Expert Reviews – Lower Zambezi NP

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Philip Briggs   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: Multiple visits

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

1 person found this review helpful.

Canoeing the mighty Zambezi
Overall rating

Zambia is known for its adventurous approach to safaris, and no reserve epitomises this so clearly as Lower Zambezi, which is best explored by canoe, following the wide main river or one of the narrower and more dangerous channels that flank it. Most of the time, canoeing in Lower Zambezi is serenity personified, as the current guides you safely through the tropical riverine scenery. But a few scarier moments will forever remain etched in my memory: floating within 10m of a lion pride whose guileless yellow eyes followed our passage across the knee-deep water; watching an elephant herd swim 50m downriver as we clung onto a partially submerged log midstream; and shakily steering my canoe along a narrow course of shallow water flanked by two submerged hippos.

Lower Zambezi offers excellent terrestrial game viewing. I’ve done several night drives here, and have had fantastic leopard sightings on most occasions. On my most recent visit, I also had daily sightings of a pack of African wild dogs comprising 34 individuals, the largest group I’ve seen in a lifetime of African travel. Another feature of the park are the stately elephants that haunt the photogenic winter-thorn forests. Add to that the mesmerising presence of southern Africa’s greatest river, and the wonderful birdlife associated with the flanking riparian woodland, and I’d comfortably place Lower Zambezi among my 10 favourite reserves anywhere in Africa.

Emma Gregg   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: October

Emma is an award-winning travel writer for Rough Guides, National Geographic Traveller, Travel Africa magazine and The Independent.

2 people found this review helpful.

Alluring bush lodges, memorable birdwatching
Overall rating

The birdwatching was superb on my visit to the Lower Zambezi National Park. Kingfishers shone on nearby reeds as we meandered along freshwater channels by canoe, and nonchalant-looking saddle-billed storks picked their way through the shallows. Large animals seemed equally unruffled by our presence – we saw elephants, zebras and buffalo, all drawn by the water as the dry season reached its peak. Apparently, visitors sometimes see leopards on the banks, too, drinking their fill, but sadly our luck didn’t quite extend to that.

The environment and its wildlife are captivating, but what makes a visit to the Lower Zambezi extra special is its accommodation. Some of Zambia’s most alluring bush lodges are found here, imaginatively designed and staffed by true enthusiasts, including walking and canoeing safari guides who are experts in their field.

Kim Wildman   –  
Australia AU
Visited: July

Kim is a travel writer who authored and updated over 15 guidebooks, including Lonely Planet's South Africa and Bradt's Tanzania guides.

2 people found this review helpful.

Hungry hippos
Overall rating

Elephants languidly criss-crossing the river, buffaloes feeding in the reeds, grunting hippos cooling off in the shallows, crocodiles basking idly in the sun - I never dreamed I would be able to get as close to Africa’s amazing wildlife as I did on a canoe trip through Lower Zambezi National Park. The game viewing here is simply spectacular. The park has strong populations of buffalo and elephants, often found grazing on the islands in the middle of the river, as well as large herds of impala, kudu, eland, zebra, wildebeest, waterbuck, bushbuck and the odd duiker with the greatest concentration of wildlife found on the flood plain or along the river itself. Lion, leopard and wild dogs can also be spied, though in my experience sightings are less common. The birdlife too is very rich with some 378 species recorded, including many species of eagle, heron, stork, kingfisher and bee-eater. A self-confessed non-birder, even I was dazzled by the colourful dance of a colony of Carmine Bee eaters as they fluttered around the riverbank. With 120km of river frontage and a vast floodplain of tributaries, islands and channels all back-dropped by an impressive heavily-wooded escarpment, it’s often hard to know which to admire – the scenery or the wildlife. But then again, that’s the park’s magic.

Stephen Cunliffe   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: Multiple times / Lived there

Stephen is a travel writer and avid conservationist whose work appears in prestigious magazines such as Africa Geographic and Travel Africa.

3 people found this review helpful.

Zambezi Magic
Overall rating

Sandwiched between the Zambezi River and the Great East Road, this incredible park boasts over 100km of river frontage, the imposing Zambezi escarpment, top-class wildlife-viewing and scenic beauty in abundance. With the exception of rhino, cheetah and giraffe, Lower Zambezi is home to high concentrations of all the other charismatic mega-fauna.

But, over-and-above the attraction of the beguiling Zambezi strewn with hippos, crocs and frolicking elephants, it’s the wide range of safari activities on offer that really make Lower Zambezi such a unique safari destination. Adventurous safari goers can choose between game drives, night drives, walking safaris, canoe safaris, boat cruises and tiger fishing safaris. To the best of my knowledge there is no other park in Africa that offers the same diversity of safari experiences at a single location.

My best Zambian safari memories involve paddling a canoe silently down the braided Zambezi in the company of large breeding herds of elephant swimming trunk-to-tail across the mile-wide river. Unforgettable experiences.

Average Expert Rating

  • 4.4/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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