The last time I explored Zambia, I visited the breathtaking Victoria Falls as part of a two-day excursion from our safari in Botswana. In July 2021, however, I took the time to dive deeply into everything that Zambia has to offer. On this trip, I spent two weeks exploring South Luangwa National Park, Kafue National Park (as well as the Busanga Plains), and the Lower Zambezi National Park. And while each area is very unique, something they all had in common was incredible animal sightings and a variety of unique experiences that got us out of the safari vehicle.
It’s hard to narrow down my favorite animal sighting during my time in Zambia, since there were so many; but a huge highlight for me was seeing wild dogs multiple times throughout the trip. I hadn’t seen them in years, and they’ve always held a special place in my heart. Wild dogs are so fun to watch, and I was lucky to see them being quite active during the trip. In all my travels to Africa, the wild dogs of Lower Zambezi were the first to show me a “kill,” when they grabbed a baboon. The scene was incredibly intense and hard to watch; I had to remind myself that it is all a part of the circle of life.
Another amazing interaction I witnessed was between a hyena and crocodile. The hyena had come across a puku (antelope) carcass that was near the river as plenty of crocodiles looked on. While the hyena was enjoying its meal, one crocodile decided that it was its turn to feast. The crocodile made its way out of the water towards the puku and was promptly chased away by the hyena. Eventually, the crocodile tried again, and the hyena bit the crocodile’s face and tail. It was incredible to see an encounter like this; even our guide was shocked, saying he’d never witnessed anything like this!
Special Safari Activities
While game drives are almost always the main focus of any safari, I love when a destination offers a variety of other experiences to complement your time in the vehicle. I found that camps throughout Zambia did a great job of providing opportunities to experience the landscapes and wildlife outside of the vehicle.
Walking Safaris – Zambia is known to be the home of the walking safari and I certainly experienced this on my trip. Walking safaris truly make you feel immersed in the nature around you and add an element of excitement, as you never know what might be around the next corner. On one of our walks, we made our way along the river in South Luangwa, watching the hippos in the water. Throughout the walk, our guide would stop to show us different, smaller, more subtle things, which always gives me a better appreciation for being out on safari as a whole. We then got quite a thrill, as a hippo who hadn’t made it to the water quite yet, popped up. Our guide made sure we were in a spot that was both safe and allowed for us to still view the hippo. It was very exciting!
Boating – The national parks that I visited all had a water component to them which, as a Minnesotan, is something I always enjoy! Quite often, my transfer into camp included a boat ride. On top of this, I was able to participate in some boat-focused activities, during which my guide could show me the animals and landscapes from a different vantage point. I find boating to be really relaxing and the perfect way to enjoy a sundowner.
Canoeing – In the Lower Zambezi, I enjoyed the excitement of canoeing through the various water networks. With an expert canoe guide in each boat, we took off for a couple hours of adventure. During our time, we got to see so many animals, including crocodiles, elephants, and lots of bird species. The guides did a really great job of keeping us at a safe distance from the more territorial ones, such as hippos. I absolutely love elephants, and really appreciated getting to see them up-close as they drank water from the river.
I was really blown away by the huge variety of wildlife and activities throughout Zambia. Each park that I visited was so different from the last and showed me the importance of slowing down to take the time to truly appreciate what this country has to offer.