Zambia is an incredibly exciting destination offering the perfect blend of prime wilderness, outstanding wildlife and wonderful camps.
An exciting network of large and remote national parks provide plenty of opportunity for an immersive safari experience, from the oldest, Kafue, to the newest, Lower Zambezi.
This is a gem of a country where hospitality is warm, wildlife is awesome and scenery spectacular – we urge you to go.
When to go?
The long dry winter months April to October is the optimum time for a safari to Zambia. Days are warm and sunny and nights are cold. As the season progresses temperatures soar with October usually the hottest month. This is also when wildlife densities peak, as animals gather around the remaining water sources. Riverside camps offer a refreshing breeze and superb sightings. Camps/lodges with pools are a good choice if travelling in the heat of October/November.
The long rains tend to arrive late November into December time and stay until March – this can make unsealed roads impassable. However permanent camps are open year-round – the Emerald Season can be a very rewarding time to travel. I speak from first-hand experience having spent a week in the Luangwa one November just as the rains arrived – it was astounding to see the overnight transformation of the park. Wildlife was exceptional. Some camps depending on water levels offer safari by boat giving you a unique perspective.
Five reasons to add Zambia to your safari wish list
South Luangwa has been the home of the walking safari. since the 1960s. Guiding is consistently high quality and quality bush camps ensure a top notch experience. You can easily spend a week here. walking between bush camps, or combining a few days walking with a lodge and 4×4 safari. Walking can be tailored to your needs but 8-10km per day between camps is what you can expect. Although South Luangwa offers the largest variety of walking safaris, you can also enjoy walking in Kafue and the Lower Zambezi.
This 8 day safari combines contrasting camps and includes a walking element along with a 4×4 safari in the South Luangwa.
Nights under Canvas
Zambia offers incredible rustic bush camps. These vary in style.
During the peak dry season months of July to September you can spend a night or two of your safari in a mobile ‘fly camp’.
These fully serviced mobile camps are extremely comfortable and well-equipped with walk-in tents and full bedding. The ‘safari’ bucket shower is under a tree and the long-drop ‘bush loo’ has a wooden throne. Meals of a high standard are served under the open sky with just the glow of the camp fire and paraffin lamps.
Mobile camps allow visitors to access really remote areas where the wildlife is unused to people.
Zambia is also famous for its tented seasonal camps which open in April-May and are taken down at the end of the dry season in November.These camps, some with canvas and some with thatched roofs offer more facilities than the simpler mobile ‘fly camps’ but are still incredibly rustic and positioned in low vehicle/prime wildlife areas. Robin Pope’s Tena Tena for instance is a cluster of six tents on the Luangwa River. Ensuite bathrooms are open-air. Power is provided by solar panels and fresh drinking water comes from a bore-hole. Time & Tide’s wonderful Luwi is nestled in a grove of ancient mahogany trees, the tented suites designed to fully immerse guests into the bush experience. Set along the riverbed and overlooking the floodplains below, guests can watch the abundant wildlife right from the privacy of their own suite. Feathertop beds, an open air, ensuite bathroom and a peaceful seating area create a comfortable guest experience in this seasonal camp.
If you are not a fan of spending nights under canvas, you can opt for a permanent lodge or safari house. These have more facilities and creature comforts. Zambia has superb ‘safari houses’ perfect for groups of friends or family groups. These houses are fully staffed with driver/guide and cook – choose from large, luxurious riverside Chongwe River House with its amazing pool, to small Robin’s House complete with its own hide .
Canoeing the Zambezi
The Lower Zambezi is Zambia’s newest national park and sits bang opposite Mana Pools in Zimbabwe. If you like variety then this is the place to go – you can boat, walk, drive and fish, all with a beautiful mountain view and sublime wildlife. Canoe trips are exceptional allowing for very close encounters with large species like elephants who come to the river to refresh. You can glide along silently without disturbing the wildlife.
As well as exploring by canoe, motorised boat trips provide the chance to explore larger tracts of the riverside.
Combined with walking and 4×4 safaris this is a wonderful way to experience the richness and diversity of Zambia’s national park network.
No trip to Zambia would be complete without a visit to the Falls. Livingstone is the town on the Zambian side of the Falls where many activities such as rafting can be organised. A number of stunning river lodges stretch along the river bank upstream from the Falls. Lodges provide complimentary transfers for guests to the Falls with some also offering activities such as river cruises. These lodges are a wonderful choice for pre or post safari R&R. An increasing network of domestic light aircraft flights connects several of Zambia’s key attractions with the main gateways of Lusaka and Livingstone meaning you can combine parks such as the Lower Zambezi and Mfuwe in the South Luangwa more easily than ever before.
Endangered species – wild dogs rule
Visitors to Zambia can enjoy spectacular wildlife including the chance to see many rare and iconic species. The Zambian Carnivore Programme recently announced that the South Luangwa National Park is now officially home to Zambia’s largest African wild dog population. Despite being one of Africa’s most endangered carnivores, wild dogs in and around the South Luangwa National Park have enjoyed several years of increasing numbers, and there are now estimated to be approximately 350 adults and yearlings living in the Luangwa Valley.
To find out more about Zambia’s national parks, you may be interested to read our country guide here.
6.Trumpet Fanfare – adopt an elephant, from US $50 per year. Enjoy monthly emails updating you on your elephant with pictures and videos.
Find out more about the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust fostering programme here.
Read about Kithaka and Arruba, the elephants fostered by the Real Africa Trust here.
7.Give a Great White Christmas – adventurous cage diving in South Africa from £120 per person. It might not be the most obvious thing to give your loved one, but cage diving with a Great White in South Africa’s glorious Cape is sure to be an unforgettable experience.
Cage diving can be easily added to any tailormade safari in the Cape. Find out more about our safaris and holidays in South Africa here. 8.A Night with the Stars – sleep out under the great African night sky from US $625 per person per night. Romantic, wonderful, unforgettable – this is a real Christmas cracker. There are many lodges offering a star bed experience including Loisaba and Serian in Kenya, Little Kulala in Namibia, Tswalu in South Africa, Baines and Jao Camp in Botswana. We love Nkwichi on Lake Malawi and the Dove’s Nest at The Hide in Hwange.
Read our blog about the best star beds in Africa here.
9.Jumbo Bells – Real Africa silver elephant pendant, from £140 each. These beautiful hand-finished eles, as worn by Saba Douglas-Hamilton, are made by jeweller, Penny Price and were specially commissioned by Real Africa for our 15th anniversary. 30% from each and every one (all the profit) is donated to conservation charity Save the Elephants.
To find out more or to order online please click here. Please note: due to overwhelming demand we are now looking at New Year deliveries!
10. Gold, Frankincence, Myrrh …and travel show tickets of course – let Brian Jackman, Monty Halls and other travel experts inspire you in the travel theatres and spend your day consulting the specialists about your future travels plans. Compliments of Real Africa.
Request your complimentary tickets to the new Telegraph Travel Show or Destinations Manchester or London here.
The new BBC1 series The Hunt, narrated by Sir David Attenborough looks at predation in the natural world. Viewers are transported at 9pm on a Sunday evening to a range of wonderful locations around the world to witness real-life dramas unfolding before their eyes.
Executive Producer Alastair Fothergill writes on the BBC website, “the kill itself isn’t interesting, because once animals have killed, the story’s over. What is interesting is the build up, the strategies adopted by both the predators and prey. This has never been looked at in detail, and that is the aim of The Hunt”.
At the Conde Nast Luxury Travel Fair, where we exhibited in November, we were lucky enough to enjoy a talk in the Expert Theatre and meet BBC wildlife cameraman Doug Allan, who worked on Blue Planet, Planet Earth and Frozen Planet, also produced by Alastair Fothergill. Doug told us that it takes on average 450 days of filming to get enough footage for a one hour episode. Taking such stats into account the team here at Real Africa has even more reverence for the BBC’s latest sensational wildlife series.
Catch the next episode of The Hunt, Nowhere to Hide, on BBC 1 on Sunday at 9pm. The episode follows cheetahs, bald eagles and lions on their hunt for prey in the exposed plains landscape with much of the 60 minutes filmed in Africa.
So where are the best places in Africa to see some of The Hunt’s leading ladies?
Cheetahs are diurnal, hunting in the morning and afternoon, and can be seen perched on termite mounds, rock kopjes and even on safari vehicles on occasion in order to survey the horizon – they can see prey 5km away and accelerate from 0 to 64kmh in just three strides. The Hunt filmed cheetahs in Kenya’s Masai Mara – we would recommend the Mara or the Serengeti to see these beautiful cats in action.
Leopards are more tricky to see being nocturnal and relying on ambush. They need to get within 4m of their prey to be successful. Leopards are most often spotted draped in umbrella acacias in East Africa or on night drives when their eyes shine brightly. Zambia’s South Luangwa is a fantastic place to see leopard as is Sabi Sands in South Africa’s Kruger.
Lionesses …well, put it this way, I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t seen a lion/lioness in the Masai Mara. The Marsh Pride were made famous by the BBC Big Cat Diary series and can still be observed hunting in the Mara along with many other prides. The Hunt filmed specific lion behaviour, as they stalked zebra in Namibia, in Etosha, another excellent place to see them, especially during the peak of the dry season in September and October when game congregates around waterholes. When it comes to lions, you have a great choice, from Kenya and Tanzania, or the lions of Duba Plains, Botswana to the prolific Luwi Lions of Zambia’s South Luangwa, or Cecil’s offspring in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. You can even see them in trees in Tanzania’s Lake Manyara National Park and Uganda’s QE National Park.
Nile Crocs– Get to the Grumeti River in the Northern Serengeti between July and September and you will see plenty of giant Nile Crocodiles feasting on wildebeest as they make the crossing from one side to the other enroute to Kenya’s Masai Mara. Murchison Falls in Uganda is another great place to observe these beasts.
Ethiopian Wolves– With only around 500 of these long-legged fox-like creatures remaining in the highlands of Ethiopia, you have to be lucky to get a glimpse. Give yourself every chance by staying in the Bale Mountains at the wonderful Bale Mountain Lodge.
Wild Dogs-The formidable wild dog or painted dog thrives in packs of around 6 to 20 dogs, roaming open plains and woodland. Wild dogs are also endangered but the Linyanti region is Botswana has very reliable sightings with several packs denning in the area. Another good place to try and see Wild Dogs is in Zambia’s South Luangwa – but, as I well know, the dogs move very quickly, with incredible stamina, and can be elusive so it doesn’t always work out. I spent a week trying to see them in Zambia – saw their prints, heard them, glimpsed them but never quite managed to catch up with them! The positive news is that in the last ten years the wild dog numbers in the valley have increased. By the way…I saw everything else when I was there, from lions chasing impala into jeeps and leopards sheltering from the rain in thorn bushes…
Watching wildlife is of course, unpredictable so although we can’t guarantee you’ll witness a sequence like the cheetah taking a wildebeest calf during your safari holiday, we can ensure we use our expert knowledge, experience and wonderful guides to get you to the best places at the best times for what you want to experience.
Here are our Top Five recommendations for places to catch some serious safari action.
1.TANZANIA – THE SERENGETI
The Serengeti promises a special safari whenever you go, with the wildebeest migration making its circular journey year-round . However, the southern plains of the Serengeti play host to calving season during January and February and is said to be the best place in the world to observe cheetah hunting.
During a dramatic 3 week window, starting in late January depending on the arrival of the rains, the wildebeest have their calves with thousands being born daily, long legged and unsteady as they take their first steps on the short grassy plains of the Serengeti, their nursery.
During these key few months, this area of the southern Serengeti and western Ngorongoro Conservation Area is home to Africa’s densest concentration of predators. The big cats patrol the grassland waiting for an opportunity to strike. Cheetah sightings are especially good along with large prides of lion while other predators like hyena and caracal can also be seen.
If you are keen to witness stalking behaviours then heading to the area around Ndutu in February would be our number one recommendation – many would say that this is the absolute best time to be in the Serengeti.
Mobile camps come into their own, moving to be within reach of the migration and offering an authentic ‘Out of Africa’ safari experience. Our favourites include Alex Walker’s Serian Serengeti South, Lemala Ndutu Tented Camp and &Beyond’s Serengeti Under Canvas. Mobile camps are seasonal tented camps which move depending on the location of the herds.
If you prefer a permanent camp then we would recommend Ndutu Safari Lodge, Lake Masek Camp and Sanctuary’s Kusini Camp but there are several lodges and camps in this area so do ask!
The Masai Mara is synonymous with big cats. The Marsh Pride came to life on our screens during the BBC Big Cat Diaries – you can even stay, like the BBC film crew did, at Governors Camps in the Mara, well placed for visiting the Marsh Pride. Several big cat projects are based in the Mara including the Mara Predator Project, the Mara-Meru Cheetah Project as well as a Spotted Hyena research centre so this is a indication that the area is rich with wildlife.
Research in the 1990s by Joseph Oguto showed that there were roughly 3 lions per 10 square kilometres in the Mara, the largest pride of 48 being the Talek Pride. It is true that lion numbers have dropped by around a third in the last twenty years, as they have all over Africa but the Masai Mara is still one of the very best places to see these beautiful big cats.
Visit the Mara between July and October when the Great Wildebeest Migration is in the vicinity and chances are you may see something very special. We recommend staying in one of the private concessions as opposed to within the National Reserve itself. The main reserve has many lodges, often quite large ones, and as such can see high vehicle densities at peak times. In the private conessions which work in partnership with the local Maasai communities, visitor numbers are restricted to 1 guest to around 350 acres allowing for a more exclusive experience.
You’ll find lovely small lodges, classy mobile tented camps like Saruni Wild and Alex Walker’s Serian as well as affordable riverside camps like Karen Blixen Tented Camp on the Mara River, one of our favourite ‘good value’ tented camps in the Mara North concession, which bridges the gap between the tiny, top end lodges/camps and the larger 3 star lodges/camps in the national park.
For observing predators and their prey the Masai Mara is a fabulous place to safari.
The best time to be in Etosha for wildlife is in the peak of the dry season when vast numbers migrate to waterholes (August – October). As the dry season progresses the landscape becomes increasingly arid and by October, the hottest month, can be quite dusty. It is at this time that the BBC film crew captured the incredible footage of lions hunting – with the swirling dust storm confusing their prey and masking their scent.
Many of our clients choose to explore Namibia on a self-drive itinerary over 16 or so days with a 4×4. You can also explore with a flying safari.
Duba Plains in Botswana is famous for its clashes between lions and buffalo in particular. The special thing about the Duba lions is that they hunt during the day allowing visitors to witness them at work rather than simply lazing in the shade. Many will remember the film made by the Jouberts about the lions of Duba and it is a stay at the Joubert’s camp, Duba Plains, with just six ensuite tents that will get you close to the lions here.
When the film was made there was one big pride, the Tsaro pride but in the last few years this pride has split into two so interactions in the area are transforming all the time and are rather unpredictable. However Duba Plains is still rated one of the best places to see lions hunting.
Safari elsewhere in Botswana and I don’t think you will be disappointed. Linyanti is a good choice for seeing predators with the guiding teams focused on finding lion, leopard and cheetah – night drives are possible from Lebala Camp which sits in a private concession and wild dogs den in the area. Lebala is on the plains/marsh and combines well with sister camp, Lagoon, which sits on the banks of the Kwando river.
South Luangwa is a fantastic place to see predators. The Luwi Sand River, close to Nsolo Bush Camp is where several lion pride territories overlap, while leopard use the dry river bed a bit like a super highway. South Luangwa is one of the few National Park’s allowing night drives with trackers and spot lights which gives you a good chance to see leopards actively hunting.
This area is very unspoilt with few vehicle tracks in the area and much of the exploration done on foot with guided walking safaris. Accommodation is in seasonal bush camps which are erected for the duration of the dry season between May and October time. This means minimal disturbance to the environment and as a result wildlife is prolific. For lion, leopard, spotted hyena and wild dog (if you are lucky!) this area is truly fabulous.
DID YOU KNOW? BBC wildlife cameraman, Simon King, and crew stayed at Robin Pope’s Nsefu Camp in the Luangwa’s Nsefu sector when filming lion hunting buffalo.
Tell us what you are keen to try and see and we will be able to give you independent advice on the best time of year, the best guides and the best lodges/camps to visit in order to realise your specific ambition. You can call us on 01603 283 517.
Victoria Falls is one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The massive Zambezi River falls over 108 metres (360 ft), with over 1,050 cubic metres of water per second racing over its lip when its in full flood. When visiting, from either the Zimbabwean or Zambian sites, its often hard to get a grasp on the scale of it. Vast clouds of spray rise up, soaking you in seconds and hiding areas of the Falls in mist.
With a total width of 1,706 metres (5,604 Ft) spread out in a large arc, its also impossible to get a vantage point from where it’s all visible. After the Falls, the river runs off in a deep cut canyon, racing away through a series of fast-moving rapids. From the ground you can only look from certain vantage points, like the iron bridge that links the two countries, completed in 1905, but get no idea of its course, how it twists and turns as it runs away.
A great way to see the Falls is on the Flight of Angels, a 10 minute helicopter. It gives a perspective of the vastness of the African landscape, the size of the Zambezi as it heads to the Falls, the amount of spray produced and a birds-eye perspective of the Zambezi gorges as they channel the water away.
Many of our clients who visit the Falls do the flight and love it. As well as great views its also exhilarating. This video was taken by Lily, one of our Senior African Consultants. We’ve left it unedited, running from lift-off to landing. You will see in the video that the helicopter circles the Falls twice, ensuring that whichever side of the helicopter you are on, you get a great view of the Falls in one direction, and views of the river, gorge, and Victoria Falls town on the other.
Did you know that fishing not football is the most popular pastime in the UK? No I didn’t either although my brother in law is a keen angler. Fishing holidays are also growing in popularity and Africa is one of the best places to go. You get the chance to catch some really huge and exciting fish and relax in some beautiful scenery. You can also combine it with a safari and get the best of both worlds. Also the safari or beach option might please a non-fishing partner! With so much to choose from we have narrowed it down with some ideas below.
One of the best places for a fishing holiday is Botswana and in particular the Okavango Delta. This huge inland river delta covers hundreds of miles and surprisingly doesn’t run into the sea but evaporates and disappears into the land. There are permanent lagoons and rivers but during the rains the area covered by water increases enormously. Fishing is available at most of the lodges on the Delta. We have several lovely luxury safari lodges and camps where all the game viewing is done by motorboat or mokoro (a dug-out canoe) and fishing is also widely available. A day spent drifting through the reed beds passing big game and stunning birds whilst you fish is pretty unbeatable!
In the crystal clear waters of the Okavango River you can fish for tigerfish, tilapia, bream, nembwe and African pike. The tigerfish is an indigenous with an enormous appetite and they can grow up to 9 kilos in weight! The best time to fish for tiger fish is during the annual catfish or barbel runs. This is usually in our autumn from late August to the beginning of November. Bream fishing is usually best during our summer months, from April until August. We recommend staying at Camp Okavango for excellent fishing. The lodges and camps can provide all the fishing equipment you need but you can take your own kit if you prefer.
Mozambique is a huge country stretching along the east coast of Africa from Tanzania to the north down to South Africa in the south. It offers a massive variety of habitats from the Zambezi River to the shores of Lake Malawi, from national parks filled with the Big Five to lush mangrove swamps and islands dotted off the stunning coastline. However the main type of fishing done in Mozambique is sea or sport fishing and the island archipelagos and coral reefs are outstanding here. Marine life includes whales, dolphins, manta rays, turtles and sharks. The Mozambique coastline, particularly the Bazaruto and the Quirimbas Archipelagos, offers some of the most spectacular sport fishing in the world. This part of the Indian Ocean is a protected marine reserve meaning it is unspoiled and pretty undiscovered which makes it ideal for a luxury fishing holiday. Combine this with some truly stunning hotel and beach resorts and some of the world’s finest beaches and Mozambique is a dream destination.
The deep Mozambique Channel has a very strong current and it provides a home to some of the world’s most exciting sport fish. Species such as black, blue and striped marlin, sailfish, shortbill spearfish, wahoo, dorado, various tuna species, king and queen mackerel, kingfish (jack’s), queenfish, barracuda and snappers are all to be found here. Again there is plenty to do if you are travelling with a partner or friend who isn’t into fishing as there are plenty of fabulous beaches, scuba diving, snorkelling, sailing, boat trips and luxury lodges to relax in such as Ibo Island Lodge . The boat operators provide all the gear you will need for sport fishing and we can pre-book it for you or you can do it when you are there through the hotel concierge.
Lake Malawi is another fabulous fishing destination for the keen angler and it is also popular for those who want to go diving and see the endemic fish species that live in this enormous inland sea. Again like all our destinations the scenery as well as the wildlife is fantastic and we have some fabulous lodges and beach resorts dotted along the shores of the Lake. The water here is crystal clear, unpolluted and wonderfully warm and there are many sandy beach, islands and rocky coves providing plenty of different habitats.
The majority of the 400+ species in Lake Malawi are small tropical aquarium fish, mbuna. However you can also find sungwa (perch), ngumbo (lake yellow-fish), mpasa (lake salmon), sanjika (smaller relative of lake salmon), ncheni (lake tiger), kampango (catfish) and vundu (catfish). Fishing is year round but probably the best time to go is between September and April. One of the best places to stay on the lake is Pumulani Lodge. although there are more rustic options available too.
Although Lake Malawi is the main draw you can also do plenty of fantastic river fishing. The Bua River, running through the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, is excellent for salmon with the Luweya, Lufira and North Rukuru not far behind. In the Lower Shire River, below the Kapichira Falls on the southern boundary of the Majete Wildlife Reserve, tigerfish are abundant, joined further down by vundu and barbel as the river broadens. Heavier tackle and a boat are needed here. Dry season fishing between May and November is possible in the Lower Shire river and requires no licence. The streams and dams of Zomba Plateau, Mount Mulanje and Nyika Plateau are well stocked with rainbow trout. You are only allowed to do fly fishing in this area with flies tied on single hooks. The season runs from September to April. Please note you will have to take your own kit with you in most places although some lodges do provide good tackle. Please check with us first before travel.
Zimbabwe and Zambia
Lake Kariba and the Zambezi River are the main highlights for a fisherman. The Zambezi River is the fourth largest river in Africa and is home to one of the continent’s most sought-after fresh water game fish such as the tiger fish. The tigerfish is an aggressive predator and one of the fastest freshwater game fish in Africa which makes it a challenging species to catch and a great challenge for fly fisherman. Trying to lure the fierce tiger fish can be a real batlle as it usually puts on a dramatic display of fight when captured. Both the Upper Zambezi – the section of river above the Victoria Falls – and the Lower Zambezi – the section below the Kariba Dam wall – offer excellent opportunities to fish for tigerfish.
There are a number of excellent fishing lodges on the banks of both the upper and lower sections of the Zambezi and also there is a huge range of wonderful safari lodges that offer fishing as well as game drives looking for the Big Five. Many of these lodges provide a range of fishing activities, all the way from a novice angler to the professional fly fisherman. As fishing can be combined with game activities and wonderful safaris this is a great holiday if you have a partner or friend who does not wish to fish as there is plenty to do and the lodge are all great places for relax with swimming pools and sundecks. For the visiting angler most can provide a full range of equipment is provided but you can take your own tackle if you prefer (please check before you travel!). We can recommend staying at various different lodges such as Mana Pools Camp many of which offer fishing along with safari activities and canoeing.
Some itineraries which feature our favourite fishing destinations include: