Blog Archives: Zambia


Zambia: Why Visit Kafue National Park?

Kafue lion jumping

Most of my life has been spent in the vicinity of the Zambezi Valley. I have had the privilege of canoeing on the Zambezi River several times and have experienced numerous safaris in South Luangwa, but I had never explored the Kafue National Park – until this October.

Kafue National Park is one of Africa’s largest unfenced national parks, approximately the size of Wales, and its magnificence is difficult to express. Often overlooked by most travellers, Kafue features a massive diversity of wildlife, including Burchell’s zebras, waterbucks, hartebeests, blue wildebeests, cape buffaloes, elephants, lions, leopards and cheetahs.

Busanga Plains

My journey took me along the Kafue River on a solar-powered boat, overland by 4×4 and even into the air on a spectacular balloon flight over the Busanga Plains. I came away in love with this park and here are just a few reasons why everyone should visit:

The incredible boat cruises along the Kafue River

As Africa embarks upon a mission to increase the use of solar energy, many lodges and camps have begun to utilise solar-powered boats. I boarded a pontoon boat, noticeably quieter than other boats I had journeyed on in the past, which enabled a much closer look at the surrounding wildlife. As we drifted through the calm waters of the Kafue River, our guide suddenly spotted a male lion on the banks of the river and swiftly instructed us to remain seated and silent so as not to appear as a challenge.

As we made our clandestine approach, the lion lazed peacefully, oblivious to our presence for at least one minute before he lifted his great head in realisation. After nearly five minutes spent in his company, we watched as he wandered away into the bush.

boat cruise on Kafue River

Allowing for a multitude of extraordinary experiences and photographic opportunities, the Kafue River offers an exceptional diversity of wildlife – both at its banks and in its waters. It is possible to spot pods of hippos, crocodiles, nesting bee-eaters and a variety of other birds. Despite this, it is uncommon to see more than three boats at any given time while on the waters, ensuring that a boat safari on the Kafue River instils a sense of peace and tranquillity, as well as anticipation.

The untouched Busanga Plains

The Busanga Plains, situated in the north-western region of the park, comprises of masses of Miombo and mopane woodlands as well as hordes of Mutondo trees. I was struck by the vast network of minute rivers, tributaries of the Kafue River, as well as the riverine vegetation and the immense assortment of birdlife, including wattle cranes, herons, and flocks of open-billed and yellow-billed storks. This enormous area is alive with herds of red lechwes, roans, zebras, hartebeests, blue wildebeests, waterbucks, wild dogs and buffaloes – all this, yet very few people.

Busanga Plains at dawn

The lack of crowds

Astonishingly, I did not see more than two vehicles at any given time during game drives in Kafue National Park. The park is reminiscent of the Serengeti National Park, but without the crowds. It is possible to drive for miles without seeing another vehicle and uninterrupted sightings are almost guaranteed.

Balloon flight over Busanga

I took to the skies on a spectacular hot-air balloon flight over Busanga, looking forward to the spectacular aerial views, but I was awed by the vastness of the landscape, best appreciated from this unique bird’s-eye view. Our flight took us over large herds of red lechwes, pukus, hippos and zebras. And as the sun rose higher, we were treated to a silhouette of our hot-air balloon imprinted on the land below.

The experienced and enthusiastic guides

In my experience, guides have the capacity to make or break a safari trip, and those in Kafue National Park have taken guiding to new heights. Their wisdom, expertise and passion ensure that you acquire a much deeper understanding and awareness of the animal and plant life found throughout this vast park. Even after years on safari, I still learnt a lot. For instance, did you know…

  • …that a yawning hippo is showing signs of aggression?
  • …that elephants have the longest gestation period of all animals, carrying their young for nearly two years before giving birth?
  • …that Kafue National Park harbours approximately 65,000 Kafue lechwes, and that outside of their breeding season they mainly live in distinctly separated male and female only herds?

Sable antelopes in Busanga

Elephants – Worth more alive than dead

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Whilst I am not an advocate of hunting, I can see a commercial argument for it in marginalised areas. However, I was nevertheless very disappointed to read yesterday that the Trump administration will allow American hunters to import elephant trophies to the US, reversing an Obama-era 2014 ban.

A US Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman said the move will allow the two African countries – Zambia and Zimbabwe – to include US sport hunting as part of their management plans for the elephants and allow them to put “much-needed revenue back into conservation.”

Why am I disappointed if hunting can do good for conservation?

In part it is the hunters’ conceited theatrical rituals, the get-up and the vocab – similar to those displayed in hunting (for foxes) here in the UK. In spite of the overall disappointment with http://trophy.film/, there are parts of the film that are impossible to watch without fuming at the grotesque, pampered hunters who preen themselves over the animals’ corpses. I don’t see the difference between one national being allowed an elephant head on his or her wall but another national not being allowed to have an ivory carving on his or her mantlepiece.

But much more importantly, there is a better way. Photographic and conservation safaris https://www.steppestravel.com/south-africa-group-tour-rhino-conservation-project/overview As the below infographic shows, an elephant is worth much more alive than dead.

We are guardians of the planet and its wildlife for future generations.

How did you sleep

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“How did you sleep?”

“Are you serious?” was my disbelieving reply.

For once the otherwise smiling camp manager looked unsure. “Did you not sleep well?”

“The crunching of bones is not conducive to sleep” was my exasperated reply. Surely someone else had heard what I had?

It all began in the middle of the night with a moaning. As I was slowly roused from the depths of a deep sleep the scenery lit up in the stilting and illuminating flash of lightning. The moan was one of distress. Splashing of water made me think of a crocodile.

I was in tent number one – the furthest from main camp at Sanctuary Puku Ridge Tented Camp in the South Luangwa, Zambia. I had enjoyed an exhilarating afternoon and evening’s game drive which had included sightings of nocturnal rarities such as a genet with her very young kitten, a python and a porcupine. The food that evening had been exquisite.

How could I be thinking of food when something was clearly going through its death throes outside? It was most probably a puku. We had been watching a small herd at dinner that was grazing on a flood plain in front of camp. Maybe one had strayed too close to the edge.

Incredible I thought. The thrill of being in the bush. This was what it was all about.

But then I heard a snarl. More snarls. That wasn’t a crocodile. It was lion. I sat up, suddenly paying a lot more attention to the plight of the poor puku. How far away were they? I reassured myself with the knowledge that sound travels far at night, especially over water.

More snarls. Splashing. I was now wide, wide awake, adrenalin coursing through my veins.

The sucking, tearing of meat quickened my pulse. They were not far away. Surely they weren’t close by. Cautiously, carefully, and I must say unconfidently I crept out of bed and pressed my nose against the thin netting that gave my tent such wonderful views across the floodplain. I peered into the darkness beyond my wooden verandah.

It is not a good reflection on my parents or my upbringing to give you a literal translation of what I whispered in my head when my eyes accustomed to the night and I realised that the lion were literally only five metres from the end of the wooden verandah.

The dark of night played tricks on my mind. My imagination began a frenzied assessment of the dangers of my predicament. The netting, which during the day provided light and views, made me feel vulnerable. I was vulnerable. Help. I retreated slowly from the edge of the tent.

A loud resonating clack as the wooden towel stand hit the concrete floor. My heart began racing wildly. The lions stopped. They seemed to stare at me with disconcerting intensity. I looked about the tent for possible vantage points to escape their imminent arrival in my tent. I was scared. No, I just wanted to survive.

I was being ridiculous. Lion had not been known to attack anyone in a tent. Maybe so but earlier on John our guide had said that lion do not like to get wet yet here they were splashing in a foot of water devouring a puku.

Such was the proximity of the lion, such was my distance from the main camp, such was my loneliness and the fact that nobody else was aware of this kill at my doorstep that for minutes more my mind was unreasoned and ruled by fear. But slowly as the lions’ appetite became sated and snarls were replaced by the gnawing and cracking of bones, I too began to calm down. Slowly I began to appreciate this for what it was – a truly amazing wildlife experience.

The lions finished their puku pie and drifted past the side of my tent into the night oblivious to what they had done to my blood pressure. Amazingly I was able to drift off to sleep.

This was my first night back in Zambia after an absence of too long, of over twenty years. This is why I had come back: the country is raw, it is wild, where else could this happen? It was testament to the fact that Zambiais clearly deserving of its epithet, ‘the real Africa’.

An African Remedy

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“You should have said something!” Gasped Brian our very animated guide, when I show him the tsetse fly bite on my leg, which was now hotter and redder than an African sunset. “We will fix it, I just need to find a Sausage Tree” he said, and off we continue on our walk.

I am now back in my favourite park, the South Luangwa Valley in Zambia on a walking safari with Norman Carr Safaris. Norman pioneered the walking safari in the early ’60s and the park has become one of the best places in Africa to walk.

During a three hour walk between I two of their bush camps Luwi and Nsolo, Brian shows us the smaller more interesting things you can see on safari – the spore of a porcupine with the scuff marks of its quills trailing behind it and the footprint of a rather large crocodile, so clear that you can see his small scale marks. We stop near a warthog hole and Brian tells us to stand clear as warthogs tend to shoot out of them like a cannon ball out of a cannon. Remembering seeing a warthog run away with its tail in the air earlier, I swiftly move out the way.

As the season moves on, some of the rivers start to dry up and it becomes difficult for the animals to access water – and they have to think up new ways of getting to it. Years of knowledge have taught elephants that the dry river bed of the Luwi River has certain points where the water table is high enough for them to dig down and get fresh water. Watching one elephant from a distance and seeing how she uses her trunk to scoop up the sand to make a hole for the water to filter through; I decide to give it a try for myself. On my hands and knees, and somewhat less elegant than the elephant, I start to scoop and dig my way down to the water table. Soon enough I see water starting to seep into my little catchment area. The water is cold, crystal clear and had a beautiful taste. Refreshed and somewhat pleased with myself that I had “found water” in the dry river bed, we continue on.

The bird life in valley is just fantastic and with the help of Brian I start to learn the names of some of them. The Lilac Breasted Roller is one of my favourites with shades of blues and purples – it flies as high as it can and then falls into a diving, rolling action towards the ground to gain the attention of his mate. The White-Faced Bee Eater is so beautiful, flying from one branch to the next in search of its next prize catch. The Helmeted Guinea Fowl also one of my favourites as they always seem busy and panicky at the same time. All with good reason Brian points out, as he tells us they are eaten by just about anything that can catch them.

Our scout picks up a fruit of the Sausage Tree, slices it in half and tells me to rub it on my bite. “Nothing to lose” I think, and give it a go. Almost instantly the throbbing heat of my bite seems to calm down and a few hours later it is all but gone. Brian goes on to explain that the Sausage Tree fruit is used to aid the healing process of many skin ailments including cancer. The wonders of the African bush never cease to amaze me.

As my time in Zambia is drawing to a close I sit here on my deck at the new Chinzombo Camp opened by Norman Carr Safaris no longer than a week ago. Far removed from my night in the bush camp last night, I have my own plunge pool, an iced cold beer in my own bar fridge and wifi. Norman Carr’s family continue his pioneering legacy by bringing a new form of safari to the modern day
safari goer in Zambia.

Although amazing (and how I am enjoying the luxury of my pool, and dare I say, hairdryer), it strikes me as incredible that I needed nothing more than a Sausage tree fruit to ease my bites….

Good Morning Africa

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Good Morning Africa

There is some gentle chirping come from outside my tent, in the distance, across the river in Zimbabwe I can hear a deep rumble of a lion just clarifying to anyone that will listen that he is awake. There is a splash in the water in front of my tent at Chongwe River Camp, followed by a chortle of some hippos heading back to the water after a night out. I then hear my own gentle wakeup call by one of the camp staff “good morning, good morning” he says, I also hear the clank of a coffee cup which always gets me up to start the day.

The first coffee of the day on the veranda of tent is one of my favourite moments on safari as it is still so quiet and you can just sit, listen and watch Africa wake up. The baboons and vervet monkeys come down from the trees to catch the early morning rays, the older ones tend to sit still trying to absorb as much sun as they can, occasionally falling over as the drift off back to sleep. The younger ones are jumping about and generally causing some mischief and mayhem. A young male thinks now is the time to try and take one of the alpha males younger ladies, this turns into a massive argument disturbing everyone but quiet is soon restored. A hippo splashes in the water to my right, followed by a chorus of hippos in the middle of the river, clearly this chap was being told off for being late.

All too soon it is time to gather round the fire for grab a quick bite to eat before we head out to catch the rest of the Lower Zambezi waking up. The impala appear to be darker than they were yesterday, George our guide explains that they tend to ruffle their coat during the colder nights and during the course of the morning it will go back to what they normally look like. A giraffe is caught slightly unaware as he is still sitting down, I feel bad for him when clambers to his feet somewhat awkwardly.

The lodge is located on the confluence of the Zambezi and Chongwe Rivers so you have the added benefit of enjoying both rivers. Driving along the banks of the Chongwe River we see puku making their way down the slippery river bank to get a morning drink but still keeping very much aware of the crocodile to their right who has just got into the riverbank to warm up in the morning sun. Some hippos further down think the water is still a bit too chilly so have taken to the river banks for a spot of sunbathing.

Not being much of a birder I can’t tell you the names of all the birds, what I can tell you is that watching them go about their morning rituals is rather fun. The water birds are enjoying the morning light to catch some insects for breakfast while the raptors are perched high in the trees ready to catch the first thermals of the day. George points out some bee-eaters which are extremely colourful as the morning light catches them in flight.

Further along on our drive we catch up with an extended family of elephants heading down to the river for a drink. There must have been ten or more elephants enjoying their morning stroll throughout the Lower Zambezi National Park. Two particular little naughty elephants had somehow managed to tackle a slightly older cousin to the ground and were trying to climb on top of him. The poor little elephant was clearly not enjoying this and was soon back on his feet and scampered off to find his mom for some protection. It is amazing to watch the interaction between all of them. George pointed out two teenagers whose trunks where intertwined and said that it was a form of greeting and probably saying good morning to one another.

Moving on back down to the Zambezi River ourselves we stopped for a drink of our own. You could feel all around you everything was awake and alert for the day ahead. Across the river and into Zimbabwe you could hear some unfortunate sole meeting their end by the lion I had heard earlier and I just hoped that even though it was short lived they enjoyed their African morning as much as I had.

Flying with Angels

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When Dr David Livingstone reached the edge of what was to become known as Victoria Falls on the 16 November 1855 he wrote “Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight”. Rolling forward a few years, on the 14 June 2013, I was hoping that the angels where still in flight and watching over me as I step into a rock pool for a swim on the edge of the Victoria Falls – with a drop of some 108 metres, just inches away from me. With the force of the mighty Zambezi behind me it felt as though I was on the edge of the world and about to take fight with the angels.

Thankfully for me I was under the expert guidance of the team from Tongabezi Lodge who know Livingstone Island and Victoria Falls so well that they can take you to the edge of the world and back again in the space of a morning activity. The lodge is about 25 minutes upstream from the falls and returning back from the morning activity I sat watching the Zambezi flowing past the lodge so peaceful and quiet I started wondering if it knew that it was about to become part of most spectacular waterfall in the world a little further downstream.

After a lovely light lunch in the shade of the “Lookout”, we were invited to the Tujatane school which is on the property of Tongabezi to watch a full dress rehearsal for the regional choir, poetry and dance competition that is held each year. Run entirely by fund-raising and sponsorship of the pupils by some guests, Tujatane which means “as one” is a perfect example of everyone working as one to create a better future for everyone through education, music and dance. From the youngest child singing the school anthem with such pride, to the very moving poems about equal rights for women, I left with a feeling that each child that is able to attend this wonderful school on the shores of the Zambezi, will have a bright future added of them.

With the rhythm of the music still playing in my head, I headed on down to the river’s edge to my next adventure…..canoeing the Zambezi. After a safely briefing by Ronald our guide we headed off to Sindabezi Island which would be our overnight stop. Canoeing brings a whole new aspect to game viewing with nothing but the occasional splash of water you feel a small part of this majestic river. Getting closer than normal to the likes of hippos, crocodiles and elephant is something rather special and a little unnerving considering my distinct lack of canoeing skills! Zig-zagging along the river with, just occasionally, straying into Zimbabwe waters I finally made it onto Sindabezi Island.

In Africa it is a long standing tradition to toast the sunset with a G&T and today would be no different, well just slightly different, as I opted
for a pink G&T to match the beautiful colours reflecting off the river as the sunset on another amazing day in Africa. When the night sky started to reflect off the waters I fell silent and paid respect to this most beautiful river.

That night, as I lay in my open fronted chalet looking out at the stars, with the soundtrack of a hippo playing in the background I drifted off to sleep dreaming…….Dreaming that I was one of those angels mentioned by Livingstone all those years ago and thinking how I, after my adventures on it, around it and in it today, had discovered this majestic river for the first time.

For more information about holidays to Zambia or to hear more about Bridget’s adventures please contact her on 01285 880 980.

A walk on the wild side

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There is a low deep rumble coming from behind me and suddenly I realise how vulnerable, and to be honest at this point somewhat scared I am of being in the middle of the Zambian bush on foot. Fortunately for me, this time, it is not a lion lurking in the bushes behind but a fellow guest on a walking safari with The Bushcamp Company who had not had enough of our sumptuous lunch and was still hungry and very much looking forward to dinner!

Being on a walking safari, all your senses are at their peak, and every sound, smell, noise and even the leaf that is brushing past your arm makes you feel that you are on the edge of danger and a little bit like Bear Grylls. Once you have passed the initial fear of being eaten you can start relaxing, just a bit, and start enjoying your surroundings.

Your guide, accompanied by an armed scout will lead you through the bush in single file in search of the smaller little things that you miss when you are in a game vehicle. Stopping to identify spore, looking at various trees and plants and learning the medicinal uses – used by the guides and scouts for many years. And who would have thought that looking at poo could be so interesting! Just from inspecting a dropping, your guide can tell you which animal it is from, what they had for dinner and how long ago they where in the area. Impala where my particular favourite as they tend to do their business in a central area, just to keep it neat and tidy. They also reminded me of dark chocolate covered peanuts…..

A big highlight do the walking safari is the bird viewing. Not only do you hear constant chirping but you notice how brightly coloured they are. We learnt that if you follow the Honeyguide he will lead you to a bee’s nest and some lovely fresh honey – and as legend has it, you better leave some honey for him otherwise you will be cursed.

Continuing with our walk we suddenly heard the squealing panic of a warthog followed by a almighty growl and a thud. Pumba the warthog was no longer and the way my heart was racing I felt I was not far behind poor Pumba! Our guide, completely cool and calm throughout asked if we wanted to go and see the lion having a pre-dinner snack. A somewhat hushed and frighten “yes” came the reply. Together with the scout, the guide worked out the best way to approach, and again highlighted the fact, if a lion charges STAND YOUR GROUND. Hmmm. Not sure that is what my instinct would tell me should the situation arise! On approaching the lion and poor dead Pumba, it appeared that the lion was more interested in his warthog starter than me! That is what I kept telling myself anyway.

Heart still racing we left the lion behind and made our way down to the Kapamba River and our home for the night Zungulila Bush Camp. To our surprise chairs where in the shallow waters of the river, a small fire going in a makeshift BBQ, with Laurence the chef roasting some nuts and Ozzie the barman waiting for us with an ice cold G&T.

Shoes off we waded to the middle of the river to watch the sunset over another glorious day in Africa. Only occasionally did I peer over my shoulder to make sure the lion was not coming in search of his main meal…

To hear more about Bridget’s Zambian walking safari or for her expert advice on planning a holiday to Zambia call 01285 880 980.

Zambian Safari for the first time, every time

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Safari for the first time, every time.

“Hold tight” our guide Geoffrey said as he put the land cruiser into reverse and put his foot down. With her trunk in the air and ears flapping this female elephant was clearly not having one of her better days and she was not prepared to let us pass. Once the vehicle was at a safe distance we stopped and soon saw why this elegant, dainty albeit rather large lady was standing her ground.

A baby elephant who was all trunk and ears peeped round the bush to see what was going on. Still getting used to its trunk this little one then started to mimic its mom, to much laugher from our guide and the rest of his guests; although I am sure there was a bit of nervous laugher the first time safari goers on the vehicle. This was our welcome to Zambia and the South Luangwa National Park.

Having grown up in South Africa with monkeys in our garden I have somewhat become complacent about this wonderful continent that I call home. Being on a game drive with guests who have never seen a monkey in the wild let alone a elephant reiterated to me that going on a safari for the umpteenth time, should be like going on safari for the first time. When visiting places like Istanbul, Agra and Cairo you know are going to see the Blue Mosque, the Taj Mahal and the great Pyramids on safari you simply do not know what each drive, walk or boat ride is going to bring and to me that is that is the excitement and the enjoyment of being on safari. Some of the guides I have met have been guiding for twenty years or more and still start each day like it is there first time safari, except, they have years of knowledge and experience to handle any animal that may be having a bad day.

During the course of the game drive you generally stop for a coffee and a snack and it was then I asked my fellow guests how their first safari going. Both of them where beaming, and could just not get over what they had seen and also secretly admitted their heart was still beating a little faster than normal due to our encounter with the elephant. They were just as amazed to see a young, shy, female leopard being chased away by one seriously grumpy male baboon as they where to see a lilac breasted roller chirping away on a nearby brunch. For them it was a dream to come to Africa and go on safari and anything that Zambia threw at them they were going to absorb it all in and enjoy every moment.

On the way back to camp we stopped to watch some hippo enjoying some sunbathing, and amongst a whole lot more saw some puku who was on the run from something and not forgetting my personal favourite animal the warthog who stop and stare at you giving you just enough time to try and get your camera to focus before they shoot off with their antenna like tails in the air.

Each encounter along way just made me want to see more and the other guests where already talking about coming back next year. You see once you have experienced Africa it will stay with you for a lifetime and keep calling you back for more.

On arrival back into camp I heard the call of the fish eagle which always reminds me if being in the bush and this time it was just a bit more special as it is the national bird of Zambia. It was almost like it was saying I hoped you enjoyed your drive and you are looking forward to the next instalment of excitement…..and with that we are asked to get back into the vehicle as they were going to drive us back to our tents as there are some buffalo walking through camp.

Victoria Falls – the adrenalin capital of Africa

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Victoria Falls is one of the natural wonders of the world, lying between Zambia and Zimbabwe in Southern Africa.

My father was in the police force and so when we were growing up we moved around Zimbabwe quite a lot, giving me the advantage of exploring some exciting areas including Victoria Falls.

About 10 years ago Zimbabwe was facing a number of problems, but for the past 2 years we have seen Victoria Falls resurfacing. There is a lot of activity occurring in Victoria Falls, hotels and lodges are being refurbished, tourists are flocking from all over the world and with a number of airlines flying in daily the Falls have never been easier to reach.

My holidays were spent visiting Victoria Falls, canoeing the Upper Zambezi National Park and rafting the Zambezi River. I also explored the Falls in a helicopter and an ultraflight. Nothing compares to seeing these magnificent waters as a whole, by air – the sheer volume of water is staggering and makes for a truly dramatic scene set against the African landscape.

One of my favourite experiences was when I did my first rafting trip in the 90s. I remember my mother contacting me early in the morning just before I was picked up for the rafting trip. She sounded very apprehensive that I was doing something that she thought was so dangerous, but I was too excited not to do it. The ride was so exhilarating and the noise of the ‘smoke that thunders’ only added to the thrill. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to do it all again and took my husband and did it for the second time. In fact I loved the whole experience so much that I have since taken my 3 teenage children to Victoria Falls and they had a fantastic time too.

David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary and explorer, is believed to have been the first European to view Victoria Falls. He named it in honour of his Queen and called them ‘ The Victoria Falls’. The falls are just over 1 mile wide and 355 feet high and during the wet season over 500 million litres of water flows over the edge into the Zambezi River. This incredible amount of water generates a huge amount of spray which shoots nearly 1,000 feet into the sky and can be seen 25 miles away; this is where the name Mosi-oa-Tunya (Smoke that thunders) derives.

The Victoria Falls can be visited all year round, with July to September being the best time to see them. October to November is usually the driest and least impressive period on the Zambian side. Zimbabwe has two thirds of the Falls and so during the dry season one should visit the Zimbabwean side, or be prepared to travel for a few hours from the Zambian side.

Victoria Falls and Livingstone are the perfect hub to connect to Hwange National Park, Botswana parks, Zambezi National Park, South Luangwa National Park, Lower Zambezi National Park, Kruger National park and other South African places of interest.

There is so much to do and you can easily spend five to 7 nights in this area. Activities include white water rafting, canoeing, helicopter flights, boat cruises, elephant back safaris and more.

Please take a look at our journey ideas for Zambia and Zimbabwe for a taste of what we could arrange for you. If you would like any further information on your African holiday please contact our Africa specialists on 01285 650 011.

Four days of “wow” in Zambia

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My memories of Zambia are a haze of exhilaration and wow moments. As the first African country I visited, Zambia will always have a place in my heart.

I’d never quite understood the term “culture shock” that is until I arrived in Zambia and was just the most overwhelmed I’ve ever been by the sheer African-ness of my surroundings. Wandering the dusty roads of Livingstone and being called to by the locals; ducking into a dark, smoky markets to see people selling TVs made before I was born; swapping my old shoes for some slightly less old shoes in a shoe shop; all this and more, while wonderfully exciting, was a bit too much to take in on my first afternoon!

I returned to the quiet, peaceful haven of my hostel and then in the evening a friend took me to a beautiful lodge on the banks of the Zambezi where, Mosi lagers in hand, sounds of hippos in our ears, we watched the sun set mindblowingly over the river in colours I had never seen before. This experience, I can vividly pinpoint, firmly and immediately cemented in me a love of Africa. On my first day, mere hours into my African experience, I felt like I’d found a home away from home.

In the course of the next four days I had waded to the edge of Victoria Falls in what was one of the most terrifying and rewarding experiences of my life; I’d taken three 18 month old lions for a walk and scratched the male’s tummy while he was having a snooze; I’d ridden a ginormous elephant called Danny through the bush and watched two baby elephants playing in the Zambezi about a hundred yards away from a crocodile; on top of this I’d seen zebras, giraffes, all kinds of antelope and birds; and I never wanted to go home!

Watching a herd of elephants crossing the river at sunset and hearing them trumpet almost moved me to tears; just driving around Livingstone and through the bush fascinated me; eating barbequed crocodile and chatting with the welcoming and happy locals was fantastic; watching monkeys causing havoc everywhere was brilliant; I crammed as much as I possibly could into my few days in Zambia (exhausted myself in fact!) and I loved every second.

My auntie told me before I left, “Africa gets under your skin”. She was so right; it gets under your skin and into every part of your being! It’s a
dream of mine now to retire to a lodge on the Zambezi, have daily brais, reading and walking and watching nature at its best outside my door.

I spent longer in other African countries on the rest of my trip and loved every second of those as well, so I don’t know if it was because it was the first or because it was the best that Zambia is my most loved. The people are so much fun, the wildlife and scenery are indescribable, there’s so much to do and see; I just can’t recommend it highly enough.

If you’d like to plan a trip of your own to Zambia, contact Jackie, on 01825 650 011, who can tailor make an itinerary for you.