Zambia

Authentic unspoiled wilderness in Africa’s best kept secret

Overview

Waking to the early morning sound of bird song, under the thatch of your Luangwa National Park bush camp lodge you wonder why you would ever want to be anywhere else. You listen carefully to something between a cacophony and a chorus but you can just about pick out the distinctive calls of the kingfisher, hornbill, cuckoo and hoopoe. Zambia might not be the first destination you think of for a safari adventure, but with sensational wildlife, remote national parks and rich wild landscape, it’s becoming increasingly popular as a less commercialised, more pristine alternative to the big safari experiences of South Africa, Botswana, and Kenya.

Evoking sensations of old Africa, Zambia’s lodges remain intimate, exclusive and authentic, with exceptional game viewing. That’s not to say you’ll be living rough, on the contrary, you’ll enjoy the personal attention of professional staff, and although you can opt for a rustic experience if that’s what you want, top camps offer spacious villas, stunning verandas, plunge pools and delicious local cuisine. Zambian guides and conservationists are dedicated and experienced and it’s not unusual to have elephants, monkeys, and even leopards and lions curiously creeping in through the camp itself.

As it’s sandwiched between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Equator, Zambia has a tropical climate with a mild dry winter from May to October and humid wet summers from November to April. June to August sees the peak for safaris with animals gathering at watering holes and sparse vegetation making them easy to spot. However, you’ll also pay higher rates and the small camps get booked up well in advance. October is very hot and dry while November is the start of the green season with rains continuing until March or April. December to February sees the heaviest rains with low-lying camps closing completely. Those that do stay open however offer special activities you won’t find in the high season, such as boat safaris and sensational bird watching.

Victoria Falls

Creating a border with Zimbabwe is the Zambezi River and the magnificent Victoria Falls, measuring an impressive 2km and 103 metres deep. It’s appropriately named Mosi-oa-Tunya (Smoke that Thunders) by the locals. Walkways explore the optimum viewing points, and activities like zip-wiring are available if you fancy it. Be warned, early in the low season, November and December, following the dry weather, the falls can be a disappointing trickle, but are good to visit March to July when they become fuller again. On the other hand, the exhilarating Devil’s Pool on the very edge is usually open from August to January, after which the water levels rise making it too dangerous to swim.

 

National Parks

With 19 national parks and 34 game management areas, almost 40% of Zambia’s land is under protection, showcasing an array of diverse ecosystems. The grasslands of Liuwa Plain are the site of a major wildebeest migration and were once home to Lady Liuwa, a last lonely lioness and subject of a National Geographic documentary. Kafue and Luangwa National Park house zebras, lions, cheetahs, leopards and huge crocodiles as well as rare antelope like sable & roan. The stunningly scenic Lower Zambezi National Park is a haven for wildlife and recently listed as the world’s first carbon-neutral park. Many camps close during the wet December to March, but great bargains are to be had at those that remain accessible.  It’s a beautiful, lush, green period with fab opportunities for herbivore calving and terrific sightings of baby animals. South Luangwa and the Bangweulu Wetlands within particular are open for unforgettable canoe safaris, and exceptional bird watching.


Major Airport

Lusaka International Airport - LUN, Livingstone International Airport - LVI

Low Season Months

Jan
22°C
200mm
5hrs
Feb
22°C
190mm
6hrs
Mar
22°C
80mm
5hrs
Apr
20°C
40mm
7hrs
May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct
24°C
60mm
11hrs
Nov
24°C
110mm
9hrs
Dec
22°C
160mm
6hrs

Featured Hotels

Top Experiences

The Bat Migration, Kasanka NP

From October to December, 10 million fruit bats descend on a small area of forest in Kasanka en route to neighbouring DRC, devouring local fruits and spreading seeds. Each flying mammal has a wing span of almost a metre, so that’s a whole lot of bat making for a truly spectacular sight.

Kuomboka Cultural Ceremony

A colourful celebration of the Lozi people, one of Zambia’s 72 tribes, takes place in the west of the country each April marking the end of the rains. The Lozi king rides a wooden barge accompanied by beating drums and a hundred rowers paddling in unison wearing traditional skins and headdresses.

Wildebeest Migration

Second only to the Serengeti Migration, the Liuwa Plains see tens of thousands of blue wildebeest returning south from winter grazing. Peak time for the huge herds is Oct-Nov before the heaviest rain. It’s such a special experience, more remote and intimate than that in the crowded Serengeti.

Insider Tips

  • Zambia shares the only spot in the world that marks the meeting of four countries at a single four-way quadripoint where it joins Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. Actually the point is located at the confluence of the Cuando and Zambezi rivers, denying visitors an enviable social media post.
  • Zambia went by Northern Rhodesia from 1911 until independence from the British in 1964, when it was established as the Republic of Zambia, under Kenneth Kaunda, the country’s first president. The name comes from the Zambezi River, hugely important to locals and Africa’s fourth longest river.
  • You might be forgiven for thinking one giraffe is much the same as another, but you’d be mistaken. The Thornicroft giraffe lives only in South Luangwa National Park and although similar to the Maasai giraffe, it has distinct markings. There are up to 800 living wild in the park and none in captivity.

Good To Know

  • Zambia might be landlocked, but you can get your beach fix at stunning Lake Tanganyika in the country’s north. It’s a huge 677km long and one of the world’s deepest lakes. Swim, kayak, snorkel and scuba dive among the 350 different species of fish including the endemic cichlids.
  • Good souvenirs are the beautifully coloured sarongs or chitenges, worn by locals and for sale at the markets and shops everywhere. They make great wall hangings or table cloths and don’t weigh much to pack, and important factor, as you will almost certainly be charged for excess luggage.
  • Terrific birding is to be had at Lochinvar or Busanga Plains, but don’t miss Bangweulu Wetlands, home to the prehistoric-looking shoebill, pelicans, flamingos, storks, cranes and herons. Download the ‘Sasol Birds of Southern Africa’ app which helps even beginners distinguish between bird calls.

Food & Drink

Royal Livingstone Hotel, Victoria Falls

££££

Check out the Kubu Restaurant overlooking the Upper Zambezi. It is open for lunch and dinner but it’s a great place for an afternoon G&T on the water’s edge. You can often see plenty of wildlife including hippos and elephants frolicking in the river.

Game Meat Potjie

££

Potjie is a kind of stew popular all over southern African and named after the three legged cast iron pot it is traditionally cooked in. Many lodges and camps serve this fare, deliciously slow cooked over a low heat crammed with game meat, veggies, pulses and spices.

Nshima

££

The staple carbohydrate of Zambia, made from cornmeal made into a kind of thick porridge. It is another favourite local food you are bound to try at your lodge. It is served usually with fish or meat and some kind of tomato based sauce with onions and spices.

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