Zambia is one of Africa's most rewarding safari destinations. Best known as the home of Victoria Falls, this southern African nation boasts the world-class South Luangwa, Lower Zambezi and Kafue among its roster of 20 national parks. There are enough places to visit in Zambia to keep you going for months. But here are the 10 Zambia tourist attractions we would prioritize when planning a first trip there.

 

1. Marvel at the Explosive Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls from a helicopter view Victoria Falls from a helicopter view

Locals know it as Mosi-oa-Tunya (the Smoke That Thunders). David Livingstone, the first European to set eyes on it, gushed that ‘Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight’. Today, the mile-wide Victoria Falls is officially listed among the world’s Seven Natural Wonders. And certainly we would rank this breathtaking waterfall – the world’s largest curtain of falling water – first among Zambia’s tourist attractions.

Victoria Falls Tours

 

2. Take a Night Drive in Search of Leopards in South Luangwa National Park

Leopard walking Leopard walking

South Luangwa is Zambia's most popular national park. Lion, elephant, buffalo, hippo, giraffe, zebra and a variety of antelope are all likely to be seen on safari there. But the park’s standout feature is its high density of leopards, which are almost invariably seen on night drives and tend to be very relaxed around vehicles.

South Luangwa Safari Tours

 

3. Track the Big Five on Foot in North Luangwa National Park

Elephants crossing a lagoon Elephants crossing a lagoon

North Luangwa is the only place to visit in Zambia that supports all the Big Five. Despite this, it’s a rather specialized destination, serviced by a handful of exclusive camps geared mainly towards walking safaris. The standard of guiding is exceptional, and it's a real thrill to walk through this wilderness knowing you might at any point encounter a lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo or black rhino.

North Luangwa Safari Tours

 

4. Brave the Roaring White Waters of the Batoka Gorge

White Water Rafting flickr.com/photos/christophercjensen/3560537078

Below Victoria Falls, the Zambezi funnels into the steep-sided Batoka Gorge to traverse a sequence of raging rapids that offer exceptional white-water rafting. For adrenaline junkies, a rafting excursion on these rapids – with names such as Terminator, Washing Machine, Judgement Day and Oblivion – undoubtedly tops the list of things to do in Zambia.

 

5. Step Back in Time at Shiwa Ng’andu

Shiwa Ng'andu flickr.com/photos/laurendroy/6952817053

One of the quirkiest places to visit in Zambia, the Shiwa Ng’andu estate was established in 1914 by Stewart Gore-Browne. Its focal point is Shiwa House, a time-warped colonial mansion that looks like it was beamed intact from the English countryside a century ago. Decorated in period style, Shiwa House is still home to descendants of Gore-Browne, who conduct entertaining tours on demand every morning.

 

6. Dodge Hippos on a Canoe Safari on the Lower Zambezi

Canoeing on the Zambezi River Canoeing on the Zambezi River

In contrast to Batoka Gorge, the stretch of the Zambezi that flows past Lower Zambezi National Park is wide, flat, meandering and dotted with islands. This is a great destination for canoe safaris, thanks to the dense concentrations of hippos, crocodiles and aquatic birds. You're almost certain to canoe past elephants and buffalos, and, with a bit of luck, possibly even lions, leopards or African wild dogs.

Lower Zambezi Safari Tours

 

7. See Millions of Fruit Bats Swarm Overhead at Kasanka National Park

Bat colony in the sky at dusk Bat colony in the sky at dusk

There aren't too many national parks whose main attraction is bats. But lushly forested Kasanka is the focal point of a migration comprising up to 10 million straw-colored fruit bats. Visit between October and December, and it’s truly exhilarating to watch these enormous bats erupt from their daytime roost in the evening, or return there at sunrise. At other times, the main attraction is the opportunity to photograph the rare swamp-dwelling sitatunga antelope from a strategically located hide.

Kasanka Safari Tours

 

8. Pole Through the Bird-rich Swamps of the Bangweulu Wetlands

Shoebill in the long grass Shoebill in the long grass

One of Africa’s largest and most biodiverse wetlands, Bangweulu tops many bird-watchers’ lists of places to visit in Zambia. The big prize here is the shoebill, a bulky swamp-dweller named for its outrageous clog-like bill. Gliding through the swamp on a local mokoro canoe in search of this prehistoric-looking oddity is a real adventure, and you should see many other birds too.

Bangweulu Safari Tours

 

9. Explore the Vast Wilderness of Kafue National Park

Close up of male lion Close up of male lion

It's the sheer scale of Kafue that impresses. Ranked among Africa’s three largest national parks, 22,400km²/8,645mi² Kafue shelters more than 150 mammal and 500 bird species, and you could spend a couple of weeks exploring its varied habitats. If your time is limited, the Busanga and Nanzhila floodplains are good for large carnivores, while aggregations of 100-plus elephant are frequently encountered at Lake Itezhi-Tezhi.

Kafue Safari Tours

 

10. Catch the World’s Second-largest Wildebeest Migration on Liuwa Plain

Hyena in a waterhole Hyena in a waterhole

Among the least visited of Zambia’s tourist attractions, Liuwa Plain National Park is renowned for the tens of thousands of wildebeest that amass on its southern plains in summer. Lion and cheetah are present, but the dominant carnivore is the spotted hyena, and it’s fascinating to watch these ultra-sociable creatures on the hunt or interacting outside their dens.

Liuwa Safari Tours

By Philip Briggs
South Africa ZA

Philip is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many guidebooks, including the Bradt guides to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.

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