The Zambezi River is an ever-popular safari destination. Ask a true wildlife enthusiast, and chances are they’ll sing praises of the (slightly) lesser-developed Lower Zambezi in Zambia as a truly rewarding option.
Zambia National Parks feel less encumbered by the trappings of commercialism. Here the walking and canoe safaris are as rewarding as traditional ones.
The Lower Zambezi below Victoria Falls offers national parks on both sides. One of these is the Lower Zambezi National Park.
It’s an abundant ecosystem of water-loving animals and birds, who also seem to enjoy the relative remoteness of this section of the life-giving river. Let’s take a closer look at this gem and the unique charms that Zambia safari camps offer.
Where is the Lower Zambezi National Park
The Zambezi winds its way through southern Zambia and beyond Lake Kariba. It drifts by the Lower Zambezi National Park which sits on its northern bank. Here the park comes into contact with both the Zimbabwean and Mozambican borders.
Look across the river from here, and you’ll see the famous Mana Pools National Park. The Lower Zambezi is also just west of the famous Mupata Gorge.
The national park heralds the famous Zambezi escarpment. The park spans some 4000 km² (1500 square miles).
Getting to the Lower Zambezi National Park
Flying into Zambia, your best option is to arrive at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in the capital city of Lusaka. From here, most people opt to fly into one of the park’s airstrips via one of the many charter flights available.
You might also consider flying into Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport in Livingstone. This is ideal only if you’re planning on a trip to Victoria Falls, as it’s further south and about half an hour from the falls.
If you’re travelling via car, you can reach the park’s northern edge via the T4 in about 3 hours. Some lodges are happy to arrange either air or road transfers from Lusaka.
Self-driving, though offered as an option, is not recommended. Many of the roads are very rough, and you will need to be skilled at handling a heavy-duty 4×4 in the best conditions.
What Makes a Zambezi Safari Special?
The Lower Zambezi waters are teaming with fish life, bringing fish-hunting birds (like the legendary fish eagle) nearby. In fact, the birdlife in this region is nothing short of phenomenal, with over 350 species noted in the area.
As a major water source, it’s also famous for large herds of grazers like elephant, antelope, hippo and buffalo. And where there are grazers, there are predators. So lions, crocodiles, leopards, wild dogs and more roam these lands, oftentimes hanging around the rivers for good hunting.
An especially exciting event is the Lower Zambezi elephant crossing, which makes for some spectacular photoshoots.
Canoe safaris are especially rewarding here. You can see hippos and crocodiles from the water (don’t get too close). Or enjoy the calm, smooth drift of the Zambezi River (The fourth-largest in Africa), navigating between the little reed islands dotting the riverway.
A Note On Lower Zambezi Lodges
The accommodation by way of lodges and tented camps are very well-regarded in the Lower Zambezi. The emphasis is on comfort, luxury, and service, and it seldom disappoints. You can even have meals and drinks on some boat excursions, which elevates a romantic trip that much more.
The lodges and camps also have a somewhat unique ability to offer fishing excursions on the river instead of early morning game drives. If that’s your thing, there’s a tiger fish out there with your name on it.
That said, some camps do close for periods of the year, due to high waters during the rainy season. It’s not unusual for some camps and lodges in Zambia to be unavailable between November and April.
The Best Time for Wildlife
In southern Africa, the dry season is the best time to see the most game. More animals migrate to the water, and the bush is drier and less lush, making animals and their tracks easier to spot.
A Zambia safari experience is quite extraordinary. Lower Zambezi National Park offers walking tours for an up-close and detailed look (you’ll see more than you knew was there). There are also canoe and boat options, of course.
If you are only able to come during the wet season, your chances of spotting lots of game diminish somewhat. Don’t fret, though, because the birds are breeding, and seem to arrive in huge numbers from November to April. So you won’t be short of bird sightings!
Lower Zambezi is an excellent bird-watching destination. Here are just some of the 370+ species you’re most likely to see:
- African fish eagle
- Cape glossy starling
- Giant kingfisher
- Golden-breasted bunting
- Kori bustard
- Lilac-breasted roller
- Long-tailed paradise whydah
- And more…
The main animals to spot in the lower Zambezi are lions, leopards, buffalos and elephant. There are no rhinos that live here, so you will be just one animal short of The Big Five.
Between the grazers and the predators, you’re likely to spot several of the following:
Grazers – remember that all wild animals need their space respected, no matter how cute they look:
Predators – keep a respectful distance and follow your guide’s advice:
- African wildcat
- Hyena (If you see them loitering suspiciously under a tree, check the spot for a potential leopard)
- And more…
Others – Keep a sharp eye out for these on your walks and drives, too:
There’s No Reason Not to Start Planning a Zambezi Safari
There’s so much to see and so many ways to see it in the Lower Zambezi National Park. Drive it, walk it, canoe it or boat it. Enjoy the amazing hospitality and the absolutely gorgeous African wild, all as unspoiled as it possibly can be.
Now that you know everything that is on offer at one of the great Zambia game parks, you can book an exclusive safari here. It’s guaranteed to be an experience of a lifetime.