A Beginners Guide to a Zambia Safari

View of the Zambezi from David Livingstone Safari LodgeView of the Zambezi from David Livingstone Safari Lodge
Looking for some guidance on how to safari in Zambia? There are lots of options available to you and much will depend on your preferences. Here is a beginner's guide with a handy check list so you can refine your needs and wants and choose a suitable safari itinerary.

Be sure to read all the information that could be relevant to you, on this site.

Basics

The first thing to do is research your destination and find out more about it. A safari entails staying in the bush in a lodge or tented camp where your accommodation unit has en-suite facilities. Certain types of adventure safaris include staying in campsites with basic shared ablutions.

Lodges and camps range from comfortable to luxurious and facilities will differ accordingly. Catering ranges from wholesome and home cooked to gourmet cuisine. If you have dietary requirements, be sure to let the camp, lodge or tour operator know well in advance. Meals are often eaten outdoors in a traditional boma (open-air enclosure) or in special bush settings. All safari activities such as game viewing drives and bush walks are led by qualified guides or rangers. On walking safaris in Zambia a trained and armed scout also joins in.Safari activities take place in the cooler times of the day (very early morning and late afternoon) when the animals are at their most active and easier to see. In between you can relax at camp. Multiple day walking and canoe safaris stop at a suitable shady spot for lunch and a siesta in the heat of the day. Zambia has 2 main seasons. The dry season is from April to October (June and July are the winter months and October is the hottest month) and the wet season is from November to March which creates high water levels.

Make sure you get good advice on which malaria medication to take and any vaccinations such as Yellow Fever that you may need to have prior to travel. Luggage limitations are small, so pack lightly and carefully for hot sunny days with some warm clothes for cool nights and mornings - read up on what essentials you need. Make sure you drink plenty of water on safari - the heat will probably be more than what you are used to and dehydration is a common problem. Most lodges and camps provide bottled water.

Travel

Lodges and camps in Zambia cater for all kinds of travellers. You can safari independently or join a group on a mobile walking safari, photographic, birding or fishing safari. These groups are usually small. Some walking safaris are ideal for single travellers as no single supplement is levied. You can also join a bigger group which usually sets off from the nearest town or city and travels together throughout. Tick what suits you best from the following:
  • Family / couple / friends / single (select which one)
  • Travelling independently i.e. not part of a group
  • Travelling with others as part of a group
  • Would like to be part of small group
  • Would like to be part of bigger tour group
  • Private guided safari (this is the most exclusive option)

What sort of Safari would you like?

Fly-in safaris save on travel-time and give you more safari-time - it is the most comfortable option. Some camps can only be reached by air. Zambia has a range of safari options which can be created around certain activities and popular destinations. Tick what suits you best from the following:
  • Fly-in (air charter for outlying camps)
  • Fly- in (commercial airline to nearest town and land transfer to camp)
  • Mobile safari i.e. group moves from camp to camp in a custom vehicle
  • Action safari over multiple days with a range of camps (walking / canoeing, select which one)
  • Combination of camps in different areas
  • One camp for the whole safari
  • Combine safari with Victoria Falls / Chobe / Kariba / Lake Tanganyika (select)

Activities

Traditional safari activities at camps and lodges include daily guided game drives, night drives, bush and birding walks and sometimes river activities like short canoe or boat excursions and fishing. These activities take place in the early morning and in the late afternoon, so there is time to relax in between.

Action safaris can be created around certain activities like walking and canoeing, which are multiple day safaris where participants are guided from camp to camp along a route, covering a certain distance each day. If you want to enjoy sports activities with a safari then you will need to visit Victoria Falls, Kariba or Lake Tanganyika on a combination safari. Tick what suits you best from the following:
  • Lots of action and different activities to choose from
  • Some action with time to relax in between
  • Specific interest e.g. photography, birding, fishing (select)
  • Short excursions from camp (game drives / bush walks / canoeing / birding / fishing, select)
  • Multiple day guided action safaris from camp to camp (walking / canoeing, select which one)
  • Sightseeing in Victoria Falls - Livingstone
  • Adventure sports in Victoria Falls (bungi jumping, white water rafting, Elephant Back Rides etc)
  • Resort sports (Kariba - water sports / Lake Tanganyika - scuba diving, select which one)

Type of Lodge / Camp

Zambia has a great range of lodges and camps to suit your pocket and style. Most of the national parks in Zambia are quite remote so tented camps are mostly found there. Tented camps vary from comfortable to luxurious. Tick what suits you best from the following:
  • General appeal
  • Small and intimate
  • Emphasis on couples and romance
  • Family friendly and kid friendly
  • Tented camp
  • Lodge
  • Combination tented camp and lodge

Safari Setting

Seasonal camps can be found in certain areas usually in the dry season and are considered to be the most eco-friendly option as the emphasis is on the wildlife. Permanent camps usually offer facilities like plunge pools and libraries. Some permanent camps close in the wet season while others stay open year round.

Mobile tented camps are usually put up for you in the bush by a back up crew on multiple day luxury walking safaris, while on canoe and mobile safaris you help set them up which is called 'participation'. Some mobile safaris will also stopover at established camps and lodges in between staying in bush camps. Tick what suits you best from the following:
  • Seasonal camp (usually more remote)
  • Permanent camp
  • Mobile camp (luxury or participation basis, select which one)
  • Scenery
  • Riverside
  • Emphasis on general game viewing
  • Emphasis on big game
  • Would like to see a certain type of animal (select which one, Elephant, Lion, etc) if possible
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