Lower Zambezi National Park is just over 4,000 square kilometres of unspoilt nature.

A relatively undeveloped park, with no paved roads, it’s rare to encounter another safari vehicle. While the diversity of animals is not as great as some parks (there are no giraffe, wildebeest, cheetah or rhino here), I think it has an untouched wilderness appeal.

What you will see is herds of elephants and buffalos, soaring fish eagles, plenty of lions, leopards, wild dogs and over 400 different bird species (the magnificent carmine bee-eaters that nest in the riverbanks from September to November are a particular highlight).

The Zambezi River, which forms one of the park boundaries, is home to plentiful hippos and crocodiles. Most of the wildlife is concentrated along the river, so a great way to experience the park is by boat or on a canoe safari.

Zambia Lower Zambezi elephant

Elephant grazing in Lower Zambezi National Park

The best safaris in Lower Zambezi National Park

Lower Zambezi is best-known for its canoe safaris, which take place on the Zambezi river. It is possible to organise multi-day canoe safaris with overnight stays at bush camps along the riverbank, but you'll need a specialist operator.

A canoe safari allows you to get to some of the more remote parts of the Lower Zambezi National Park. Your canoe safari guide will direct you through the waterways, where you’ll encounter big game including elephants, hippos, crocodiles and baboons. Most canoe trips are self-supporting and you’ll be wild camping along the riverbank or on isolated islands.

You’ll be expected to canoe your own boat, so a reasonable level of fitness is required, although most canoe safaris won’t expect you to have previous experience. Expect to get on the water just after sunrise, break for lunch and an afternoon siesta and spend the rest of the time marvelling at the Lower Zambezi’s incredible wildlife.

Some operators offer participatory canoe safaris which can last for a shorter duration such as a half-day. Animals that are usually seen on canoe safaris include hippo, elephant, crocodiles, baboons, waterbuck (a type of antelope) and more.

Traditional day and night game drives are offered as well as walking safaris.

Fishing for the coveted tigerfish (catch and release!) is a highlight here. A relative of the piranha, tigerfish have enormous sharp teeth, can grow to 15 kg and are renowned for their strength and fight. Whilst not a fisherman myself, I’ve spent many hours watching my husband do battle with these monsters and even I can see that it’s lots of fun and incredibly rewarding once you land one.

Zambia Zambezi hippo

Hippos in Lower Zambezi

The best times for safari in Lower Zambezi National Park

From April to November, all camps in the Lower Zambezi National Park are open. For people that enjoy fishing, the best time for a visit is September and October. Wildlife is best spotted from May to October, although the heat in October can be excessive. One camp that is open during the rainy season (November to March) is Royal Zambezi (Kayila Lodge is now closed). Birdlife is in abundance during the emerald/rainy season as migratory birds return for the breeding season and there are new births of antelope, elephant, warthog, zebra and more.

If you’re interested in canoeing, the best time to go on a canoe safari is during the dry season, particularly if you want to head into the more tricky routes around Mana Pools. However, it is possible to take a canoe safari year-round.

Zambia Zambezi river aerial

A view over the Zambezi river

Best safari camps & lodges in the Lower Zambezi

The luxury Sausage Tree Camp is set in a prime location along the Zambezi River right in the heart of the park. Keen fishermen should try Zambezi Grande and for a more budget option try Mvuu Lodge for chalets, self-catering and bush camp options and are located outside the park.

Other high-end accommodation includes Potato Bush Camp, the Chiawa Camp and Old Mondoro and the Royal Zambezi Lodge.

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

How to get to Lower Zambezi National Park

Proflight flies to the Jeki airstrip, Royal Air Charters fly to the Royal Zambezi airstrips, where guests can arrange for pickups with their lodge or camp. Proflight also flies from Livingstone and Mfuwe to Jeki and Royal Zambezi, so if you’re combining a trip from Victoria Falls or South Luangwa with the Lower Zambezi, it is possible. Proflight runs seasonal flights, so travellers should check the airline’s schedule in advance.

You can technically drive here yourself but it's a five to six hour drive to the park entrance, and several more hours to reach the majority of the lodges inside the park. A 4x4 vehicles is absolutely essential.

Tourist numbers are limited by the park’s relative inaccessibility and most visitors fly in, though if you have some off-road driving experience and come at the right time of year, a self-drive road trip is certainly possible.

About the authors

Safari in Lower Zambezi National Park

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.

Safari in Lower Zambezi National Park

Sarah Kingdom

Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, before moving to Africa at the age of 21, Sarah Kingdom is a mountain climber and guide, traveller, yoga teacher, trail runner, and mother of two. When she is not climbing or traveling she lives on a cattle ranch in central Zambia. She guides climbing and trekking trips worldwide, including taking climbers up Mount Kilimanjaro numerous times a year.

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