Evening game drives in South Luangwa come with sundowners stops. © Art of Safari

We Go So You’ll Know | South Luangwa & Lower Zambezi, Zambia

While the Art of Safari team is already well acquainted with Africa, we believe keeping up to date is vital to when it comes to offering safari goers the best advice. As such, safari specialist Nicky Mears recently went to South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi in Zambia – here are her impressions. We go so you’ll know!

What areas did you visit in Zambia, and what were they like?

I visited the Lower Zambezi and South Luangwa national parks. Lower Zambezi is very pretty, as you have the escarpment with rolling hills in the background. Almost all of the camps are dotted along the wide Zambezi River, giving you a kind of beach-and-bush experience.

Located at the tail-end of the Great Rift Valley, South Luangwa’s terrain is different; here you get a great feeling of being in the wilderness, far away from others.

What safari activities were available in each?

Lower Zambezi offers day and night game drives, walking safaris and outstanding birding as well as river activities like catch-and-release tiger fishing, canoeing and cruises. South Luangwa’s claim to fame is its extended walking safaris, plus day and night game drives.

How does the game viewing in Zambia compare to other safari destinations?

Initially I thought nothing could beat East Africa, but Zambia is a real hidden gem – it’s relatively unknown, which means very exclusive game viewing. We were fortunate to see a number of rarer species in a short space of time.

Cat sightings are outstanding, day and night, and we saw as many leopard as we did lion, which was plenty! I just loved the pukus in South Luangwa … they’re as common as impala but so sweet. The nocturnal game viewing in both areas is awesome – most memorable was a python that was waiting for an unsuspecting creature to cross its path.

Birding is similarly superb, but of the two, it’s most impressive in Lower Zambezi because of the river … I learnt so much about them from the fantastic guides. My highlight was seeing a fish eagle stealing the head of a fish out the mouth of a marabou stork!

Tell us about the accommodation, and the meals.

Camps are small and exclusive; guests are given the utmost attention in every way, including from the guides, who I found to be truly passionate and knowledgeable. Then of course if you aren’t game viewing, you’re eating … how these remote camps are able to rustle up fantastic three-course meals at every setting just amazes me.

Most camps also offer a ‘surprise’ bush meal during your stay. My highlight was being taken – by boat, at night – to an island in the middle of the Zambezi River. To add to the excitement, it was full moon, and it was just magical arriving at this fully set up bush dinner in the middle of nowhere, with romantic lanterns dotted around…

What was most memorable about your safari?

I have many wonderful memories, and I really did fall in love with Zambia. In Lower Zambezi … well, at a push, I’d say canoeing down the river for over an hour. At first I was a bit nervous because there are so many hippos and crocs, but I quickly relaxed when I realised how in tune my guide was to our surroundings. The peace and solitude you experience there is hard put into words.

In South Luangwa it was our walking safari; it was just a few of us guests, with two guides and an armed tracker, all the way through the wilderness from Tena Tena to Nsefu Camp. It was thrilling to experience Nature like this on foot – a totally different perspective from a game drive.

Which is better: Lower Zambezi or South Luangwa?

They both have their strong points. I actually think a South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi combination makes for an ideal safari that will offer excellent diversity of both activities and landscape. The two are easily connected via light aircraft; you could do it in either order, but I’d recommend ending off in Lower Zambezi because the water activities are very relaxing.

What kind of guest would you recommend Zambia to?

If you’re after a completely immersive and authentic trip – in remote and wild locations with outstanding wildlife – look no further. The only limitation is your timeline: in both areas most of the camps are inaccessible (and therefore closed) from November to April, for the rainy season.

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