Lay of the Land
Roughly the same size as France, Zambia is a landlocked country in south-central Africa. As one of the least developed African countries popular for wildlife safaris, the up-and-coming destination offers visitors spectacular game-viewing in wilderness areas that are not overly commercialized. Visitors will likely visit a few different regions during a trip to Zambia, including time in Livingstone and Victoria Falls, the nearby Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park and one of the many national parks home to luxury safari camps.
Most famously known as the base for travelers visiting Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Livingstone is rich in colonial charm and boasts a breathtaking natural landscape and wildlife. Located along the Zambezi River and at the border of Zimbabwe, it is a bustling hub for visitors (when compared to the country’s mostly rural areas; Livingstone only has one traffic light), and provides a glimpse into daily life in Zambia. The best place to stay in the downtown area is the Royal Livingstone, a grand, old-world hotel that has exceptional views of Victoria Falls. For those looking for a more off-the-beaten-path escape, there are a number of luxury lodges along the banks of the Zambezi, located a short drive from town.
Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park
Meaning “The Smoke that Thunders,” Mosi-oa-Tunya is a 25-square-mile national park home to half of Victoria Falls. It is argued that the view of the Falls from Zambia is inferior to that of Zimbabwe, since it is from a sideways perspective, especially during the dry season when most of the Falls on the Zambian side are dry rock face. That said, Zambia is the only side that offers micro-lighting (a form of tandem paragliding), as well as access to Livingstone Island and the Devil’s Pool, an island on the river and a small pool of water right at the lip of the Falls, respectively.
Comprised of riverine forest, woodlands, grasslands and palm-tree savanna, the national park is home to a number of animals including zebra, giraffe, hippo and antelope. Safari options are plentiful and travelers are able to view three of the Big Five (buffalo, elephant and white rhino) on foot, by boat or from a 4×4 vehicle. A small population of white rhino was reintroduced to the area in recent years, and they are guarded 24/7 by anti-poaching officers. Since the rhinos’ locations are always known, it is almost guaranteed that those who wish to walk with the gentle giants can do so—a very special opportunity that is becoming more rare across the African continent.
South Luangwa National Park
Located to the northeast of Livingstone is South Luangwa, one of the most pristine and largely undiscovered wildlife areas in all of Africa. Reached by a short flight from Livingstone, South Luangwa is an absolute must-visit for wildlife and photography enthusiasts. Several luxury lodges (like Chinzombo and Kaingo Camp) skirt the fringe of the park and offer exclusive access to the region, which boasts a high density of lion and wild dog. South Luangwa is also one of the best areas in Africa to see leopards.
Lower Zambezi National Park
This sprawling national park in southeastern Zambia is located on the Zambezi River. All members of the Big Five except rhino reside here, as well as water-based animals like hippopotamuses and crocodiles. Although it is well known for spectacular leopard and lion sightings, Lower Zambezi also offers smaller creatures like honey badger and porcupine, as well as one of Africa’s largest remaining populations of wild dog.
The typical day on safari includes a wake up time of around 5 or 6am for a morning game drive, which lasts a few hours. Guests then return to the hotel for a late breakfast, lounge time and lunch and then an evening game drive at around 4pm. This schedule is determined by when animals are the most active (dawn and dusk).