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Zambia

Zambia

Zambia is blessed with awe-inspiring natural wonders and offers the experienced safari traveler an opportunity to see an extraordinary amount of wildlife and explore some of the most remote wilderness areas. Formally the territory of Northern Rhodesia, Zambia obtained independence from the UK in 1964. The country is landlocked, sharing its borders with an astonishing eight other countries. Its three great rivers — the Zambezi, Luangwa and the Kafue — flow through Zambia and are the foundation of the country’s top wildlife areas. Zambia's premier park is South Luangwa National Park, home to an astonishing diversity of wildlife including smaller predators such as civet, genet and mongoose. In the west of the country is the vast and largely untouched Kafue National Park, Africa’s largest parks and hidden gems, covering some 22,400 sq km (8,648 sq mi), making it comparable to the size of New Jersey, Belize or Israel. The park supports an abundance of big game including elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard and even cheetah. The Lower Zambezi National Park stretches along a narrow swathe (4,000 sq km (1,544 sq mi) on the river of the same name. It’s home to enormous herds of elephant and sightings of lion and leopard are a regular occurrence. The river eventually flows over the mighty Victoria Falls, one of Africa’s if not the world’s natural wonders and Zambia’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. The relatively low number of tourists makes for a satisfying safari experience.

Location: Southern Africa, east of Angola, south of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Border countries (8): East (Malawi and Mozambique), West (Angola), North (Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania ), South (Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe),

Area: 752,618 sq km (290,587 sq mi)

Comparative: Slightly larger than Texas

Zambia Wildlife

Mammal Species: 255 (20th in Africa)

The Big Nine (9 of 9): Includes the 'Big Five' (Elephant, Buffalo, Rhino, Lion, Leopard) plus Cheetah, Giraffe, Hippo and Zebra (Burchell's). The 'Big Nine' refers to the nine most sought after animals to see while on safari. The 'Big Five' refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot.

Carnivores: Aardwolf, Bat-eared Fox, Caracal, Civet (African and African Palm), Genet (Angolan, Common and Panther), Honey badger, Mongoose (Banded, Bushy-tailed, Common dwarf, Egyptian, Marsh, Meller's, Selous', Slender and White-tailed), Otter (Clawless and Speckle-throated), Serval, Side-striped Jackal, Striped weasel, Spotted hyena, Striped polecat, Wild Cat, Wild dog

Other Wildlife: Aardvark, Antelope (Roan and Sable), Blue & white-bearded wildebeest, Bush hyrax, Bushbuck, Bushpig, Cape porcupine, Duiker (Blue, Grey, Natal and Yellow-backed), Gemsbok, Greater kudu, Impala, Klipspringer, Lechwe, Marshbuck, Oribi, Pangolin (Cape and Three-cusped), Puka, Rhebok, Sharpe's grysbok, Smith's red rockhare, Steenbok, Southern reedbuck, Tsessebe, Warthog, Waterbuck

Bird Species: 770 (11th in Africa) Bird lovers will enjoy Zambia with a recorded 770 bird species calling this southern African country home.

Wildlife Areas of Zambia

 Excellent   Good   Fair   Poor   None 

South Luangwa National Park

South Luangwa National ParkSouth Luangwa National Park is Zambia's premier park and is home to an astonishing diversity of life. There’s an amazing density of game to be seen particularly along the riverine areas. The river continually erodes a new course through the soft soil of the valley floor, leaving behind dambos (ox-bow lagoons), which hold water late into the dry season. These conditions support large quantities of game in a stunning habitat, with four of the 'Big Five' present, only the rhino is absent. Where game thrives, predators follow including lion, leopard, hyena and other smaller predators such as civet, genet and mongooses. There is also a good chance visitors will see Thornicroft’s Giraffe, a subspecies found only in the southern end of the Luangwa valley.  Further north, there is the Cookson’s Wildebeest, another endemic resident found nowhere else in the world. Aside from game drives, there are excellent walking safaris and night drives conducted by some of the best guides on the continent. The bird-life in the valley is also exceptional, especially during the rainy summer months. But there are beautiful and interesting birds all through the year and learning about them is often an unexpected bonus on a safari. This park appeals to both the novice safari-goer and the repeat visitor.

Best time to visit:  Jan¹   Feb¹   Mar¹   Apr   May   Jun   Jul 
 Aug 
 Sep 
 Oct² 
 Nov   Dec¹ 
Chance of spotting the Big Nine:  Elephant   Buffalo   Lion   Giraffe   Hippo   Zebra   Leopard   Cheetah   Rhino 

¹ These months make up the wet rainy season with heavy afternoon downpours. Most camps close except for a few in the Mfue area of the park.

² Wildlife viewing peaks in October and so does the heat with temps reaching as high as 40°C/104°F. The humidity can make it uncomfortably hot.

 

Lower Zambezi National Park

Lower Zambezi National ParkAt just over 4000 square kilometers, the Lower Zambezi National Park stretches in a narrow swathe from the Chongwe River in the west to the Luangwa River in the east. The area was declared a National Park in 1983 and today remains one of the few pristine wilderness areas left in Africa. Opposite the Mana Pool Reserve on the Zimbabwe side, there is an escarpment along the northern end, which acts as a physical barrier to most of the park's animal species. Enormous herds of elephant are often seen at the river’s edge. 'Island hopping' buffalo and waterbuck are common. There are good predator populations with sightings of lion and leopard a regular occurrence. Rich in biodiversity there are a number of ecosystems in the park, ranging from montane thickets on the slopes of the escarpment to miombo woodlands, grassy floodplains and riparian forests. Birdlife in the area is also outstanding, making this a real hot spot for ornithologists.

Best time to visit:  Jan¹   Feb¹   Mar¹   Apr   May   Jun   Jul 
 Aug 
 Sep 
 Oct 
 Nov   Dec¹ 
Chance of spotting the Big Nine:  Hippo   Elephant   Zebra   Buffalo   Lion   Leopard   Giraffe   Rhino   Cheetah 

¹ These months make up the wet rainy season with heavy afternoon downpours. Camps close down during this time.

² Wildlife viewing peaks in October and so does the heat with temps reaching as high as 40°C/104°F. The humidity can make it uncomfortably hot.

 

 Kafue National Park

Kafue National ParkThe vast and largely untouched Kafue National Park is Africa’s last hidden gem, covering some 22,400 km sq., making it one of the largest parks in Africa and comparable to the size of Belize or Israel. Kafue has remained largely untouched by development and thus it remains a unique and pristine wilderness with sublime scenery, game viewing and bird watching. More diverse than any park in Africa, the wildlife of the Kafue is as numerous as it is varied, with an abundance of big game including elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard and even cheetah. The Kafue is also home to one of the last remaining viable populations of the rare and endangered African wild dog. With 19 species of antelope, Kafue is blessed with the greatest diversity of ungulates in any park in sub-saharan Africa including Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, Defassa waterbuck, puku and red lechwe. Other species such as eland, roan, sable, oribi and blue wildebeest are present, to name but a few. In addition to the antelopes there is a plethora of other unusual wildlife with pangolin, bushpig, side-striped jackal, honey badger and numerous species of the playful mongoose family making up megafaunal diversity unrivaled anywhere in Africa. Although the mammalian diversity is impressive it pales into insignificance when considering that the Kafue is home to almost 500 species of bird, including elusive and rare birds such as the Pel’s Fishing Owl and the African Finfoot.

Best time to visit:  Jan¹   Feb¹   Mar¹   Apr   May   Jun   Jul 
 Aug 
 Sep 
 Oct 
 Nov   Dec¹ 
Chance of spotting the Big Nine:  Elephant   Zebra   Buffalo   Hippo   Lion   Leopard   Cheetah   Giraffe   Rhino 

¹ These months make up the wet rainy season with heavy afternoon downpours. Camps close down during this time.

² Wildlife viewing peaks in October. Unlike the low altitude parks of Luangwa and Zambezi, the temps in Kafue are roughly 6°C/11°F cooler because of the parks higher altitude and central location.

Zambia Travel Options

Zambia Destination | Zambia Safari Tours | Women Only Zambia Safari Tours | Couples Only Zambia Safari Tours | Custom Zambia Safari |Zambia River Cruising

 

Sources: CIA 2017, UNESCO 2017, World Conservation Monitoring Centre of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP-WCMC), 2004. Species Data (unpublished, September 2004)