The Best Safaris In Zambia

Safari In Lower Zambezi National Park

Safari In Lower Zambezi National Park
By Mazuba Kapambwe

Situated 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.

Safari in Lower Zambezi National Park

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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. Guests can book 3-5 day canoe safaris which involve overnight stays at bush camps along the riverbank.

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. Additional activities include tiger fish catch and release fishing, boat cruises and sleep outs.

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. Camps that are open during the rainy season (November to March) are Royal Zambezi and Kayila Lodge. 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

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.

How to get to Lower Zambezi National Park

Zambian airline Proflight flies to the Jeki and 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.

Driving from Lusaka or Livingstone is also possible by renting a car. The journey from Lusaka takes at least three hours (depending on where the lodge in the national park is located), making it an ideal weekend trip from the capital. 4x4 vehicles are recommended especially in the rainy season.

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.

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