The last time I visited Zambia was in 2003. Fourteen years later, I was excited to return to the South Luangwa National Park and visit two new national parks, the Lower Zambezi and Kafue National Parks. I have been traveling to the African continent for the past 15 years, and I am always amazed how each visit is vastly different. In Zambia, I enjoyed the authenticity of the safari camps and the high quality of their guides. The variety of ways to see all the animals, the exciting night drives and daily leopard sightings were unique and excellent aspects of Zambia.
The accommodations varied significantly, from the rustic bush camps made out of reed material to the super luxury camps. Regardless of setting, the focus remains the same at all camps: a back-to-basics safari where good guides, great food, excellent hosting and lovely settings are standard, adding to the charm of Zambia.
The safari guiding in Zambia was a stand-out for me. Most of the safari guides I met were born and raised right on the outskirts of the unfenced national parks. The guides know the area like the back of their hand and love to share stories of what it was like growing up in the bush. Zambia also has one of the most rigorous safari guide examinations in Africa, ensuring everyone in the field is highly qualified.
I love options and different ways to see animals. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the 4×4 game drives, but I especially enjoy the adrenaline rush of getting out of the vehicle and walking in the bush. The unknown of what is just around the corner gets my blood pumping. The South Luangwa National Park is often referred to as the “birthplace of walking safaris.” I have been on many “bush walks” in other countries, and generally the guide avoids close encounters with big animals. In Zambia, you are on the animals’ turf, and the animals behave as though you’re not there. It’s the perfect place to go for a walk!
Canoeing on the Zambezi River also raised my stress levels. The river is known for large pods of hippo and many crocodiles. The 2-person Canadian style canoe, along with the guide joining me eased my apprehension and dread of “what could go wrong?” while paddling in one of the most dangerous rivers in Africa! Once I got comfortable and relaxed, I enjoyed the serenity of the river and could not stop taking pictures of the wildlife on the river bank as well as in the river.
Before traveling to Zambia, I read the average leopard density in South Luangwa is one animal per square mile. This is roughly twice the density recorded in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, a well-known safari destination for viewing leopards. This information did not disappoint, and I saw leopard every day. During the thirteen days that I spent in Zambia, I saw a leopard ten days, and some days I saw five different leopards!
When I travel to new places I always ask myself, “Is this a place I would send my friends?” The answer to this question about Zambia is a solid YES!