Wildlife of Zambia
11th June 2021
As well as the spectacular landscape and wonderful wildlife, Zambia's vibrant culture will capture your heart. Explore the traditions of 73 distinct peoples - try getting involved at Likumbi Lya Mize festival, where masked dancers and market stalls fill the streets - or get to know the real Zambia in villages far from the beaten path. Lose yourself in Zambia’s untrodden wilds where predators stalk, ungulates wander in search of water, and birds flit among the woodlands. A trio of national parks protect Zambia’s finest natural treasures and its huge wealth of wildlife, as well as its pristine river systems which feed a network of wetlands equally rich in African creatures.
There are many special experiences to be had in this welcoming African country. For further inspiration take a look at the trip ideas put together by our trusted local experts, but in the meantime browse the top things to do in Zambia.
Observe ‘The Smoke that thunders’
Victoria Falls are an awesome sight at any time, and its easy to see why it claims the title of "the greatest curtain of falling water in the world." In the local Kololo language the falls are known as Mosi-oa-Tunya, which literally translates as "The Smoke that Thunders" summing up the wonder, spray and noise of the falls very accurately. If you feel daring, take a dip in the Devil’s Pool on the lip of the falls during the dry season (May to October) just a few feet away from the drop. During the wet season the flow is immense, crashing 100 metres into the gorge below and creating so much spray that the falls are more or less obscured.
Go on safari in South Luangwa
A pristine wilderness awaits in east Zambia’s flagship natural attraction, the South Luangwa National Park. This 9,000 square kilometre reserve protects a swathe of the Luangwa Valley as nature intended, with very little evidence of man’s impact. The park has a wealth of wildlife to look for, from lions and leopards to zebras and kudus, not forgetting the herds of elephants and hippos that live here. Guiding is known to be top quality, and walking safaris are an additional option as well as game drives. So, whether it's a walking tour past gangly giraffes or a late-night drive in search of predators, safaris here are generally less touristy than others in southern Africa.
Experience Zambian culture
Traditional culture is the bedrock of Zambian life, and there are more than 70 different groups of people who call this nation home. This adds up to impressive cultural diversity and thankfully there are few problems between the various peoples, though there are well defined differences between them. To experience rural Zambian life up close, our local experts are ready with suggestions depending on what you want to see and where the rest of your itinerary will take you. Anyone with a day or two to spare in Livingstone or Lusaka can explore the Zambian culture further when they visit the Livingstone Museum and the Maramba Cultural Museum.
While there are many well-known things to do in Zambia, what about the lesser-known highlights? Our local experts have shared some of their top tips for where to go and what to do if you fancy a bit of an alternative Zambian adventure.
Birdwatch in the national parks
With an enticing mix of birds from central, eastern and southern Africa, Zambia is a treat for ornithologists, especially during the green season which runs from November to March. The number of species is higher at this time due to the profusion of insects present for the birds to eat. Breeding plumage will be on display so it’s a colourful show - bring those binoculars! The varied habitats - from swamps to grasslands - host 750 recorded species including the shoebill, the spotted creeper and the bee-eater. The wet season sometimes means fewer accommodation options and some journeys can be more complicated, but rates are cheaper and for keen birders it is the best time to visit Zambia.
See the mesmerising Kasanka bat migration
For around 90 days between October and December each year you can witness one of the most incredible natural phenomena anywhere - 10 million fruit bats swarming into Kasanka National Park in search of fruit. The sky is alive with countless bats at sunrise and sunset as these millions of nocturnal feeders descend into a small area of swamp forest and devour the fruits there. It is one of the most spectacular wildlife events in Zambia.
Canoe on the lower Zambezi
For a whole new perspective on Zambia’s awesome wildlife, what could be better than drifting along the famous Zambezi river in a canoe with all the sounds and sights of the national park at arms length. Imagine the thrill of passing by crocodiles and hippos, birds and sometimes large groups of elephants and buffaloes. There are possibilities for fishing trips on the river too - often for tiger fish.
For the best chance of spotting Zambia’s breathtaking wildlife, plan your trip between May and October which is the dry winter season. Rainfall is minimal and the sky is often blue, while the water sources are few and far between meaning animals are forced to congregate at certain places to drink. You are unlikely to encounter many other safari goers in Zambia’s parks even in the months of July and August which tend to be the busiest. Victoria Falls is the only area in Zambia where you will find lots of other tourists, and in fact June to September is a good time to see the waterfall because the water level isn’t too high meaning less spray obscuring the view.
Zambia can be very hot - between September and November temperatures regularly reach 40°C at lower altitude parks. Zambia’s wet season runs from December until April when some areas are best avoided due to flooding, but some destinations remain open and offer fantastic birdwatching. Locally referred to as the "emerald season," the wet season may mean restricted access to some parks, but it offers excellent value. January and February are the wettest months, but December, March and April see lower rainfall in the form of afternoon showers. Not only is it great for birders, but it's the best time to see the vegetation at its most luxuriant and spot animals with their young.
Zambia is a fascinating country. But did you know any of our top facts about it?
Being local, our experts have an extensive knowledge of the secrets to experiencing Zambia. Here are a few of their top tips - ask them for other recommendations when you enquire to ensure you have the most in-depth experience whilst on holiday!
Go on an alternative safari adventure
Kafue is one of Africa’s largest national parks, and the best place to visit if you’re looking for a different, tailor-made safari. Boasting rare and elusive antelope, as well as one of the biggest populations of African wild dogs in Zambia, you have a high chance of spotting a range of different wildlife.
Make a trip to Livingstone
Easily accessible by road and air links, Livingstone has it all – access to Victoria Falls, game drives, adrenaline activities, and luxury lodges. Take the time to visit and you will be rewarded.
Get active in the Lower Zambezi National Park
This national park shares the lower portion of the Zambezi River with Zimbabwe and has an abundance of water and land-based activities for visitors to enjoy - game viewing, fishing, canoeing, and walking are all possible in this varied landscape!
If you're looking for something to get you in the mood before you set off on your travels to Zambia, we've gathered a list of our favourite books to inspire you.
'Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight' By Alexandra Fuller
A humorous and poignant account of the author’s early life growing up in Zambia, unapologetic about the colonialism she was part of but frank about the ways of life that prevailed at the time. Evocative descriptions of the surroundings are a highlight, and the characters are fascinating if eccentric.
'David Livingstone: The Unexplored Story' By Stephen Tomkins
The real man behind the dashing explorer is unmasked in this revealing portrait, which seeks to explain Livingstone’s motivations, his character and his lasting impact on the story of Zambia, on slavery and on wider Africa.
'A Cowrie of Hope' by Binwell Sinyangwe
An optimistic and short tale of hardship, courage, dignity and a Zambian mother’s love. Following the death of her husband, Nasula is left destitute. Can she beat the forces of corruption, disease, prejudice and poverty to enable her beloved daughter to continue with her education?
Do you already have an idea of what your dream holiday in Zambia entails? Whether you're ready to book or would like your ideas to be fined-tuned into something more, send an enquiry and our trusted local experts will design your perfect tailor-made holiday.