Share this page

Close

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE? TELL OTHERS

Holiday Finder

Close
  • Contact Us
  • Enquire Now

Things to Do in Zambia: Our Top 5 Picks

It’s early morning and the still-cool air is filled with the buzzing and chirping of countless insects and birds. You’re walking single file along a dusty hippo trail when suddenly your guide gives the signal and you freeze: up ahead a lioness wanders into view, fixes you in the gaze of her savannah-gold eyes, then with a flick of her tail slinks away again into the surrounding bush.

The encounter lasts only a moment, yet when she’s gone you feel your heart racing and realise you’ve been holding your breath. Your focus zooms out and you take in your surroundings with a new keenness – the colours are brighter, the sounds clearer, and the smells that bit sharper. This is Zambia, wild and untamed, and you’ve never felt more alive!

Zambia is the birthplace of walking safaris, but its magnificent parks and reserves are not yet as well known as those of Kenya, South Africa or Botswana. This hidden gem quality is exactly why these parks have long been the favourite destination for experienced safari travellers, especially those looking for a more authentic wildlife experience, far from the queues and crowds of more popular destinations. 

Things to Do in Zambia - a cheetah on the Busanga Plains
A lone cheetah stalks the Busanga Plains tracking his next meal..

It may surprise you, however, to discover that Zambia is also an excellent choice for safari first-timers. Why? Because the big game viewing is consistently good, the local guides are some of the best in Africa, the parks of the Luangwa and Zambezi Valleys offer a diverse range of things to do – game drives, night drives, walking safaris, canoeing, fishing – and all of this is centred around the swirling mist and thundering water of the mighty Victoria Falls.

1. Set Off On Foot in the South Luangwa

guided walking safari is an opportunity to immerse yourself in this pristine wilderness without the distracting rattle and shake of an engine. As your senses sharpen, so too does your understanding of how every part of nature fits together in this extraordinary ecosystem. Before long, you'll identify different animal tracks in the sandy riverbeds, discover which plants are good to eat, and be amazed at how much information you can glean from the ubiquitous piles of animal dung.

And yes, there is a good chance that you too may experience the thrill of that lion sighting - especially in the South Luangwa, which is one of the best places in Africa to spot big game on foot. There are no guarantees though: walking is not an activity for travellers focused on their ticking off checklist.

Things to Do in Zambia - walking safaris in South Luangwa
Guests and guides on a walking safari at Puku Ridge in the South Luangwa National Park - a highlight of any trip to this region.
Things to Do in Zambia - seeing the Big 5 on foot
Spotting animals on foot can be an exhilarating experience.
Things to Do in Zambia - spotting game in the distance
The landscape of the South Luangwa is lush and fertile.

The best accommodation is in the heart of the South Luangwa, far from other people, vehicles or signs of civilisation. Don’t let the name 'bush camp' put you off - you’ll be more than comfortable with high quality linen, hot showers, delicious down-to-earth meals, and ice-cold drinks served around the campfire under a starry sky.

Our favourite place to stay: Zungulila is an authentic and charming bush camp with just 4 tents overlooking a river. The focus is firmly on game viewing and exploring the South Luangwa on foot.

2. Game Drives Along the Luangwa River

The South Luangwa is Zambia’s best known park for very good reason: the concentration of game around the Luangwa River is amongst the densest in Africa. You won’t find rhino here, but apart from that notable exception there is more than enough big game to fill up many a camera memory card.

On foot you feel a part of this remote wilderness, but in a car you can cover more ground and maximise your wildlife sightings. My advice? Combine your walking safaris with game drives in this area known for its high density of leopard and lion, rumbling herds of elephant gathered at oxbow lakes, and endemic species such as Thornicroft's giraffe and Crawshay's zebra. 

Things to do in Zambia - game drives in the South Luangwa
Game drives in the South Luangwa are likely to be crowd-free even at the most exciting sightings.
Things to Do in Zambia - a herd of Thornicraft Giraffe
Herds of Thornicroft giraffe are regularly seen along the river.
Things to Do in Zambia - return from your game drive to find a spread awaits!
Tell the tales of your adventures over sundowners.

One of the guiding habits we most admire is the fact that the South Luangwa guides don't keep in radio contact with each other. This means that when you do come across a big cat or even a kill, you won't automatically find yourself in a game drive traffic jam. For anyone who has experienced high season in more popular destinations, this space and freedom to quietly observe a sighting is simply wonderful.

Our favourite place to stay: Puku Ridge is a wonderful tented camp offering both nature  walks and game drives, making for a great all-round safari experience.


3. Drift Along the Lower Zambezi River

The Lower Zambezi is an incredibly beautiful reserve stretching out along the shimmering waters of the wide, blue Zambezi River. There is plenty of big game here too, and the lodges tend to be more flexible with their schedules by putting together a day of activities to suit your tastes: game drives, nature walks, tiger fishing, or a major highlight, canoe safaris.

Don’t think of a canoe safari as hard work - you drift more than paddle, floating past the twitching ears and snorts of submerged hippos and knobbly Nile crocodiles basking on the riverbanks. It’s both peaceful and undeniably thrilling! 

Things to Do in Zambia - fishing in the Lower Zambezi
Fishing on the Zambezi River is a fantastic late afternoon activity which is best enjoyed with gin & tonics!
Things to do in Zamiba - canoe safari
Go on a canoe safari and discover the true meaning of 'big' game!
Things to Do in Zambia - bring along your camera for some amazing water shots
Bring along your camera for those river bank closeups.

You’ll find that a canoe gives you a closer and more intimate perspective on creatures like buffalo and elephant, who ignore your quiet passage past them quite undisturbed by your presence as they drink their fill at the water’s edge.

Our favourite places to stay: we love the spacious tented suites at Chiawa Camp and the romantic chalets at Baines River Camp, both overlooking the Lower Zambezi River.

4. Up Close and Personal at Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls deserves its local name, Mosi-oa-Tunya, “The Smoke That Thunders”. Nothing prepares you for your first sight of the Zambezi River in full flood thundering over the drop - 500 million litres of water per minute crashing into a deep rocky gorge, throwing a cloud of mist and rainbow-lit spray high into the air.

The Main Falls lie within Zimbabwe (discussed in my earlier blog: “Choosing Sides at Victoria Falls”) but the Zambian side is equally impressive during peak flow months (February to May). My favourite Zambian viewpoint is the Knife-Edge Bridge which takes you right up close to this thundering waterfall – be prepared to get soaked!

Things to Do in Zambia - frothing Victoria Falls, before the plunge
Thundering Victoria Falls - and the famous Devil's Pool - is a highlight on a trip to Zambia.
Things to do in Zamiba - tour of Victoria Falls
One of the viewpoints on the Zambian side of Victoria Falls.
Things to do in Zambia - Victoria Falls lunar rainbow
If you're travelling at full moon, don’t miss the chance to see a lunar rainbow!

Victoria Falls is a fantastic start or end point to a Zambian safari. If you have the time, I recommend a good three days to sample the many activities on offer. This little town is not called Africa's adventure capital for nothing - you can take a  scenic helicopter flip, an elephant-back safaris or even walk with lions.

Our favourite places to stay: The Royal Livingstone is set in park-like grounds a short walk from the Falls. Further upstream, you'll find the romantic open-fronted cottages of Tongabezi or choose Toka Leya with its tented suites on wooden decks.

5. Explore the Remote Busanga Plains of Kafue

Kafue National Park is one of the largest national parks in Africa, and yet the least visited of the three parks mentioned in our Zambia top five picks. Well of the beaten track, Kafue is still very, very wild with just a handful of luxury tented camps.

In the extreme north of Kafue lies the Busanga Plains, one of Zambia’s most significant wetland resources and the best region of the park for game viewing. Huge herds of red lechwe, puku and stately roan antelope graze these grassy floodplains, their large numbers attracting plenty of predators including packs of wild dogs, lion prides and elegant cheetah. 

Things to Do in Zambia - the Busanga Plains in Kafue
The Busanga Plains in Kafue National Park is well known for its excellent big cat sightings.
Things to Do in Zambia - a cheetah on the lookout for prey
Cheetah tend to hunt the smaller game like red lechwe and puku.
Things to Do in Zambia - Kafue is big cat country
Lion sightings are fairly frequent, keep an eye out!

Along with game drives, you can explore Kafue on boat rides and walking safaris, go fishing on either the Kafue or Lunga Rivers, and twitchers can add a few ticks to their lists with over 490 species of birds in the area.

Our favourite places to stay: Shumba Bush Camp offers six beautiful safari tents overlooking the game-packed Busanga Plains.

Planning Your Zambia Safari

With a little expert planning you can easily experience all of our Zambia's Top 5 picks in a single holiday without sacrificing rest and relaxation. Chat to one of our safari experts to create a Zamibia itinerary customised exclusively to match your time, interests and budget.

Written by Sandra Mallinson. Connect with her on Google+

comments powered by Disqus