November 17

My Zambia Safari: The Most Extraordinary Place on Earth

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By Justine Ryan on
November 17, 2021

I recently had the opportunity to go on a Zambia safari. Having worked for Rhino Africa for almost a decade now, I’ve been exceptionally privileged to have travelled throughout our beautiful continent. I have loved every adventure, whether it’s following leopards in the Sabi Sand, the endless plains of East Africa, or the Okavango Delta waterways.

However, my most recent trip is one that has touched my heart more profoundly than I ever could have imagined. My Zambia safari was beyond extraordinary and life-changing. Here’s why…

Why Zambia? 

young elephant in Zambia
Zambia is one of Africa’s true hidden safari gems. Image Credit: Justine Ryan

Zambia has always been on my bucket list, but somehow I never quite got the chance to visit. I think it’s because other “flashier” destinations always seemed to take preference, which meant Zambia fell into a sort of “ugly duckling” safari destination category (and yes, the metaphor is entirely intended).

So, when a colleague of mine (and fellow Rhino Africa Travel Expert), who absolutely loves Zambia, suggested we take advantage of the great Covid specials as well as availability during peak season, I jumped at the chance.

And so, we embarked on our eight-night safari from the last week of September to the first week of October. This is a great time to visit before the annual rains cause most camps to shut from November to March/April.

Where We Stayed 

The two reserves we wanted to stay at were the Lower Zambezi National Park and South Luangwa National Park. Each boasts one of Africa’s great rivers (by the same name as the park) and provides exceptional game viewing and safari opportunities.  

leopard in Zambia
The sheer abundance of wildlife and breathtaking backdrops in Zambia are among the best anywhere in Africa. Image Credit Justine Ryan

Getting to Zambia and the National Parks is surprisingly easy too. We departed from Cape Town early in the morning with a transfer in Johannesburg before flying into Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. From there, we then boarded our little plane to hop on over to our first lodge, Anabezi, in Lower Zambezi National Park. 

Anabezi, Lower Zambezi National Park 

Anabezi Lodge - Lower Zambezi NP - Zambia
Anabezi Lodge in Lower Zambezi National Park is a gateway to endless discovery. Image Credit: Anabezi

We opted for two nights here. However, on reflection, and if time allows, I would highly recommend staying for longer. In fact, I can say the same for each of the properties we visited on our trip. There’s just so much to see and do that two or three nights disappear far too quickly. 

Anabezi has 12 Luxury Tents right on the Zambezi River. Each tent has its own plunge pool and is connected to the main camp with an elevated wooden walkway. But what I really love about Anabezi is the variety of activities. 

Highlights

For me, Anabezi has the most incredible terrain, possibly of any safari destination I’ve ever visited. There are woodlands and open plains, and the massive trees were mind-boggling. The game in this area was also insane, and wherever you looked, there were animals. It felt like a small part of African Eden!

For instance, on our first game drive, we saw the following: two male lions, a leopard in a tree with its kill, a huge herd of over 100 buffalo, many herds of elephants with babies, a pack of 39 wild dogs, plains game, three genets, civet, white tail mongoose, hippo and warthog. And the rest of our game drives were just as good!

wild dog pups in zambia
The youngsters in a pack of wild dogs battle for the scraps left over after a kill. Image Credit: Justine Ryan

Zambia is home to the original walking safari, and there’s no better place in Africa for this. They pioneered the concept, and the terrain makes this the ideal place to explore Africa’s wildest places safely. Anabezi also offers incredible water safaris as well as standard game drives. And with so much to choose from, no day is ever the same here. 

Chiawa Camp, Lower Zambezi National Park

Chiawa Camp Lower Zambezi National Park
Chiawa Camp’s riverside location puts you in and amongst the plentiful wildlife of Lower Zambezi National Park. Image Credit: Chiawa Camp

Our next stop was Chiawa Camp, also in the Lower Zambezi National Park. It was really special that they transferred us to Chiawa on water (and not a dusty road or even air transfer). 

Being able to relax on the boat and gently float your way to the next camp is unique to this region. There’s a deep sense of relaxation when you are on the water. The stillness, gentle flow of the water and the game all around you are magical. It permeates your head and your heart and is a complete and immediate connection to the wilderness around you. 

Highlights

Tiger fishing in Zambia.
Tigerfish are world-renowned among anglers for their aggressive nature and excellent fight.

Chiawa Camp is also right on the water, and the canoeing here was a real highlight. From our canoe, we saw elephants right by the water’s edge and even lions from the boat. We also tried our hand at tiger fishing (a predatory freshwater fish famed for its fight). It was exhilarating! And this comes from someone who is not an avid angler in any sense of the word. And even better, they have all the equipment you need, and their expert hand and guidance are always handy. We even met an American couple who make the journey here every year to enjoy the thrill and excitement of catching tigerfish in the mighty Zambezi River.

Puku Ridge, South Luangwa National Park

Puku Ridge, South Luangwa National Park
The remote, Kakumbi Dambo floodplain of South Luangwa National Park is home to Puku Ridge. Image Credit: Puku Ridge

Our last lodge was Puku Ridge, which is in South Luangwa National Park. They recently refurbished the lodge, combining local, bespoke art with elevated luxury. The view overlooking the vast plain means that just by relaxing by your own plunge pool, you can see giraffes stroll by or watch elephants come to the waterhole to drink. 

Highlights

The birdlife here was a real highlight for me and on one of our drinks stops, hundreds of Carmine bee-eaters surrounded us. They were flying around, catching the insects around us as the sun set with the iridescent crimson highlighted through their wings. 

Carmine Bee Eaters in the sky.
Zambia is blessed with an incredible array of birdlife. A personal highlight of mine were the flocks of Carmine Bee-Eaters. Image Credit: Benjamin Ackerman

They don’t offer water-based safaris at Puku Ridge, but their land safaris are exceptional with a wide variety of animals. The puku antelope, where the lodge gets its name, is not found in most other well-known national parks. However, you’ll see plenty of them at Puku Ridge.

Book Your Zambia Safari 

My Zambia safari was a journey of the soul and a rejuvenation of African magic. It showed me that there’s always something new to experience in Africa, new adventures to undertake, things to explore and incredible destinations. But more than this, it proved once again how magical it is to spend time in Africa’s wild spaces. 

Zambia is a safari destination that will inspire, astound and delight. It’s an unsung hero of the African bush, and while it’s off-the-beaten-track and not well-known, it’s a safari destination that punches well above its weight. It is no ugly duckling but rather the glamorous swan of safaris and, in my humble opinion, quite simply the most extraordinary place on earth. 

lion resting in Zambia
Intimate sightings of the Big 5 are almost guaranteed when visiting Zambia. Image Credit: Justine Ryan

Take the plunge, and book your Zambia safari of a lifetime with Rhino Africa. From personal experience, I can tell you that you will not regret it.

Let’s Start Planning Your Zambia Safari!

Contact our Travel Experts today, and let’s plan your dream African safari!

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About the author 

Justine Ryan

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