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  • Writer's pictureWarrick Davey

Is this the most exciting safari destination in Africa?

Zambia walking safari

It’s 6:45am and the sun’s rays are just beginning to filter through the branches of the giant Winterthorn canopy you’re walking beneath. The dry leaves crunching under the weight of your feet, and your warm breath against the chilled air, are amongst the only sounds breaking the tranquility of the wilderness that surround you. Your guide pauses, you look ahead, a towering elephant bull, slowly reaching up into the canopy with his trunk to feed on the branches. The golden light illuminating his grey, textured skin, the dust kicked up around him creating a soft orange glow. How incredible that such a large and powerful creature can be so incredibly calm and seem entirely oblivious to your presence. You pinch yourself and realise that this is happening, you are in this moment, seemingly frozen in time with this gentle giant mere meters from you. What is most surreal, though, is that this is just one of the many awe-inspiring moments you have had. You are fully immersed in nature and you realise that there is nothing in your life which has been as exhilarating or profoundly impactful. This is true wilderness; this is Zambia.

Nestled on the crossroads of Southern, Central and East Africa, lies the remote haven of Zambia. Untouched and truly wild, it offers an incredible diversity of habitats and possibly the most authentic safari experiences in Africa. Characterised by its abundant water sources, including mighty rivers, vast lakes, and numerous cascading waterfalls, the awe-inspiring Victoria Falls likely the first to come to mind. This abundance of water nurtures the diverse ecosystems, fostering a wealth of wildlife across the country. Renowned as the birthplace of the iconic walking safari, Zambia offers a unique opportunity to intimately explore the bush, where every step unveils the wonders of nature. Combined with world-class game drives and guiding, water-based activities such as canoeing and boat safaris, and exceptional luxury safari camps and lodges, Zambia is the perfectly rounded wilderness experience.

Zambia’s safari network is framed by 5 regions, of which all and any combination can make for an unforgettable journey:

Lower Zambezi National Park: 

Canoeing Lower Zambezi, Zambia

Classic Zambia Kutali Camp, canoeing along the waterways.

Nestled within the Lower Zambezi ecosystem lies one of Africa's most diverse and picturesque landscapes, where the proximity of the river and the escarpment creates a variety of habitats within a small area. The floodplains are wooded with acacia, sausage and mahogany trees, interspersed with areas of thicker bush and beautiful Winterthorn groves. Abundant water, food and shelter give rise to a spectacular array of wildlife in the Lower Zambezi, including one of Africa’s most exceptional elephant populations, large herds of buffalo, prides of lions as well as the elusive leopard. The Lower Zambezi is at its most magical from April to November, when the river is perfect for boating safaris and canoeing, as well as sightings of wild dogs and other predators. Come face to face with majestic herds of elephant at the waters edge as your canoe glides quietly along the tributaries of the mighty Zambezi. 

Lolebezi, Zambia

A wild, remote & luxurious experience on the mighty Zambezi River at Lolebezi. We also highly recommend Anabezi, Old Mhondoro and Kutali.

South Luangwa National Park:

South Luangwa game drive, Zambia

On game drive with Time + Tide - intimate sightings and an incredible diversity of animals and landscapes.

There are few places in Africa that can offer the unique combination of South Luangwa’s open, grassy plains and mesmerising woodlands, crowned by the ever-impressive Luangwa River. This area's reputation for abundant wildlife and unspoiled vegetation is well earned, so whether on game drive or on foot, the intense beauty calls to you from every corner. Stretching out over 9000 square kilometres, with an incredible concentration of wildlife around the river and its ox-bow lagoons, South Luangwa offers a wonderfully immersive experience in one of the most beautiful wildlife sanctuaries in the world. Known best as the Valley of the Leopard for its spectacular sightings of this elusive big cat, it is also home to an isolated population of Thornicroft’s Giraffe which makes the South Luangwa one of the only places in Zambia to see these long-necked giants. 

Mchenja, Zambia safari lodge

Time + Tide's Mchenja Camp, the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in wilderness and luxurious comfort at this intimate riverside retreat. Our other top choices of camps include Chinzombo and Puku Ridge.

Kafue National Park:

Kafue sunset safari

The dramatic colours of the Kafue.

Found in the centre of western Zambia, Kafue is the oldest and largest of Zambia’s national parks, covering a massive 22 400 square kilometres.

Founded in the 1920s and formally established as a national park in the 1950s by the legendary Norman Carr, Kafue is one of the largest reserves in the whole of Africa. Despite its size and accessible location, it remains little-known and largely unexplored with vast tracts of its virgin bush still untouched. Thanks to its size and variety of habitats, Kafue holds a fantastic diversity of wildlife, including elephant, many large predators including cheetah, as well as the highest diversity of antelope species in Africa.

In the northern region of Kafue, lies the remote wilderness of the Busanga Plains. Open for safari for only five months a year, it reveals magical and truly wild moments. As the flood waters recede over June to November, the Busanga Plains become accessible for safaris characterised by outstanding game-viewing, predator action and colourful birdlife. Red lechwe leaping across shallow wetlands, lions hunting in golden grasses, and elephants emerging out of morning mist – this is the Busanga Plains experience.

Chisa Busanga, Zambia safari lodge

Nest rooms overlooking the wild Busanga Plains at Chisa Busanga. Our other favourites for the Kafue region are Shumba and Musekese Camp.

Liuwa Plain National Park:

Male lion, Zambia safari

Liuwa Plain is a photographers dream, with great game viewing and stunning landscapes as your backdrop.

This remote park in the far west is a pristine wilderness that to the ardent bush-lover, is its biggest attraction, and the rewards are great indeed. Liuwa Plain stands as a timeless testament to Africa's unyielding beauty and resilience, its expansive savannah remaining virtually untouched through the ages. Despite its rich history as one of the continent's oldest conservation areas, Liuwa Plain remains a hidden gem. It plays host to the second largest wildebeest migration in Africa - but without the crowds so you can enjoy this spectacle in an intimate and jaw-dropping setting. With its golden grasslands and shimmering lagoons, Liuwa Plain transforms with the arrival of the rains from a vast grass plains to a watery wonderland and provides photographers with a dramatic and utterly beautiful backdrop.

King Lewanika, Zambia safari lodge

As the only permanent lodge within Liuwa Plain, Time + Tide King Lewanika offers a luxurious base to explore this remote wildlife haven, but only between October and July, which is when it is open. 

Victoria Falls:

Victoria Falls, Zambia safari

The Victoria Falls presents a spectacular sight of awe-inspiring beauty and grandeur on the Zambezi River, forming a natural border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. It was described by the Kololo tribe living in the area as ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ – ‘The Smoke that Thunders’ for the immense spray and incredible noise caused by the rushing water. You can see columns of spray from miles away when, during the peak of the rainy season, more than five hundred million cubic meters of water per hour plummet over the edge. This is a distance of almost two kilometres and into a gorge of over one hundred meters below. The best time to experience Vic Falls is during February to May, just after the summer rains, when you’ll be able to see the largest falling water column in the world flowing at its highest volume. 

Thorntree River Lodge, Zambia safari lodge

Although more of the falls is visible from the Zimbabwean side, staying on the Zambian side offers great experiences and magnificent lodges. Thorntree River Lodge, pictured above, along with Tongebezi and Royal Livingstone are some of our favourite.

With a great diversity, exceptional wildlife viewing and these 5 spectacular wilderness areas to explore, the most difficult part of a Zambian Safari Itinerary is attempting to choose where to visit. While we are sure you would want to experience as much as you can, and being dependant on how much time you have available, our recommendation is almost always more time in one place and carefully selecting the areas you want to include on your journey so you don't attempt too much in one go. To add to this, a Zambian itinerary is beautifully complimented with a few days in Malawi or Mozambique for a relaxing island or beach experience to end off. Fortunately, we are here to assist you in creating a bespoke safari itinerary that best suits you, and one that is going to ensure that you have a seamless and exceptional trip!

Zambia offers authentic, remote and immersive wilderness experiences, in some of the most visually beautiful natural areas in the world. It also offers great value as it is still relatively unknown and doesn't see the volume of tourists that popular safari destinations such as Botswana, Tanzania or Kenya do. But we do see a peak in interest in Zambia, and rightly so. It is a great destination with world-class lodges, camps and experiences. We feel that it is one of the most exciting safari offerings right now and honestly, there has never been a better time to experience Zambia. So, what are you waiting for?


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