Zambia

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Zambia

Zambia is mainly situated on a vast plateau 3,000m above sea level, and boasts the Zambezi, Kafue and Luangwa rivers – as well as one of the largest waterfalls in the world, the Victoria Falls, which it shares with neighbouring Zimbabwe.

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Most of the country has a mild, pleasant climate, while the river valleys are hotter and more humid; the extreme north becomes tropical on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, one of Zambia’s ten large lakes. While Lusaka is the country’s capital, Livingstone, just ten kilometres from the Falls, is more well known to travellers as the ‘adventure capital’ offering adrenalin-packed activities on and around the Falls and the Zambezi River.

When it comes to wildlife, Zambia offers impressive diversity as well as large concentrations and numbers, and some of the wildest and most remote game areas on the continent. Endemic subspecies of giraffe and wildebeest are found in the Luangwa, while enormous herds of black lechwe inhabit the floodplains of the Bangweulu. Birdlife is particularly prolific, with 740 bird species found here, including many specials; it is the southernmost extreme of the bizarre-looking African shoebill’s range for example and one of the best places to see this sought-after species.

It was in Zambia that the concept of walking safaris originated as the best way of enjoying the rich flora and fauna of the country’s 19 national parks. Add to this numerous adrenalin activities on the Zambezi River, such as river rafting, bungee jumping, abseiling and canoeing, and Zambia qualifies as an all-round excellent travel destination.

Here one can catch some of the biggest tiger fish in Africa within sight of a large elephant herd on the Lower Zambezi, fly over the mighty Victoria Falls in a microlight, or view leopard on a kill at night in the South Luangwa.

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Quick Facts

Capital
Lusaka

Population
16,591,390

Area
752,618 sq km (290,587 square miles)

Major Languages
English (official)

Major religion
Christianity, indigenous beliefs

Monetary Unit
Zambian Kwacha

Flight time from London
14 hours (1 stop)

Time Difference 
UTC +2

When to go

January, February, March
Victoria Falls is flowing strongly as the Zambezi River fills from local rainfall. There are afternoon rain showers and the bush is very green. Large areas of Zambia are under water and access to national parks is very difficult – all the camps are closed in the Lower Zambezi and Kafue and most camps are closed in the South Luangwa bar a few.

April, May, June
Victoria Falls is in full flood and camps in the Lower Zambezi and South Luangwa start to open around mid-April, and by June they are all open. Days are warm and the rains are pretty much over. The water starts to drain away by June and the bush begins to dry out.

July, August, September (Peak Season)
All camps are open in the Lower Zambezi, Kafue and South Luangwa. The bush is dry and there is no rain. Days are warm and the nights are fairly cold but getting warmer as October approaches. The volume of water over Victoria Falls steadily reduces and by October there is very little water coming over. Livingstone Island is accessible from October onwards.

October, November, December
The bush is dry, it is extremely hot and there is very little rain in October. The rains begin in November. All camps are open in the Lower Zambezi, Kafue and South Luangwa in October but start closing down in November and December due to the rains. Days and nights are very hot and humid – up to 40°C. Water levels at Victoria Falls are low and by October there is very little water up until December when the falls start flowing more strongly.

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Highlights

South Luangwa National Park

South Luangwa is Zambia’s premier park. Many places are claimed to be “one of the remaining wilderness areas” or “one of the last wildlife sanctuaries” but the South Luangwa National Park can live up to all these names and more.

The Luangwa Valley is vast, remote, home to both people and a truly impressive number of animals. The South Luangwa park is 9050 sq. km with the river, its tributaries and the riverine strips being the focus of the wildlife viewing. There are the diverse habitats, from huge ox bow lagoons of varying stages of maturity, woodlands, ebony groves, grassland and thickets, that host truly impressive numbers of wildlife. The birdlife is also excellent with around 450 species to be seen.

The Luangwa River remains one of the last untouched major river systems in the world. Each year the river drops to almost knee deep and then in the Emerald Season rises to the top of the banks. The river is up to 4 metres deep and averages 400 metre wide and at peak will flow at 47 million gallons per hour. That is a lot of water. Boating safaris during the high water months are an adventure.

The South Luangwa is known as the home of the walking safari and all the camps offer walks. There are also smaller bush camps or mobile tented camps for those who would like to experience a dedicated walking safari. Walking through big game country is a truly exciting experience and as South Luangwa led the way for guide training and licensing in Zambia the standard of guiding here is superb.

The abundance of leopards in the Luangwa is famous and although not guaranteed it is usual for everyone passing through on a three or more night safari to see at least one. The Luangwa has two endemic species – the Thornicoft giraffe which is found mostly in the central area of the park and the Cookson’s wildebeest which is more scattered and only in the north. Usually it is great number of game that impresses people.

Lower Zambezi National Park

The Lower Zambezi, a key national park of Zambia, is only a 30 minute flight from Lusaka. Half the size of the South Luangwa (4092 sq km), this park lies between the rugged and dramatic Zambezi escarpment and the wide and spectacular Zambezi River.

The Zambezi runs for 120 km through the park and with the protection of the Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe on the opposite side this is a haven for wildlife. There are many channels, lagoons, sandbanks and islands along the river and then open plains, woodland and bush areas behind the riverine strip. The river is a massive attraction to this park – to spend time boating, drifting, canoeing on this extraordinary river with breathtaking views all around is a wonderful experience.

When on the water there is always wildlife in sight, be it a few buffalos feeding in the reeds, elephants crossing an island or swimming to the next one or even, if you are lucky, lions lying out along the bank. Interspersed along the river there are small family pods of hippo resting up against shallow sand banks and the skulking crocodiles sliding silently into the water. Amongst the reeds and grass of the islands are many water birds – and you can silently drift so close to both the wildlife and the birds you want to hold your breath.

Game viewing is not only from the river but of course by vehicle or foot through the many plains and wooded areas of the park. The game viewing can be spectacular with approximately 50 mammal and 400 bird species.

On the western border there is a very special tributary, the Chongwe River, which is superb for canoeing or walking. At the foot of the escarpment the river drops over a cliff, with the falls creating a large pool. The local community believes this is a place of magic – it is not hard to see why.

Fishing is a key activity in the Zambezi and you can fly fish as well as cast and reel. The key species are tigerfish, vundu, (similar to a “catfish” or barbell) and banded tilapia. The tigerfish gives a good fight will leap and twist out of the water in the sunlight – they are sought after by many keen fishermen. The best months for the tigers are September to November.

Kafue National Park

Kafue is Zambia’s oldest park and the second largest national park in the world (22400 sq. km and about the size of Wales) and yet it is not a park with a success story. For many years the park was mostly unvisited and it is only recently that camps have started to develop. Any undeveloped wildlife area will attract poaching and thus the game has been reduced but it is still exceptional – more in diversity than in numbers.

The park has three main rivers – the Lunga, Lufupa and the Kafue Rivers that combine and feed into the Itezhi Tezhi Lake in the South. In the north the astounding Busanga Plains is an area of swamp, some 750 sq km, that is totally inaccessible in the rains. But by May, as the water recedes, the birds flock in, the puku and thousands of red lechwe and other species including zebra and buffalo, move back with the water line and the wide open plains become a great wildlife attraction. The predators here are not only the famous tree climbing lions but also the cheetah which is a rare sighting in Zambia. The plains are edged by miombo woodland that cover most of the park – broken by the open dambos which become prolific in the south.

These habitats host antelope species which are mostly not seen elsewhere in Zambia, and if are then rarely. Included are sable, roan, blue wildebeest, Lichenstein’s hartebeest, oribi, duiker and defassa waterbuck. So having stayed in the South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi you are unlikely to have seen any of these, hence including a visit to Kafue, for the wildlife enthusiast, is most rewarding. And for any birder, again there will be species you have not yet picked up including wattled crane, purple crested lourie and possibly the Pel’s fishing owl.

Further south from the plains the game will be harder to see but game drives are still most rewarding. Leopard, lion and cheetah continue to be seen throughout most of the park. For the casual or keen fisherman, there is a chance for superb fishing in the rivers with good bream, barbell and fresh water pike.

The Kafue river runs into the Itezhi Tezhi Lake – a dammed lake of some 370 sq.km at the south end of the park. This is a popular destination for fishermen as it is teaming with bream and the variable shore line of submerges trees, grass lawns, rocky outcrops makes for interesting walking and birding.

Livingstone (Victoria Falls)

Arguably the most magnificent waterfall in the world, the Victoria Falls is only one of two sites which have remained on the list of The Seven Natural Wonders of the World (the other one being The Grand Canyon).

It is the largest single curtain of falling water in the world with a width of 1 mile, or 1.7 kilometres. It is just over half that of Iguassu Falls (1.6 miles or 2.7 kms) but with a drops of between 238 feet or 74m, and 360 feet or 108m, it is twice as high as Niagara Falls (167 feet or 51m). During the wet season over 500 million litres (19 million cubic feet) of water plummets over the edge into the Zambezi River and this incredible amount of water generates a huge amount of spray which shoots 1,000 feet into the sky and can be seen 30 miles away, hence the name Mosi-oa-Tunya (smoke that thunders).

Dr. Livingstone had been told about the Falls before he reached them from upriver on 16 November 1855 and was paddled across to a small island that now bears the name Livingstone Island in Zambia. Livingstone had previously been impressed by the Ngonye Falls further upstream, but found the new Falls much more impressive, and gave them their English name in honour of Queen Victoria. He wrote of the Falls in March 1856, ‘No one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes; but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight’.

As a town, Livingstone is an interesting place. It used to be the capital of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and its streets are still lined with Victorian-era colonial buildings.

Visiting the Victoria Falls in Livingstone on the Zambia side of the Zambezi is the perfect combination with any southern Africa safari in Zambia, Botswana, Namibia or South Africa.

South Luangwa National Park

South Luangwa is Zambia’s premier park. Many places are claimed to be “one of the remaining wilderness areas” or “one of the last wildlife sanctuaries” but the South Luangwa National Park can live up to all these names and more.

The Luangwa Valley is vast, remote, home to both people and a truly impressive number of animals. The South Luangwa park is 9050 sq. km with the river, its tributaries and the riverine strips being the focus of the wildlife viewing. There are the diverse habitats, from huge ox bow lagoons of varying stages of maturity, woodlands, ebony groves, grassland and thickets, that host truly impressive numbers of wildlife. The birdlife is also excellent with around 450 species to be seen.

The Luangwa River remains one of the last untouched major river systems in the world. Each year the river drops to almost knee deep and then in the Emerald Season rises to the top of the banks. The river is up to 4 metres deep and averages 400 metre wide and at peak will flow at 47 million gallons per hour. That is a lot of water. Boating safaris during the high water months are an adventure.

The South Luangwa is known as the home of the walking safari and all the camps offer walks. There are also smaller bush camps or mobile tented camps for those who would like to experience a dedicated walking safari. Walking through big game country is a truly exciting experience and as South Luangwa led the way for guide training and licensing in Zambia the standard of guiding here is superb.

The abundance of leopards in the Luangwa is famous and although not guaranteed it is usual for everyone passing through on a three or more night safari to see at least one. The Luangwa has two endemic species – the Thornicoft giraffe which is found mostly in the central area of the park and the Cookson’s wildebeest which is more scattered and only in the north. Usually it is great number of game that impresses people.

Lower Zambezi National Park

The Lower Zambezi, a key national park of Zambia, is only a 30 minute flight from Lusaka. Half the size of the South Luangwa (4092 sq km), this park lies between the rugged and dramatic Zambezi escarpment and the wide and spectacular Zambezi River.

The Zambezi runs for 120 km through the park and with the protection of the Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe on the opposite side this is a haven for wildlife. There are many channels, lagoons, sandbanks and islands along the river and then open plains, woodland and bush areas behind the riverine strip. The river is a massive attraction to this park – to spend time boating, drifting, canoeing on this extraordinary river with breathtaking views all around is a wonderful experience.

When on the water there is always wildlife in sight, be it a few buffalos feeding in the reeds, elephants crossing an island or swimming to the next one or even, if you are lucky, lions lying out along the bank. Interspersed along the river there are small family pods of hippo resting up against shallow sand banks and the skulking crocodiles sliding silently into the water. Amongst the reeds and grass of the islands are many water birds – and you can silently drift so close to both the wildlife and the birds you want to hold your breath.

Game viewing is not only from the river but of course by vehicle or foot through the many plains and wooded areas of the park. The game viewing can be spectacular with approximately 50 mammal and 400 bird species.

On the western border there is a very special tributary, the Chongwe River, which is superb for canoeing or walking. At the foot of the escarpment the river drops over a cliff, with the falls creating a large pool. The local community believes this is a place of magic – it is not hard to see why.

Fishing is a key activity in the Zambezi and you can fly fish as well as cast and reel. The key species are tigerfish, vundu, (similar to a “catfish” or barbell) and banded tilapia. The tigerfish gives a good fight will leap and twist out of the water in the sunlight – they are sought after by many keen fishermen. The best months for the tigers are September to November.

Kafue National Park

Kafue is Zambia’s oldest park and the second largest national park in the world (22400 sq. km and about the size of Wales) and yet it is not a park with a success story. For many years the park was mostly unvisited and it is only recently that camps have started to develop. Any undeveloped wildlife area will attract poaching and thus the game has been reduced but it is still exceptional – more in diversity than in numbers.

The park has three main rivers – the Lunga, Lufupa and the Kafue Rivers that combine and feed into the Itezhi Tezhi Lake in the South. In the north the astounding Busanga Plains is an area of swamp, some 750 sq km, that is totally inaccessible in the rains. But by May, as the water recedes, the birds flock in, the puku and thousands of red lechwe and other species including zebra and buffalo, move back with the water line and the wide open plains become a great wildlife attraction. The predators here are not only the famous tree climbing lions but also the cheetah which is a rare sighting in Zambia. The plains are edged by miombo woodland that cover most of the park – broken by the open dambos which become prolific in the south.

These habitats host antelope species which are mostly not seen elsewhere in Zambia, and if are then rarely. Included are sable, roan, blue wildebeest, Lichenstein’s hartebeest, oribi, duiker and defassa waterbuck. So having stayed in the South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi you are unlikely to have seen any of these, hence including a visit to Kafue, for the wildlife enthusiast, is most rewarding. And for any birder, again there will be species you have not yet picked up including wattled crane, purple crested lourie and possibly the Pel’s fishing owl.

Further south from the plains the game will be harder to see but game drives are still most rewarding. Leopard, lion and cheetah continue to be seen throughout most of the park. For the casual or keen fisherman, there is a chance for superb fishing in the rivers with good bream, barbell and fresh water pike.

The Kafue river runs into the Itezhi Tezhi Lake – a dammed lake of some 370 sq.km at the south end of the park. This is a popular destination for fishermen as it is teaming with bream and the variable shore line of submerges trees, grass lawns, rocky outcrops makes for interesting walking and birding.

Livingstone (Victoria Falls)

Arguably the most magnificent waterfall in the world, the Victoria Falls is only one of two sites which have remained on the list of The Seven Natural Wonders of the World (the other one being The Grand Canyon).

It is the largest single curtain of falling water in the world with a width of 1 mile, or 1.7 kilometres. It is just over half that of Iguassu Falls (1.6 miles or 2.7 kms) but with a drops of between 238 feet or 74m, and 360 feet or 108m, it is twice as high as Niagara Falls (167 feet or 51m). During the wet season over 500 million litres (19 million cubic feet) of water plummets over the edge into the Zambezi River and this incredible amount of water generates a huge amount of spray which shoots 1,000 feet into the sky and can be seen 30 miles away, hence the name Mosi-oa-Tunya (smoke that thunders).

Dr. Livingstone had been told about the Falls before he reached them from upriver on 16 November 1855 and was paddled across to a small island that now bears the name Livingstone Island in Zambia. Livingstone had previously been impressed by the Ngonye Falls further upstream, but found the new Falls much more impressive, and gave them their English name in honour of Queen Victoria. He wrote of the Falls in March 1856, ‘No one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes; but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight’.

As a town, Livingstone is an interesting place. It used to be the capital of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and its streets are still lined with Victorian-era colonial buildings.

Visiting the Victoria Falls in Livingstone on the Zambia side of the Zambezi is the perfect combination with any southern Africa safari in Zambia, Botswana, Namibia or South Africa.

Where to stay

These are just a selection of the properties we can personally recommend. Please get in touch to hear more about our full portfolio.

Chiawa Camp

The family owned and operated multi-award winning Chiawa Camp in the incredible Lower Zambezi National Park is Zambia’s premier luxury safari camp and offers unusually varied activities such as game drives, walking, canoeing, boating and angling in the company of Africa’s finest guides.

take me to Chiawa Camp

Chinzombo Safari Camp

Chinzombo Safari Lodge is nestled in a grove of ebony and mahogany trees on the banks of the Luangwa River, and it epitomises sheer luxury. Chinzombo brings levels of comfort, style and elegance previously unseen to the Luangwa Valley in Zambia.

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Chongwe River Camp

Occupying a beautiful riverside position just outside the gorgeous Lower Zambezi National Park, Chongwe River Camp is a modest owner-operated and relatively well-priced camp. Chongwe offers an authentic safari experience with great hosting.

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Chongwe River House

Zambia’s Lower Zambezi is renowned throughout Africa for its magnificent herds of wild elephant, exceptional predator viewing and of course the Zambezi River. It’s also home to one of the continent’s most spectacular and unique private homes.

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Luangwa River Camp

Luangwa River Camp sits nestled under an ancient ebony grove on the banks of the Luangwa River overlooking the game rich area known as the Luangwa Wafwa. This small and intimate camp creates a real “wow” factor and a romantic feeling simply flows through the camp.

take me to Luangwa River Camp

Nkwali

Nkwali is dominated by an enormous ebony tree around which the bar is moulded. It is this tree which, when Robin and Jo Pope found it, cemented the location of the camp. From the bar deck cantilevered over the river a cool drink can be enjoyed whilst watching the sun set over the Luangwa.

take me to Nkwali

Sausage Tree Camp

Set in the most stunning location on the banks of the Zambezi River, Sausage Tree Camp really is in the heart of the Lower Zambezi National Park’s best game viewing area. The camp overlooks an expanse of narrow channels and low set reed islands teeming with game, with the magnificent Zambezi escarpment as the backdrop.

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Sindabezi Island

Situated in the middle of the Zambezi river around 18km upstream from the Victoria Falls, this tiny five room lodge is a truly delightful and peaceful place. Sindabezi Island is a private island paradise and is the only African bush camp in the area.

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Stanley Safari Lodge

Stanley Safari Lodge is the perfect gateway to the mighty Victoria Falls and the exclusive get-away in an African setting. Set on a hill bordering the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park and overlooking unspoilt bush, Stanley Safari Lodge is only three kilometres from the Victoria Falls.

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Tena Tena

Tena Tena when translated means “temporary home”, and this is the feeling that the owners have tried to emulate throughout the camp but with a twist of luxury and comfort. Situated in the exclusive Nsefu Sector, Tena Tena sits nestled under a magnificent and thick grove of mahogany trees.

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The River Club

On a magnificent bend on the Zambezi River the majestic River Club and its 10 well-appointed chalets have commanding views over the river into the Zambezi National Park. Its main area, Zambezi House, is a well-appointed residence, with a comfortable lounge, large dining room, impressive library and wide veranda on which breakfasts and teas are enjoyed.

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Tongabezi

There is no set pattern to days at Tongabezi. Guests do as much or as little as they wish, with game drives, bush walks and boating trips all included in the price. Take a short guided tour of the majestic Victoria Falls. You can also enjoy the Falls from inside the gorge, from Livingstone Island and from the air.

take me to Tongabezi

Get in touch with us now to start planning your journey

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