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Lower Zambezi

Lower Zambezi

Easily reached – it’s only a short light aircraft hop from Lusaka!  The Lower Zambezi National Park may be one of Zambia’s smallest parks, but it is certainly one of it’s most picturesque. 

The main attraction is the dry season (July to October) game viewing when the diverse wildlife congregates near the Zambezi River.

Elegant camps sit on the edge of the Zambezi River where hippos wallow and crocodiles gape on its lush green river banks.  Elephants wade back and forth across the river boundary dividing the National Parks of the Lower Zambezi and Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools directly opposite.  The opportunities to get close to elephants wandering in and out of the Zambezi channels are amazing, whether viewed from the river bank or by boat or canoe.

Inland we have a beautiful valley that could almost have been designed by Capability Brown where winter thorn trees drop their “so called” apple ring pods.  When the dry season takes hold, herds of impala and elephants gorge on these treats. 

A rugged escarpment punctuates a halt to this Garden of Eden, confining and concentrating the wildlife within the park.  This makes for exceptional game viewing.  Lion and leopard, the parks major predators, stalk buffalo and antelope species who share this territory with serval, honey badgers, hyenas, porcupine, genets and more.

A select number of camps are dotted along the length of the Zambezi offering clients a luxury safari experience with outstanding levels of  hospitality and wildlife game viewing.  Tiger fishing joins the list of exciting activities with wilderness brunches a speciality in this part of Zambia.

 

at a glance

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Introduction

The Lower Zambezi National Park is an outstanding reserve in one of the worlds’ most scenic, and one of Africa’s most attractive parks. Still relatively underdeveloped, its beauty lies in its absolute wilderness state. Bounded by the northern banks of the beautiful Zambezi River on one side and a dramatic woodland escarpment on the other, the area is a photographer’s heaven in addition to being a rich and mesmerising sanctuary for wildlife. Renowned for its stunning scenery and lush landscape, the area is one of nature’s treasures. From beautiful grassy flood plains dotted with 30 meter high acacias to riverine forests and dense miombo woodland, this area of Zambia provides excellent habitats for a range of interesting species. The diversity of animals is not as broad as other parks but the chances to get close to game wandering in and out of the Zambezi channels are spectacular.

Africa’s 4th largest river, the Zambezi, is a prime location for close-up encounters and an enhanced game viewing experience of the African wilderness and wildlife. Guests cannot get closer than this to the exciting river life the Zambezi has to offer as canoe and kayak safaris provide a once in a lifetime opportunity to view hippo and crocodile within arm’s reach from the laid back comfort of their canoe. During the dry season, herds of elephant and buffalo in excess of 100 roam the river banks as they quench their thirst at the Zambezi River and contribute thrilling displays as they swim the river to Zimbabwe. For a contrasting wildlife spectrum, the floodplain attracts the majority of Africa’s big game, with giraffe, cheetah and rhino being the only exceptions. Rare antelope species of duiker and grysbok feature along with monitor lizards and entertaining cape clawless otter. Leopard sightings are a highlight, as night drives provide the ideal opportunity to view these magnificent creatures in their nocturnal habitats while lion and spotted hyena deliver exhilarating predator-prey displays during the day.

The birdlife inland and along the riverbanks is exceptional due to the extensive range of habitats the Lower Zambezi has to offer. With over 370 species, the national park is an ideal spot for keen birdwatchers. Large colonies of colourful bee-eaters nest along the sandy riverbanks while rare species of Red-winged Pratincoles and narina trogan migrate during the summer months. The skies are a prominent theatre of the Lower Zambezi, with large raptors and flocks of quela forming unforgettable spectacles. Zambia’s national emblem, the fish eagle, is particularly common with its distinctive and ubiquitous cry.

The most outstanding aspect of this safari area is the range of activities on offer. The National Park not only offers the best wildlife opportunities within Zambia’s Lower Zambezi, it offers varied game-viewing activities including first class canoe trips down the river, exciting game drives, motorboat excursions and top end walking safaris second only to South Luangwa. For thrill-seekers the river lends itself to exciting water sports however fishermen will enjoy searching for vundu and 50kg tiger fish amidst the rest of the extensive river life. Near the western border of the park, the Chongwe Falls are a must-see feature as well as being a beautiful spot for bird watching and fishing. Clamber up the rocks to appreciate the full beauty from above. For a more cultural experience, the Chiawa village offers a fantastic opportunity to learn about and interact with the local Goba people.

An additional local attraction located in the Lower Zambezi area is Lake Kariba. The lake’s vastness creates outstanding panoramas over the shimmering waters at sunset, while during the day the world’s second largest dam delivers an awe-worthy spectacle. However, the best game viewing opportunities and lodges are located with the Lower Zambezi National Park. This region would combine well as part of an exciting and varied safari circuit with the South Luangwa National Park, Victoria Falls and Kafue National Park.

When To Visit

January to March: Most lodges are closed during the green season. Game is largely dispersed away from the main river system and game viewing is most challenging as grasses are at their full height. The quality of sightings does not diminish however as the vibrant bush with wildflowers and lush foliage is a time of relative plenty. This is the main birthing season.

April to June: These months mark the period between the green season and the upcoming drier period. April is known as the Emerald season and delivers stunning views and clear skies. Migratory birds remain in plumage and are in preparation to migrate. The dense vegetation of April forces lion onto the roads and wild dog on the open plains which offers first class viewing opportunities. Sightings of lion and leopard in long grass areas are poor. April is very hot, averaging mid to high 30’s. By May, the rains should have abated, and as June approaches, temperatures begin to fall to a mean daytime temperature of 25°C. Game is still largely dispersed, however grass and foliage begins to reduce, making game viewing easier. Elephant and buffalo sightings are not as good as the dry season, but lion spectacles are decent. African Wild Dog den during June so sightings are rate. This is a great birding time for waterfowl on the seasonal lagoons. Most lodges are open by mid-June and some offer off-peak rates.

July to October: The dry season is the most popular and arguably the best time to visit the Lower Zambezi. Throughout the period, temperatures will begin to increase from an average of 26°C in July to in excess of 40°C in October. In July and August, The Zambezi River is the main source of drinking water as the waterholes dry up so game, including elephant and buffalo, migrates from the hinterlands to form considerable concentrations around the river. In September, the peak tiger-fishing season begins. Carmine Bee-eaters begin to roost along the riverbeds in September. Game viewing is easiest and most productive at this time and visibility is excellent. The sausage tree and flame creeper starts to flower which transforms the green foliage into bright red. Acacia trees turn into bright red canopies as the flame creeper comes into flower. All lodges should be open during this period; however they will be at peak price. Towards the end of October, the threat of rain is evident from building clouds and rising temperatures.

November to December – In November, impala begin to drop their young as migrant birds return to the area, especially cuckoos and storks. Tigerfishing prospects remain good throughout this month until the heavy rains arrive. Late October and early November represents the most uncomfortable time of year as temperatures exceed 40°C and humidity rises, however it is the best time for avid fishermen. However, these conditions improve as December approaches. The rains fill seasonal waterholes, causing game to disperse from the main river into the hinterland. Impala, warthog and other animals begin to give birth as the rains arrive (usually late October/early November). Game viewing densities are lower than the dry season; however visibility is still good as the foliage has not grown to its full size yet. Most lodges have closed due to inaccessibility as a result of the rains.

Misc

  • All lodges and canoeing operators are open from April to November with Kayila lodge being the exception as it is open all year.
  • Fishing is best in September to October, with Tiger-fishing peaking from Mid-September to November.
  • Game viewing is best in the dry season (June-October) when wildlife heads to the Zambezi River.

Temperature & Rainfall

Livingstone sun and rainfall chartLivingstone Temperature chart

Lower Zambezi Highlights

Luxury Camps

Luxury Camps

Luxury Camps

The Lower Zambezi has some superb owner operated camps scenically located on the river’s edge. ...

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Luxury Camps

Luxury Camps

The Lower Zambezi has some superb owner operated camps scenically located on the river’s edge. The hospitality and quality of guiding is second to none.

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Superb Hospitality

Superb Hospitality

Superb Hospitality

Zambia does hospitality well and the Lower Zambezi excels. Guests are regularly pampered with Bush ...

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Superb Hospitality

Superb Hospitality

Zambia does hospitality well and the Lower Zambezi excels. Guests are regularly pampered with Bush Dinners and Sundowners on the Zambezi River.

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Predators

Predators

Predators

The wildlife is concentrated between the Zambezi River and the escarpment which enables first rate ...

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Predators

Predators

The wildlife is concentrated between the Zambezi River and the escarpment which enables first rate game viewing of both prey and predators.

There are even special sightings such as this Serval cat.

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Canoe Safari

Canoe Safari

Canoe Safari

The Lower Zambezi is renowned for its spectacular canoeing. With no experience needed - it is an ...

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Canoe Safari

Canoe Safari

The Lower Zambezi is renowned for its spectacular canoeing. With no experience needed – it is an effortless drift, as you explore the river banks where game can be seen from a more natural perspective.

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Private Safari Houses

Private Safari Houses

Private Safari Houses

The Lower Zambezi is the perfect place for a celebration and offers uniquely designed private ...

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Private Safari Houses

Private Safari Houses

The Lower Zambezi is the perfect place for a celebration and offers uniquely designed private houses. Families or groups will enjoy the services of a Butler, Private Guide and a choice of game viewing activities tailored to suit.

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Boat Safaris

Boat Safaris

Boat Safaris

Scenic boat cruises are a very relaxing way to view the game that comes down to the river to drink ...

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Boat Safaris

Boat Safaris

Scenic boat cruises are a very relaxing way to view the game that comes down to the river to drink and bathe and a perfect way to round off the day with an amazing Zambezi sunset and floating sundowners.

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Tiger Fishing

Tiger Fishing

Tiger Fishing

The Zambezi River is host to some of the most spectacular fresh water sport fishing in the world ...

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Tiger Fishing

Tiger Fishing

The Zambezi River is host to some of the most spectacular fresh water sport fishing in the world with plentiful Tigerfish, Bream and Tilapia amongst others. It’s a fun activity on a strictly catch and release basis.

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Private Concession Safari Experience

Private Concession Safari Experience

Private Concession Safari Experience

Experience award winning camps and guides, in camps with a strong conservation ethos and commitment ...

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Private Concession Safari Experience

Private Concession Safari Experience

Experience award winning camps and guides, in camps with a strong conservation ethos and commitment to the local community. The Lower Zambezi with camps that provide decadent cuisine and personalised service will provide the experience of a lifetime.

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Elephants in Camp

Elephants in Camp

Elephants in Camp

In one of southern’s Africa premier game viewing locations, it is a daily occurrence for ...

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Elephants in Camp

Elephants in Camp

In one of southern’s Africa premier game viewing locations, it is a daily occurrence for elephants to wander through camp.

Photo credit: Chiawa Camp

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camps & lodges

Anabezi

Anabezi

Anabezi Camp has an exclusive setting overlooking the Mushika River floodplain and the Zambezi River. Anabezi's name is derived from the Ana Trees ... Read More

Baines River Camp

Baines River Camp

Baines' River Camp is located in the eastern region of the Chiawa Game Management Area, on the northern bank of the Zambezi River and within the ... Read More

Chiawa Camp

Chiawa Camp

Chiawa Camp is an owner-run camp, set on the banks of the Zambezi River overlooking Zimbabwe's Mana Pools and inside the Lower Zambezi National ... Read More

Chongwe River Camp

Chongwe River Camp

Chongwe River Camp is situated on the confluence of the mighty Zambezi and Chongwe Rivers, directly opposite the famed Mana Pools World Heritage Site ... Read More

Chongwe River House

Chongwe River House

Zambia's Lower Zambezi is renowned throughout Africa for its magnificent herds of wild elephant, exceptional predator viewing and of course the ... Read More

Old Mondoro

Old Mondoro

Remote and perhaps in the most scenic location far inside the Lower Zambezi National Park, Old Mondoro is family owned and operated by the ... Read More