Zambia is one of Africa’s hidden gems – and that may not be a bad thing! It doesn’t get quite the attention that its better-known neighbors (Botswana and Zimbabwe) receive, but that is certainly not due to a lack of reasons to go there. Zambia has styled itself as ‘the real Africa’ and it’s hard to argue with that description. Zambia feels a bit more off the beaten track, which makes its game reserves and national parks seem even more authentically remote.
Zambia pioneered guided walking safaris, and it’s still one of the best places to explore the bush on foot, rather than by vehicle. The contrast is remarkable: by slowing things down to walking pace, you’re able to really appreciate the details that make the African wilderness so special. You can also propel yourself along the mighty Zambezi River on a canoe safari – another way to get that little bit closer to the wildlife action (but thanks to experienced guides, in complete safety).
- Propel yourself along the mighty Zambezi River on a canoe safari
- Take a dip in Devil’s Pool and peer your head over the edge of Victoria Falls
- Zambia pioneered guided walking safaris, and it’s still one of the best places to explore the bush on foot, rather than by vehicle
- In November/December, witness the largest animal migration as millions of fruit bats darken the skies over Kasanka National Park
Kafue is not just one of Zambia’s largest national parks – it’s one of the largest protected areas in the world with an area of 8,700 square miles. That’s pretty much the same size as New Jersey. Within this immense area, almost endless grassy savannah and floodplains stretch in every direction. That gives plenty of space for many species of antelope, which roam the iconic Busanga Plains while trying to avoid Kafue’s famous tree-climbing lions. Kafue is the jewel in the crown of western Zambia, and while it’s easily accessible, it is authentically – and wonderfully – wild.
The Lower Zambezi lies directly opposite of Mana Pools, the well-known Zimbabwean National Park. The focal point is the immense floodplain, which provides grazing and water access for huge herds of animals. Acacia trees provide shade and cover, as does the miombo woodland along the towering escarpment. The Lower Zambezi offers incredible wildlife viewing – including famously large herds of elephant – on both the floodplains and along (and in) the Zambezi.
South Luangwa offers an incredible diversity of landscapes, from grassy plains to dense forest, and from marshland to the banks of the Luangwa River (famed for its many hippo). It’s no surprise then that the wildlife here is also incredibly varied, with an estimated 60 mammal species and some 400 kinds of birds in the park. From November to April, much of South Luangwa is inaccessible due to water levels, but for the rest of the year, it’s a wonderful destination for safari aficionados. South Luangwa is one of Africa’s best locations for guided walking safaris.
Victoria Falls spans the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia and you can visit from either side. It’s Zambia, however, which offers the most up close and personal encounters with the mighty Zambezi River. Experiences include crossing bridges that bring you within reach of the spray and – when water levels are lower – enjoying a picnic on Livingstone Island above the Falls. You may also get to swim in the exhilarating Devil’s Pool for the ultimate adrenaline surge. The town of Livingstone provides a fascinating backdrop and a great many adventure and activity options on the river and above it, while Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park contains Zambia’s only rhinos.