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It’s early morning and the still-cool air is filled with the buzzing and chirping of countless cicadas and birds. You’re walking single file along a dusty hippo trail when your guide quietly gives the signal and you come to a standstill: up ahead a lioness wanders into view, fixes you in the soft gaze of her amber-coloured eyes, then, with a flick of her tail, slinks away silently into the surrounding bush.

The encounter lasts only a moment, yet when she’s gone you feel your heart racing happily 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!

Shumba Camp

Zambia's South Luangwa National Park is considered the birthplace of walking safaris but its other magnificent parks and reserves are not to be overlooked. 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 with lower visitor numbers.

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 and canoeing safaris – and all of this is centred on the swirling mist and thundering water of the mighty Victoria Falls.

Walking Safaris

1. Set Off on Foot in South Luangwa

Go2Africa Travellers with 2 guides on a walking safari watching elephants in Zambia

A guided walking safari is an opportunity to immerse yourself completely in this pristine wilderness. 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 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 ticking off a checklist! Nights are passed in comfortable tents with all the basics of camp set up for you by the experienced staff.

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 Places to Stay:

South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
Zungulila tent exterior. Alfresco dining. Wind down at the end of the day with a book in the lounge. Zung room interior. Soak in a bath that has views of the Kapamba River. Views consist of the Kapamba river and the surrounding plains. Experience the thrill of watching wildlife in action during your game drive.

Zungulila Bush Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Game drives Guided walks Night drives
South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
Relax by the pool. Enjoy a sundowner by a crackling fire. A bath with a view. Sumptuous villas. Open lounge area. Enjoy a hot bath & massage after all your walking. Eco-friendly design.

Time + Tide Chinzombo

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Animal tracking experience Game drives Guided walking safaris Guided walks
South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
The camp is set in a grove of trees and bushes overlooking a busy waterhole. Spend hot days in the cool atmosphere of the main tent. Large, airy tents with great views form part of the main camp area. Enjoy a romantic private dinner in the comfort of your tent. Expect comfortable beds and a tent decorated in typical safari flair. The tents are spacious and comfortable. A truly unique experience - a complete outdoor bathroom.

Tena Tena

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Game drives Guided walking safaris Local village visits Night drives
Game Drives

2. Game Drives Along the Luangwa River

Safari vehicle on a game drive watching 3 elephants at Chamilandu Bush Camp, Zambia

The South Luangwa is Zambia’s best-known park for a very good reason: the concentration of game around the Luangwa River is among the densest in Africa. You probably – and sadly – 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. Our advice? Combine your walking safaris with game drives in this area known for its high density of leopard and lion, rumbling herds of elephants gathered at oxbow lakes, and endemic species such as Thornicroft’s giraffe and Crawshay’s zebra.

One of the guiding habits we most admire is the fact that the South Luangwa guides don’t automatically radio each other every time they come across a good sighting. This means that when you do come across a big cat or even a kill, you will have the space and freedom to quietly observe a sighting, which is simply wonderful.

Our Favourite Places to Stay:

South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
Main guest area. A day bed, out in nature. Exterior of a chalet at, Chamilandu Camp, South Luangwa. Exterior of Chamilandu Camp, South Luangwa. Chalet interior.

Chamilandu

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Game drives Guided walking safaris Night drives
South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
Chindeni, a tranquil camp on the meandering Luangwa River. Camp fire. Tent exterior. Enjoying the spacious, African interior of the private rooms.
The tents have luxurious four-poster beds, a lounge area and are extremely spacious. See a member of the big 5 from the lodge.
An authentic safari experience on the meandering Luangwa River.

Chindeni

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Game drives Guided walking safaris Night drives
South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
Aerial view of Tafika Camp's location along the Luangwa River. Time for breakfast, enjoy the array of fresh ingredients. A high tea treat, freshly baked. The lodge lounge - a perfect spot to relax, with a well-stocked bar nearby. Unique sightings on game drives in South Luangwa. Freshly grown produce is used to prepare your meals. Enjoy adventurous cycling safaris.

Tafika Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Game drives Guided walking safaris Local village visits
Canoe Safaris

3. Drift Along the Lower Zambezi River

Canoe safari watching an elephant grazing at Baines River Camp in Zambia

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 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! The guides are utterly attuned to the animals’ habits and behaviour and are completely at ease predicting their next moves.

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:

Lower Zambezi, Zambia
The thatched and tented camp is shaded by a forest of mahogany and acacia trees and enjoys marvellous views over the Zambezi River Valley. Chiawa Camp provides spacious safari tents, which are set on elevated timber decks with large viewing terraces. A stunning thatched lounge/bar area with upstairs viewing deck provides one of the best views of the Zambezi River. At Chiawa Camp you can experience Big 5 game viewing without leaving the comfort of the camp. Each tent has a king-sized bed and an en suite bathroom with dual vanities, indoor and outdoor hot showers, and a clawfoot bath. Enjoy sumptuous meals with incredible views of the Zambezi River. Each chalet is beautifully and naturally designed and features a private and fully furnished balcony.

Chiawa Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Boat excursions Canoeing Fishing Game drives
Lower Zambezi, Zambia
Take a dip in the pool at sunset. Baines River camp exterior. Beautiful views from the deck. Enjoy some down time in the lounge. Mingle with other guests in the lounge. Sleep like royalty in the king sized bed. Cool off beside the pool.

Baines' River Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Boat excursions Canoeing Fishing
Lower Zambezi, Zambia

Old Mondoro

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Canoeing Fishing Fly fishing Game drives

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Victoria Falls

4. Get up Close and Personal With Vic Falls

Microlights flight over the spectacular Victoria Falls in Zambia

Victoria Falls deserves its local name, Mosi-oa-Tunya or ‘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 (see our complete guide to Victoria Falls) but the Zambian side is equally impressive during peak flow months (February to May). One of our favourite Zambian viewpoints is the Knife-Edge Bridge, which takes you right up close to this thundering waterfall – be prepared to get soaked!

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 – you can take a scenic helicopter flip or microlight flight, or even go white-water rafting on high-grade rapids.

Our Favourite Places to Stay:

Zambia, Zambia
Thorntree is one of Zambia’s most indulgent lodges. Dine by the boma. Viewing deck over the river. Stunning views from the guest area. Dine under the stars next to a sparkling swimming pool. Netted luxury bedroom suite. Stylish bathrooms.

Thorntree River Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Canoeing Cultural visits Fishing Game drives
Victoria Falls, Zambia
Tongabezi Lodge offers exceptional accommodation. Enjoy excuisite dining on the deck. Enjoy a unique boma dinner. Take a dip in the cool swimming pool. Warm and cosy by the boma. Beautifully designed bedroom. Enjoy a private swim in the pool at Tongabezi Lodge.

Tongabezi Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Boat excursions Cultural visits Day tours Fishing
Zambezi River, Zambia
Aerial view of Sanctuary Sussi Chuma. Sensational sunset cruies. Lounge by the swimming pool. Enjoy a refreshing beverage at the bar. En suite bathroom. Elegant tree-forts are built into the canopy of giant ebony trees. Sanctuary Sussi Chuma boma.

Sanctuary Sussi & Chuma

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Canoeing Day tours Game drives Guided walking safaris
Kasanka Bat Migration

5. Witness the Biggest Mammal Migration on Earth

Bats migration during sunset in Kasanka National Park, Zambia

Every year from about October to December, the skies around Kasanka National Park come alive with around 10 million straw-coloured fruit bats. That’s right, East Africa’s Great Wildebeest Migration is not the largest mammal migration in the world!

While the sheer volume of bats is jaw-dropping, it’s the atmosphere surrounding this phenomenon that’s the most thrilling part: huge birds of prey swoop through the dramatic skies and take down bats for breakfast. And of course, you can see the usual Kasanka specials like rare, swamp-dwelling sitatunga antelope graze in the misty dambos (wetlands) in the morning. If you’re a true safari enthusiast, this is an absolute must-do experience.

What You Need to Know:

  • Kasanka is the only place in the world where you can witness this natural phenomenon.
  • The migration only takes place for about 90 days (late October to mid-December).
  • We recommend flying directly to Kasanka by private charter plane (there is an airstrip inside the park) and staying at Wasa Lodge.
Kafue’s Busanga Plains

6. Explore the Remote Busanga Plains of Kafue

A lion lying in the grass at Shumba Camp in Zambia

Kafue National Park is one of the largest national parks in Africa, and yet the least visited of Zambia’s major three parks. Well off 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 lone cheetah.

Along with game drives, you can spend your days in Kafue on boat rides and walking safaris, go fishing on either the Kafue or Lunga River, and twitchers are sure to add a few ticks to their lists with over 490 species of birds recorded.

Our Favourite Places to Stay:

Kafue National Park, Zambia
Shumba Bush Camp lies on the legendary Busanga Plains. Lookout for unusual guests. A unique boma experience. Dine under the stars. Enjoy delicious meals. Watch the sunset in comfort. Sleep in peace.

Shumba Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Boat excursions Day tours Game drives
Kafue National Park, Zambia
Exterior of the canvas-covered lounge area. Busanga Bush Camp lounge. Breakfast in the boma area. Sumptuous bush dinners. A small camp, tucked away between fig trees. Airy Meru-style tents. Exhilarating game drives.

Busanga Bush Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Game drives Guided walking safaris Night drives
Kafue National Park, Zambia
Sit fireside and immerse yourself into the wild. Disconnect from the modern world and relax in safari luxury. Exceptional safari sightings wait in this hidden gem reserve. Soak in the incredible African bush views. Dine on scrumptious meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Explore the reserve on foot, in the care of expert guides. Enjoy sundowners after thrilling game drives.

Nanzhila Plains

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Cultural visits Game drives Guided walks
Zambia Itineraries

Our Favourite Zambia Itineraries

Our Africa Safari Experts sitting on a deck at Old Modoro very close to a curious bull elephant

Ready to Plan Your Zambia Safari?

With a little help from our Africa Safari Experts, you can easily experience all of Zambia’s highlights in a single holiday without sacrificing rest and relaxation. Chat with someone who’s been there to create a Zambia itinerary customised exclusively to match your time, interests and budget:

Written By

Sandra Mallinson

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