What to do
Whilst best known for its magnificent packs of painted African wild dog and excellent sightings of leopard, Zambia is also home to the rare shoebill stork and the endemic black lechwe. The country is the epitome of modern day Africa; a hodge-podge of deserted colonial projects, brassy new office blocks inhabited by banks and foreign companies, roadside shacks and enormous, beautiful, rolling tracts of pure, untamed bush.
Reasons to visit are many and include:
- canoeing, rafting, kayaking and other adrenalin activities on the Zambezi River at Victoria Falls
- fishing and game viewing on the Zambezi river
- spectacular game viewing – see the remarkably unknown, enormous migration of Liuwa Plains
- birding, which is especially good in the wet season
- and very importantly, walking safaris, which are especially good in the North Luangwa National Park.
From a conservation point of view, several major projects are underway and are shining examples of Zambia’s increasing development. Important research is ongoing in the South Luangwa, studying the endemic Thornicroft’s Giraffe, whilst the major operation of re-introducing black rhino to the North Luangwa is one of several re-establishments of “safe” zones for wildlife in Zambia.
Many schools in Zambia are supported solely by the safari industry and are great places to interact with real locals, see the benefits of direct charity (where donations and gifts are handed over in person, no middlemen…) and possibly even spend a night or two.
A vast grassy plateau dominates the country, and the prime wildlife is concentrated around Kafue National Park, the Luangwa (as a sidenote, the past two years have seen very, very good leopard sightings whilst on safari here) and the Zambezi water system. Zambia’s wildlife concentrations are impressive – it’s ideal for specialists seeking specific African game species or birdlife on a brilliant scale (check out Bangweulu Swamp if you’re an avian enthusiast, and although not in Zambia, Tanzania’s Lake Manyara is most definitely a birding paradise worth mentioning).
In the north-west, Chimfunshi is a chimpanzee sanctuary that finds its way straight to the heart of any animal lover, and we highly recommend a visit to this wildlife orphanage.
Victoria Falls is one of the best African safari destinations around, and offers a convenient gateway to the rest of the continent with a well-established airport and transport network, quite apart from being one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World – a remarkable curtain of water plunging into a break in the earth’s crust.
Kasanka National Park is a great national park for the adept African traveller, or perhaps someone looking for something slightly more trailblazing and unusual than the norm; the rainforests harbour huge populations of bats and it has a unique tree hide 18 metres up in the canopy – it gives an unprecedented panoramic view of the Kapabi Swamps from which game viewing can take place discretely. There aren’t many other locations that you can explore the bush on mountain-bike either!
Zambia without doubt offers some of Africa’s best traditional walking safaris, particularly in the South and North Luangwa Parks, and indeed, the country was the very birthplace of this very special African activity.
Night drives are a speciality throughout Zambia and provide the best means for seeing some of the more elusive nocturnal species, including leopard and rarer/unusual creatures like the aardvark (ant bear) and porcupine.
The best time of the year for game viewing is the drier winter period of June to October.
Victoria Falls is a good visit twelve months of the year, even if you have to cross to the Zimbabwe side during the dry season for the best views. The green season, November to April, is ideal for seeing the birthing of young animals, a huge influx of migrant birds, and virtually no other crowds…
Travelling in Zambia can be somewhat unpredictable, especially by road where potholes that defy belief do their best to swallow your vehicle! There are good internal air links, especially between Lusaka, Livingstone and the South Luangwa Valley. This is by far the best way to get around the different parks as it saves so much time and trouble – the less time travelling, the more time in the bush.
Vehicles can be hired in either Lusaka or Livingstone and with a good map, a brave heart and a cheerful sense of adventure (plus a bit of cash to pay for “fines” at road blocks), self drive trips are entirely possible and becoming more common.
- Travel guides which include information on Zambia:
- Word Travels – An online travel guide including traveller reviews
- Bradt Travel Guide Zambia – A UK published, comprehensive and reliable travel guide in hard copy
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