Zambia Safari Holidays: All You Need To Know Before You Go
From the mighty Victoria Falls, known by the locals as “Mosi-oa-Tunya” or The Smoke that Thunders, and the great Zambezi River to two of the largest wildlife sanctuaries in Africa – the Luangwa and the Kafue National Parks – the scenic splendour of Zambia has no rival in Africa. We've produced a short guide on all you need to know to help you decide if it's the perfect safari destination for you.
Best Time To Go
Zambia is best visited between May to October, when the rains have receded and the bush turns to a beautiful golden red. Cooler temperatures allow for long days out walking and game viewing is at its most fantastic. To see the Victoria Falls at their full capacity, they need to be visited between March to June when the water levels are at their highest and most impressive. Activities such as White Water Rafting and swimming on the edge of the Victoria Falls in the Devil’s Pool are best for visits when the water levels are lower, from July to February.
The dry season is from May to October, generally it will start cooler in May and will begin to heat up in September through to November. The rainy season is from November to April and tends to be warm throughout the period.
Visas can be purchased on arrival in Zambia. If visiting the Victoria Falls, it is recommended to obtain a UNIVISA which allows for visits to both the Zimbabwean and Zambian side, ensuring spectacular views all round of the falls.
Best Areas And Why
The South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi are perhaps the best known areas for safari in Zambia, and not without reason. South Luangwa offers some of the best walking safaris throughout Africa, whilst the Lower Zambezi is a stunning national park running along the border of the Zambezi River, offering boat trips on the river as well as canoeing, fishing, game drives and walking. Kafue is less well known and hosts less visitors each year than its counterparts, however has exceptional game viewing and the benefit of far fewer people to share the experience with. A trip to Zambia is incomplete without a visit to Livingstone, the Zambian side of the spectacular Victoria Falls.
Luggage/ Weight Restrictions
Due to light aircraft flights taken to travel between reserves, a soft sided bag will be required and including hand luggage, the weight must not exceed 20kgs.
As Zambia is a malarial risk area, malaria prophylaxis is strongly advised – it is always very important to consult a doctor before travelling.
When on safari, neutral clothes in colours such as khaki, green and brown should be worn, blending in with the bush surroundings as much as possible. Warm jumpers and trousers will be essential for the cooler mornings and evenings when the temperature does drop. Layers are also important, once the sun has risen it warms up very quickly and then the opportunity to shed a couple of layers is very welcome. Some good sturdy walking or safari shoes would also be advised, particularly as walking is such a joy in Zambia and something to make the most of.
Money And Tipping
The majority of outgoing costs will already have been included in initial payment for a trip to Zambia – therefore leaving relatively little that requires cash. Whilst on safari, tipping is encouraged at approximately $5-$10 USD per guest, per day for guides and rangers, and often the same again for a communal staff tip – which can be divided between housekeeping and other staff. USD is generally the preferred currency for tipping and is also recommended for extras such as obtaining visas. Generally whilst in lodges, any additional payments can be made using a credit card.
Drinking And Dining
Drinking and dining is not something taken lightly whilst on safari – standards have been set and as well as fantastic food, the setting for breakfast, lunch, dinner and ‘sundowner’s’ comes with as much importance. As well as beautiful dinners within the lodge and the lodge’s Boma, surprises can be set for bush dinners set under the African stars, lunch sitting in the shallow waters of the river and surprise breakfast in a clearing in the bush. The Victoria Falls offers a wide variety of dining options, making each evening unique and different. Dinner upon a sunset cruise along the Zambezi river is one not to be missed, as well as aboard the Royal Livingstone Express for that extra element of glamour, and if staying at Tongabezi Lodge, a romantic dining table for two, set out on the pontoon in the middle of the Zambezi is an experience second to none.
Known as ‘Leopard Valley’, the South Luangwa National Park offers almost guaranteed sightings of these elusive cats during a stay, along with herds of Buffalo, Elephant, Lion Prides and even the rare Wild Dog. Kafue also hosts a great variety of game and often casting your eye over its open plain many of these species can be seen from one viewpoint. Kafue is also a fantastic area to see Cheetah, one of the more endangered of the African predators. The Lower Zambezi offers great chance of seeing Lion and Leopard as well as Elephant, Buffalo and Hippo and Crocodile in and along the banks of the river.
What To Pack
Camera equipment including spare memory card, spare batteries and a camera charger are important items to take on a safari. Insect repellent and sunscreen are also advised, as well as a sunhat for whatever time of year you are travelling. Binoculars, a torch, and a good book for relaxing in the middle of the day are recommended additions and a light rucksack to hold all of these belongings is also beneficial.
Where To Stay
In terms of accommodation, Zambia offers something to suit everybody – yet not enough to overcrowd. In the South Luangwa, Chinzombo reigns as the leading luxury lodge, whilst Tena Tena is the go to for a beautiful rustic tented stay. For ultimate authenticity, a combined stay at Nsolo and Luwi offers the chance to enjoy a full day walking safari between the two camps – whilst luggage is rushed ahead to await at the destination. The famous Busanga Plains in Kafue National Park is home to few lodges, the most lavish of which is Shumba Camp. The Lower Zambezi offers a perfect combination between Old Mondoro and its sister camp Chiawa – the former being a rustic version of its luxurious sister property. For another authentic property in the Lower Zambezi, Chongwe River Camp is exactly that and the focus throughout the lodge is ensuring guests have a relaxing stay. For time visiting the Victoria Falls, The Royal Livingstone Hotel is a spectacularly elegant option close to the Falls. For an exclusive stay further along the Zambezi River, sister properties Tongabezi and Sindabezi are favourites, offering a myriad of activities with a peaceful setting right on the river. The River Club is another option along the Zambezi, still only 20kms from the Victoria Falls but out of the hustle and bustle, with an English Country Club feel to it offering activities such as croquet and tennis, as well as the regular river and falls excursions.
One of Zambia’s real draw cards is its exceptional walking safaris, accompanied by both guide and scout with extraordinary expertise so that big game can be approached on foot – offering one of the most exhilarating experiences to be had in the wild. As well as both day and night game drives, boat trips along the river, canoeing and fishing particularly for the aggressive Tiger Fish are some of the other highlights to be enjoyed in Zambia. Whilst at the Falls, there are plenty of activities to entertain both the thrill seekers and the more leisurely of guests. A visit to the falls on foot is essential, but a magical way to witness the beauty and intensity is from above, in either a helicopter flight or a micro light flight. Flying from above is also a wonderful way to see Elephant and Hippos in the Zambezi River as you swoop a little lower. When the water levels are lower, White Water rafting, and a swim in the Devil’s Pool on the edge of the Victoria Falls are a great adventure. For those looking for a real high Bungee Jumping can also be enjoyed year round.
If you are interested in booking a safari holiday to Zambia then get in touch with our Africa experts on 020 7843 3500 and they can start planning your dream holiday to Zambia today.