Compared to the heavy-hitters of Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa, Zambia is lesser-known as a safari destination – unfairly, in our opinion.

The country has 20 national parks and 34 game management areas; it is peaceful, stable and incredibly welcoming to visitors. In short, Zambia deserves a place at the top table of African safari.

Safari-goers in Zambia can see – amongst many more – one of the largest bat migrations in the world, the second-largest wildebeest migration on earth, a unique species of giraffe and spot the Big Five (elephant, lion, buffalo, rhino and leopard).

And all this alongside a key blessing of being less-famous: Zambia's safari parks are incomparably less crowded than Africa's more popular safari destinations.

Ready to go? Here's our essential guide to the best safari in Zambia.

Luangwa Valley Baboon standing guard for his troop

Baboon standing guard in Luangwa

Zambia's best safaris

Where to go, where to stay, what to see

Zambia has scores of national parks and game reserves. Here's an introduction to five of the country's most popular and most accessible safari locations.

South Luangwa lion

A lion in South Luangwa National Park

South Luangwa National Park

South Luangwa National Park, in the Eastern province of Zambia, is is one of the most wildlife-rich national parks in the country. The park is home to more than 400 species of birds and over 60 different mammals, including antelopes, lions, elephants and more. South Luangwa is the only place in the world to see the Thornicroft species of giraffe as well as the Cookson’s wildebeest.

There are various types of safari offered at South Luangwa National Park. Walking safaris are a speciality of the park, and were pioneered by renowned conservationist Sir Norman Carr in the 1950s and 1960. They continue to be one of the most popular ways to view wildlife in the park. On a walking safari, guests can see lions, leopards, elephants and learn about the flora of the park. It’s not all about big beasts however; a walking safari will allow you to get up close with a termite mound and learn about Zambia’s ecosystem.

Best safari lodges & camps

Mfuwe Lodge offers guests the chance to see elephants which regularly pass through the reception between late October and mid-December on their way to the mango trees around the property.

For budget-conscious travellers, Marula Lodge offers dorm-style rooms, ensuite double and twin rooms as well as tents. All-inclusive packages are also available. Thornicroft Lodge and Croc Valley Camp are also great budget-friendly options.

Zambia Zambezi river aerial

A view over the Zambezi river

Lower Zambezi National Park

Found in Zambia’s southern region, Lower Zambezi National Park was named the world’s first carbon-neutral national park in 2016 after a joint collaboration with lodge operators under the Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project.

Named after the Zambezi river which runs through it, the park provides a lifeline for more than 60 mammal species and 378 types of bird. Animals such as elephants, leopards, buffalo, waterbuck ( a type of antelope) and wild dogs can be spotted in the park.

Lower Zambezi is best-known for its canoe safaris, which take place on the Zambezi river. Guests can book 3-5 day canoe safaris which involve overnight stays at bush camps along the riverbank.

Traditional day and night game drives are offered as well as walking safaris. Additional activities include tiger fish catch and release fishing, boat cruises and sleep outs.

Best safari camps and lodges

Luxury accommodation includes Chongwe River Camp, the Sausage Tree and Potato Bush Camp, the Chiawa Camp and Old Mondoro and the Royal Zambezi Lodge. These lodges are all inclusive which means activities and meals are included.

Mid-range options include Gwabi River Lodge, Mount Hermon Safari cottages and Kiambi Safaris.

Travellers should bear in mind that not all accommodations have wifi and most are run on solar power to offset carbon emissions.

Kafue National Park sunset scene

Sunset at Kafue National Park

Kafue National Park

Kafue National Park is Zambia’s largest national park, covering an area of 22,400 sq/km and stretching over three provinces; North Western, Southern and Central. It is also the oldest national park in the country, established in 1924 by conservationist Norman Carr. The park is named after the Kafue River which flows through the park for more than 250km.

Busanga Plains, in the North West corner of Kafue National Park, is the only place in Zambia where you can take a hot air balloon safari. The season runs from August till the end of October.

Game drives are offered in the morning and evenings in all parts of the park during the peak season (July to October). Walking safaris can also be done in the park through lodges and camps. Boat rides can also be done.

Kafue National Park is a haven for bird watchers with almost 500 species of birds which include the fish eagle, the saddle-billed stork and more.

Best safari camps and lodges

During the rainy season, some parts of the park become inaccessible, such as the Busanga Plains. All year lodgings are available at Mayukuyuku camp.

Mukambi Safaris runs three camps; Mukambi Safari Lodge, Fig Tree Bushcamp and Busanga Plains camp. Other high end lodging options include the Musekese camp and Ntemwa-Busanga bush camp.

Budget accommodation can be found at the Musungwa Lodge.

Zambia kudu

Kudu in Zambia's Kasanka National Park

Kasanka National Park

Kasanka National Park is one of the smallest national parks in Zambia. Found in the Central Province in the northern part of Zambia, Kasanka is run through a public-private partnership between the Department of National Parks and Wildlife and the Kasanka Trust.

Safari-goers coming to Kasanka can expect a more remote, ‘wilderness’ style safari with fewer visitors and unique wildlife.

Most visitors to Kasanka go to experience the annual bat migration which occurs from November to December. An estimated 9 million fruit bats migrate from the Democratic Republic of Congo to the park to feed on the fruits of the masuku tree, an indigenous Zambian fruit. The Kasanka bat migration is billed as the second-largest mammal migration in the world.

There are plenty of non-safari things to do in Kasanka. Try visiting the David Livingstone Memorial, which commemorates the place the 19th-century explorer died in his quest to find the source of the Nile. Another point of interest is the Nsalu caves, which feature rock paintings from the stone age period.

Best safari camps and lodges

Wasa Lodge is the closest to the airstrip and to the entrance of the park. It is also the closest to the hides to view bats in the forest. Guests staying at the Wasa Lodge have incredible views of the Wasa Lake, where animals such as hippo, sitatunga and puku can be spotted.

The Luwombwa Lodge is located on the Western side of Kasanka National Park. This is a good place to see birds such as the black-breasted snake eagle and raptors. The nearby Chifukwe plains are home to antelope such as reedbuck and sable, as well as frequent sightings of zebra and buffalo.

Those on a tighter budget can camp either at the Kabwe, Pontoon and Bufumu campsites located in the park.

Zambia tiger fishing cropped

Tiger fishing in Zambia

Liuwa Plains National Park

Liuwa Plains National Park is located in the Western Province of Zambia in the upper plains of the Zambezi river. It is one of the oldest conservation areas in the country and was designated protected land by the ruler of the Lozi kingdom around 1880. It is also located in one of the most remote areas of Zambia, making it one of the least visited parks in the country. However, it should be on every safari lover’s list due to its excellent populations of lion, cheetah and the annual wildebeest migration.

A trip in March or April to Liuwa can be combined with a one day trip to Mongu to witness the annual Kuomboka ceremony of the Lozi people of Western Zambia. The traditional festival involves the King, his Queen and his subjects migrating from the lowlands of the Zambezi to the highlands in a large black and white striped boat.

Best safari camps and lodges

King Lewanika Lodge is the only permanent, luxury accommodation in the park.

Other accommodation includes campsites owned and run by the local community, who are assisted by the African Parks organisation. Four campsites – Kwale, Lyangu, Katoyana and Sikale – are located in the park.

The Best Safaris In Zambia

Mazuba Kapambwe

Mazuba is a freelance writer from Zambia whose travel writing has appeared on CNN Travel, Unearth Women, Culture Trip and several in-flight magazines. Her travel podcast Mwende Bwino (Go Well) was recently featured on Conde Nast Traveler’s website and listed as one of the top five Zambian podcasts. Mazuba co-wrote the Lusaka Arts and Culture guide produced by the National Arts Council of Zambia.

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