Expert Reviews – Zambezi NP

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A Park of Two Halves
Overall rating

Zambezi National Park, one of the most beautiful parks you’ll find, is on the doorstep of Victoria Falls. In fact there are two distinctly different sections of this park. The most popular section has a lengthy (50km) river frontage with photogenic reed islands and bubbling rapids making it excellent for birding. Birds seen include Rock pratincole, African skimmer, African finfoot, Schalows turaco and I’ve even seen Slaty egret by Chundu 2 camping site. There are now five upmarket lodges within the park. Away from the river however, there’s a network of tracks that take you deep into the bush. Game is becoming much more abundant as the local anti-poaching unit grows from strength to strength and I’ve seldom driven around the park without seeing giraffe, hyena, kudu, impala, invariably elephant and buffalo too. A group of wildebeest have recently been reintroduced and are thriving. Hippo and crocs are always at the river and the lion population has been doing very well in recent years, as evidenced by very regular sightings. Wild dog are frequently seen giving rise to the local belief that several packs now hunt in the area.

The other significant, though relatively undeveloped and seldom visited section of this park, south of the Kazungula road, generally known as Chamabonda, has been undergoing very welcome conservation activity and is home to large herds of sable and eland. It’s basically a long, open vlei (dried riverbed) and the best way of seeing game is to book a night staying at one of the two viewing platforms that overlook pumped pans. As well as the typical plains game associated with this terrain, you’re sure to see elephant, zebra and hyena with a very good possibility of lion and big herds of buffalo. This area is best suited to self-drivers with camping equipment. Some reports suggest ZNP is a Big Five park but unfortunately, it’s many years since rhino have been seen here.

As well as the five upmarket accommodations within the river section of the park, National Parks accommodation has been upgraded and is very pleasant although situated near the entrance gate rather than deep in the park.

Well Worth a Visit from Vic Falls
Overall rating

Although this park can be a bit hit-and-miss, I would still unreservedly encourage tourists to visit. Most people access the park on day-trip game drives from the neighbouring town of Vic Falls and this is a good way to do it, as the park has limited infrastructure and accommodation. On good days here I’ve seen wild dogs hunting and lions padding down the road, along with large herds of elephant, buffalo and general game. But, on the flipside, I’ve also seen little more than impala and waterbuck on my quietest days in the park! It’s worth noting that this park tends to be at its best in the late dry season months of August to October when most of the animals are drawn to the life-giving waters of the Zambezi. The animals then disperse when the rains arrive in November and sightings tend to become fewer and further between.

The park up river
Overall rating

Located a few kilometres up the Zambezi River from the thunderous Victoria Falls, this small national park may be close to the action but, in my opinion, lacks the pizzazz of Zimbabwe’s other national parks. It hasn’t the abundance of wildlife as Hwange, it isn’t as wild or remote as Chizarira and it’s not as jaw-droppingly beautiful as Mana Pools. That said, there is still plenty of game to be spied with elephant, lion, buffalo and leopard as well as herds of sable antelope, eland, zebra, giraffe, kudu, waterbuck and impala all found here. While half-day and full-day canoeing trips are also available, if you’re a nature enthusiast or adrenaline junkie I’d recommend you opt for a longer canoeing safari at Mana Pools National Park or Lower Zambezi National Park on the Zambian side of the river.

Average Expert Rating

  • 3.6/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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