​Expert Reviews – Lower Zambezi NP

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Mike Unwin   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: May, July, October

Mike is an award winning wildlife writer, editor of Travel Zambia magazine and author of the Bradt Guide to Southern African Wildlife.

Easy Zambezi
Overall rating

This park sits directly opposite Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools, and offers a mirror image of that park – with very similar wildlife and terrain, but with the escarpment looming much closer. Indeed during the dry season, with the river at its lowest, I have often seen wildlife crossing between the two parks. The last two decades have seen game numbers returning to impressive levels after a bad history of poaching. All lodges are sited on the riverbank – with a good number outside the park and a few, more exclusive establishments inside. The latter tend to offer better wildlife, although game is everywhere. Activities centre around the Zambezi, with boat cruises, fishing and canoeing; I have found myself negotiating a narrow channel by canoe with elephants crossing in front, hippos to the left and a five-metre crocodile cruising past on the right. But the game drives away from the river are equally rewarding – and the guided walks are on par with those in South Luangwa. As at Mana Pools, you will find game wandering through camp and large elephant bulls a constant presence at many lodges. Species you will not see include cheetah, rhino and giraffe, but predators are abundant and I have always been lucky with both lion and leopard. Birders can expect the usual riches associated with the Zambezi.

Nana Luckham   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: May

Nana is a travel writer and author of multiple guidebooks, including the Lonely Planet guides to Africa, Zambia & Malawi and South Africa.

Wildlife watching from the water
Overall rating

Lower Zambezi was once sadly neglected but has enjoyed a resurrection in recent years and now has solid numbers of elephants, hippos and buffaloes, as well as a healthy big cat population, with lions and hyenas commonly seen. Also on the agenda for most visitors are impala, kudu, zebra and wildebeest.

The best way to see wildlife here is by gliding along the Zambezi by boat or canoe. The river is packed with crocodiles and hippos, and skirts alongside a beautiful flood plain, sprinkled with acacias and framed by thick woodland.

For me, the best part of visiting Lower Zambezi was a water-based safari. I watched buffalo and waterbuck feeding in the marshy grasses along the shoreline, heard pods of hippo grunting just beneath the surface, and saw a group of elephants swim leisurely across the river.

Christopher Clark   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: October

Christopher is a British travel writer and has contributed to various Fodor's guidebooks and a range of travel magazines.

On the banks of the mighty Zambezi
Overall rating

Of all the parks I’ve experienced in Zambia, Lower Zambezi remains the prettiest for me, with an amazingly diverse array of ecosystems and vegetation. The great, meandering body of the Zambezi flanks the park on one side and a high escarpment presides over the river basin on the other. Both these features make great backdrops for viewing the park’s wildlife.

Taking a guided canoeing trip down the Zambezi is an absolute highlight, though perhaps not for the faint-hearted. You’ll most likely never get so close to hippos, crocodiles and elephants, all of which are found in staggering numbers in this park.

Lower Zambezi is also a good place for guided walks. When I did this activity sadly we didn’t see much big game, but it’s still a more intimate way to experience the natural beauty of this park.

The park’s small handful of tranquil, secluded luxury lodges and camps are all situated on the banks of the river. Elephants and hippos are regular visitors.

If coming by car, Lower Zambezi is not the most accessible of parks, but as with many of Zambia’s offerings that’s part of the appeal.

Sue Watt   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: April

Sue is an award-winning writer who specializes in African travel and conservation. She writes for national newspapers, magazines, Rough Guides and Lonely Planet.

A river runs through it…
Overall rating

As its name suggests, this park is dominated by the mighty Zambezi which marks its southern border, cutting a swathe through vast floodplains. It attracts a mass of wildlife, particularly huge herds of elephants easily seen on the riverbanks, along with fabulous birdlife. The Zambezi escarpment forms the northern border, making for dramatic landscapes. Aside from rhino, all of the Big Five are here and as well as the usual game drives, you can do walking safaris and night drives, go canoeing or take a boat on the river, personally my favourite way to explore this park. We had an unforgettable sunset cruise from Anabezi Lodge, watching elephants, hippos and waterbucks as the sun set, then, when we turned the boat around, saw a brilliant, bright red full moon that guided us home – a truly magical experience. Many of the lodges support an excellent local NGO, Conservation Lower Zambezi, which works with local communities to help protect the park and its wildlife.

Brian Jackman   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: Multiple times

Brian is an award winning travel writer, author of safari books and regular contributor to magazines such as BBC Wildlife and Travel Africa.

1 person found this review helpful.

On safari in elephant valley
Overall rating

The mile-wide Zambezi, southern Africa’s mightiest river, is the dominant feature of this spectacular park, which you can explore by canoe, on foot or on conventional 4WD game drives. The riverbanks with their ebony groves and majestic old winterthorns create a natural canopy for top-notch camps such as Chiawa and Old Mondoro, its more rustic offshoot. Fish eagles provide a constant soundtrack and there are elephants all over the place. I found the big bulls to be invariably good-natured – just as well because at Old Mondoro they wandered into camp every day of my stay. Even so, they must be treated with respect; and the same goes for any hippos encountered on a canoe safari. As for walking, the lofty aisles of winterthorns with their dappled shade and minimum ground cover are ideal; but to see the park’s top predators – lion, leopard and wild dog – you’ll do better on a conventional 4WD game drive.

Alan Murphy   –  
Australia AU
Visited: June

Alan is a travel writer and author of over 20 Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guides to Southern Africa and Zambia & Malawi.

3 people found this review helpful.

Meanderings in Lower Zambezi
Overall rating

Protecting woodland along the Zambezi riverbank in the south of Zambia, this beautiful park is prolific in wildlife. Your best off flying into one of the camps inside, otherwise it’s a long drive in through a Game Management Area (GMA). The track through the GMA is narrow and the elephants grow on trees, at least that’s how it feels.

We were stopped dead in our tracks when we spotted a herd of elephants near Chongwe Gate, the main entry point. A juvenile male came over to our 4WD, lifted a leg up and swayed around and, with its trunk, casually sniffed our windscreen and windows. My foot hovered close to the accelerator...inside the park we saw antelope such as puku and bushbuck, buffalo, zebra, plenty more elephants and lions. We even caught a fleeting glimpse of a cheetah.

Boat rides down the river are a great way to spot wildlife- especially birds - with kingfishers being a real highlight. The tracks are pretty tough going though and the rainy season really messes them up - let a camp of your choosing do the heavy lifting.

Average Expert Rating

  • 4.5/5
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  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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