is 600 miles away.
The capital is Lusaka and even though the city was originally planned for 200,000 people it is now home to over 1,500,000 people.
Having said that, the phone directory for the entire country is less than an inch thick.
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