Expert Reviews – Lower Zambezi NP

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Zambezi Magic
Overall rating
5/5

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.

Hungry hippos
Overall rating
5/5

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.

Alluring bush lodges, memorable birdwatching
Overall rating
5/5

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.

Canoeing the mighty Zambezi
Overall rating
5/5

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. This is quite simply one of the most exciting safari experiences I’ve had in Africa, partly because of the slight but real danger posed by hippos and crocs, partly because of the sheer wonder associated with travelling along the river, past elephants, buffalo and occasionally lions, without anything between you and them bar a sheet of shallow water. Another aspect of Lower Zambezi that we loved were the night drives – fantastic leopard sightings more than once on most nights – and it is also a pretty good place to seek out the endangered African wild dog. Add to that the mesmerising presence of southern Africa’s greatest river, and the wonderful birdlife associated with the flanking riparian forest, and I’d comfortably place this among my ten favourite reserves anywhere in Africa.

Average Expert Rating

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

Rating Breakdown

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  • 4 star 7
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