April 5

Wildlife and Waterfalls: Southern Africa Safari Tour in Zimbabwe and Zambia

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April 5, 2022

When it comes to a Southern Africa safari tour, you want to combine the best destinations for the ultimate experience. At Rhino Africa, all our tours are tailor-made. However, this example tour will spark your imagination and give you an idea of what your Southern Africa safari tour can look like! It features plenty of wildlife, particularly our beloved gentle giants, and water wonderlands like Lake Kariba and the thundering Victoria Falls. And you get to experience all of this in two neighbouring countries, in some of Zimbabwe's and Zambia's premier safari destinations. 

Starlit dinner at Somalisa Camp

Starlit dinners under the African sky, image credit: Somalisa Acacia Camp

Why Zimbabwe and Zambia?

So, with Southern Africa having so many excellent destinations, why would you choose Zimbabwe and Zambia? These destinations have more in common with one another than their first letters. They are both wildlife and safari meccas, and they share access to the famous Victoria Falls. 

A common debate is actually whether Zimbabwe or Zambia is better, especially when it comes to seeing Victoria Falls. Well, we've never been able to choose, so we decided to combine the two on this tour! 

However, there are many other differences when it comes to what each offers. Zimbabwe is known for its high density of elephants and big cats, In contrast, Zambia is an off-the-beaten-track safari destination dubbed the 'birthplace of the walking safari'. Although you can see Victoria Falls from both, you only have access to nature's infinity pool, Devil's Pool, overhanging the falls, as well as the famous Livingstone Island, from Zambia's side. 

Together, these two destinations offer the ideal Southern Africa safari adventure from waterfalls and boat cruises to traversing bush on foot. 

Aerial view of the Zambezi River, Victoria Falls

The Zambezi River that feeds Victoria Falls is a dreamy water playpark

What You Can Expect: An Overview

Your dream safari experience begins in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park. Famous for its gentle giants, you'll have plenty of opportunities to marvel at their grandeur! Of course, there will also be plenty of other safari stars to add to the show, from big cats like lion and leopard to giraffe, buffalo, zebra, and more.

Next you'll make your way to the magical Lake Kariba. Stare at kaleidoscopic sunsets on the shores as the wildlife goes about their businesses, quenching their thirst or playing in the water. Then it's time for Mana Pools National Park, offering an exhilarating safari in rushing waters populated by hippo and crocodile. Mana Pools is also famous for its gravity-defying elephants, getting up on their hind legs to reach fruit high up in the trees! Wildlife photographers stream from all over the world to capture this unusual sight.

Zambia holds the grand finale as you'll experience the grandeur of Victoria Falls and its various game viewing opportunities.

Sur les rapides du Zambèze aux chutes Victoria - des découvertes hors sentiers battus africaines pour 2022

The incredible view of Victoria Falls from a helicopter

First Stop: Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

Recommended stay: 2 nights 

Hwange National Park is home to one of the biggest elephant herds in Africa, and is the largest (and oldest) national park in Zimbabwe.

Therefore, it's arguably one of Africa's most exceptional game-viewing destinations. And you can traverse the park and see its magnificent animals on foot, on horseback, or a game drive. The wildlife you can look forward to seeing includes the lion, leopard, rhino, giraffe, buffalo, zebra, gemsbok, hyena, African wild dog, and many more.

Elephants from a hide at Hwange National Park

View of the elephants from a hide at Hwange National Park, image credit: Katharina Riebesel

Where You Should Stay

Depending on who you travel with and what you prefer, we can recommend the best places to stay. Here's one of our favourites to suggest to our guests.

Somalisa Camp

Zimbabwe's largest wildlife haven is home to the luxurious Somalisa Camp. The camp rests on a seasonal floodplain, dripping with old-world safari charm. 

Why We Love It

  • Prime location in Hwange National Park, the largest in Zimbabwe. 
  • Overlooks a seasonal floodplain frequented by game 
  • Exclusive with only six tents on the property
  • Activities include guided walks, game drives, game-viewing from hides, and more 
A rustic, opulent bathroom at Somalisa Acacia

The opulent bathroom opens to spectacular views, image credit: Somalisa Acacia

Next Up: Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe

Recommended stay: 2 nights 

According to an ancient legend, a river god called Nyami Nyami with a fish head and snake body resided in the Zambezi River. This river god and local Zambezi Valley residents lived in harmony. That is, until the 1950s, when construction on Kariba Dam started, separating the Nyami Nyami from his wife.

Enraged by the interference of man in the business of nature, the river god forced his way upstream to reunite with his wife, causing the dam to flood the valley, thereby forming Lake Kariba. Today, it's home to plenty of hippo, crocodile, tigerfish, and more. From safari boat cruises to fishing excursions and bird watching, it's as tranquil as it's adventurous.

Elephant during sunset at Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe

Sunsets are sensational at Lake Kariba

Where You Should Stay

Where you stay will greatly impact your experience of the area. Here's where we love to send many of our guests who want to visit Lake Kariba.

Bumi Hills Safari Lodge

Bumi Hills Safari Lodge is ideally located right next to Lake Karibu for easy access. The lodge also offers a range of activities, including armchair safaris, boat cruises and cultural village trips. The lake is also teeming with tigerfish, attracting anglers from across the world. 

Why We Love It

  • Walking safaris, game drives, birding and cultural experiences
  • Only ten rooms, all overlooking Lake Kariba
  • Anglers can try their hand at catching tigerfish in the lake 
  • Large local herds of elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo and plains game 
View over Lake Kariba from Bumi Hills

The best view of Lake Kariba, image credit: Bumi Hills Safari Lodge

Next Up: Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe

Recommended stay: 3 nights 

Four ancient pools, formed over thousands of years by the ever-fluctuating course of the wild Zambezi River, mark Mana Pools National Park as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is known for its fantastic game viewing and bird watching opportunities. Most notably, the elephants are a drawcard, particularly because they seem to defy gravity to reach the top of the trees in the dry season.

Nile crocodiles and fearsome hippos also emerge from the depths of the water, while treetops are a flurry of feathers with over 350 species of birdlife. Elephant, buffalo, and more flock to the pools' lush banks for food while big cats and hyenas follow not too far behind.

Famous Mana Pool elephant stands on his hind legs to reach food in the trees

The gravity-defying elephants in Mana Pools

Where You Should Stay 

Not all properties are created equal. But that's why we're here, to help select the best one for your specific needs and wants. Here's just one of our favourite places to recommend in Mana Pools.

Kanga Camp

Escape to one of the most remote areas of Mana Pools at Kanga Camp. With only six Meru-style tents, Kanga Camp offers an exclusive safari experience.

Why We Love It

  • Kanga Pan is the only permanent water source in the area, luring wildlife to the camp
  • Enjoy the seclusion of staying in one of the most remote areas in Mana Pools
  • Only six luxury tents offer the utmost privacy and serenity 
  • Zambezi floodplains are frequented by the Big 5, African wild dogs, and more
Sundowners drinks

Sundowners are a highlight on a safari, image credit: Kanga Camp

Final Stop: Victoria Falls, Zambia

Recommended stay: 2 nights 

The Kololo name for Victoria Falls is 'Mosi-oa-Tunya', which roughly translates to 'the Smoke that Thunders', aptly describing the grandeur of this UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site. Spanning nearly two kilometres and dropping about 108 metres, Victoria Falls is the largest sheet of falling water in the world— the sheer volume of water cascading over its crags every minute is staggering! 

Victoria Falls in Zambia is an adrenaline junkie's paradise, with activities including white water rafting, bungee jumping, helicopter flips over the falls, swimming in Devil's Pool overhanging the falls, visiting Livingstone Island, and many more. 

Aerial view of the Victoria Falls

Victoria falls in all its grandeur from a bird's-eye view

Where to Stay

Zambia has so many different accommodation options that deciding on one can be overwhelming. We will always recommend one that best suits your specific needs as well as those of your fellow travellers. Here's one we love recommending to our guests.

Thorntree River Lodge

Thorntree River Lodge offers environmentally-friendly accommodation with an elegant African-inspired twist, overlooking the natural splendour of the Zambezi riverfront. The lodge's wooden deck provides the perfect setting for a magical evening on the water.

Why We Love It

  • Easy access to Victoria Falls, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Activities include river cruises, fishing, visiting the Livingstone Museum and nearby village tours 
  • Other activities that can be arranged include rhino tracking, helicopter rides, bungee jumping and rainforest walks
  • Children of all ages are welcome as they have a Ngwana Kids' Club
The deck set on the waters surrounding Thorntree River Lodge

What could be more relaxing than this, image credit: Thorntree River Lodge

Why You’ll Love This Tour

Combining wildlife and water playgrounds, you'll love every moment on this tour if you have a deep appreciation for Africa's landscapes and wildlife. Logistics are also simpler as the two countries are located right next to one another. 

Book Your Southern Africa Safari Tour Today 

Our Travel Experts have travelled far and wide to explore the very best our continent has to offer. Contact them today to start planning your dream African safari holiday! See you in Africa.

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About the author 

Tania de Kock

Tania has always been an avid reader, which ultimately led to her life-long dream of becoming a best-selling author. She loves travelling, super spicy food, South African wine, and cats! When she's not reading with a glass of wine, you can find her at the nearest beach or camping, running or hiking in the mountains.

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