A landlocked country in southern Africa, Zambia is emerging as a premier safari travel location due to its unspoiled landscapes and diversity of wildlife and birdlife. But it’s the sheer remoteness of Zambia’s many wonderful wilderness regions and national parks that makes it one of the top safari destinations for locals, tourists, and adventure travelers alike.
Offering an endless variety of things to see and experience, here are the best things to do and top 10 tourist attractions in Zambia, all of which should be on your Zambian travel and safari bucket-list.
#1 VICTORIA FALLS
Regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World and one of Africa’s most astonishing sights, Victoria Falls reigns supreme as one of the top tourist attractions in Zambia. Locally known as Mosi-oa-Tunya or ‘The Smoke That Thunders’, this jaw-dropping waterfall on the Zambezi River is located on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Stretching 1.7km wide and reaching a height of 355 feet, Victoria Falls is considered to be the world’s biggest sheet of falling water.
When the Zambezi River is in full flood, it is estimated that 500-million litres of water per minute thunders over the drop, crashing into a deep rocky gorge at the bottom, throwing a cloud of mist and rainbow-lit spray high into the air. While the Main Falls lie within the borders of Zimbabwe, the Zambian side is equally as impressive during peak flood season (February to May). By far one of the best Zambian viewpoints is the Knife-Edge Bridge, which takes you right up close to this thundering waterfall – be prepared to get soaked!
Victoria Falls is a fantastic start or end point to a Zambian safari. If you have the time, it is highly recommended that you spend a few days exploring and sampling the many thrilling activities on offer. From relaxed sightseeing on foot and scenic helicopter flights to heart-pounding, adrenaline-inducing experiences like white water rafting on high-grade rapids, microlight flights and bungee jumping – there is something for everyone to enjoy!
#2 LOWER ZAMBEZI NATIONAL PARK
Situated along the lower section of the Zambezi River, the Lower Zambezi National Park is one of Zambia’s premier wildlife and safari destinations. The main draw of the national park is its remote off-the-beaten-path location and pristine wilderness. Encompassing vast and varied terrain, including forest, grassland, and floodplain, the Lower Zambezi National Park supports a fantastic diversity of wildlife. Home to plenty of big game, including elephants, lions, buffaloes, hippos, and Nile crocodiles, as well as an array of birdlife and other wildlife species, wildlife enthusiasts will definitely not be disappointed.
Wildlife viewing is best along the rivers, which border the park on three sides. The Zambezi River is the region’s main source of water as well as its top attraction, both for game and visitors.
When visiting the Lower Zambezi National Park you can go on a safari or game drive and explore all the wonders the park has to offer or enjoy an adventure-filled nature walk. By far one of the major highlights is going on a canoe safari along the Zambezi River! It is both peaceful and undeniably thrilling paddling and drifting past the twitching ears and snorts of submerged hippos and knobbly Nile crocodiles basking on the riverbanks. The guides are utterly attuned to the animals’ habits and behaviour and are completely at ease predicting their next moves – So you can rest assured you are in safe hands!
#3 SOUTH LUANGWA NATIONAL PARK
South Luangwa National Park is arguably the greatest wildlife-viewing destination and top tourist attraction in Zambia. Boasting among the highest concentration of wildlife in all of Africa, the park is regarded as one of the very best places to see large herds of buffalo, elephants, and giraffes.
South Luangwa is home a number of rare and endemic species including Thornicroft’s giraffe, Cookson’s wildebeest and Crawshay’s zebra, along with plenty of leopard, lion, and hippo. In late October, just before the start of the rain, thousands of hippos gather in the Luangwa River’s deeper pools – It is a remarkable spectacle to witness as they jostle and fight for space.
The best time to visit South Luangwa National Park for pristine wildlife sightings is during the dry season when the area’s wildlife flock to the banks of the river. This also gives you the opportunity to see predators such as leopards and lions in action!
South Luangwa is famous for their walking safaris, which are led by expert guides through some of Africa’s best game viewing territory. Another major attraction is boat safaris, especially during the park’s rainy season. As the Luangwa River breaks its banks, shallow-draft vessels can navigate into the flooded riverine groves – this is undoubtedly one of Zambia’s most unique and exciting safari highlights!
#4 KAFUE NATIONAL PARK
Kafue National Park is the largest national park and wildlife reserve in Zambia and the second-biggest park in all of Africa. It covers more than 22000km² (2500km2 more than South Africa’s Kruger National Park), with the terrain varying significantly from north to south. Despite being one of Africa’s largest parks, Kafue is the least visited of Zambia’s three major national parks. Located well off-the-beaten-track, Kafue National Park is still very, very wild and regarded as somewhat of a Zambian hidden gem.
Rivers, seasonal floodplains, and far-reaching, wildlife-rich wetlands dominate northern Kafue. The extreme north of Kafue National Park is also where you’ll find the Busanga Plains, one of Zambia’s most significant wetland resources and the best region of the park for game viewing. Huge herds of red lechwe, puku, stately roan antelope, blue wildebeests, and zebras graze these grassy floodplains. Their large numbers attract plenty of predators, including lion prides, lone cheetahs, packs of wild dogs, and leopards. The Kafue River – the namesake of the park – is home to plenty of hippos as well as some of the largest crocodiles in southern Africa.
Birders will delight in the extreme northwest of the Kafue National Park where the Busanga Swamps, an official Ramsar site, attracts close to 500 birdlife species, including large flocks of herons, egrets, and endangered wattle cranes.
Southern Kafue boasts large sections of Kalahari wood- and grassland, making it the ideal location for ever-growing populations of plains game as well as the park’s largest population of elephant and buffalo.
Along with game drives, you can spend your days in Kafue National Park on walking safaris and boat rides/safaris on either the Kafue River or Lunga River. Walking safaris are best during winter, while boat safaris are available along the Kafue River during the wet summer months.
#5 LAKE KASHIBA
Lake Kashiba is undoubtedly one of Zambia’s best hidden gems. As the surface level of the water is 30 feet below the floor of the surrounding forest, Lake Kashiba is often referred to as a ‘sunken lake’. While the surface area of the lake is small, it is incredibly deep with a depth of 330 feet around its sides. The depth of the centre of Lake Kashiba is however unknown, which has given rise to several mystical tales and legends of monsters below the surface.
Despite the air of mystery that surrounds it, the bluish-green water of the lake is extremely welcoming, and it has become a popular destination for activities like fishing and swimming.
Lake Kashiba is located in the north of Zambia, about a 40-minute drive from the town of Mpongwe in Copperbelt Province.
#6 KASANKA NATIONAL PARK
Lying just south of the Bangweulu Wetlands, near the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kasanka National Park is one of the top national parks and tourist attractions in Zambia. It is Zambia’s only privately managed park.
Regarded as one of the most beautiful reserves in Zambia, it boasts wonderful papyrus marshes, swamp forests and the miombo woodlands together with several criss-crossing rivers and seasonal, swampy pools which support almost 500 species of birds.
By far one of the top attractions of Kasanka is its annual bat migration. Every year from late-November to December, the skies around Kasanka National Park come alive with around 10 million straw-coloured fruit bats. The annual Kasanka National Park bat migration is regarded as the largest mammal migration in the world! While the sheer volume of bats is nothing short of draw-dropping, it’s the atmosphere surrounding this phenomenon that’s the most thrilling part as huge birds of prey swoop through the skies and take down as many bats as possible. Small predators and scavengers can also be found waiting below, ready to pounce on any that fall.
Kasanka is home to various wildlife and several antelope species including the rare, swamp-dwelling Sitatunga antelope which is fairly common in this area and can most often be spotted grazing in the misty dambos (wetlands). Hippo and crocodile are also plentiful, while buffalo, leopard, and elephant are present, but tougher to spot.
Many visitors combine Kasanka National Park with a trip to the nearby Bangweulu Wetlands to see the renowned shoebills and endemic black lechwe.
What You Need to Know:
- Kasanka is the only place in the world where you can witness this natural phenomenon.
- The migration only takes place for about 90 days (late October to mid-December).
- We recommend flying directly to Kasanka by private charter plane (there is an airstrip inside the park).
#7 LAKE KARIBA
Lake Kariba may not be as deep as Lake Kashiba, but it holds the distinction of being the largest man-made reservoir in the world by volume, extending over 5000km2 along Zambia’s southern border. The lake spans over 140 miles/220 kilometers along the border with Zimbabwe and reaches up to 25 miles/40 kilometers in width at its widest point.
Access to the Zambian side of Lake Kariba is fairly limited, with Sinazongwe and Siavonga being the only two towns of any significance providing access to the lake. Siavonga is only a few hours’ drive from Lusaka. Regarded as a laid-back lakeside holiday village, it is the larger of the two towns and very popular among locals. As Sinazongwe is much smaller and less developed, most locals and visitors head to Siavonga as their base for exploring Lake Kariba.
The Zambian side of Lake Kariba is far less wild than the Zimbabwean side. For wildlife sightings and encounters you will have to visit one of two large islands, Chete or Chikanka. Both islands are located in the southwest and accessible from Sinazongwe. Chete is the larger of the two islands and guided game walks/walking safaris are possible. Chete is home to a small population of elephants, some leopards and plenty of hippos, crocodiles, and birds.
Chikanka is privately owned, with a single, dedicated fishing lodge. It is one of many fishing options on Lake Kariba, with tigerfish being the most sought-after catch.
Houseboating is a very popular activity on Lake Kariba, and you are likely to see countless hippos, crocodiles, elephants, and all manner of birds as you drift along. You can also opt to enjoy a private motorboat trip or canoe safari. All of these exciting expeditions and safari adventures can be arranged from Siavonga.
#8 BLUE LAGOON NATIONAL PARK
Located a mere 75 miles/120km by road from Lusaka (the capital city of Zambia), Blue Lagoon National Park is not only one of the top wilderness destinations and tourist attractions in Zambia, but one of its most accessible parks for locals and tourists alike. Besides being incredibly easy to get to, it is absolutely worth the visit.
Blue Lagoon National Park is a relatively undiscovered park that was established in 1976. However, it was closed to the public by the Ministry of Defence and became a haven for poachers. Thanks to highly dedicated and successful rehabilitation efforts, the park reopened to the public in 2003.
Today, Blue Lagoon National Park welcomes visitors and avid wildlife enthusiasts from far and wide to its stunning location and vast wilderness terrains. As it remains largely untouched by the masses and developmental efforts, it has a certain undeniable and untamed natural beauty that’s hard to deny.
The best time to visit the Blue Lagoon National Park is during its wet season when the vast floodplains fill with water, attracting thousands of birds and mammals.
#9 LIUWA PLAIN NATIONAL PARK
Located west of the upper Zambezi River, close to the border with Angola, Liuwa Plain National Park is one of Zambia’s most remote national parks. Liuwa Plain is primarily made up of vast grasslands with a smattering of pans, palms, and clumps of Kalahari woodland.
During the rainy/wet season (December – April) large areas of the park are completely flooded, as with much of northern Zambia. Even during the drier winter months, Liuwa Plain National Park is difficult to reach. This only heightens its appeal among eager adventurers, thrill seekers and dedicated nature and wildlife enthusiasts. The lucky ones who reach this Zambian wilderness hidden gem, will feel like they have the entire national park to themselves – and perhaps they even do!
Boasting jaw-dropping panoramic views and unapologetic natural beauty, genuinely low visitor numbers (due to its remote location), and an abundant and diverse wildlife population, Liuwa Plain National Park is the ultimate African wilderness and safari destination.
Liuwa Plain’s biggest single wildlife attraction is its annual blue wildebeest migration when an estimated 40000 animals or more migrate as the rising water levels force the herds southeast in search of fresh grazing. This remarkable spectacle takes place in November each year and is the second largest of its kind in the world.
Liuwa Plain’s birdlife is another major draw, with some of its pans holding water year-round. Attracting a large variety of species, including spoonbills, marabou and saddle-billed storks, herons, and a noteworthy bird rarely found in groups elsewhere, the Slaty egret – it is a true bird lover’s paradise! Another notable wildlife highlight is Liuwa Plain National Park’s thriving hyena population. Estimated at around 600, they take the top spot as Liuwa’s apex predator.
#10 SIOMA NGWEZI AND NGONYE FALLS NATIONAL PARK
Covering 5,000km² of Kalahari woodland, Sioma Ngwezi is Zambia’s third-largest national park. Bordered by the Kwando River to the west (which also forms Zambia’s border with Angola) and Namibia to the south, Sioma Ngwezi is tucked away in the southwestern corner of Zambia. Combined with the impressive Ngonye Falls National Park located further north, it has become one of Zambia’s top up-and-coming regions to visit with its diverse wildlife attracting avid adventure travelers and wildlife enthusiasts.
Sioma Ngwezi National Park has a history of excellent giraffe sightings and visitors can look forward to seeing various wildlife species, including lion, leopard, and spotted hyena when visiting the park. As water is scarce in this region of Zambia, the best time for wildlife viewing is just after the summer rains when animals congregate in large numbers around the drying pools.
While Zambia’s 25 metre high Ngonye Falls may not be as grand as the renowned Victoria Falls, what it lacks in stature it more than makes up in volume. Besides admiring its beauty, visitors can enjoy various exhilarating adventure experiences, including kayaking, white water rafting, swimming, and fishing.