Zambia: Wildlife Destinations
Kafue National Park
Kafue's star species: Antelopes • Zebra • Lion • Cheetah • Hippo • Pel’s fishing owl
From the ‘mini Serengeti’ of Busanga Plains in the north to dense miombo woodland further south, Kafue National Park covers 22,400 sq km – an area similar in size to Wales or New Hampshire. The wide range of habitats in this huge reserve is reflected by its extraordinary diversity of antelopes. No less than 16 species are found here, including blue wildebeest, bushbuck, defassa waterbuck, grysbok, impala, kudu, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, oribi, puku, reedbuck, roan, sable, red lechwe and sitatunga. You can spot the largest member of the family – the eland – and one of its smallest – the common duiker. Predators, such as lion and cheetah, are also commonly seen, particularly near open areas like the Busanga and Nanzhila Plains. The Kafue River and Lake Itezhi Tezhi are good places to look for hippo and the rare Pel’s fishing owl – one of around 450 bird species found in the national park.
Getting there Travel overland from Lusaka or Livingstone, or fly to one of the park’s lodges or camps using small, light aircraft.
Getting around A 4WD vehicle is essential.
When to go Year round, except in the Busanga Plains region where seasonal flooding means camps are only open June to November.
Things to do Game drives, walking safaris, fishing.
Places to stay Wide range, including Busanga Bush Camp, Kaingu Safari Lodge, Lufupa River Camp, Mikambi Safari Lodge and Puku Pan Safari Lodge.
Kasanka National Park
Kasanka's star species: Sitatunga • Straw-coloured fruit bat • Hippo • Wetland birds
With its water-repellent fur, splayed hooves and ability to dive underwater when threatened, the sitatunga is a truly amphibious antelope – and there is no better place in Africa to see one than Kasanka, particularly if you spend time in the park’s Fibwe Hide. Perched 18 m off the ground in a mahogany tree, the hide also offers spellbinding views of the mass exodus of a million straw-coloured fruit bats as they leave their roost in the swamp forest on nightly feeding forays.
Getting there Kasanka NP has an airstrip for light aircraft charter flights, or you can drive from Lusaka via Kapiri Moshi and Serenje.
Getting around Drive yourself or join a guided safari.
When to go Birdwatching best from November to March, game-viewing May to October, fruit bats November to December.
Things to do Game drives, walking safaris, fishing, canoeing.
Places to stay Lodges and campsites.
Further information kasanka.com
Lower Zambezi National Park
Lower Zambezi's star species: Elephant • Buffalo • Leopard • African fish eagle • Kingfishers • Bee-eaters
The Zambezi flows past floodplains and silty islands in the Lower Zambezi National Park. Fig, ebony and sausage tree jostle for space on the riverbanks, merging with stands of winterthorn acacia and miombo woodland as the valley floor rises to meet the northern escarpment. Elephant and buffalo are abundant. You can sometimes see large herds wading in the river, or even crossing over to Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe. The bird life is also stunning. The plaintive, almost gull-like, cry of the African fish eagle is quintessential Lower Zambezi. You can often see the majestic raptors perched on dead trees near the water’s edge. Also look out for white-fronted bee-eater, giant, malachite and pied kingfishers, various egrets and storks, plus the exotic narina trogon and Meyer’s parrot – preferably from the seat of a Canadian canoe being paddled gently along a backwater of the Zambezi River.
Getting there Directions Most visitors book all-inclusive safaris which include transfers to the park, accommodation and activities. Lower Zambezi is a 40-minute flight from Lusaka. It is also possible to drive, but you will need well-equipped 4WD vehicles.
Getting around Once you are in the park, 4WD vehicle and canoe are the two main forms of transport.
When to go Most accommodation is open April to November, although temperatures soar in late October. The ‘green season’ (December to April) is particularly good for birdwatching.
Things to do Game drives, walking safaris, fishing, canoeing.
Places to stay Upmarket properties include Chiawa Camp, Chongwe River Camp, Kanyemba Lodge, Redcliff Zambezi Lodge, Royal Zambezi Lodge and Sausage Tree Camp, while mid-range options are limited to Mvuu Lodge. Most lodges offer canoeing trips lasting a few hours, but Safari Par Excellence organises overnight canoe safaris lasting three or four days.
South Luangwa National Park
South Luangwa's star species: Thornicroft’s giraffe • Leopard • Carmine bee-eater • Cookson's wildebeest
Ranking alongside Africa’s great wildlife wonders, like the Serengeti, Okavango and Etosha, South Luangwa National Park covers 9,050 sq km of woodland, grassland and wetland – a veritable Eden, teeming with over 60 species of mammals and well over 500 species of birds.
The endemic Thornicroft’s giraffe (distinguished from the more widespread southern giraffe by its darker body patches) and Cookson’s wildebeest are found here. South Luangwa also supports around 15,000 elephant and one of the Africa’s densest leopard popuations. Lion and hyena are also abundant, while antelopes (14 species in total) range from bushbuck and waterbuck to sable and roan. Pods of hippo clog lagoons and river channels, particularly during the hot, dry season in September and October when enormous flocks of red-billed quelea stream across the valley, gathering to drink around dwindling pools. Carmine bee-eaters arrive to nest around this time – technicoloured heralds of the imminent rains when many camps and lodges are forced to close. A few remain open, however, making the most of the verdant ‘green season’ to operate boat trips or even microlight safaris.
It’s the walking safari, though, that has become synonymous with a visit to South Luangwa National Park. Pioneered in South Luangwa by the visionary Norman Carr, who worked with local chiefs in the mid-1900s to extend reserve boundaries and ensure that nearby villagers received income from South Luangwa’s first camps and lodges, walking safaris are now available at several locations. Some lodges offer short morning or afternoon strolls, while others operate multi-day trails, linking rustic bush camps. Always accompanied by a guide and armed scout, these footloose forays into the bush fine-tune your senses to every crackle of leaf, whiff of dung or slightest movement. There is no better way to wise up on bushlore or learn about the traditional uses of plants.
Getting there Directions Most safari packages include flights to Mfuwe, the park’s main transport hub which also lies on three overland routes – from Chipata, Mpika and Petauke.
Getting around You will be driven around the park in 4WD vehicles
When to go Many camps and lodges are seasonal, opening only after floodwaters have subsided in April/May. Walking safaris and game drives are available during the main season from June to October. Temperatures can reach 45C by November when wildlife concentrates around shrinking lagoons. River safaris are available during the flood period of February to April.
Things to do Walking safaris, game drives, boat trips, canoeing, microlight safaris, cultural visits to villages and community projects.
Places to stay The following – generally top-end – operators run lodges with satellite bushcamps, linked by overnight walking trails: Bushcamp Company, Kafunta Safaris, Norman Carr Safaris, Remote Africa Safaris, Robin Pope Safaris and Shenton Safaris. Excellent budget options include Flatdogs Camp and Wildlife Camp.
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WHEN TO GO
Cool and dry (May to August), hot and dry
(September to November) and hot and wet (December to April). Access can be difficult during the latter ‘green season’, although lodges that remain open offer birdwatching and river safaris.
WHERE TO STAY
Wide choice of places to stay, from budget campsites to luxury safari lodges and tented camps.