Best things to see in Zambia
By Martha Hales
Zambia is a dazzling destination for safari, but offers so much more besides. Combine your wildlife spotting trips in the wonderfully wild National Parks with some lazy lakeside lounging, some sport fishing, and - of course - the Wonder of the World that is the Victoria Falls in all their breathtaking splendour. Take in some rural sights in some of the more ‘off the beaten track’ destinations such as Lake Mweru or Lumangwe Falls, and get to know the soul of Zambia in its myriad of villages, towns and cities. Here’s a quick look at some of our favourite destinations in beautiful Zambia.
A total of 21 National Parks protect around 30% of Zambia’s territory and provide a habitat for a huge number of animals. Each has its own unique appeal and its particular roster of wildlife. If you are wondering which are the best National Parks to visit in Zambia, here are some pointers.
Kafue National Park
One of Africa’s largest reserves, Kafue covers over 22,000 square kilometres - the same size as New Jersey or Wales. Wildlife is fairly well dispersed but that doesn’t change the fact that if you allow more than a couple of days you will see a huge diversity of animals. Predators are well represented among 158 recorded species of mammals, and Kafue is home to African wild dog, cheetah, lion and leopard. There are also an impressive range of ungulates and more than 500 different species of birds. Take a look at this trip idea from our local partners if you want to incorporate Kafue National Park into your holiday.
Lying on the other bank of the Zambezi from Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe, this protected area ensures that the wildlife living around the river can move freely. It’s a park where your best chances of sighting interesting species revolve around the waterways, and large herds of elephants are a common sight at the water’s edge. Buffalo and waterbuck are the other most prevalent species, but you should also keep eyes and ears peeled for lions, leopards and the distinctive fish eagle.
Kasanka National Park
Among Zambia’s smallest National Parks is Kasanka, notable for its diversity of habitats and its fine array of birds rather than for big game sightings. The reserve suffered intensive poaching some decades back and though population numbers are increasing across the board, there are fewer large mammals than at other Zambian parks. You are likely to see hippo and various ungulates, as well as elephants and waterbuck. From October to December a huge colony of bats - 10 million of them! - call the park home and can be seen in flight at dawn and dusk.
Luangwa National Park
This is the birthplace of the walking safari, a concept which allows you a closer and more intimate experience African wildlife, all the more thrilling when you are travelling on foot. Without the sense of separation you feel in a vehicle, you are truly just another creature out there in the wilds of Africa, face to face with a herd of giraffe or buffalo it can be an extremely humbling and exhilarating experience - game drives will never be the same! The Luangwa National Park boasts an incredible wealth of wildlife, especially around the eponymous river.
Nobody who visits Zambia can fail to be drawn to the spectacular sight of the world famous Victoria Falls, and it really does deserve the hype. The beautiful Zambezi river fans out to a width of nearly two kilometres before plunging into a gorge one hundred metres deep, throwing up so much spray that it can be seen for miles. It is known as ‘the Smoke that Thunders’ in the local language. Zambia is not short of other lovely waterfalls, and among these there are several that merit a detour. The Kundalila Falls drop 70 metres into a limpid pool perfect for swimming, surrounded by flowers and overhung by greenery which is kept lush by the spray. For a smaller scale version of the Victoria Falls without the crowds, consider the Lumangwe Falls in the north of the country. The Kalungwishi river plummets 35 metres over a crag creating a curtain of water around 100 metres wide, made all the more dramatic by the roaring water, remote location and verdant forest surroundings.
Zambia is one of the most water rich nations in Africa, with an abundance of watercourses and wetlands to enjoy. There are four major lakes located throughout Zambia, three in the north and one in the south, three of which straddle national borders. Lake Tanganyika is the longest lake in the world, the second deepest freshwater lake in the world, and borders 4 countries. It is home to over 300 species of fish - many endemic - and supports a thriving fishing industry. Visitors enjoy the sport fishing, the scenery and the swimming at Mpulungu. Lake Kariba is another popular option, this time situated on Zambia’s southern border, and has a well established leisure infrastructure. Hiring a houseboat for a few day’s cruising and fishing in the sunshine is a must, and this is a lake famed for beautiful sunsets so put your feet up and enjoy the view. Lake Mweru lies in the north, and though it is not traditionally seen as a tourist destination, it can be a wonderful place to soak up the sights and sounds of rural Africa as you explore the off the beaten track lakeside villages.
The most renowned river in Zambia has to be the mighty Zambezi, known primarily for the Victoria Falls. But there are two other major rivers in Zambia worth seeking out - the Kafue and Luangwa rivers. All three are the lifeblood of the nation and provide a means of survival for the diverse wildlife that populates Zambia’s wildest stretches. The Kafue river, the Luangwa river and the Zambezi all have protected reserves and National Parks along certain stretches, and it is here that you can find a huge wealth of wildlife, from hippos and elephants, to wetland birds and crocodiles, waterbuck and buffalo - an African postcard scene awaits you at the water’s edge.
Two of main towns of interest to tourists are situated in the south of Zambia - Livingstone, near Victoria Falls; and Lusaka, the capital. Livingstone was founded in 1905 and names in honour of David Livingstone, who was an explorer who spent a lot of time in the region. It was briefly the capital of Zambia, but today it is a charming town with some quaint architecture and plenty of tourist services for the huge number of visitors who come to see the falls. Lusaka, in contrast, is a bustling city with a constant hum of traffic and hubbub of humanity. It isn’t always an easy place to travel around and the infrastructure is groaning under the influx of people, but it is a lively, characterful place full of vibrant markets and local eateries. It’s the best place in the country to get a feel for Zambia’s people, it’s optimism and its challenges.
Make it happen
Zambia is a friendly country with plenty of opportunities to see many different faces of Africa - the plains, the wetlands, the wildlife, the rivers and lakes, the waterfalls and the rich local culture. Our local experts can steer you through all these options and put together a bespoke itinerary designed with your priorities in mind. Contact them today with some brief details about your plans and they will do the rest. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office please call +44 (0)117 325 7898.