Lower Zambezi National Park
Discover Zambia's Enchanting Valley
An African Eden like no other, this is where you experience the spirit of wild Africa.
Tucked away on the southern border of Zambia, wedged between a spectacular mountain range and the mighty Zambezi River, lies one of Africa’s true hidden gems – the Lower Zambezi National Park.
It’s here that the iconic Zambezi grows fat and lazy, caught between two dams – Kariba, some 60 miles to the west, and Cahora Bassa in Mozambique, 215 miles downstream. As a result, the river’s course is wide and dotted with islands and sandbanks, its languid waters snaking through lush channels and intriguing backwaters that are perfect for canoeing.
The air is filled with birdsong, interrupted by the laughing grunts of hippos. Blissful elephants graze on the islands, and fish leap from quiet pools at the river’s edge. Vast grassy floodplains are filled with impala and waterbuck, and the dappled shade of giant groves of albida trees, pod mahogany, ebony and sycamore figs offer a welcome respite for foraging chacma baboons and daytime retreats for secretive leopards.
It’s an African Eden like no other, where the word “tranquility” takes on new meaning, and you begin to understand the allure of wilderness. Exploring is a privilege and always breath-taking, with both the mountains and the Zambezi creating awe-inspiring backdrops to picture-perfect landscapes.
What makes the Lower Zambezi so intriguing?
Since its establishment in 1983, the Lower Zambezi National Park has become synonymous with extraordinary wild safari adventures, by which we mean “elephants wandering through camp” and “my lawnmower is a hippo” wild!
In the beginning, there were just a handful of safari operators in the Lower Zambezi Valley running very rustic campsites. Over the years, these have grown into some of the most lauded (and stunning) independent safari brands in Zambia, offering a close-to-nature experience while still retaining the creature comforts and the special touches you always find in small, exclusive, family-owned camps.
Names like Chongwe, Chiawa, Old Mhondoro, Sausage Tree, Potato Bush, and Anabezi stand out for us because we love their down-to-earth warmth and boundless hospitality, as well as their ethos and commitment to protecting the Lower Zambezi.
Nothing is too much trouble. Small details like a hot water bottle in your bed on a chilly night or a freshly baked cake for a birthday celebration ensure that every experience exceeds your wildest imagination. In addition to the exceptional hospitality, the safari guides are some of the most knowledgable experts in the field. The majority of these guides come from the local communities on the Lower Zambezi’s doorstep, as do most of the camp staff.
We also enjoy the diversity of activities available. Canoeing, boat-based safaris, fishing, sundowner cruises, walking, game drives in open safari vehicles, island picnics, bush barbecues, surprise “pop-up” lunches alongside the Zambezi, games of boules on sandbanks in the middle of the river… Or just relaxing by a sparkling pool taking in the birdlife in the canopy of shade trees overhead. With no fences to stop the movement of animals, sometimes staying in camp is the perfect option for close encounters of the wild kind!
What can you expect to see?
In short – An abundance of wildlife. This region of Zambia is one of the best locations in Africa to see huge herds of elephants, offering the unique chance to observe them crossing the Zambezi between the park and neighboring Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park, which lies just across the river.
A staggering number of buffalo also frequent the floodplains and have been known to cross the river in the dry season to find fresh grazing on the islands, allowing you to witness this unusual wildlife activity by boat.
The Lower Zambezi also ticks the big cat boxes, being home to a substantial population of lion and leopard. When it comes to predators, hyena are a common sighting, and you may also be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the endangered painted wolf (African wild dog). Other smaller carnivores like genet, mongooses, serval and African wild cat are often seen too.
The diversity of biomes and ecosystems in the park also supports a wide variety of mammals, from zebra, waterbuck, impala, kudu and bushbuck to civet, honey badgers, aardvark and pangolin. Don’t expect to see giraffe though; they’ve never occurred in the park due to the natural challenges presented by the mountains of the Lower Zambezi escarpment on the one side and the Zambezi on the other!
Safaris underpinned by conservation.
One of the biggest reasons we adore the Lower Zambezi is that a safari here has a significant and direct impact on helping to protect this unspoiled wilderness. Buffered on both sides by equally impressive game management areas (GMAs) – areas under conservation where local communities benefit sustainably from tourism activities – the Lower Zambezi National Park is a conservation success story.
In 1994 a handful of safari operators in the Lower Zambezi Valley got together to establish Conservation Lower Zambezi (CLZ). This non-profit organization works with Zambia’s national parks and wildlife services to protect and conserve this 2,542 square mile stretch of pristine wilderness. At the time poaching was rife with hundreds of elephants being lost each year for their ivory. An intervention was urgently needed to help save lives.
Thankfully, the plan worked, and within its first decade of operation, CLZ managed to reduce poaching by 92%. Today, the Lower Zambezi is a wildlife haven and CLZ now provides a range of services that will ensure its future. It trains anti-poaching officers, has introduced a highly successful specialized K9 (canine) unit with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, runs outreach programs in local communities, and works closely with community leaders on important issues like human-wildlife conflict.
The Lower Zambezi National Park is also the first officially carbon neutral national park in Africa!
Talk to us if you would like to include the Lower Zambezi in your next safari.
Big Journeys Start With Small Steps
~ African Proverb