May 31

A Zambian Odyssey Part II: Insights from a Rhino Africa Travel Expert


By Amy Knight-Dawson on May 31, 2024

Embark on a Zambian odyssey with Rhino Africa Travel Expert, Tara Beckett, as she shares her experiences. From the awe-inspiring Victoria Falls to the authentic charm of further afield safari camps, gain insights into this Southern African gem's diverse offerings and seasonal highlights. The first blog of this two-part series introduced Zambia, a Southern Africa safari gem made famous for its vastness, wild beauty, and epic wildlife. In this issue, Tara Beckett tells me more about her recent trip and the hospitality experiences that rendered her speechless and left her longing to return. 

Boma fire at night at Bilimungwe Bushcamp

Gather around the fire to share safari stories, Image Credit: Bilimungwe Bushcamp

A Zambian Odyssey as Told by a Travel Expert 

Heading from South Africa, Tara departed Cape Town on local airline Airlink, bound for Zambia's capital, Lusaka, via Johannesburg. Lusaka is the hub for access to the South Luangwa National Park and Lower Zambezi National Park. After an unforgettable few days, she was homebound and more smitten than ever with Zambia, on a seamless connection from Livingstone to Cape Town directly on Kenya Airways.   

The excellent airlift links make Zambia desirable for safari-goers keen to sandwich an exceptional safari between vibrant twin centre cities, Cape Town and Livingstone.  

Lower Zambezi from an aerial perspective

A Zambian odyssey with heart, featuring plenty of natural beauty 

Victoria Falls: Spray, Mist And Rainbows

Thrilling activities such as whitewater rafting or taking an adrenaline-charged helicopter or microlight flight over the world's largest waterfall, Victoria Falls, straddling the countries of Zimbabwe and Zambia abound. The adventurous traveller relishes the prospect of taking a dip on the lip of the waterfall (water levels depending), with millions of litres of water plunging from a dizzy height over the ancient, craggy precipice. 

The Victoria Falls between Zambia and Zimbabwe

The Victoria Falls between Zambia and Zimbabwe is a spectacular sight

Marvel slack-jawed as millions of litres of water gush over the side with such force, causing plumes of mist to rise into the air. The world's most significant sheet of falling water claiming UNESCO World Heritage Site status, Victoria Falls its Lozi moniker, "Mosi-oa-Tunya", which means 'The Smoke That Thunders", adds to the reason it has earned a place among the world's natural wonders. 

If you prefer to explore the area through more sedate activities, a soul-soothing sunset cruise on the glassy Zambezi River or a romantic picnic on Livingstone Island is more your speed. However, note that, although Livingstone is an all-year-round destination, the activities are bound to the Zambezi River and its flood levels. 

Aerial view of people swimming in Devil's Pool

The allure of Devil’s Pool lies is in its unique location, Image Credit: Livingstone Island

Immersive Hospitality: Thorntree River Lodge and Tongabezi

Tara tells me that her favourite place to stay in the Livingstone area is African Bush Camps portfolio-member Thorntree River Lodge.

"I visited Zambia in November during the 'emerald season', a name that embraces the abundant greenery of this time of year once the seasonal rains start. There had been good flood waters this year, so even in November, in low water season, although there was minimal mist – great for an up-close viewing experience of Victoria Falls – there was still a constant water flow. Thorntree River Lodge is located just outside the bustling business town of Livingstone and was a real highlight of my trip. The style of accommodation and cuisine spoke to me."

Pool overlooking the Zambezi at Thornrtee River Lodge

Welcome to your riverside haven

Another beautiful option for an immersive riverine safari is Green Safaris' Tongabezi, located in a stunning location 15 kilometres upstream from Victoria Falls. It's for those who prefer cocoon-like, retreat-style accommodation with personality and easy access to bustling Livingstone. Easy connections to Botswana can be arranged for forays into the UNESCO World Heritage site (yes, another one!), the Okavango Delta

View of the Zambezi River from a private deck at dusk

Tongabezi is an award winning eco-lodge in a hidden location on the banks of the Zambezi River, Image Credit: Tongabezi

Soak up The Energy of Victoria Falls

Here's how this natural wonder of the world tantalises all your senses:

  • Hear the almost deafening roar of the waterfall in full flood
  • Feast your eyes on the voluminous sheets of water plunging into the basalt gorges far below, and look up to see the plumes of "smoke" it causes
  • Feel the kiss of the mist on your skin in the Mosi-oa-Tunya rainforest and feel alive
  • Taste the beautiful cuisine in vibrant Livingstone and its surrounding cafés, restaurants and accommodations
  • Smell the sweet scent of the Zambezi River water hanging in the air in the day's heat as it feeds all life through its biodiversity

Also, have you considered a moonbow safari

Moonbow Victoria Falls

If you're lucky and visit at the right time, you could see a moonbow sighting at Victoria Falls

Safari Adventures: Exploring South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi

Livingstone and its many magnetic virtues aside, the call of the wild is as pervasive as it's potent.  Zambia is the home of walking safaris – an ode to conservationist Norman Carr, the pioneer of walking and photographic safaris in the beautiful South Luangwa Valley.  

Tara says, "The Bushcamp Company's Mfuwe Lodge is an excellent option if you need an overnight at Mfuwe, the gateway to South Luangwa National Park. Sometimes, this is a great option if you arrive in Lusaka late, as the scheduled bush flights are more frequent in the main safari season between June and September. This lodge is also famed for the elephants that walk through the reception searching for mangos."

"In the South Luangwa National Park is The Bushcamp Company's Bilimungwe BushcampHands down, this is my absolute favourite camp. So authentic, and it exudes an exclusive charm," continues Tara. 

An elephant walks through Mfuwe Lodge

A different kind of guest checking in, Image Credit: Mfuwe Lodge

Choosing Your Safari Experience: Space is Luxury

The vastness of this area means that you need to "work" for your safari sightings. You'll enjoy an authentic safari experience dictated by natural migration paths, weather, seasons and terrain. You'll track the animals based on your safari guide and wildlife scouts' exceptional knowledge of the area and leave all expectations at home.  

If you're keen to tick sightings off a bucket list, refrain from choosing Zambia as your safari destination. Here, it's about the unfettered natural flow of life on safari, resetting to the rhythm of nature and not putting too much pressure on the situation. Animal behaviour is complex and influenced by many factors, many of which are outside the control of your safari hosts. 

Safari from the lodge at Bilimungwe Bushcamp

Sit and stare as the wildlife go about their day, Image Credit: Bilimungwe Bushcamp

Take Your Pick 

I sincerely appreciate the world-class hospitality experiences from even the most humble bush camps and marvel at the challenging circumstances under which safari outfits operate. Embracing nature and working harmoniously with the environment and local communities is fundamental to their success. A strong current of goodwill underpins your safari experience, and we're committed to ensuring you have the best possible safari time.

Choosing the right camp for your needs is vital. Do you, like Tara, prefer authentic, off-grid micro-camps with oodles of soul? Or does a small-scale, opulent camp make your heart sing? Zambia has an established hospitality footprint, catering to the full spectrum of the safari market. Certainly no stranger to luxury safaris, they have many options, like Time + Tide's Chinzombo in the South Luangwa Valley. 

Time + Tide Chinzombo

Paradise in Zambia, Image Credit: Time + Tide Chinzombo

The Luangwa and Zambezi: A Tale of Two Rivers

Visit the Lower Zambezi National Park, opposite the UNESCO World Heritage Site Mana Pools National Park, to add a unique facet to your safari experience. 

"Flying from Mfuwe to Lusaka and on to Royal Airstrip was an adventurous day as I travelled from the South Luangwa Valley to the Lower Zambezi National Park. I loved visiting Green Safaris' Sausage Tree Camp, which is gorgeous. Spacious, stretch canvas tents located on the banks of the Zambezi River are so romantic. They spirit you away to a safari experience of another time." 

Sausage Tree Camp in Zambia

Space and luxury all around, Image Credit: Sausage Tree Camp

Choosing the time of year is essential depending on how many areas you wish to combine with Zambia. For example, direct light aircraft flights are not operational between South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi in the emerald (low) season. 

Tara muses, "Originally a holiday bush home owned by a local Zambian family, Lolebezi Safari Camp, managed by African Bush Camps, is located nearer the Royal Airstrip. It is their newest safari property and one of my newfound favourites."

Our Top Places to Stay in Africa in 2023

Lolebezi is one of our favourite places to stay in Zambia

Zambia Safari: Quickfire Q&A with Tara

I wasn't about to let the opportunity to glean invaluable tips from Tara slip away. 

Q: What's your favourite multi-destination trip to combine with a Zambian safari? 

A: You can sandwich a visit to Victoria Falls with a visit to stunning Cape Town and a Zambia safari in one of the iconic parks. 

Q: What's the food like on safari? 

A: Summers are sweltering, and thankfully, the food is light. There was a lot of variety, including colourful, tasty salads, which I appreciated in balmy November. Overall, the cuisine is unfussy, home-style cooking.  

Q: What's the best time to travel to Zambia? 

A: Zambia is so incredibly special. I travelled in the emerald season at the end of November, the start of the long rains. Between December and mid-April, 90% of the camps in South Luangwa, depending on the location, are non-operational due to the roads becoming impassable.

The emerald season has so much to offer – crowds have thinned, and beautiful green landscapes abound, making fantastic backdrops for wildlife pictures. You may spend longer tracking the animals, but that's exciting, too. At this time of year, explore the excellent value-add offers. 

Come Experience Your Own Zambian Odyssey 

Zambia is a nation defined by its rivers, communities, and industries (including tourism), and the economy relies on them. The wild quality that this destination embodies is soul-stirring. If you're curious about visiting, why not contact Tara? Let's start planning!

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About the author 

Amy Knight-Dawson

Amy is a highly experienced figure in the tourism industry with a career spanning 25 years. She is a well-known and respected voice in the field and has authored several travel articles. Amy is passionate about sustainability and prefers to explore the less-travelled paths to seek out unique and unscripted experiences. Her love for nature draws her to coastal destinations, where she finds the raw power of the ocean most invigorating. She was born and raised in South Africa and now lives in the cosmopolitan city of Edinburgh, Scotland. As a member of the African diaspora and guest blogger for Rhino Africa, Amy shares her international insights and travel experiences, showcasing the beauty of the world and inspiring others to explore it.

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