Zambia is a large land-locked country towards the southern-central part of Africa bordering several countries including Angola, Malawi and Zimbabwe; it shares one of the 7 natural wonders of the world – Victoria Falls – with Zimbabwe.
Access to Zambia is primarily via flights into Lusaka or Livingstone from Johannesburg or road transfer (or short light aircraft flights) into Mfuwe from Lilongwe in Malawi or into Livingstone from Kasane in Botswana. Both in themselves superb countries to visit.
Sitting principally on a high plateau (some 4,000 feet above sea level) gives Zambia a generally pleasant and moderate climate although the long rains that arrive each November, and last into early March, can make getting around on non-tarmac roads somewhat of a challenge.
The safari pioneers of the early days (especially the late Norman Carr) brought, and thenperfected, the concept of walking safaris to the South Luangwa and to this day a walking safari has to be one of the best ways to really connect with your surroundings.
South Luangwa National Park
The best known of all the parks in Zambia, the South Luangwa NP lies in a valley between the Muchinga Escarpment and the Luangwa River and offers a wide variety of landscapes and hence wildlife. It is home to some endemic species that are found only in the Luangwa Valley – Thornicroft’s Giraffe being one.
The best way to access the park is to fly into Lusaka and connect onwards to Mfuwe, from where the gate to the park is about an hour’s drive distant. Most of the lodges are located outside the park’s perimeters but there are some superb small bush camps, operated by Norman Carr Safaris, in remote areas. I would heartily recommend staying in the Mfuwe region for a couple of nights before ‘going native’ in one of the bush camps. If you get a chance to have a ‘wild sleep out’ – take it. I’ll say no more so as not to spoil the experience.
One of my favourite camps is Luangwa River Camp:
Kafue National Park
To the west of Lusaka is the largest national park in Zambia and one of the largest in Africa – the Kafue – covering some 22,500 square kilometres. The million hectare northern sector is the perfect location for camps; remote, wild and diverse with tracts of pristine wilderness. The north-west is dominated by the Busanga Swamps, a papyrus dominated wetland that gives way to the vast floodplain of the Busanga Plains, an area of seasonally inundated grassland dotted with isolated tree-islands. The Lunga, Lufupa and Kafue Rivers are lined with riverine forests and the landscape if is further patterned with broad-leaved miombo woodland, open plains, floodplains and island thickets.
Wilderness Safaris have two great camps in the area; my pick would be Shumba Camp:
Lower Zambezi National Park
To the south of Lusaka, the Zambezi Escarpment falls away spectacularly to the mighty Zambezi River which acts as the border between Zambia and Mana Pools in Zimbabwe.
Even though the park covers an area of only just over 4,000 sq kms, most of the game is concentrated along the valley floor, where the water and grazing is plentiful but some of the woodland is quite thick and game viewing needs patience. The escarpment acts as a physical barrier to most of the park’s animal species. Enormous herds of elephant, of up to 100 strong, are often seen at the Zambezi’s edge and swimming between Lower Zambezi and Mana Pools NP. Buffalo and waterbuck are also widely seen. The park also hosts good populations of lion and leopard, but can be hard to locate. Listen too for the ubiquitous cry of the fish eagle.
Depending on budget, I would recommend one of these properties:-
Kasaka River Lodge – http://www.kasakariverlodge.com/
If you have a large family or a group of friends and want your own space, Chongwe River House is open each year from April to November – think the Flintstones meets Middle Earth!! Astonishing, just astonishing.
Named by the locals as Mosi-oa-Tunya (the Smoke that Thunders) but ‘discovered’ by David Livingstone in 1855 and located close to the point that Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe meet. The Falls has the largest uninterrupted sheet of water in the world, over 5,000 feet long and 360 feet in height and at its highest recorded flow almost 500,000 cubic feet of water went over the falls per SECOND!! Tuck that information away for a quiz one day.
But enough of the statistics, Victoria Falls is a great place to start or finish a safari in any one (or more) of Botswana, Zambia or Zimbabwe. From there, in an hour or so by light aircraft, you can reach the Chobe National Park, the Linyanti or the Okavango Delta in Botswana, the Kafue NP or the Lower Zambezi NP in Zambia or the Hwange NP or Mana Pools in Zimbabwe.
There are loads of hotels and lodges to stay at in either the town of Victoria Falls (Zim) or Livingstone (Zam) and so many activities to experience to suit all ages and all budgets. Bungy Jump – no problem (but no thanks), helicopter flight over the Falls (a little pricey) or a gentle sundowner on the Zambezi with a G&T in hand or tracking white rhino on foot – yes please.
My personal favourites are The River Club for old world colonial charm or Toka Leya.
Liuwa Plain National Park
Situated in the far west of Zambia almost on the border with Angola lies Liuwa Plains National Park, a true wilderness and home of the Lozi people. One of the earliest protected areas in Africa, Liuwa Plain was proclaimed a reserve by the King in the early 1880’s and has been under the watchful eye of his people ever since.
Much like the more well-known Okavango Delta in Botswana, the broad grasslands flood annually with thousands of wildebeest, cheetah and hyenas prowling the plains. Birdlife is exceptional
Norman Carr Safaris will have the only permanent safari camp operating in the vast savannah where wildlife interactions are truly phenomenal. Kokoma Camp, opening in late 2016 or early 2017 will open up the wilderness to small amount of guests looking for an exclusive game viewing experience in a remote, untouched location.