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The Ultimate Guide to a Zambia Safari

Zambia is a truly magical safari destination. This Southern African country comprises all the best aspects of its more high-profile counterparts, like Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa. There is something for every type of traveller, from the first-timers and honeymooners to the more seasoned safari-goers and families on vacation.

Endowed with several awe-inspiring natural wonders, an abundance of diverse wildlife, mighty bodies of water, and vast, untamed open spaces, Zambia offers a well-rounded safari experience in the raw African wilderness. This beautiful country is the birthplace of the legendary African walking safari, as well as home to Victoria Falls and the Zambezi River. There’s so much to do and even more to see in this enchanting destination, which is why we’ve put together the ultimate safari guide for Zambia.

Why Go to Zambia

Why Go to Zambia

There are some who consider Zambia to be one of Africa’s best-kept secrets. This safari gem might not be as high-profile as Kenya, Tanzania, or South Africa, but those who are privy know exactly how amazing this game-rich, unspoilt destination can be.

This popularity of Zambia as a safari destination can be largely attributed to the many tourist attractions the country has to offer. Jaw-dropping views of crashing waterfalls, rivers reflecting the gorgeous sunrise, and untamed wilderness that’s home to a variety of wildlife are commonplace throughout Zambia. Not to mention that there are so many things to do in Zambia. From the endless adventure activities that await in Victoria Falls and water-based fun that can be had on the Zambezi River to exhilarating walking safaris in one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world, South Luangwa National Park.

Beyond the excellent big game populations and breath-taking natural scenery, Zambia is also home to some of the most beautiful safari accommodations. The golden era of safari might have seen you roughing it in the wild with nothing but a canvas tent separating you from Zambia’s wild nature, but a modern safari in this gorgeous Southern African country is akin to a 5-star holiday in Europe. A Zambia safari offers the best of both worlds: authentic safari experiences in wild, remote destinations and luxury lodges and camps that offer world-class amenities, top-tier service and every modern comfort and convenience one could need.

What is in Zambia

What is in Zambia?

Thrilling Moments in Africa's Adventure Capital: Victoria Falls

Microlight flight over Victoria Falls, Zambia.

Zambia shares Africa’s biggest waterfall with its neighbour, Zimbabwe – with the natural wonder acting as a natural border between the two countries. Known locally as Mosi-oa-Tunya (which aptly translates to ‘Smoke that Thunders’), Victoria Falls attracts roughly one million visitors annually to watch the mesmerising water cascade down into the mighty Zambezi River. Naturally, this should be at the top of your list on where to go in Zambia.

On Zambia’s Victoria Falls side, you’ll enjoy exceptionally close-up views of the waterfall, as well as access to Devil’s Pool – a natural rock pool situated at the very edge of the waterfall, known to provide an adrenaline-filled swim – during low-water season. Additionally, you can also take a trip to Livingstone Island (when water levels permit), enjoy the luxury and comforts of the romantic riverside lodges that dot the length of the Zambezi River, and revel in exciting game viewing through Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park.

To top it all off, you can easily cross the border from Zambia into Zimbabwe to enjoy all the activities and experiences the other side of Victoria Falls has to offer. The Zimbabwean side is where you’ll find all the heart-pumping escapades that have earned Victoria Falls the nickname “Africa’s Adventure Capital”. From white-water rafting and cruises on the Zambezi River to gorge swinging, bungee jumping or ziplining from the Falls, there’s a thrilling venture for everyone.

 

Birthplace of the Walking Safari: South Luangwa National Park

People spot an elephant on a walking safari through South Luangwa National Park, Zambia.

Game drives through wildlife-rich regions are awe-inspiring, but there is one safari type that outdoes the traditional – the walking safari. Born in one of Zambia’s hidden gems, South Luangwa National Park, walking safaris offer a new twist on experiencing the African wilderness and the animals that reside within it. And since its inception of walking safaris in the region in the late sixties, South Luangwa remains today as the best destination to experience this wonderful adventure.

Revolutionary in its own right, walking safaris get you out the confines of a game vehicle and sets you right in the thick of all the action – getting you up close to Zambia’s wildlife. Guided by an expert Game Ranger and track who know the area like the back of their hand, you’ll head into big game country on foot, immersing yourself in nature like never before.

The length of your adventure is completely up to you. It can be as short as an hour’s stroll to several days, stopping to sleep under starlit skies at remote lodges or tented camps along the way. You’ll be kept perfectly safe and comfortable throughout your entire journey, being accompanied by incredible professionals who have grown up in the area and have decades of experience to their name.

 

Game Viewing in the World's Second Largest Sanctuary: Kafue National Park

Safari group spot a lion while on a game drive in Kafue National Park, Zambia.

Kafue National Park stands as Zambia’s largest conservation area and the second largest in the entire world. Stretching over 22,400 square kilometres (8,649 square miles), Kafue is a true hidden gem that offers excellent big game viewing with barely another vehicle in sight.

Perfect for those seeking a safari experience off the beaten track, guests to this region can look forward to a handful of luxury tented camps overlooking breath-taking views of the vast Busanga Plains below, a variety of safari experiences (game drives, night drives, motorboat safaris, guided walking safaris, and canoe trips), and good chances of seeing buffalo, wildebeest, cheetah, wild dog, spotted hyena, lion, puku antelope, leopard, and other fascinating animals.

 

Excellent Game Viewing in the Unspoilt Wilderness: Lower Zambezi National Park

An elephant spotted by safari goers on a canoe trip in Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia.

Arguably Zambia’s most popular safari destination, the Lower Zambezi National Park lies opposite Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park, with nothing but the mighty Zambezi River separating the two. Like its neighbour across the way, Lower Zambezi is an extraordinarily wildlife-rich region that offers first-class safari experiences in an untamed, natural setting.

During your visit, indulge in day and night game drives, guided nature walks, river cruises and fishing expeditions. Keep an eye out for the many inhabitants of the area, including crocodiles, hippos, elephants, buffalo, leopards, lions, wild dogs and spotted hyenas.

The cherry on top of your time here will undoubtedly be the stunning, intimate lodges, tented camps and private villas that occupy prime positions on the water’s edge while providing you with every luxury and comfort you could want and need.

 

Witness the Second-Largest Wildebeest Migration in Africa: Liuwa Plain National Park

Safari goers watch Africa's second-largest wildebeest migration in Liuwa Plains, Zambia.

Liuwa Plain National Park is one of the world’s oldest conservation regions, with a history dating back to the 19 century. Today, it continues to make history as one of the best examples of how people and wildlife can co-exist and benefit in a shared landscape.

In addition to its conservation merits, Liuwa Plain also hosts the second-largest wildebeest migration on the continent and is renowned for its lion population. It’s essentially the Masai Mara with fewer animals and even fewer human beings – making it the perfect safari destination for those wanting the road less travelled.

When to Go to Zambia

When to Go: The Best Time to Visit Zambia

Like with most things in life, timing is everything. The best time to visit Zambia depends on where you want to go and what you want to do, as the optimal time to view the waterfall in Victoria Falls differs from the ideal time to see game in the national parks. Although there’s an overlap where you can enjoy both experiences, it is a small window to see the two at their best in the same period. Here are the best times to travel to Zambia:

 

Best Time for Traditional Safaris

If you’re keen on a safari experience with little to no visitors about, then you should travel to Zambia in May and June. The ground is still a bit muddy and slippery after the rains, but camps and lodges begin to open again around this time. July to November is high safari season in Zambia, with visitor numbers being at their peak. This time is also known as the dry season and is a popular time of year to enjoy a safari trip.  Vegetation thins out significantly, making it much easier to spot animals in the bush. Additionally, several precious water sources dry up, and wildlife prefer not to move too far away from any remaining ones. Not to mention, the climate is much more temperate as it is cooler throughout the day, and bugs are few, making your trip that much more comfortable.

 

Best Time for Walking Safaris

July to November is also the best time to enjoy a walking safari in the legendary South Luangwa National Park. August is a particularly excellent time for walking safaris, with the drier bush being easier to navigate on foot. The weather heats up in October, restricting game drives and walking safaris to the early morning and evening to avoid the soaring temperatures.

 

Best Time to Visit Victoria Falls

March, April, and May are great times to see Victoria Falls. After the rains seen in the beginning of the year, the flow rate of the Zambezi River increases, which in turn feeds the Falls. In May, the Falls are at their fullest and highest. This might sound like a good thing, but the large volume of water plummeting over the edge creates a huge amount of mist and a deafening noise (hence the name Mosi-oa-Tunya or the Smoke that Thunders), making it difficult to actually see or photograph the waterfall. The best way to view Victoria Falls during this month is to book a helicopter flip or microlight tour to get a birds-eye view to deeply appreciate the natural wonder’s size from the air.

 

Best Time for Birding

January, February, and March are perfect for birdwatching. If you’re an avid birder, Zambia offers some of the best birdwatching on the continent. The Southern African country is home to 860 species of avifauna, with South Luangwa, Kafue and Lower Zambezi supplying outstanding birding opportunities. Peak rainy season in Zambia takes place in the first three months of the year. During this time, herbivores give birth and birds boast their snazziest breeding plumage, while water birds are drawn to the pools and lagoons created by the bursting banks of the Luangwa River.

Safari guide teaches guest about spotting birds on a game drive in Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia.

Best Time to Combine Victoria Falls & a Safari

Ideally, you’d want a trip that encompasses the best of both worlds – an adventure in Victoria Falls and fantastic game viewing in the national parks. The window is small, but August is considered the best time of year in Zambia to combine the two experiences.

High Season Low or Green Season
Approximately June to November Approximately November to May
Highest rates Lowest rates
Need to book up to a year in advance No need to book too far in advance
Coldest, driest weather Hottest, wettest weather
Easier to find and see the animals Harder to find and see animals
Not many baby animals or migrant birds Lots of baby animals and birds around
Most crowded Least crowded
Victoria Falls in full flood (February to July) Victoria Falls low-water season (August to January)

Other Things to Keep in Mind:

  • July And August are tourist seasons in Zambia, meaning that the country sees its highest volume of visitors during these two months. It’s the best time of year to enjoy both the waterfall and a safari, so Victoria Falls and the more popular national parks tend to be packed. If you’d like to be on your trip to Zambia around this time, we highly recommend booking up to a year in advance to secure your spot.
  • Because of regional holidays, the period between Christmas and New Year also tends to be remarkably busy in Zambia.
  • Zambia’s low or green season (i.e., when the rains come in) is still a fantastic time to enjoy a safari. During this time, you’ll receive great deals at the camps and lodges, fewer tourists, much lusher, vibrant scenery, and the animals never disappear – they’re just a little harder to spot, that’s all!
Cost of a Zambia Safari

What Does a Zambia Safari Cost?

Our Africa Safari Experts have a wealth of knowledge accumulated over 20 years, but there are some questions that even they can’t definitively answer. The nature of planning tailor-made safari itineraries makes it difficult to provide one single figure when it comes to the cost of safaris to Zambia. Every traveller has different expectations for their trip – it’s rare for two people to have the same wants and needs when visiting Africa. Variables, like the time of year, length of stay, and level of comfort or luxury of accommodation, all affect the final amount. This is why Go2Africa forgoes the one-package-deal-fits-all approach. We prefer to liaise with each client individually, getting to know them, and using our expertise to create a perfect-fit itinerary from scratch.

Hippos spotted in the water during a boating safari in Kafue National Park, Zambia.

We might not be able to give you a conclusive single figure, but we can, however, provide a guideline that informs your budget. Here are some ballpark figures for safari lodges and camps in Zambia during high and low safari season:

4-Star Comfort 4-Star Luxury 5-Star Luxury
Low High Low High Low High
$900 $1,200 $1,100 $1,400 $1,600 $2,500

PLEASE NOTE: The figures above are an average estimate for per person sharing a room, per night. These amounts exclude international flights, visas, and optional activities. Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind that conservation fees, levies and permits all subject to change.

Is the Zambia safari cost all-inclusive?

All Go2Africa’s safaris are all-inclusive. Meals, most drinks, park fees, game drives, guided walks and taxes are covered in the rate for accommodation to ensure that you don’t get any surprises when checking out. Our Africa Safari Experts also prefer booking and arranging excursions and activities as part of your itinerary for the same reason.

The bigger your budget, the more options available to you. But not to worry, you don’t need to have deep pockets to enjoy a Zambia safari. If your budget is modest, there are still ways of having a great trip. All you need to do is ensure that you communicate openly and honestly with your consultant so that they can do their best to create an ideal itinerary for you.

Where to Stay in Zambia

Where to Stay in Zambia: Best Camps and Lodges

Victoria Falls

South Luangwa National Park

Kafue National Park

Lower Zambezi National Park

Liuwa Plain National Park

How to Plan Your Zambia Safari

How to Plan Your Zambia Safari

Preparation is key for any holiday, but especially for a safari in Africa. Here are a few things to consider when planning a Zambia safari:

 

Are you a first-timer or a seasoned safari goer?

If it’s your first time in Africa or on safari, consider combining Victoria Falls with one of Zambia’s national parks, like South Luangwa, to get the best of both worlds. Take it a step further and add on a trip to South Africa’s iconic tourist destinations, the Kruger National Park – which has fantastic year-round game viewing – and the gorgeous city of Cape Town.

But if this isn’t your first rodeo and you’ve already experienced Southern Africa’s most popular safari destinations, then you might want to enjoy an adventure off the beaten track. Liuwa Plain and Kafue are great regions to enjoy exclusive safari experiences in a secluded setting with little to no other people around.

 

How long should your trip be?

The length of all trips to Zambia depends on how many destinations you want to visit. It’s suggested that you try to spend at least two to three nights at each destination on your itinerary to get a well-rounded experience. Keep in mind that the distances between destinations are usually long and most require a light aircraft to get from place to place. Aim to have as many full days as possible in a destination. This way, you will be able to fit in more morning and afternoon game drives.

Safari guide teaches a family about nature during a walking safari in Zambia.

What are your priorities for your trip?

A good exercise before you start planning your safari is to nail down your must-sees and must-dos. These refer to activities, sightings, experiences, or accommodations that are top priority for you and must be on your itinerary. Knowing your interests or preferences makes it much easier to plan a tailor-made trip, as it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to do and see everything that Zambia has to offer – well, unless you have unlimited time and deep pockets. By focusing on a select few experiences or activities, you’ll walk away from your safari satisfied with the outcome.

 

When do you want to go to Zambia?

It may sound excessive, but it’s advised that you begin planning your safari about a year in advance – especially if it’s to a popular tourist destination like Victoria Falls. The best accommodation is limited and fills up quickly. So, to avoid disappointment, try to get an early start.

For safari destinations that are a bit more under the radar than Zambia’s heavy hitters, you have a bit more breathing room. But even then, we urge you to avoid booking a last-minute safari trip, if possible, as there’s a good chance you won’t get your preferred camps, lodges, or experiences.

 

Is Zambia safe to travel to?

Yes, Zambia is a safe country for travellers, and locals are generally warm, welcoming, and friendly towards visitors. Zambia is a peaceful, stable, and thriving democracy, but, as with any country, there’s still a moderate risk of petty crime, like pick-pocketing, and opportunistic theft in busy urban areas. You’ll be perfectly safe as a traveller in Zambia but try to practice vigilance and store your valuables safely to have extra peace of mind.

Zambia Safari Ideas

Popular Zambia Safari Itinerary Ideas

Ready to Plan Your Ultimate Zambia Safari?

For over two decades, our Africa Safari Experts have amassed extensive knowledge and experience in planning tailor-made, personalised itineraries in Southern and East Africa. Get in touch and leave your dream safari adventure in the hands of our experts: