People who have experienced safaris all over Africa regard Zambia as one of the last truly pristine and untamed wilderness areas left on earth. It is perhaps Africa’s greatest “secret” as it has yet to become discovered by the masses, offering visitors an authentic and intimate adventure in the bush. It is home to a great diversity and abundance of wildlife, as well as spectacular natural wonders, including the awe-inspiring Victoria Falls, the world’s biggest waterfall and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. More than 30% of the country’s land is protected in National Parks, including South Luangwa, Lower Zambezi, Liuwa and Kafue.
Zambia is also well known for its thrilling walking safaris, following in the footsteps of the early explorers. These are very different from game drives in a vehicle – you are not just observing the wildlife and the landscape, but feeling and experiencing Africa, connecting with nature, and yourself. For many people, this is one of the main reasons to visit.
As one of the safest countries in Africa, with incredible parks and few tourists, activities to suit any style or speed, Zambia is starting to become a “hot” destination. Don’t wait too long, and don’t forget your hiking boots!
Regions of Zambia
North Luangwa National Park is remote and vast, offering one of the “wildest” wilderness experiences in Zambia, if not Africa. It is not open to the public – only a few safari operators have access, and there are no permanent lodges, only small bush camps. Visitors have the rare opportunity to experience Africa as it once was, as it was meant to be, before mass tourism.
The park has a beautiful and dramatic landscape, with the crystal-clear Mwaleshi River trickling down a massive 3000 ft. escarpment and ending in a series of small waterfalls. It is also home to a great diversity of wildlife, including elephants, lions, leopards, hippos, and over 400 species of birds. As there are no roads, game viewing is on guided walking safaris on animal trails, providing exhilarating encounters in the bush.
While in North Luangwa, you are likely to see incredible scenery, pristine wilderness, and wildlife close-up, and unlikely to see any other visitors except your companions. Today that is a rare and welcome safari experience.
South Luangwa is Zambia’s premier National Park – truly unspoiled, and world-renowned as one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world. It is home to a large concentration of game, attracted to the meandering Luangwa River, a watery lifeline that supports a great diversity of habitats and animals – more than 60 species of mammals and 450 species of birds. Much of the park is inaccessible by road, due to natural flooding, keeping this park a pristine sanctuary with few visitors.
Zambia may be home to the walking safari, but many consider South Luangwa the birthplace. The park is famous for enabling visitors to experience true wilderness on foot, to see elephant and even lion close-up, under the supervision of professional and knowledgeable armed guides. Water safaris are also a spectacular way to see the wildlife here, drifting in silence to observe animals grazing and drinking on the riverbank, and hippos swimming so close your heart might skip a beat.
Kafue is the oldest and largest of Zambia’s national parks – it is enormous, nearly 9,000 square miles, bigger than the entire state of New Jersey. But, despite its size and location, just 2 hours from Livingstone, it remains little-known and largely unexplored.
Although there is a lot of wildlife here, they are dispersed in a vast area, so safaris here are more about the park’s incredible diversity, not the number of animals you see. There are over 158 species of mammals, including…
hippo, crocodile, leopard, cheetah, lion, the rare wild dog, civet, serval, caracal, pangolin, monitor lizard, and aardvark, as well as about 500 species of birds.
Some would say Kafue epitomizes all the remote, wild, exciting, authentic, and diverse reasons to go on safari in Zambia.
The Lower Zambezi National Park has a magnificent location, nestled between the mighty Zambezi River and a dramatic escarpment that keeps the wildlife on the plains and woodlands below. With the Mana Pools Reserve on the opposite side of the river (Zimbabwe), the entire area is one enormous wildlife sanctuary, home to large herds of elephant and buffalo, prides of lion, leopards, hyenas, jackals, hippos, crocodile, zebra, and over 400 species of birds.
Although not as diverse as many of Zambia’s other parks, what makes experiences here so special is the river that runs through it. With little permanent water, wildlife is concentrated around the Zambezi, offering visitors spectacular opportunities to get close to animals by exploring its many channels, lagoons, islands, and floodplains. Safaris by boat and canoe provide a glimpse of animals grazing and drinking on the riverbanks, or a thrilling chance to approach pods of hippos in their water world, observing them from an entirely different point of view.
Liuwa Plain National Park, untouched, and extremely remote, has been called “forgotten Africa”. Located in the far western region of the country, it is one of the least visited parks in Zambia, with only about 500 guests each year. Most of the park is one enormous, spectacular grassy plain, stretching from horizon to horizon, unlike any other park in the country. The scenery is spectacular and ever-changing- dry and parched under sunlit skies, awaiting the dark and dramatic clouds that bring the floods, and eventually, the magnificent flowers.
It is home to an abundance of wildlife, and the location of Africa’s second largest wildebeest migration. Every year, tens of thousands of blue wildebeest, along with zebra, red lechwe, oribi, eland, buffalo, and other animals, graze their way through Zambia’s “small Serengeti” following the rains, attracting predators along the way, such as lion, jackal, serval, wildcat, wild dog, hyena as well There is also more than 300 species of birds, with massive flocks migrating here to enjoy the riches of the rains.
Liuwa is very hard to get to, and the game is sometimes a bit more difficult to find in such a vast expanse, but it is so unspoiled, with so few tourists, that it is well worth the effort.
Livingstone (Victoria Falls)
Magnificent Victoria Falls, the largest waterfall in the world, is truly awe-inspiring. It is the result of the mighty Zambezi River tumbling to a depth of more than 350 feet and stretching over 1 mile wide. Known by the local people as Mosi-oa-tunya – “The smoke that thunders” – its spray can be seen 18 miles away!
The Falls is shared by Zambia and Zimbabwe, and visitors can easily cross over to experience the view, and partake in activities, on both sides. There are a wide variety of things to do, from calm sunset cruises and gentle canoe trips to extreme adventures for adrenaline junkies- bungee jumping, white water rafting, micro-light flights, and swimming in Devil’s Pool, on the very edge of the Falls- the ultimate infinity pool, not for the faint of heart.