Parks and Places

Zambia is a a big country with a relatively small population, and very big National Parks and Reserves. This gives it probably some of the best feeling of wilderness and remoteness that you can get in any of the main safari countries of Africa.

Livingstone and Victoria Falls

This is Zambia’s Victoria Falls town and was actually the original capital of the country from 1907 to 1935 before it was moved to Lusaka, so there are still some of the old colonial buildings and feel to the town. For those starting or ending a safari in Zambia this is a really good place to be if you want to relax a bit, see the Falls and do some of the many activities on offer here. The highlights here that are different to the Zimbabwean side of the Falls is that you can do micro-light flights over the falls, go to Livingstone’s Island in the Zambezi above the Falls and for the adventurous sit in the devils pool on the edge of the Falls! If you are here I really do recommend seeing the Victoria Falls themselves from the Zimbabwean side as well, as you will be able to see so much more of it from there and worth the walk over the bridge to take a look.

Kafue National Park

This is Zambia’s largest National Park and one of Africa’s biggest. Being so big it is one of those parks that you could easily dedicate a whole safari to only being here, and you would see an amazing range of habitats and species. This park has always been little brother in terms of facilities and development compared with the South Luangwa, but it is this, why for me the park holds a great attraction as you can have a great safari here with excellent density of wildlife and species, and rarely see another vehicle. The Park has recently had a change of management and will now be run by African Parks who have an excellent track record around Africa for rehabilitating National Parks, exactly what their plans are for Kafue and how it will unfold is unknown to me at the moment but all the people I talk to there are very up-beat with this development. The downside of Kafue is that in places the tsetse fly can be a problem especially at the hotter times of year – unless they really do effect you I would not put this as a reason not to visit, it’s one of my favourites and is easily accessed either from Lusaka or Livingstone.

LIuwa Plains

Situated up in the West of Zambia this is a huge wilderness area that is under the management of African Parks. It is really only accessible during the dry season from about June onwards as much of it floods during the rains which end normally in April. The wildlife populations here are increasing annually and on my last visit here I was really impressed with what we saw. It’s an excellent birding destination and the main wildlife highlight is the large herds of Blue Wildebeest which are approaching 50 000 in number that move around these plains for grazing similar to the Serengeti Migration and the amazing density of hyena who are the dominant predator here on the plains that seem to be very habituated to people making for some excellent photo opportunities. There is an exclusive safari lodge here, there are also safari operators offering mobile safari camps and there are campsites for self drive travellers.

Kasanka National Park

This is a small National Park for Zambian standards and was one of the first to be handed over to private management about 25 years ago. This park is most famous for hosting the largest mammal migration on earth which is the Fruit Bats that come in from the Central African rain forests to feast on the abundant figs and other fruits that come into season from late October to December. It’s an amazing spectacle but apart from this I have found this park is the easiest place to see and photograph the Sitatunga, there are lots here and easily seen so well worth being here just for that.

Bangweulu Swamps

This is a significant wetland and flood plain area that is very important for the ecology of many species of birds and fish. The floodplain areas are completely flat and as they dry out during the dry season the volume of Lechwe, Tsessebe and Zebra that feed here are really quite impressive. This area has another key highlight for the birders which is looking for the Shoebill. The best way to do this is to use one of the local guides here who follow these birds so know where to start looking and where the nest sites are. This is another area that is now under the management of African Parks so there is a new lodge being built here on Shoebill Island and there are community type campsites on the fringes of the flood plain as well.

Lake Tanganyika

This is Africa’s largest of the rift valley lakes and is an extraordinary place to visit. It is a bit off the normal routes but for people doing a self drive safari there is a good paved road all the way here from Lusaka. The Lake itself has few tourist facilities but spending time here is like being on a tropical island with white sand beaches, wonderful snorkelling looking at the variety of brightly coloured cichlid fish with the advantage of it being all in fresh water. In fact this lake contains 18% of the world’s fresh water and is maintained at a constant 24oC. The highlights here would also include seeing the Kalambo Falls Africa’s second highest waterfall at 235 metres. Spending time in Sumbu National Park on the shores of the lake for some nice game viewing of predominantly antelope species.

The North Luangwa National Park

This park has few tourist camps and facilities so it has a real wilderness feel to it as it is unlikely you will see other people here. The safari camps that are here tend to focus their activities around the bush walking experience with limited game driving. If being in the bush and happy to see what you see with no agenda, a dung beetle rolling some dung, a weaver making its nest or a large herd of buffalo crossing the river being hunted by lions then this is the park for you. This is a big 5 park with a growing number of black rhino, so you may have amazing sightings or have a very relaxing time in the bush. My recommendation is combining this with the South Luangwa and the two will complement each other very well.

South Luangwa National Park

This is probably Zambia’s most famous wildlife area and where most of the tourist development has taken place. As a result of this it is easily connected with Lusaka on commercial flights and has great range of different safari camps that will suit all pockets and safari tastes. It has a big reputation for leopard sightings which is well deserved - although it took me 3 safaris here before I saw my first Luangwa Leopard! This is a very big park so you can do a couple of different camps here and have very different experiences with some of the camps built overlooking the Luangwa River and others are more inland either on dry river beds where elephants dig for water or perhaps on the side of one of the many ox bow lagoons that are a feature of this park. Interesting species to find here are the Thornicroft’s giraffe which are more in the Southern part of the park and the Cookson’s Wildebeest which tend to be more in the Northern sections. There are many villages along the Eastern bank of the Luangwa river so being able to have a cultural experience here and visit one of the villages is very much a part of the Luangwa experience.

Lower Zambezi National Park

This is another very big park in Zambia and sits diagonally opposite Mana Pools National Park of Zimbabwe along the Zambezi River. For the camps that are inside the park there are not many, so the further East you go the less chance of seeing anyone else and a true remote experience with excellent game viewing is the bonus. You will be able to do a great selection of activities here that include cruising on the Zambezi River in a game viewing boat, Canoeing, Game drives, Night Drives and Bush walks in a really beautiful setting. Upstream of the park and more directly opposite Mana Pools is where most of the safari camps and fishing lodges are located. There are a great number of them and some with some really questionable design features but there are some more traditional safari camps as well and these are easily accessed with a direct commercial flight from Lusaka and this also links with the South Luangwa as a round trip.