While neighbouring Zimbabwe is a popular destination for South Africans, Zambia is like its wilder cousin. The two countries share two things: a border and Victoria Falls (one of just Seven Natural Wonders of the World). But they certainly don’t share a personality. Zambia is wilder, less visited, and so, it’s perfect for those who wish to explore its raw beauty and remote reserves.
Zambia is an exceptional safari destination: around 30% of the country is protected by parks or reserves; accommodation is in small camps or luxury lodges set in beautiful surroundings; and the guides are known to be amongst the best in Africa. But even the country’s premiere reserve, South Luangwa National Park, is still relatively unexplored. These low visitor numbers add to the feeling of being in a true African wilderness, making Zambia a top choice for an authentic African safari.
How to get there: Fly into Livingstone Airport in Zambia, explore Victoria Falls, then head to Lower Zambezi. End your journey exploring the remote bush camps in South Luangwa. Then it’s back to Mfuwe Airport for your flight out of the Luangwa Valley, and onwards back home.
Perched on the Zambezi River, Tongabezi got the international nod when it was voted best safari lodge in Zambia by Condé Nast Travel. Each of the five cottages and six houses boast great views across the water with Zimbabwe on one side and Zambia on the other.
Each house and cottage has a different interior. The Nut House, for example, has a luxurious Moroccan feel with textiles in blue and white. Glass doors open onto a private deck with a pool, sun loungers, and a slice of river view (sunsets on the Zambezi River are spectacular!). Tongabezi’s chill-out decks hover over the river with separate levels for a secluded feel. Guests can go to Victoria Falls, canoe on the Zambezi, visit the local village, enjoy an island lunch or floating candlelit dinner – and the sunset cruise is a must.
Sussi & Chuma
If luxurious treehouses sound like your dream accommodation, then stop off at Sussi & Chuma. Named after Livingstone’s two best friends, the lodge is made up of 12 treehouses raised on stilts. Connected by wooden walkways and surrounded by giant ebony trees, the lodge overlooks a bend in the Zambezi River close to Victoria Falls within the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park. Being unfenced, the lodge gives that feeling of staying in the wild with animals moving around at night, and vervet monkeys scampering across the wooden walkways in the mornings. Interiors are spacious with beautiful Rhodesian teak floors. Each treehouse opens onto its own deck. Zambia is strict with poachers, and the rhinos are under the constant watch of official park rangers. Staying within the national park, guests have the option of a guided walking safari to see the rhinos. Back at the lodge there are lots of corners to relax, including a lovely swimming pool area with loungers overlooking the river. There’s also a waterside bar on the riverbank, and guests can 4-course dinners, or bubble baths with champagne in the privacy of their suite – set up by their private butler.
Lower Zambezi National Park
The flight from Livingstone to Lusaka takes just over an hour, followed by a light aircraft hop into the Lower Zambezi. Lying just across the Zambezi River from Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park, this wild and scenic reserve is known for its large herds of buffalo and elephant, rivers full of hippo, and good predator population with regular sightings of both leopard and lion.
Chongwe River Camp
Chongwe River Camp has a beautiful setting on the bank of the Zambezi. Here elephants feed on seed pods and tree branches, and hippo are often seen wandering around the camp (which is unfenced!).
Chongwe’s nine safari tents each have a thatched roof and veranda overlooking the river. For families or friends travelling together there’s the Albida Suite: two bedroom tents on either side of a shared lounge and dining area, as well as a private plunge pool. It’s a great option for honeymooners too – particularly the spacious Cassia Suite. It has an outdoor, canopied lounge and dining area, plunge pool, and well-stocked bar with a butler service.
South Luangwa is in the largely unexplored and wildly fascinating Luangwa Valley in Zambia, at the tail end of the western arm of the Great Rift Valley. Safari lodges range from modern luxury suites set on top of hills and alongside lagoons to colonial tents amid the African bush with all the desired modern amenities and facilities.
Unless a direct charter flight is booked, travellers have to return to Lusaka before flying to South Luangwa. This detour will no longer be required when Proflight launches its new route in June 2017 between the Lower Zambezi and Mfuwe Airport – the gateway to the South Luangwa National Park. South Luangwa is famous for its walking safaris and remote bush camps, most of which are run by tour operator Norman Carr Safaris.
Norman Carr Bush Camps
Adventurous travellers will love pure wildness in South Luangwa. Chalets are built of reed and thatch and, lying in bed at night, you can hear hippo and elephant munching on the other side of the walls. Even at the most basic of the three Bush Camps, you’ll still have tasty meals, chilled drinks, and comfortable beds made up with crisp linen. The food is cooked over the fire: simple and delicious. Outdoor bathrooms are lit by the moon and the faint glow of a lamp.
Walking enthusiasts will fall in love with South Luangwa. It’s possible to walk between the camps as they’re only between 10 to 18 kilometers from each other (guests can also opt to be driven from camp to camp).
Game viewing in this part of Zambia is great, although it requires a little more driving due to the area’s vastness. The Big Five including wild dogs and hyena are common sightings. The game rangers are fantastic and their knowledge of the smaller animals, birdlife and vegetation is outstanding.
If you have any more questions about Zambia, you can drop us an email or take a look at more South Luangwa lodges.