The epitome of bush beauty
Our Guide to
A Safari gem.
Zambia has been a hidden safari gem for years and now it’s coming under the spotlight and quickly becoming one of Africa’s finest safari destinations plus it’s the site of the legendary Victoria Falls. There is an enviable array of safari activities and wildlife viewing opportunities. There are nineteen national parks that possess exceptional wilderness and wildlife character and charm with South Luangwa National Park home of the Zambia walking safari and Lower Zambezi National Park the ultimate water safari.
Kafue National Park is epic, covering 22,400 square kilometres whilst Liuwa Plains wins the off the beaten track title. This remote and vast wilderness area is truly untouched and highly rewarding with great wildlife sightings including the second largest wildebeest migration in Africa.
Little known and explored Kasanka National Park is home to a massive bat migration that sees between eight and ten million mammals in just one hectare of forest between late October and mid December when the abundance of fruits draws them in. Once the fruit supply is exhausted, the bats head off towards the Congo.
Zambia as a country is small and landlocked with eight neighbours; Tanzania to the north-east, Malawi to the east, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to the south, Angola to the west, Malawi to the east, Tanzania to the north-east and Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north. Zambia is full of vibrant colour, friendly people and wonderful scenery.
On a Zambia safari you will explore breathtaking scenery from dense forests, wild rivers, sweeping plains to impressive waterfalls and plateaus. Home to the traditional walking safari, it would be a crime to go on a Zambia safari and not get out on foot in the bush.
With the very best river guides in all of Africa, you also must explore the Lower Zambezi on a canoeing safari or boating safari. Activities are as diverse as the wildlife with walking safaris, canoeing safaris, tiger fishing trips and traditional 4×4 safari game drives to name a few.
Kafue is king when it comes to being the largest national park in the country with vast landscapes and the unique opportunity of hot air balloon safaris and the best spot to stumble upon cheetah. Victoria Falls can be seen from Zambia if you visit a town called Livingstone. High waters and full falls are visible in the first half of the year so expect impressive volumes of water plummeting over the cliffs making quite a noise.
Zambia offers an intimate and personal safari holiday experience because many of the properties are owner run with an emphasis on quality. Expect exceptional guides, authentic accommodations and outstanding locations to guarantee great wildlife sightings and impressive wilderness.
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More on a Zambia Safari
Facts and figures are not for everyone. So we will keep this brief and interesting, mixing up some statistics and our take on Zambia.
Where is it and what should one expect?
Zambia is a landlocked country perched in South central Africa on a high plateau. A staggering 9,220 square kilometres is water. Just 30% is reserved for wildlife and there are 20 national parks and 34 game management areas in Zambia.
Zambia is always a surprise to our guests because often times they travel with little or no expectation other than a great holiday. The overwhelming feedback is on the exceptional quality of guiding in Zambia, the diversity of safari activities and experiences and wonderful accommodations and service received by locals.
What is Zambia known for?
Zambia is known for sharing the border with Zimbabwe to Victoria Falls. What isn’t known so much is that Zambia has more natural water resources than any other southern African country. There are water falls dotted across the country plus its world famous Zambezi River, Luangwa and Kafue river systems and that leads to its well known status of the canoeing safari specialist.
In 1888 Cecil Rhodes spearheading British commercial and political interests in Central Africa secured a mineral rights concession from local chiefs. That same year, Northern and Southern Rhodesia (Zambia and Zimbabwe respectively) were proclaimed a British sphere of influence. Copper was the primary industry throughout the late 1800s and into the 1900s and remains an active industry to this day. Independence was gained in 1964 where Northern Rhodesia became the Republic of Zambia.
Home to an astonishing 73 native tribes, Zambians have always lived in a peaceful coexistence. The Bemba tribe is the largest tribe in Zambia constituting about 20 % of the population. With such vibrant culture in one country, it is understandable that Zambia hosts one of the most impressive line ups of traditional and celebratory festivals and events throughout the year.
Want to read more? Check out our travel guide.
Zambia National Parks
There are nine national parks visitor ready – by that we mean exceptional wildlife resources, good access, accommodation and solid conservation efforts and practices.
South Luangwa National Park has been badged one of Africa’s finest wildlife sanctuaries and for good reason. The concentration of wildlife around the river and its oxbow lagoons is impressive and among the most intense on the continent. The Luangwa River is the lifeblood of this 9,059 square kilometres of national park and it plays host to an impressive variety of mammals, birds and vegetation. Over 400 bird species, 60 different animal species and a myriad of habitats make for great Zambia safari holidays.
More than half the size of South Luangwa, the Lower Zambezi is just 4,092 square kilometres of untouched wilderness. This region offers an impressive diversity of Zambia safari activities including the opportunity to get close to wildlife roaming in and out of the waterways. The park is scenically beautiful with the river, thick riverine fringe of ebony and fig trees hanging over its edge and inland flood plains with mopane forest, winterthorn trees and huge acacias.
The surrounding hills are covered in woodland and the escarpment runs along the northern end acting as a physical barrier to the regions wildlife. Nothing is more impressive than seeing an enormous herd of elephants at the river’s edge or island hopping buffalo. Activities are as diverse as the landscapes with 4×4 game drives, walking safaris, canoeing and boating to fishing. Nothing beats an African sunset overlooking or better still, cruising down the Zambezi where wildlife congregates particularly in dry season.
Livingstone (Victoria Falls) is an awe-inspiring beauty and UNESCO World Heritage site just a stone’s throw away from the town of Livingstone. Victoria Falls is actually the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, accessible from both countries and most spectacular at all times of year from Zimbabwe and the first half of the year in Zambia.
When water level starts to drop, the volume reduces significantly on the cliff faces seen from the Zambian side. Which on the plus side grants you access to Devils Pool, a natural rock pool that perches at the very edge of the falls. Guests can visit and swim in the pool only during a portion of the dry season.
The Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park is the area that includes the falls and its just a 66 square kilometre national park stretching for 12 kilometres up the Zambezi River above the Falls. Take a leisurey game drive along the river edge and see a variety of plains game like zebra, giraffe, warthog plus birds and smaller animals. Elephants cross the Zambezi freely, another exciting Zambia holiday highlight. There are no predators here so wildlife is relaxed giving you great photographic safari opportunities.
Best time to visit Zambia
Depending on what you wish to see and do in Zambia, the ‘best time to visit’ varies. It has a sub-tropical climate with a wet and dry season. The wet season is typically December to April and some areas close down as water levels restrict wildlife viewing and many roads become impassable. The best time to visit Victoria Falls on the Zambian side is the end of the rainy season, Marth to May because the Zambezi River is in what they call ‘full flood’ and the falls are at impressive – thundering over the cliffs throwing up spray that saturates onlookers. Read more on Victoria Falls here.
The dry season is May to October, the later you travel the hotter it gets and October is extremely hot. June to August enters cooler weather with comfortable days and chilly nights. The majority of walking camps in South Luangwa open in June once roads have dried out enough to become accessible again. It also heralds high season with increased visitation and price tags. November is a variable month because sometimes it is hot and dry like October and other times, often in the same day, the season’s first downpours occur.
Conservation in Zambia
The Zambian Wildlife Authority was set up to administer protected areas across the country and work in partnership with tursts and conservation NGOs. There are 19 national parks, 36 game management areas, seven RAMSAR wetland sites and 42 important birding areas. Add to this three transfrontier parks plus numerous forest reserves and the result is 38 percent of Zambia formally protected. It is the highest percentage in Africa.
Other initiatives include the Zambian Carnivore Program, a non profit trust dedicated to conserving large carnivores and the ecosystems where they reside. Lower Zambezi and South Luangwa have conservation efforts to protect the natural environment and provide safe refuge to elephants and other wildlife in the parks. Conservation issues in Zambia are human encroachment, development and demand for natural resources.
Sustainable tourism is working effectively in many areas and locals are starting to see the sustainable benefits to increased tourism which can lead to improvement of life, basic housing requirements met, education for children, medical facilities and even paid employment. As Norman Carr once said ‘governments won’t conserve an impala because it is pretty. They will work to save it if they see it’s worth more to them alive than dead’.