Zambia’s vast national parks and private concessions have long been known for their outstanding wildlife experiences, especially amongst seasoned safari-goers, and it was with much excitement my daughter – on her first safari – and I set off to explore two of its premier wildlife destinations, South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi.
From South Luangwa we continued on to one of my personal favorite destinations, the Lower Zambezi. This wildlife area, nestled between the Zambezi River and the escarpment is stunningly beautiful, with woodland, including the almost magical winterthorn forests, savannah and floodplains. Its remote location has nurtured an incredible density of wildlife including huge herd of elephant and buffalo, healthy numbers of lion and leopard and, currently, a large pack of wild dog who have become quite renown for their adaptation to hunting full grown buffalo.
We spent 4 nights in the region, which I would highly recommend as a minimum if possible (even spending 5 or 6 nights split between 2 camps in different sections of the park or game management area would be fabulous), so that you can enjoy the wide variety of activities on offer. On land guests will enjoy the game drives, both daytime and nighttime (which adds an extra frisson of excitement) and walking. Walking truly brings you close to nature as you spot the details of an animal track or spoor, small insects and the varied flora. The water activities on the Lower Zambezi are a huge draw as well. Guests can enjoy canoeing (on some of the beautiful channels off the main river), boating and fishing – Cate was “hooked” as she proudly displayed her 6kg Vundu caught on our first outing. We almost managed to hook a Tiger Fish several times!
The wildlife viewing was absolutely phenomenal and, while there are limits to the number of vehicles at sightings, the wild dogs did attract many vehicles, especially when they were hunting.
Where we stayed:
- We started our time at Chula Island camp, part of the Classic Zambia portfolio. This small, low key camp of only 5 tents was one of our favorites. In spite of the simplicity – no electricity in the room, lanterns, outdoor bucket showers, the service and food was anything but simple. The family style meals are around the table in the communal tent, and this is also where the charging station is located. It is beautiful as a stand alone or in combo with their sister camp, Kutali, for a longer stay in Lower Zambezi.
- From there we continued to the stunning new African Bushcamp property, Lolebezi, part of their icon collection. The use of natural design elements and luxury make for a dramatic and beautiful space. The rooms are incredibly spacious with a/c, indoor/outdoor shower, a bath and a plunge pool. Some rooms overlook a busy channel – we saw numerous elephants cross, and others have a view of the main river.
- After a site inspection at Old Mondoro, we continued to Chiawa Camp (again both combine very well) where we were greeted by a large bull elephant. The property is family run and the welcome we received enveloped us into the family. The tents are set amongst the woodland, offering shade while a lovely breeze comes off the river. The canvas rooms are a mix of traditional and modern elements, indoor bath, indoor/outdoor shower and delightful veranda with a hammock and sunken living room (with a small plunge pool). We enjoyed a wonderful bush dinner during our stay and there are a number of spots used around camp for private dining.
- Our final night in the Lower Zambezi was spent at Potato Bush Camp (and we also toured neighboring Sausage Tree, a beautiful and luxurious property with 8 rooms – both properties are now part of Green Safaris). With just 4 units Potato Bush camp would be a terrific property to book on an exclusive use basis. The rooms are quite open during the day with shutters that close off at night, something to keep in mind. The river views are gorgeous and is a magnet for wildlife – meals are served family style, though they can create private dining experiences on request.
In all my years as a travel designer I had not yet had the opportunity for the in-depth immersion in Zambia but I am now an enthusiastic cheerleader for this lesser known gem of a safari destination. I would be delighted to work with you to create a journey of a lifetime to this very special country. Give us a call at 800-700-3677 or e mail [email protected].