One country safari – Zambia
Perhaps not so widely known outside the safari industry as some of her neighbours, Zambia holds a special place in Aardvark Safaris’ history as the country where many of us fell under Africa’s spell. Remote bush camps scatter the fabulous wilderness, elegant safari houses overlook elephant-filled rivers, the walking here is second-to-none, and Vic Falls is the setting for all sorts of adventures. It still feels properly raw and wild and easy to see why safari legends like Robin Pope and Norman Carr made their homes here. It’s a brilliant all-round safari destination – with so much variety you could easily spend two weeks on safari here – but particularly good for families travelling with teenagers and anyone interested in a walking safari. Here are the main areas to consider for a one country safari in Zambia:
Lower Zambezi – a delightfully pretty national park, framed by an escarpment on one side and the Zambezi River on the other. Overlooking Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe, and one of the premier national parks in Zambia, it offers a wide range of activities with excellent wildlife viewing and accommodation to suit everyone, from luxury lodges to simpler tented options. There is also a wide range of activities on offer and one of our team remembers a morning where they started out as dawn broke to walk upstream along the riverbank to a sandy beach where some canoes waited. They then paddled downstream, pausing for breakfast cooked by a chef in full whites, before beaching and climbing aboard safari vehicles to head inland, arriving back at camp mid-morning.
South Luangwa – a true gem of a national park with incredible wildlife viewing, excellent guiding and a range of accommodation options from luxury bush camps to sleep-outs under the stars. Nicknamed ‘Valley of the Leopard’, this is as good a place as any in Africa to see this elusive, beautiful cat. Night drives and walking safaris offer a different insight into the wilderness. Hippos abound, with the Luangwa boasting one of the densest populations in all of Africa, and the river is an integral part of the landscape, carving its way through the park and offering water to the animals even in the driest months. That said, the South Luangwa offers perhaps the greatest variation between a ‘green season’, with Luangwa River boat trips on offer, and a dry season where you’d struggle to wet your ankles at most points of the river.
Kafue – Zambia’s largest national park has a diversity of wildlife that is perhaps the widest in all of Africa, with some large prides of lion, cheetah and leopard. Wild dog range through the park and there are more antelope species here than anywhere else on the continent. The Kafue River matches the Zambezi in scale and its tributaries offer canoeing and boat safaris, complete with crocodile and hippo. Kafue has a number of small, intimate bush camps and lodges, packed with character and run by skilled professionals who live and breathe the bush.
The north of the Kafue National Park is dominated by the Busanga Plains. These floodplains’ vastness makes them look like they belong in East rather than Southern Africa, and they are home to the second of Zambia’s cheetah populations. Unlike their Kenyan or Tanzanian cousins the Busanga Plains flood annually, creating a rich habitat with some of the best birdlife and wildlife viewing in the Kafue National Park.
North Luangwa – smaller than its southern counterpart, this pretty and little visited national park is heavily supported by the Frankfurt Zoological Society and home to the only population of black rhino in Zambia. Walking safaris are particularly good here, while wildlife drives offer the chance to see some of the larger wildlife at closer quarters. The small handful of authentic safari camps here are home to some superb guides who delight in showing visitors this remote wilderness. It’s a great addition to a safari for anyone who wants to feel totally immersed in Africa.
Liuwa Plain – Away from the Victoria Falls, much of Zambia would be considered pretty off the beaten track. Liuwa Plains, though, takes out of the way to a new level. Gloriously remote, it’s a magnificent wilderness of seasonally flooded grass plains and wooded islands – likened by some as ‘the Masai Mara meets Okavango Delta’. It is home to Africa’s ‘other’ wildebeest migration, carpets of wildflowers, and prolific birdlife. The lion and cheetah populations are burgeoning, and, unusually, hyena are the top predator with some clans numbering 50.
Victoria Falls – The headline sight at Livingstone is, of course, Victoria Falls. Strewn with rainbows and dancing with spray, Mosi-oa-Tunya, the Smoke that Thunders, is more than a sight: it’s an experience with the ground shaking and windows and doors vibrating when the water is at its highest. Admire the view from light aircraft, microlight or helicopter. Adrenaline junkies can bungee jump into the gorge or white water raft down the rapids. Picnics on private islands and sunset river cruises are among the gentler activities on offer. It’s a great place for a few days at the start or finish of a safari.
If you like what you’ve read here about our safaris in Zambia and want to find out more, do get in touch – chatting to people by phone or email is what we do best. We listen, we explain, we answer all sorts of questions even those you didn’t know to ask, and finally we make suggestions. If this is your first time to Africa or your twenty first, we have a team standing by to help make the planning easy and the journey the best ever. Please get in touch whatever stage you’re at.