Zambia offers outstanding, pristine wilderness areas, abundant wildlife and multiple modes to experience an authentic African safari holiday.
Zambia is a country that would be unfamiliar to many Australians. As a destination it offers an absolute authentic African safari experience, which is all down to one key element – space.
Zambia offers a vast expanse of empty space where the thrill of the bush stretches unbroken all the way to the end of the horizon. Its space is diverse from raging rivers and majestic Victoria Falls to riverine forests, open plains, mountains, valleys and savannahs.
And of course, within this space sits the key attraction of Zambia – the wildlife.
After a visit last month, I witnessed an incredible and diverse range of wildlife in action that would be unrivalled anywhere else in Africa. From fighting hippos arguing over valuable water space, a strong lion pride taking down and feeding on a buffalo to great herds of elephants migrating to the rapidly reducing rivers, crocodiles nesting on the sandy banks, lionesses grooming their cubs in the early fall of night and buffalo in their thousands stampeding across open plains.
The safari experience in Zambia is as diverse as its wilderness and wildlife. In this country, you can take part in 4×4 game drives, walking safaris, mountain bike safaris, canoeing safaris boating safaris and tiger fishing excursions, helicopter rides, microlight safaris and that’s just scratching the surface.
Sleeping under canvas or thatch is a highlight here. Unfenced, sleeping alongside the same wildlife you have witnessed in action during the day, you certainly sleep with one eye open on your first night. But after this the smell of the bush and sounds of the wild dissolve as you sleep blissfully in nocturnal harmony. I even slept through the sharp shrill calls coming from the mouths of vervet monkeys as they sat in the trees above my tent warning of a lone leopard passing close by in the early hours of morning.
The other key attraction of Zambia is the friendliness and welcome of its people. I met local bush doctors, priests, artists, teachers and always at every turn smiling children. Most memorable was the conversations with guides and camp owners – some of the best in the business. These passionate people are committed to supporting their local communities and conservation. Zambia produced legendary Norman Carr and his empathy for the bush was quite infectious because almost every guide I met had worked or trained with him or befriended him.
Grant Cumings was one of the special people that touched a cord with my commitment to Africa. He has lived at Chiawa Camp in the Lower Zambezi since establishing it in 1989 and was instrumental in setting up the Conservation Lower Zambezi.
With a wife and two children, Grant now migrates effortlessly between big city Lusaka, Chiawa Camp and Old Mondoro Bushcamp, the latest addition to the Cumings portfolio. With an incredible love of the bush and wicked sense of humour, Grant helps you to better understand and appreciate the bush using all your senses. He prefers guests who appreciate the bush, the awesome splendour and sanctity of any unspoiled wilderness, playing an active role in conserving these areas and training new guides to do the same. He dislikes anyone who does not respect the wilderness, crocodiles too close to his canoe, hippos under his canoe and horror of all horrors, a warm gin and tonic!
When asked what he is still to see in his life in Zambia, Grant said a year without poachers. He is confident that day will come if we all play a part in conservation of nature’s great wildlife.
Fannuel Banda was the elusive guide that got away from me. The day I arrived to Kapamba Bush Camp in the South Luangwa, he had taken leave to be with his family. Yet his reputation preceded him and it was the stories shared with other guests and staff that inspired me. I read the guest comment book and Fannuel was often referred to as the voice of Africa.
Fannuel grew up in one of the local villages and was inspired by the bush and loved wildlife great and small. He was encouraged from a young age by Phil Berry, the owner of the Bushcamp Company in South Luangwa National Park to train and become a guide. What impressed me most was his lively and personable character that seemed to almost mesmerise guests that I spoke with whilst sitting around a fire in the Kapamba River as the sun set. Fannuel can be found at Kapamba and Zungulila Camp in South Luangwa National Park. I will certainly go back to meet this man of the bush.
And then there was the inspiring Coppingers, John and Carol. John was born and raised in Zambia, educated in Zimbabwe, and worked his way round the globe from the diamond mines of Namibia to the oilfields of the North Sea and Iran. He returned to Zambia in 1984 to pursue his lifelong dream to work with wildlife. After 12 years of working in the Luangwa Valley he and his wife Carol, created Remote Africa Safaris in 1995. John’s innate understanding of the bush, his dependability and impressive engineering skills have led to his reputation as a highly respected guide and operator in the Luangwa. John converted his commercial pilot’s licence to a microlight pilot’s licence in 1994 and shares this experience with guests at Tafika. I was nervous to fly, however John’s calm demeanor convinced me it would be safe. My first flight was so exhilarating and John’s guiding so fantastic I went up again the next day and witnessed all the wonders of Africa from crocodiles nesting on the dried river banks, hippos wallowing in the diminishing waters to large herds of buffalo grazing on the plains.
Carol was born and raised in South Africa. She is a qualified Radiographer and subsequently attained a Computer Science degree. First introduced to the bush in 1981 when she joined John on an extended safari through the region, Carol moved to the Luangwa with John in 1984. Their children were born and raised in the Valley where Carol home schooled them until 2001 when they entered boarding school. Carol is responsible for the company accounts and manages the Mkasanga School Fund, which supports the local community, school and clinic. She has recently qualified as a teacher for the Diana Cooper School of Angels and Ascension and offers workshops and retreats at Tafika.
Zambia would be at the top of the list of African countries for an ultimate safari experience. It is remote, little visited and, home to one of Africa’s greatest concentrations of wildlife and extreme landscapes offering endless space and outstanding natural beauty like nowhere else. For years it has been off the safari map and now adventurous travellers can experience it for themselves.
Zambia + Malawi