| There is also a number of rivers and lake systems. The Zambezi on the southern border
is the largest river, and home to the mighty Victoria Falls, which you may visit from
Livingstone in south-western Zambia. Part of the Western Rift, which is the western
arm of the East African Great
Rift Valley, reaches into eastern Zambia and forms a dramatic landscape and good
The safari destination Zambia
Zambia is much less developed as a safari destination than for example Kenya, Tanzania
and South Africa. The infrastructure is poor, and the wildlife haunted by poaching.
The wildlife protection has improved, though, and the conditions for safaris are very
good in parts of the country. Zambia offers good opportunities for game viewing from
boats, for safaris on foot, and for night and off-road game
The best safari regions are found around the main lake systems and rivers. The huge
wildlife areas along the Kafue River in central Zambia are dominated by floodplains,
savannas and woodlands. The wildlife is good, and includes an interesting local herbivore,
the Kafue lechwe. Another good area is found along the Zambezi River in southern Zambia,
which has good game viewing form boats and offers fishing for tiger fish. Eastern Zambia
has the Luangwa Valley, which is a wilderness offering good opportunities for safaris
on foot. The northern parts of the country also have a number of parks,
but poaching has decimated the animal populations heavily. Good bird watching is available
throughout the country.
The travel distances are long, and many parks can only be accessed by travelling poor
roads or by air. There are many good lodges
Parks in Zambia
There are a number of national parks in the country. There are also many private reserves.
Liuwa Plains National Park
Liuwa Plains National Park (3,600 km2/1,390 sq mi) is situated in remote western Zambia,
and mainly consists of undeveloped wilderness. Much of the park is covered by undulating
grasslands, broken by patches of forest or palm trees, and valleys. Heavy thunderstorms
are known from this area.
The wildlife is often scattered in the plains, and may take some driving to find. Large
herds of wildebeest may be seen, and also zebras, red lechwe, tsessebe, roan and smaller
antelopes such as oribi, steinbuck and duikers. Out of the large African carnivores,
you may see lion, hyaena, African wild dog, serval, jackal and African wild cat. The
bird life is rich, and includes for example secretary bird, whydahs, longclaws, African
fish eagle and kingfishers.
An undeveloped park
Liuwa Plains is an undeveloped park with few facilities for visitors, which adds to
the wildlife experience. Four-wheel drive is essential, and vehicles should preferably
travel in pairs or more. You should be self-supporting as to water, food, fuel and equipment,
and have some previous experience from driving off-road. A good local guide or a GPS
The best time to visit the park is from August to December. The rainy season starts
in early November, and turns the park lush and green. Huge herds of wildebeest then
arrive to the grasslands from neighbouring Angola. You can expect accessibility problems
because of the rains, though.
West Lunga National Park
West Lunga National Park is situated in north-western Zambia, and is very difficult
to access. It covers 1,680 km2/649 sq mi between the Lunga and Kabompo Rivers, and is
undeveloped as to tourism. The area has wetlands, reed beds, forests, woodlands and
The mammal wildlife includes elephants, African buffalos, hippos, warthogs, sitatungas,
pukus, duikers, oribis, sables and defassa waterbucks. The numbers of animals were once
good, but have been reduced much by poaching. Some predators are present, for example
small numbers of African wild dogs, but they are subject to much hunting. The bird life
is rich. There is no accommodation in the park.
Sioma Ngwezi National Park
Sioma Ngwezi National Park in south-western Zambia borders Angola. It is an undeveloped
and remote park, which until recent times has seen close to no visitors. The park itself
covers 5,276 km2/2,037 sq mi, and is surrounded by some 35,000 km2/13,500 sq mi of nature
protected areas that provides migration corridors for the animals between Angola, Namibia
(the eastern Caprivi Strip), northern Botswana and the
Zambezi River. Despite some poaching in the park, many elephants have moved there from
worse conditions in Angola. More than 3,000 elephants are now estimated to inhabit the
area. Other rare species, such as roan, sable, African wild dog and cheetah, have also
found a refuge in Sioma Ngwezi.
There are also impalas, tsessebes, wildebeest, pukus, kudus and zebras, and predators
such as lions, leopards and spotted hyaenas. Sioma Ngwezi is, together with the Luangwa
Valley and Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, the only area in Zambia
where you may see giraffes. The best game viewing is in the central and western parts,
where poaching has been least severe.
Much of Sioma Ngwezi is covered by miombo and acacia woodland, broken by occasional
glades around waterholes. There are no facilities for visitors, and few roads. You need
a local guide or a GPS to navigate. A few lodges are situated along the Zambezi River
outside the park.
Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park
Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park is the smallest park in Zambia, covering 66 km2/25 sq mi.
It is situated along the northern shore of the Zambezi River in southern Zambia, some
450 km/280 mi south-west of Lusaka, but close to Livingstone. The park has two main
parts: one part that covers gallery forests, woodland and patches of plains, and has
some wildlife, and one part that covers the Victoria Falls.
As to wildlife, Mosi-oa-Tunya is known for its white rhino and giraffe populations.
Other mammal species that may be seen are sable, eland, gnu, lechwe, impala, warthog,
baboon, African buffalo and elephants. The latter arrive to the park during the driest
Blue Lagoon National Park
Blue Lagoon National Park (420 km2/162 sq mi) is a 1.5-hour drive west of Lusaka, and
covers a beautiful area of waterways, lagoons and floodplains lined by acacia woodland
on the Kafue River plains. These large floodplains are home to thousands of individuals
of Kafue lechwe, a local subspecies of lechwe antelopes. There are also African buffalos,
but the main attraction, next to the lechwes, is the birds; more than 400 bird species
have been recorded. The park was opened for visitors fairly recently, and has few facilities.
A new lodge is being built outside the park.
Kafue National Park
Kafue National Park is the largest and oldest park in Zambia. It was established in
1959, and now covers 22,480 km2/8,680 sq mi in the western half of the country. Despite
being fairly close to Lusaka, development of the park didn't start until in later years,
after many years of neglect and poaching.
The Kafue River flows through the northern parts, where the Busanga floodplain along
the river dominates the landscape. The plain is flooded during rainy seasons, and provides
good grazing to the animals during dry seasons. This part of the park, which also has
miombo woodland, is known for its populations of sitatunga, red lechwe, defassa waterbuck
and puku. Lions are often seen, and chances are good to see leopard. The river is home
to crocodiles and hippos.
Dry season game viewing
The southern parts of Kafue National Park are dominated by forests, mopane and miombo
woodlands, and by the huge Nanzhila plain, scattered with baobab trees and euphorbias.
Here you may see mammals such as roan, sable, oribi, eland, hartebeest and elephant,
and sometimes cheetah and African wild dog. The game viewing is best during the dry
months from April to October. A hydroelectric dam in the Kafue River by the park border
is a good area for game viewing, not to mention bird watching; you may see for example
African fish eagle and goliath heron. All in all, more than 400 bird species have been
recorded in the park.
The roads within and outside the park are fairly poor, some of them poor enough to become
hard or impossible to drive during rainy seasons, even to four-wheel drive vehicles.
The easiest way to get there is by air from Lusaka or Livingstone.
Accommodation is available in a number of lodges and tented camps in the park. They
offer game drives and game viewing from boats, and some also arrange fishing. The park
is considered a malaria area.
Lochinvar National Park
Lochinvar National Park (428 km2/165 sq mi) is in the southern parts of the Kafue River
plains, a 3-hour drive from Lusaka. It's far from a prime park as to mammal wildlife,
but has a beautiful nature and very good birding.
The northmost parts are covered by the floodplains along the Kafue River, which is flooded
seasonally. The water level peaks in May, which is the end of or just after the rainy
season, and has its lowest levels in October and November, which is towards the end
of the dry season. The wildlife includes Kafue lechwe, wildebeest, kudu, oribi and African
buffalo. There are also some leopards and spotted hyaenas. More than 400 bird species
have been recorded. These northern wetlands attract cranes, storks, pelicans and flamingos.
Many birds of prey may be seen, including secretary bird, osprey and peregrine falcon.
The southern parts of Lochinvar National Park are mainly acacia and combretum woodlands,
which provide the denser vegetation favoured by bushbucks, bush pigs, baboons and vervet
There is accommodation in a luxury tented camp, camping
sites and bandas.
Four-wheel drive is necessary in the rainy season only. The park is considered a malaria
Lower Zambezi National Park
Lower Zambezi National Park (4,092 km2/1,580 sq mi) is situated along the northern shore
of the Zambezi River on Zambia's southern border, facing Mana Pools National Park in
Zimbabwe on the southern shore. The river flows slowly eastwards, dotted with many reed
beds and islets.
Three vegetation types dominate the park. Gallery forests including Ficus and
other tree genera that favour moist areas line the river. A floodplain lined with mopane
forest follows inland, and is replaced by inaccessible hills covered in woodland in
the northmost areas.
Game viewing in canoes
The nature of Lower Zambezi National Park is true wilderness. It is possible to drive
through the park, but the road network is undeveloped. It is easier to explore the park
from the water, which is often done in canoes. The mammal wildlife may not be as rich
as in some of the other Zambian parks, but travelling in a canoe on the numerous waterways,
you may often get close to the animals without scaring them off.
The wildlife is concentrated to the areas closest to the river. Herds of a hundred elephants
are sometimes seen, as are buffalos and waterbucks moving between reed beds, hippos
and crocodiles in the river, and lions and leopards. The park has a rich bird life,
and you may see kingfishers, parrots, hornbills and African fish eagles. White-fronted
bee-eaters and carmine bee-eaters are seen along the riverbanks, and narina trogon and
black eagle have been recorded.
A number of good lodges along the Zambezi River offer accommodation, game viewing, night
game drives and fishing for tiger fish.
The best time to visit Lower Zambezi is from June to September. The fishing is best
during September and October. The park is considered a malaria area.
Kasanka National Park
Kasanka National Park (450 km2/174 sq mi) is situated in the south-eastern part of the
Bangweulu Basin (see Lake Bangweulu below). It is a beautiful
park, although not very large, which has a landscape of rivers, lakes, wetlands, forests,
miombo woodlands and grasslands. These provide conditions for a splendid bird life and
fair mammal wildlife.
There was much poaching in the park one to two decades ago, but the park protection
has, like the infrastructure for safari tourism, been improved since. The populations
of hippo, sable, hartebeest and puku have recovered. There are also sitatungas, reedbucks,
waterbucks and sometimes elephants. The latter population is slowly increasing. More
than 330 bird species have been recorded, including the very rare shoebill, Pel's fishing-owl,
cranes and Ross's turaco.
The game viewing is best during the dry months from May to October, while the bird watching
is best during the rainy season from November to March, when migrants from the north
are present. Game viewing can be done from vehicles and by foot, and there is fishing
for tiger fish.
A few tented camps and a basic camping site offer accommodation. Kasanka has a David
Livingstone memorial, below which his heart is said to be buried.
The Luangwa Valley
The Luangwa Valley is part of the Western Rift, which is the western arm of the East
African Great Rift Valley. The valley floor is set some 1,000 m/3,300 ft lower than
the surrounding central plateau. The Luangwa Valley is a very good wildlife area, and
home to four Zambian national parks: North Luangwa, South
Luangwa, Luambe and Lukusuzi.
The Luangwa River meanders through the valley, and has left many oxbow lakes. There
are also a number of tributaries that dry out during dry seasons. Much of the area has
dense vegetation, including evergreen forests along the river. The two largest parks
of the Luangwa Valley area, North Luangwa and South Luangwa, are situated along the
Accommodation is available in a number of tented camps and lodges, ranging from fairly
basic to luxurious. These camps and lodges also offer game drives, night game drives,
bush walks and other safari activities.
North Luangwa National Park
North Luangwa National Park covers 4,636 km2/1,790 sq mi of nearly untouched wilderness
in the Luangwa Valley. You may visit the park only by arrangements by a few local tour
operators, which offer safaris on foot; game driving is not allowed in North
Luangwa. There is no permanent accommodation, the animals are not accustomed to humans,
and you will probably meet few or no other human visitors in the park.
North Luangwa has a nature of mopane forest and woodland, grass plains, acacia scrubs
and gallery forests along the two rivers that cross the park: the Lufila and Mwaleshi
The park is known for its huge herds of African buffalos and large prides of lions.
Other common mammal species are hyaena, hartebeest, bushbuck, zebra, baboon, eland,
puku, kudu, oribi, reedbuck and impala. Elephants and leopards are sometimes observed,
but not as often as in the sister park South Luangwa. Birders may see kingfishers, starlings,
turacos and many other birds. Bat hawk and Pel's fishing-owl have been recorded.
The best time to visit North Luangwa is from July to October. You should avoid the rainy
season from November to March, when the park may be hard or impossible to access. The
dry season is from April to October. The park is considered a malaria area.
South Luangwa National Park
South Luangwa National Park is situated in the Luangwa Valley in eastern Zambia, covering
9,050 km2/3,494 sq mi. It is a remote wilderness area along the Luangwa River, which
is surrounded by floodplains and savanna. The park isn't extremely rich in mammal species,
but it has large numbers of animals. The bird watching is very good.
Large hippo population
South Luangwa is known for its large herds of elephants (which are mainly present during
rainy seasons, though, when the park is difficult to access), its large hippo population
and its many crocodiles. It has a local giraffe subspecies called Thornicroft's giraffe,
and good numbers of African buffalos, lions, hyaenas, waterbucks, impalas, kudus, elands,
pukus, bushbucks and zebras. There are also wildebeest, African wild dogs and leopards.
The park is no Big Five area, though, as there are no rhinos
left because of poaching.
(Note: Modern research has indicated that some giraffe subspecies may in fact be separate
species. More knowledge on this is hopefully to come.)
More than 400 bird species have been recorded in the park, including crowned crane,
carmine bee-eater, ground hornbill, lilac-breasted roller, bateleur, saddle-billed stork,
African open-billed stork and African fish eagle. Many migrants spend the rainy season
from November to March in the park. When the rains come, the dry park quickly turns
lush and green, and the river rises and may flood the surrounding plains.
October is best for game viewing
The beginning of the dry season in April or May has good weather but lower temperatures,
but these slowly rise. October is hot, and is the best month for game viewing as the
wildlife congregates along the river. That far into the dry season, little water is
available elsewhere in the park.
A number of lodges, tented camps and camping sites in the park (and a bordering game
reserve) provide accommodation for visitors, and offer safaris in vehicles and on foot
(South Luangwa is known for its good opportunities for walking safaris), as well as
night game drives. Some lodges have mobile bush camps pitched in the wilderness, where
visitors can spend a few nights during their stays in the park.
Four-wheel drive is necessary, and some roads to and inside the park should preferably
be attempted only by vehicles travelling in pairs or more. A nearby airport in Chipata
has flights to and from for example Lusaka and neighbouring countries. The park is considered
a malaria area.
Luambe National Park
Luambe National Park (247 km2/95 sq mi) is a small but beautiful park on the eastern
side of the Luangwa River, situated between North Luangwa and South Luangwa. It has
few visitors, partly because poachers have heavily decimated the animal populations.
There are some African buffalos, elephants, hippos, impalas, elands and lions left.
Lukusuzi National Park
Lukusuzi National Park (2,720 km2/1,050 sq mi) is situated in the eastern part of the
Luangwa Valley, at higher altitude than the other parks in the valley. Half of Lukusuzi
consists of a plateau covered in undulating grassland, while the other half consists
of rocky areas and miombo woodland. This is a remote, wild and undeveloped park with
a wildlife that hasn't been fully surveyed. The spotted hyaena is the most common predator,
and the herbivores include elephant, African buffalo, wildebeest, eland, hartebeest,
roan, sable, klipspringer and warthog. Lukusuzi National Park can be visited by four-wheel
drive vehicles during dry seasons.
Lavushi Mandla National Park
Lavushi Mandla National Park (1,500 km2/579 sq mi) is found centrally in the eastern
half of Zambia, but isn't a very interesting safari destination, as a result from poaching.
The park has one road, but lacks accommodation. There are many tsetse flies and a rich
bird life in the miombo woodland and gallery forests along the Lukulu River.
Isangano National Park
Isangano National Park (840 km2/324 sq mi) is situated in the same part of Zambia as
Lavushi Mandla National Park. It is covered by floodplains, grassland
and woodland. The park is probably of little interest to most safari-goers, as it lacks
infrastructure and game protection. There are animals, but in no large numbers. The
species recorded include elephant, zebra, African buffalo, hartebeest, reedbuck, hippo
and some others.
Mweru Wantipa National Park
Mweru Wantipa National Park (3,134 km2/1,210 sq mi) is another park past its prime,
offering little wildlife following poaching. It is surrounded by lakes in the northern
part of eastern Zambia, and formerly had good populations of elephant and crocodile.
Today, you may see some small herds of buffalos, and the rare sitatunga may still be
present in the lakeside reed beds. Mweru Wantipa still offers good bird watching.
The park has no facilities for visitors, but camping is possible on the lakeshores.
The area is inaccessible during the rains from December to March.
Nsumbu National Park
Nsumbu (sometimes Sumbu) National Park is situated at the southern tip of Lake Tanganyika
in northern Zambia. It covers 2,063 km2/797 sq mi, and has a shoreline of beaches, steep
cliffs and rocky bays, which is said to be one of the most beautiful areas around the
lake. Much of the inland areas are covered by brushy forests. The Lufubu River flows
into Lake Tanganyika through a deep river valley. To the west, Nsumbu borders two game
protected areas, buffering the park.
The wildlife in Nsumbu National Park was close to wiped out by poachers, but animals
have been reintroduced during recent years. There are now large herds of elephants and
populations of bushbuck, warthog, puku, roan, sable, eland, hartebeest, African buffalo,
zebra and the rare blue duiker. There are also lions and leopards, and hippos and crocodiles
in the lake. The bird life is rich, and includes flamingos, African skimmers, African
spoonbills, grey-headed gulls and palm-nut vultures.
Accommodation is available in lodges along the lake and in a camping site.
Lusenga Plain National Park
Lusenga Plain National Park (880 km2/340 sq mi) is situated in the same part of Zambia
as Nsumbu National Park above, and is covered by a large open plain,
wetland reed beds, forests, hills and miombo woodlands. The park borders the Kalungwishi
River, which has three nice waterfalls in the area.
The national park was established in a nice area, but the park has not been developed,
but rather haunted by heavy poaching. There are still some African buffalos, duikers,
bushbucks and reedbucks to see.
Nyika Plateau National Park
Nyika Plateau National Park (80 km2/31 sq mi) is a beautiful park in the highlands on
Zambia's eastern border to Malawi. It borders another park protecting the plateau inside
Malawi. At altitudes around 2,000 m/6,550 ft, the landscape varies from undulating grasslands
to granite inselbergs, valleys and tropical forests with monkeys and lianas. The area
has many great views, and the climate is cool and rarely exceeds 20ºC/68ºF
during the hottest months.
The mammal wildlife includes zebra, roan, eland, bushbuck, reedbuck, warthog, blue monkey
and leopard. The park is also known for its red duikers, which may be hard to find,
though. Nocturnal mammals such as genets, honey badgers and bush pigs may be seen during
night game drives.
Bird watching and flora
The bird watching is fine all year round, but the best time is from October to January,
when many migrant birds are present. You may see for example sunbirds, bar-tailed trogon,
flycatchers and bulbuls. There are also good opportunities for walking and trekking,
and the area has an interesting flora that includes geraniums, hibiscus and many orchids.
Most rain falls from December to March. This is the hottest season, even though nights
may be cold, and even frosty during the cooler dry season, which is the best time for
game viewing. The roads are passable for two-wheel drive vehicles during this season,
while four-wheel drive is necessary to visit the park (from the Zambian side of the
border arriving from Malawi is easier, due to better roads) during the rains.
A lodge offers colonial style accommodation.
In addition to the national parks, Zambia also has a number of private ranches that
are in practice private game reserves. Most of these have a lodge for smallish groups
of visitors, and offer bush walks and game drives on the private land, which often covers
some 50 km2/20 sq mi. Some private reserves also offer horse riding. The atmosphere
is cosy, and you can usually expect very good guiding.
Some such reserves are Chaminuka Nature Reserve, Lilayi Lodge and Lechwe Lodge, which
are all less than a one-hour drive from Lusaka, and Nchila Wildlife Reserve in the remote
parts of north-western Zambia.
Other nature areas of interest
The 100 m/330 ft high Victoria Falls are found in the Zambezi River on the border between
southern Zambia and Zimbabwe. They are a system of falls, all in all 1.6 km/1.0 mi wide,
and the local name Mosi-oa-Tunya, meaning 'thundering smoke', is one way of describing
the impression of the falls. The 'smoke' from the falls is especially impressive during
March and April, when the water flow of the Zambezi River is peaking. A bridge connects
Livingstone in Zambia with Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Accommodation is available on
both sides. Some of the hotels are very good.
Lake Bangweulu is situated in the Bangweulu Basin in north-eastern Zambia. The areas
surrounding the lake are flooded during the rainy seasons, and then dry out during the
dry seasons. These grassy plains are intersected by reed beds and waterways, while higher
grounds around the lake are covered in miombo woodland.
The birding is the main attraction. 400 bird species have been recorded, including the
very rare shoebill. Birds often seen are flamingos, pelicans, cranes, storks, geese,
jacanas, herons and bee-eaters.
The mammals are not as abundant, but the wetlands are home to two rare antelopes, the
black lechwe and the sitatunga. Roans, monkeys and leopards may be spotted in drier
areas, but the lions have disappeared during the last decades. Elephants and buffalos
visit the grasslands around the lake during dry seasons, when the area can be accessed
in four-wheel drive vehicles. You need to bring all the food, water and fuel that you
need, as these are remote areas. The accessibility is poor and the insects numerous
during the rainy season from November to March. It is a good time for birding, though.
Accommodation is available in a tented camp and in basic camping sites.
Lake Kariba is an artificial dam in the Zambezi River, on the border between southern
Zambia and Zimbabwe. The surroundings are beautiful and have some wildlife, while the
lake offers good fishing for tiger fish.
Cities and towns
Lusaka is the capital of Zambia. It is situated towards the south of the country's central
regions, which are the most populated. Just more than one million people inhabit Lusaka,
which has Zambia's main international airport (LUN/FLLS). Apart from that, Lusaka has
little to attract visitors. It is a dirty and jumbled city that has grown fast during
the last decades. There are quite a few hotels, and the climate is pleasant.
Chipata in eastern Zambia is the gate to South Luangwa National
Park and a border town towards Malawi. It is only 1.5 hours by road from Malawi's
Livingstone is situated 10 km/6 mi from the Victoria Falls in southern Zambia, and thus
receives many tourist visitors. The town has some charm and a relaxed atmosphere. Colonial
style houses line the main street.
Zambia's population origins from some 70 different tribes. None of these dominates,
and most of the populations considers itself Zambian. The tribes include the Lozi, who
traditionally are pastoralists, the Luvale, considered to be good tradesmen, and the
nomadic hunting and collecting Bemba tribe.
Almost half of the population is 15 years or younger. 5070 % of the population
is Christian, while most of the remaining part is confessing to traditional African
December to April is a warm, rainy and humid season, when many lodges and camps are
closed because of poor road accessibility. Temperatures around 30ºC/86ºF can
be expected. May to September is a cooler dry season with day temperatures up to 25ºC/77ºF
and night temperatures that may drop just below 10ºC/50ºF. October to November
is a warm and dry season.
The best time to visit Zambia for a safari is during the dry months from June to November.
This web page on Zambia is a stand-alone introduction page that comes outside the main
scope Safari in Kenya and Tanzania of Safari Patrol. Information found
elsewhere on this site might not be fully applicable to Zambia or safaris in Zambia.