At the Top of Our Safari Destination List
Senior Travel Editor, Amanda Stuermer
Zambia may very well be Africa’s most precious hidden gem. Around 30 percent of Zambia’s land is protected for wildlife, totaling around 250,000 square kilometers spread over 20 national parks and 34 game reserves. With relatively low visitor numbers and vast areas of pristine wilderness, Zambia is at the top of our safari destination list.
Begin or end your Zambia tour with a visit to one of the most breathtaking natural wonders of the world. Victoria Falls is double the height of Niagara Falls, so be prepared to be awed. One particularly gasp-worthy sighting is a lunar rainbow, or “moonbow,” created by the light of the moon shining on water droplets in the air. Due to the constant spray from the Falls, there is a good chance you’ll spot one. The best time to visit Victoria Falls is between March and May, when water levels in the Zambezi River are at their highest and the Falls are at their most spectacular. The best way to get there is by flying into Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport (LVI) in Livingstone, Zambia.
Often called the ultimate infinity pool, this oddly tranquil 10-foot-deep natural pool sits right on the top edge of Victoria Falls. It takes a rocky walk and a swim in the Zambezi River to reach the pool. Those looking for an extreme adrenaline boost can leap into the pool and get pushed to the edge by the force of the river. A slippery rock lip protects you as the roiling waters of the Zambezi crash over the cliffs a mere few feet away. Devil’s Pool is on the Zambian side of Victoria Falls, almost midway across the mile-wide waterfall. It is accessible only by guided boat tours, which launch on the Zambian bank of the Zambezi upstream of the falls.
South Luangwa National Park
Known to locals as simply “the South Park,” it was originally founded as a game park in 1904 before converting to a game reserve in 1938. With 60 different animal species and over 400 different bird species, South Luangwa has been dubbed one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world. The park offers a variety of lodging options from luxurious lodges to tented bush camps. From Lusaka, regular flights take visitors to Mfuwe International Airport (MFU) just outside the park. It is also possible to fly directly to Mfuwe from Lower Zambezi National Park.
Zambia is the birthplace of the walking safari, which was made famous by conservationist Norman Carr in the 1950s. It is thought that when you walk in the wild, you become a part of your environment, thus creating the utmost authentic safari experience. You can easily travel further in a vehicle, but on foot you can reach places that a 4x4 can’t. You’ll also get closer to the smells, sounds, and signals of the bush. You can choose between multi-day bushwalking adventures utilizing temporary base camps or short, guided nature walks that allow you to stay at one of the many full-service lodges.
Lower Zambezi National Park
This 4,000-square-kilometer park sprawls out from the Zambezi River, providing ample opportunities for game drives, canoe safaris, boat cruises, and fishing excursions. Elephant herds, sometimes up to 100 strong, hippo, leopard, lion, buffalo, and over 400 bird species all gather in this pristine wilderness. You will also be treated to an impressive blanket of stars every evening, including the Milky Way. A full moon rising on the Zambezi River is truly a sight to behold. The area is dotted with small, intimate lodges that contribute to the feeling of being far away from the modern world. From Lusaka, it is a 45-minute flight to the national park. All flights are facilitated by Proflight Zambia.
Most trips to Zambia begin or end in the capital of Lusaka. Markets are a quintessential part of Lusaka life. For local wares to take home as souvenirs, visit the Sunday Market at the Arcades Shopping Centre on Great East Road. If you’re looking for more local, less touristy fare, try the Town Centre Market or Lusaka City Market. 37d Gallery is also well worth a visit. The gallery holds a wide range of artworks by both local Zambian artists and international artists, and it supports the stART Foundation, which is a charitable trust dedicated to the generation and promotion of visual arts practice and arts education in Zambia.
Our travel editor recently visited Zambia with a group of women led by activist Gloria Steinem, who has been supporting projects through Direct Impact Africa (DIA) for over a decade. DIA’s founder, Cherri Briggs, runs a safari travel company that offers opportunities for their clients to learn about and support efforts to benefit the lives of local Africans who live in proximity to protected areas on their Lower Zambezi. Check out Explore, Inc. to learn more: exploreinc.com.