Best Time to Go
Zambia has three seasons. December-April: warm and wet. May to August: dry and sunny with cold lights. September-November: hot and dry. Average temperatures in summer range from 25 ºC/77°F to 35 ºC/95°F, and in winter from 5ºC/42°F to 24ºC/75°F. November to April is the rainiest; most bush camps close as dirt roads are impassable. They reopen in May or June when the roads have dried out, and that is the beginning of peak season. From September onward, it becomes increasingly hot with warm evenings. October should be avoided for walking safaris.
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Zambia, Zimbabwe & Malawi
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About Zambia, Zimbabwe & Malawi
Kafue National Park: Kafue is Zambia’s oldest park, and, by far, the largest, and second largest in Africa. Despite the park’s proximity to both Lusaka and the Copperbelt, it has remained underdeveloped until recent years. It offers a raw and diverse slice of African wilderness with excellent game viewing, bird watching and fishing opportunities. Large prides of lion, solitary leopards and cheetahs are the prime predators. A host of smaller carnivores include side-striped jackal, civet, genet and mongoose. Bird watching, especially on the rivers, is superb with more than 400 species recorded in the park. The Kafue is home to more species of ungulate than any national park south of the Congo Basin. Rare and elusive antelope such as the blue and yellow-backed duiker occur in the thickets, sitatunga and lechwe in the swamps, roan, sable and hartebeest in the miombo woodlands. The park is one of the best places in Africa to find leopard on night drives (allowed in the Kafue), and even from afternoon boat cruises along the Kafue River in the hotter months when leopard come down to drink. The African wild dog is not easy to find, but Kafue has a healthy population. Kafue River and its tributaries are home to pods of hippo and some of the largest crocodiles in southern Africa. As the bush dries out towards August and September it is not uncommon to watch elephant in the water and swimming from bank to bank, with their trunks holding on to the tails of the individuals in front. During the 1980s, the last black rhino was poached. Elephants in the late 1960s numbered some 60,000, but have declined startlingly to current estimates of 4,000. The last decade has seen concerted efforts protect the remaining natural resources. There has been an increase in game numbers and sightings.
Liuwa Plain National Park: The park’s grasslands support a variety of large mammals, including tens of thousands of blue wildebeest, whose annual migration is Africa’s second largest. Frequently sighted large predators include the cheetah, spotted hyena, and lion, and more than 300 bird species, including bustards, pelicans, pratincoles, storks and grey, crowned and the endangered wattled cranes.
Lower Zambezi National Park: This national park sits on the Zambian side of the Zambezi River, downstream from Lake Kariba. Across the river is Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park. Lower Zambezi Park covers an area of 4,092 sq. km/1,580 sq. mi. From the Zambezi Escarpment, the land sweeps down to the river. At the edge of the river is a floodplain where most of the animals are found. Behind the floodplain’s grasslands is a picturesque wooded escarpment. Large herds of elephant, some numbering 100, gather at river’s edge. “Island hopping” buffalo and waterbuck are also quite common. Lion, leopard, spotted hyena, serval, speckle-throated otter, jackal, and rare African wild dog live here. Game viewing is on foot, in open vehicles, by motorboat and canoe. Canoes allow visitors to glide silently among the animals, a thrilling experience.
South Luangwa National Park: This is the finest game park in Zambia. Along the Luangwa Valley at the southern tip of the Great Rift Valley, it encompasses the Luangwa River Basin. The park is adjacent to highlands and a mosaic of varied habitats extending outwards from the brooding Luangwa River. It meanders through the luxuriant valley, supporting thousands of hippo and crocodile. South Luangwa has one of the greatest game concentrations in Africa. Elephant, a wide variety of antelope, buffalo, kudu, zebra, Thornycroft’s giraffe and wildebeest occur in great numbers, as do some 400 bird species. Lion, wild dog and hyena are also common and the park is famed for its excellent leopard sightings. The Luangwa experience differs with the seasons: in the dry winter months from June to September, small seasonal safari camps are set up in glorious seclusion. The more sophisticated lodges, close to the main gate at Mfuwe Bridge, remain open longer. The camps occupy prime sites on ancient oxbow lakes, amidst shady ebony groves, and offer day and night game drives in open vehicles. Walking safaris were pioneered in Luangwa and it still sets the standard.
Victoria Falls: Victoria Falls is one of the most spectacular natural sights in the world. It can be explored from either Zambia or Zimbabwe, and are also easily accessible from Botswana. The clouds of spray generated by this thunderous watery descent have resulted in a lush rain forest of stunning wild flowers. A host of activities are centered on the falls, the magnificent Zambezi River and the surrounding Zambezi National Park. For spectacular panoramas of the Zambezi River and the falls, visitors can savor a scenic flight by helicopter. For a more personal experience, a micro lite, a type of motorized hang glider, offers a truly inspiring encounter with the falls from above. The Zambezi River has two characters – the wide gentle river above the falls, perfect for languorous sunset boat cruises or gentle canoeing. Below the falls, the more adventurous can enjoy serious whitewater rafting or jet-boating. Bungee jumping is available for the truly daring. The recommended season for seeing Victoria Falls is March and April to September.
Great Zimbabwe Ruins: Great Zimbabwe Ruins are the largest collection of ruins in Africa south of the Sahara. In the heart of southern Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers, they are testament to a culture of great wealth and great architectural skill. Built between the 11th and 15th centuries, Great Zimbabwe was home to a cattle-herding people who also became adept at metal-working. The ruins are the largest of their kind on the Zimbabwe Plateau, but they are by no means unique. Other, smaller sites were ransacked by European treasure hunters in the 19th century. These smaller ruins are called “zimbabwes” and can be found as far as Mozambique. Great Zimbabwe ruins includes granite walls embellished with turrets, towers, platforms and elegantly sculpted stairways, however, there seems to have been little thought to defense. Archeologist Peter Garlake called this “an architecture that is unparalleled elsewhere in Africa or beyond.” Although inexpertly restored in many places, the ruins at Great Zimbabwe are still the most impressive ancient structures in sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, the huge chiseled walls of the Great Enclosure and its striking stone tower and chevron patterns represent remarkable engineering skills. Much about this place is still a mystery sadly caused by the destructive plundering of the site around 1902. There may have been as many of 10,000 to 20,000 people here at one time. By the 13th century, this was the epicenter of an industrious African empire, with trading links that reached as far as India, Persia and China. A small museum stands near the site holds shards of Persian pottery, a Chinese writing set and brass ornaments from Assam in India, all very old and unearthed amid or near the ruins. By the time the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century, the site was no longer used and had fallen into obscurity, although no one yet knows why.
Hwange National Park: The biggest national park in Zimbabwe, this was in the early 1800s a royal hunting grounds for Mzilikazi – a Ndebele warrior king. It has more than 108 mammal species and an amazing over 400 types of birds, including 50 types of raptors. An extensive network of game viewing roads leads to some large concentrations of game. Hwange is one of Africa’s premier elephant strongholds. with some 30,000 elephants. They need to drink water twice a day and the park has little natural water, so most of the water is pumped through boreholes into the pans and troughs. Other wildlife in the park include giraffes, hippos, buffalos, zebras, wildebeests, white rhinos, black rhinos, lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, wild dogs, antelopes, and gemsbok.
Lake Kariba: Lake Kariba, shared by both Zambia and Zimbabwe, is the world’s largest man-made lake and reservoir by volume. Traditional water sports are available on the lake in designated areas such as wake-boarding, canoeing and sport fishing is good, especially for tiger fish. Houseboat journeys are popular here. Lake Kariba’s banks are often lined with big crocodiles and a rich assortment of birds along its 2,000 km/1,243 mi. of shoreline and estuaries.
Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve: This reserve protects one of the highest concentrations of the endangered black rhino as well as 14 species of eagles, 11 hawks and nine different owls. The area is known for its unique sandstone outcrops, mopane forests, and regal baobab trees. Malilangwe also has contributions by man of more than 100 rock art sites that date back more than 2,000 years. The reserve has diverse lowveld ecologies with populations of lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, aardvark, painted hunting dogs and caracal as well as six species of small antelope including klipspringer, Sharpe’s grysbok, grey duiker, steenbok and the rare Livingstone’s suni and oribi.
Mana Pools National Park: Mana Pools National Park and Sapi Private Reserve, on the eastern boundary, form the UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as a core area of the mid-Zambezi biosphere reserve. This is a region of the lower Zambezi River in Zimbabwe where the flood plain turns into a broad expanse of lakes after the rainy season. As the lakes slowly dry up and retreat, the region attracts large animals in search of water, making it one of Africa’s most renowned game-viewing regions. Mana Pools National Park and the neighboring private Sapi Concession create an experience reminiscent of the old Africa. This area is home to the country’s greatest concentration of hippopotamuses and crocodiles as well as large populations of elephant and buffalo in the dry season. This remains one of the least developed national parks in Southern Africa. With an estimated 80% to 85% of these two wildlife areas only traversable on foot, this is Africa’s dream walking safari destination. The Mana Pools National Park is also designated as a Ramsar Wetland Site and is an area of international importance. The Ramsar Convention provides for national action and international co-operation regarding the conservation of wetlands and the wise sustainable use of the resources, especially those providing waterfowl habitat. Mana Pools is ranked as one of Africa’s outstanding wildlife reserves and during the winter months it has the highest concentration of game in the entire continent. Huge herds of elephant and buffalo are drawn to the sweet Zambezi waters, followed by lion, hyena, kudu, nyala, impala and a multitude of other game.
Matobo Hills National Park: Established in 1926, this is Zimbabwe’s oldest national park. The original park borders extended well to the south and east of the current park. These areas were redistributed as part of a settlement between the colonial authorities and the local people, creating the Khumalo and Matobo Communal Lands. The Matobo Hills were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003. Walking safaris are a highlight here in addition to the traditional vehicle, boat and canoe safaris. More than 200 species of trees are recorded in the national park, and over 100 grass species. Some 175 bird, 88 mammal, 39 snake and 16 fish species call the park home. Game include white rhinos, sable antelopes, impala and a dense population of leopards due to an abundance of hyrax, which accounts for half the leopards’ diet. The park in the west has been restocked with white and black rhinos, the former from Kwa-Zulu Natal in the 1960s and the latter from the Zambezi Valley in the 1990s. It has been designated as an Intensive Protection Zone for the two species as well as hyenas, hipps, giraffes, zebras, wildebeest and sand ostriches. Matobo National Park contains the highest numbers of black eagles, and breeding pairs of these birds, in the world.
Matusadona National Park: Matusadona was proclaimed a non-hunting area before it was declared a national park in 1958. The landscapes include flat plains and rugged mountains protecting a diverse flora and fauna. It includes three distinct ecological areas. Lake Kariba and its shoreline grasslands; the floor of the Zambezi Valley is thickets and mopane woodland; and the Escarpment area of Julbernardia and Brachystegia woodlands. The woodlands do not have much grass but provide habitat for browsers, most notably the black rhinoceros. Elephants can be found throughout the park. Elephant browsing and fire depredations have, in recent years, caused the once substantial woodlands to decrease allowing grassland to develop.
Malawi: Although compact, Malawi is green and lush, with plateaus, highlands, forests, mountains, plains, escarpments and dramatic river valleys. The Rift Valley is the dominant feature, creating a vast chasm that is filled by Lake Malawi, Africa’s third largest lake. The lake is home to hundreds of species of cichlid fish. The flatter areas of the Rift Valley in South Malawi are home to important wetlands, including Elephant Marsh in the Lower Shire Valley. As in many African countries, Malawi has a multi-cultural society. More than ten different ethnic groups occupy the country, each with its own history, culture and beliefs. Yet, all belong to the major African group of peoples known as the Bantu. Speaking a variety of languages such as Swahili and Shona, the Bantu peoples are spread across central and southern Africa and form around one-third of the continent’s population. Malawi is an emerging destination that has much to offer, and tourism offers the potential to enhance the lives and future of Malawi’s citizens.
Best Time to Go
Zambia has three seasons. December-April: warm and wet. May to August: dry and sunny with cold lights.September-November: hot and dry. Average temperatures in summer range from 25 ºC/77°F to 35 ºC/95°F, and in winter from 5ºC/42°F to 24ºC/75°F.November to April is the rainiest; most bush camps close as dirt roads are impassable. They reopen in May or June when the roads have dried out, and that is the beginning of peak season.From September onward, it becomes increasingly hot with warm evenings. October should be avoided for walking safaris.
Day 1: Johannesburg, South Africa
This city is the pulsating heart of South Africa’s industrial and commercial life with activities such as cultural visits to Soweto, the Apartheid Museum and arts and craft galleries.
Day 2: Johannesburg / Lusaka / Mfuwe / South Luangwa National Park
South Luangwa is a place of primeval forest and lush savanna, stretching for hundreds of miles and encompassing the Luangwa River basin.
Days 3/4: South Luangwa
Known for walking safaris, other activities include day and night drives in open 4×4 vehicles, game viewing by pontoon boat and canoe. The wooded bend in the river features plentiful plains game, especially huge buffalo herds.
Day 5: South Luangwa / Mfuwe / Lower Zambezi
This region offers welcome sanctuary to great herds of elephant, buffalo, impala, zebra, baboon, lion and hyena.
Days 6/7: Lower Zambezi
Game viewing can be done on foot, in open vehicles and by pontoon boat or canoe, allowing close-up viewing as the animals come to the water to drink. Tiger fishing in season is possible.
Day 8: Lower Zambezi / Livingstone / Victoria Falls, Zambia
Victoria Falls is one of the most spectacular natural sights in the world and one of the largest sheets of falling water.
Day 9: Victoria Falls
Adventure activities available in the area range from bungee jumping, to canoeing, to microlite flights above the falls.
Day 10: Victoria Falls / Johannesburg / Depart
Day 1: Johannesburg, South Africa
The city was established in 1886 following the discovery of gold, and today it is one of the 50 largest urban areas in the world.
Day 2: Johannesburg / Victoria Falls
Vic Falls, Mosi-oa-Tunya, “The Smoke that Thunders” is world’s largest sheet of falling water, and the Zambezi River upstream features a variety of river adventures.
Day 3: Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls is one of the most spectacular natural sights in the world, and adventure activities are centered on the falls as well as the magnificent Zambezi River and the surrounding national park.
Day 4: Victoria Falls / Hwange National Park
Game viewing is excellent throughout the year in Hwange. Lion, large herds of elephant, buffalo, leopard and white rhino inhabit this park.
Day 5: Hwange National Park
The park is a bird watcher’s paradise with more than 400 different types sighted here.
Day 6: Hwange National Park / Lake Kariba
Lake Kariba is the world’s largest man-made lake and reservoir by volume, and it supports a thriving commercial fishery.
Day 7: Lake Kariba
Leopard, lion, hyena, cheetah, elephant, hippo and a multitude of antelope species inhabit the area. This is another walker’s paradise.
Day 8: Lake Kariba / Mana Pools National Park
Mana Pools National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has the country’s biggest concentration of hippos and crocodiles in the heart of the Zambezi Valley.
Days 9: Mana Pools National Park
Large herds of elephant and buffalo together with hippo, waterbuck, kudu, nyala and eland all gather along the riverbanks.
Day 10: Mana Pools National Park / Harare / Johannesburg / Depart
Custom Tour Options
Kafue National Park (2-3 days)
About the size of Massachusetts, Kafue is the second largest national park in Africa with excellent game viewing as well as fabulous fishing opportunities.
Liuwa Plains National Park (3 days)
The park’s grasslands support a variety of large mammals, including tens of thousands of blue wildebeest, whose annual migration is Africa’s second largest. Frequently sighted large predators include the cheetah, spotted hyena and lion.
Great Zimbabwe Ruins (3 days)
The largest collection of ruins in Africa south of the Sahara can be found in the heart of southern Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers. These remarkable ruins were constructed between the 11th and 15th centuries.
Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve (4 days)
The reserve has one of the highest concentrations of the endangered black rhino as well as more than 100 rock art sites that date back more than 2,000 years.
Mana Pools National Park (3 days)
Mana Pools National Park and Sapi Private Reserve, on the eastern boundary, form a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The country’s greatest concentration of hippos and crocodiles as well as large populations of elephant and buffalo live here.
Matobo Hills National Park (2 days)
Established in 1926, this is Zimbabwe’s oldest national park with some 175 bird and 88 mammal species as well as the highest concentration of black eagles in the world.
Matusadona National Park (2-3 days)
This national park in northern Zimbabwe sits on the southern shore of Lake Karibu and features a variety of distinct ecosystems.
Malawi (4 days)
Malawi is small but no less fascinating with the Great Rift Valley running through its heart, and Lake Malawi, Africa’s third largest lake filling the chasm. From safari to snorkeling, this emerging country provides its share of adventures.
Land only, double occupancy: $750-$3000 per person, per day