DISPATCHES FROM EXOTIC LANDS
Why travel to Zambia?
Zambia is a country where big game rules the roost and mighty rivers define the landscape. The wildlife experience is phenomenal, the scenery supremely pretty, the lodges exquisite and the guiding excellent, yet it receives just a handful of international visitors – roughly 800,000 annually compared to Kenya’s 2 million. It sits confidently under the radar, happy to remain relatively unknown, yet ready to wow any safari goer who appreciates the value of an unpretentious yet top quality African wildlife safari with none of the crowds.
Where to go in Zambia
South Luangwa National Park
Although it is small in relative terms (half the size of Kruger in South Africa), South Luangwa is one of the finest wildlife sanctuaries in Africa. The Luangwa River is the lifeblood of the park, drawing huge buffalo herds, crocodiles which grow to immense proportions, and flocks of carmine bee-eaters nesting in its mud banks. The leopard sightings are excellent and seeing this elusive cat (or many!) is virtually guaranteed. This unspoilt wilderness is also the birthplace of the original walking safari and seeing it with your feet firmly on the soil, where you can feel the pulse of the wilderness around you, is the very best way to experience it.
Those in search of a riverine safari experience should head to the Lower Zambezi. The Zambezi River defines the landscape, where it flows wide and slow, creating a paradise of channels, lagoons, sandbanks and islands for wallowing hippos and elephants. Alongside all manner of woodland and water birds, the fringing trees and floodplains support an immense number of grazers and predators, especially during the dry season when animals travel from far and wide to enjoy the permanent water source.
Whilst the wildlife seen on game drives is exceptional, the Lower Zambezi is also a place to sit, rest watch the wallowing wildlife from your armchair, G&T in hand, whilst soaking up the serenity of nature all around you. It pairs beautifully with and African wildlife safari in South Luangwa.
Victoria Falls and Livingstone
The Victoria Falls are high up on the hit list for most visitors to Zambia and most bespoke travel itineraries and small group African safari tours will visit them, but don’t let that put you off. There was a reason that Dr Livingstone declared their scenes “so lovely they must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.” Livingstone itself is a modest, friendly little town just under 11km from Victoria Falls with a good range of hotels, a small museum and a craft market, however, most of our guests choose to stay in the handful of sophisticated river lodges (e.g. Tongabezi or Thorntree River Lodge) just upstream from the Falls. Downstream the river plunges through the deep Batoka Gorge, and the rushing waters become an adrenalin junkie’s playground.
There is some debate over whether the Falls are better viewed from the Zambian or Zimbabwean side. The good news is that the border is easily crossed so it is easy to see them from either side, or both if you wish. Read more about the great Zambia vs Zimbabwe debate here.
Kafue, Kasanka, Liuwa Plain, the Bangweulu Wetlands and beyond
Besides the destinations already mentioned, Zambia has a whole host of hidden gems trodden by the seriously few. Among them is Kafue which is a vast mecca for predators, Kasanka which hosts the largest migration of mammals on the planet (bats!), Liuwa Plain which sees extraordinary numbers of zebra and wildebeest frolicking among wildflowers, and the Bangweulu Wetlands where prehistoric looking shoebill storks wade through the swamps. In all these regions, a very small number of specialist owner-operators, driven purely by passion, offer niche safaris that seasoned safaris goers and nature nuts will relish.
What to do in Zambia
There is something for everyone in Zambia. Adventurous types can head out on multi-day mobile walking safaris, anglers can try their luck at catching a tiger fish on the Zambezi and daredevils can get their adrenalin fix white water rafting, or taking a dip in Devils Pool on the precipice of Victoria Falls. Boating and canoeing is offered by most riverside lodges and game drives are a given in most locations, producing phenomenal sightings and photographic opportunities.
Where to stay in Zambia
A number of sophisticated lodges offer real luxury for those in need of a little pampering, while more earthy types will enjoy the many bush camps available. Zambia is unique in its abundance of seriously stylish private homes, complete with private guides and chefs, to call your own. These offer a wonderful sanctuary for families or small groups to go off-grid and escape the world for a little while. Click here to see our top pick of accommodation options in Zambia
Mchenja Camp, South Luangwa
When to visit Zambia
Most visitors come to Zambia between June and October when the land is drying out after the rains, animals are seeking out water to generate reliable sightings, and the roads are sufficiently dry to allow access. Although this is peak season, Zambia never feels especially busy, and a bespoke travel itinerary will ensure your experience remains wild and exclusive.
In September and October, the temperatures climb, and the Lower Zambezi and the Luangwa Valley get particularly hot but the game viewing can be extremely rewarding.
Zambia’s ’Green Season’ falls from November to March when many camps close, unsurfaced roads may become impassable, and it can be incredibly hot with daytime temperatures reaching the high 30s. However, the ‘emerald’ season is very pretty and can be great for birders and photographers. Many declare it their favourite time to travel and it is a good time for small group African safari tours tailored to specific interests.
The migrant carmine bee-eaters arrive to nest in South Luangwa National Park, forming large, noisy colonies in the riverbank around August-September and the bat migration is in Kasanka National Park from mid-October to mid-December.
We offer bespoke travel arrangements and small group African safari tours to see some of Zambia’s most astonishing natural wonders.