Safari in Lower Zambezi | Zambia Safari Guide | Dreaming along the River

Elephant encounter on Lower Zambezi river safari with Chiawa LodgeElephant encounter on Lower Zambezi river safari with Chiawa Lodge

The Lower Zambezi offers superb game viewing along the river - you'll be in the middle of a wildlife corridor that is also wonderfully scenic. This Zambian safari destination is ideal for canoeing, boating and armchair game viewing from your lodge deck.

Access

Driving into the Lower Zambezi National Park is not recommended as it is not internally set up for this. Lodges and camps in the area provide the best access as they are geared up for transfers from Lusaka and Chirundu or Kariba in Zimbabwe - these transfers take some time and often include a boat transfer as well. Certain external lodges are accessible by 4x4 high clearance vehicles and by boat, but the quickest and easiest way to get in is by air charter. The Jeki airstrip and Royal airstrip in the park are used for air charter flights from other areas such as Lusaka, Livingstone and Mfuwe (South Luangwa).

Airport

The nearest international airport for commercial flights is in Lusaka (Kenneth Kaunda International Airport). From Lusaka you connect onto a pre-booked air charter flight directly into the Lower Zambezi National Park which takes about 30 minutes.

Accommodation

There is a wide variety of camps and lodges to choose from both in and around the park and you are bound to find one to suit your needs, from camping and self-catering to delightful luxury lodges. Some lodges are closed in the rainy season while others remain open year round.

See these selected Lower Zambezi Safari Lodges

Regions

The Lower Zambezi National Park covers about 4 000 square km (1544 square miles)and offers an unspoiled wilderness area along the Lower Zambezi River, which forms the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Zambian side includes the Chiawa Wilderness Area, on the opposite river bank is Mana Pools, a renowned wildlife area and World Heritage Site in Zimbabwe.

Most of the game in the park is found on the relatively small valley floor as there is a wooded escarpment in the northern region which prevents the movement of many species. The riverside is lush and scenic with thick vegetation and there are lagoons and islands. Elephant, Buffalo and Waterbuck are often seen along the water's edge, island hopping or crossing the river. Just inland are the beautiful grassy floodplains of the Zambezi bordered by woodlands and hills.

Highlights

The Zambezi River and its many channels are the lifeblood of this region. You can get excellent close up views of animals as they come and go from the riverside. Many lodges are set close to the water so armchair game viewing is a highlight.

Canoe safaris on the Lower Zambezi are a must do for visitors - it is one of the best ways to see game. Whether it is a short excursion from your base camp or a longer multiple day adventure with overnights at camps along the way, this activity is easy and relaxing to do.

Fishing for Tiger Fish is a challenging and hugely popular activity when the flood waters are high and in the rainy summer season. You can set off with an experienced river guide in a fully kitted boat and visit all the top spots. Fly-fishing is also a highlight.

Activities

Top activities in the Lower Zambezi region include canoe safaris, boating, fishing, game drives and walking safaris. This park is known for its big Elephant and Buffalo herds and you can also see Lion and maybe even Leopard on exciting night drives. There are also Wild Dog packs in the park.

Climate

The Dry Season - April to October. The coolest months are June and July with warm sunny days and chilly nights and mornings (average daily temperature is about 22 degrees C / 71 degrees F or higher with a drop of about 10 degrees at night). The months get progressively hotter into October, which is the hottest and driest month when daily temperatures average 33 degrees C / 91 degrees F and sometimes climbing up by another 10 degrees.

The Wet Season - November to March. This season is hot and humid. Light rains start in November with heavy downpours setting in from December. The days are usually sunny with some cloud cover building up for rainstorms which often occur at night. Temperatures are similar to those of October but getting slightly cooler as the season progresses.

The Experience

The dry season, especially from June to September is excellent for game viewing as thirsty animals start to gather at permanent waterholes and along the river. Canoeing safaris can be done most of the year on daily outings, or on trips of between 3 to 6 days travelling downstream with an expert river guide, overnighting at camps along the way.

Tiger fishing from a motor boat is excellent when the flood waters are high. August to November is peak season for catching Tigers on the Lower Zambezi. Once the water levels have dropped you can explore the waterways in a canoe, just be careful of the Hippos and Crocs. Although the heavy rains may muddy the waters a bit here and there in the wet season, you can easily fish all the way into March.

The Lower Zambezi may not have the diversity of game like the other bigger parks in Zambia, but you can see large herds of Elephant and Buffalo (at least a 100 strong) and a range of predators. The river is the domain of Hippos and Crocodiles and on the plains you'll see a variety of antelope species such as Kudu, Wildebeest, Zebra and Impala. The water resources of this park draw prolific birdlife year round with many migrants arriving in November, which is the start of breeding season and the rains. The floodplains are extremely fertile especially after the flood waters have receded, revealing rich food sources for birds. You could spot African Skimmers and even Ospreys or Spoonbills amongst more common species.

Find out about Canoe Safaris on Lower Zambezi

What You Need to Know

This is a malaria zone and you should get good advice on any vaccinations you may need and a suitable malaria prophylactic. You can avoid being bitten by covering up exposed skin (especially wrists and ankles) in particular at dawn and dusk and using repellents.

Safari activities set off in the very early morning and in the late afternoon when the temperatures are more comfortable and the animals are active. The heat will be more than you are probably used to. To avoid dehydration make sure you drink plenty of water, the lodges usually provided bottled water.
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