Where to go for a Luxury Safari in Zambia

Lauren Hill

Senior Contributor

Wildlife-rich rivers, verdant valleys and flourishing plains provide the dramatic setting for a Zambian safari. With each of the country’s areas of wilderness providing a different safari experience, you just need to know where to go.

South Luangwa National Park

South Luangwa is the southernmost of three national parks around Africa’s great Luangwa River, with a landscape of woodland, riverine forest, sandy floodplain and grassland that’s fed by an ever-changing oxbow lagoon system. This extraordinary environment flourishes with animals and birdlife. Native species such as the Crawshay’s zebra only exist here and the land’s resident elephants, buffalo, hippo, giraffes, leopards and prides of lions give this region what’s said to be one of Africa’s greatest wildlife concentrations. High-end safari lodges, such as newly opened Puku Ridge, are discreetly tucked into this environment, with game drives departing each morning, a little after sunrise, and in the late afternoon so you can have sundowners in the bush followed by a night drive. Walking safaris have particular significance here. South Luangwa is celebrated for being the original home of the walking safari having first been established by the conservationist Norman Carr 70 years ago. Now, you can set out on your own exploration of the bush on foot with safaris outfits such as Time + Tide who has five camps for you to walk between.

Lower Zambezi National Park

You’ll find Lower Zambezi National Park on the border of Zimbabwe in South Zambia, with an escarpment running along the northern side, riverine forest bordering the Zambezi channels, and floodplain and mopane forest between. By travelling into the national park by boat, you can reach riverside lodges and tented camps such as Chiawa Camp and Old Mondoro. Elephants come wandering right up to the open-sided lodges here and you only have to be out a short time to see wildlife, including a healthy population of leopards and lions, by the water and in the shade of the park’s trees. The safari experience is particularly diverse. You can set out on morning and afternoon game drives, as well as walking excursions and night drives, and you have the opportunity to get out on the water. Kayak along channels of the Zambezi or take a Zambezi River cruise. Hippos bob below the surface and crocodiles slide down the banks before disappearing into the water. Elephants cross with their young and troops of baboons sit watching from the riverbank.

Stopover in Lusaka

Travelling through Zambia often means staying in the capital, Lusaka, before taking flights to the country’s remote national parks. Make the most of your time here by checking in to the sustainability focused art hotel, Latitude 15. This stylish boutique property is a luxury hotel, co-working space and members’ club rolled into one, with indoor-outdoor dining and garden-enclosed swimming pools. You’ll see artwork everywhere you look in modern interiors that could just as easily house a contemporary art gallery. You can unwind on the pool terrace or with a treatment in the spa and draw out the evening in the restaurant and cocktail bar.

Kafue National Park

Spanning around 22,400 square kilometres, Kafue National Park covers a huge wilderness area of western Zambia. Not only is Kafue Zambia’s largest national park, it’s also the oldest having been established in the 1950s by the conservationist Norman Carr. This is one of Zambia’s lesser-visited areas of natural beauty but the environment is particularly diverse. The Kafue River runs from north to south, with the verdant Busanga Plains in the north and Lake Itezhi-Tezhi and the Nanzhila Plains to the south. A number of lodges and tented camps are located in and around the camp including Busanga Bush Camp by Wilderness Safaris. Base yourself here to see rare antelope, the elusive leopard, spotted hyenas and packs of wild dogs, and to watch hippos, crocodiles and elephants on the river. Western Zambia is known for its resident cheetah, which can’t be found in any other parts of the country. 

Liuwa Plain National Park

Also in the west, but much smaller at 3,600 square kilometres, you’ll find Liuwa Plain National Park. This is one of Africa’s earliest protected areas of land, having first been preserved in the 1880s by King Lewanika of the Lozi people. Up until recent years, tourism here was limited, but in 2017 the conservation organisation African Parks, who help manage this protected area, worked with Norman Carr Safaris to open Time + Tide King Lewanika lodge and ultimately bring more visitors to the wilderness region. Activities from here include day and night game drives, walking safaris, canoe trips and scenic helicopter rides. The park’s grassland and patches of woodland are home to an abundance of buffalo and antelope, a wildebeest migration that’s said to be the second largest in Africa, and predators such as leopards, lions, cheetah and spotted hyena.

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