Raw but gentle, Zambia is a beguiling jewel tucked away amongst its more popular neighbours, perfect for the safari connoisseur seeking the purest of wilderness experiences
A Zambia safari stands out not only for the prolific wildlife you will see, but the manner in which you see it. The walking safari was practically invented and perfected here. Night game drives are allowed, and canoes are often the only way to get around. The Luangwa Valley is one of Africa’s headline attractions, with the Lower Zambezi not far behind. Kafue is huge, and incredibly rewarding if you can spare the time. Liuwa Plain hosts the second-largest wildebeest migrations on the continent and the Bangweulu Swamps are best for black lechwe and the legendary Shoebill.
Accommodation consists of small owner-operated lodges and seasonal mobile camps that are almost incidental to the main attraction – the untrammeled bush and your experience of it in the company of some of the best guides Africa has to offer
Planning your safari…
The Best Time To Visit Zambia
June, July and August are cool and dry, with short grass that makes for clear lines of sight through the bush – good for game viewing.
In September and October, it gets drier and hotter, causing wildlife to congregate around water holes.
November to March is warm and wet. This rainy period means vegetation is thick and wildlife dispersed, but as this is the calving season, it can make for interesting encounters. Careful though – Many camps close in the wet season, as getting around is nearly impossible.
April and May yield clear skies, lots of green and drier, cooler conditions.
South Luangwa National Park
South Luangwa gave the world the walking safari, and this remains one of the best ways to enjoy this pristine area. The mixed landscape of oxbow lakes and floodplains, interspersed with stands of leadwood and ebony trees, running through the vast scrub makes the valley decidedly easy on the eye. Add to this the prolific wildlife, and it’s easy to see why this is rated one of Africa’s top 10 places to visit. Each night is spent at a small camp, entirely appropriate to its setting. Looking for even more remoteness and isolation? If so, North Luangwa offers an Africa that very few get to experience. We organise walking safaris here on request for clients prepared to make the time.
Kafue National Park
To explore the whole of Kafue’s 8,700 square miles of rich mix of habitats is an adventure not to be taken lightly, but on a trip to Zambia, at least the park’s Busanga Plains should be on your list. A vast floodplain submerged for most of the year, it generates huge areas of grazing for herds of buffalo and a variety of other rare antelopes. Here are found red lechwe, Liechtensteins hartebeest, roan, sable, puku and sitatunga, amongst many others. Stalking them are lion, leopard and Zambia’s largest populations of African wild dog and cheetah.
Lower Zambezi National Park
As its name implies, the park is centered around the sandbanks, lagoons, islands and channels of the Zambezi river. The park’s interplay of river and craggy escarpment makes for a gorgeous scenery, and a perfect setting for the plentiful wildlife. In the dry season, the animals’ drive to get to water means that they hold sway over the land. Encounters are many and varied, and at this time, human visitors give way to the giants of the bush. The best way to see it all is by non-motorized canoe – a morning’s paddle through along the river has got to be one of the most memorable wildlife experiences one can have.
Kasanka and Bangweulu
Kasanka, as well as being a good place to spot the elusive sitatunga antelope, plays host to possibly the greatest mammal migration on Earth. Every October, up to eight million straw-coloured fruit bats arrive literally overnight to feast on the fruits of the the local figs trees. The sheer spectacle of the bats and the raptors that follow them is unforgettable. Further north, the Bangweulu Wetlands are a huge, flat complex of rivers, lake and swamps that harbour elephants, hippos, crocodile, rich bird life and herds of antelope. Notable species are the endangered shoebill and the endemic black lechwe.
With just one camp serving it, you’d be hard pressed to find a more remote location than Liuwa Plain, on the border with Angola. Long forgotten, the area hosts the largest concentration of blue wildebeest outside the Serengeti-Mara Conservation area, and is now making it’s way back as one of the places to visit on you safari to Zambia. It is extraordinarily flat from horizon to horizon, and is flooded by the Zambezi from December to May. An absence of lions has meant that spotted hyena have been at the top of the food chain here. However, lions are making a comeback, as are small numbers of cheetah and wild dog.