Top 5 Reasons to Travel to Zambia
Travelling to Zambia? Great choice!
A beautiful, diverse, and vibrant landlocked country in southern Africa, Zambia has emerged as one of the most premier wildlife and safari destinations in Africa for avid travelers, globe-trotting tourists, and head-over-heals local and international wildlife and safari enthusiasts alike. Boasting relatively untouched and unspoiled landscapes and a vast diversity of wildlife and birdlife, Zambia should definitely be on your African safari travel bucket-list. However, one of the top things that sets Zambia apart from other African countries is that despite its growing reputation as a spectacular and must-visit safari destination, its remote location has helped it retain its essence of true wilderness – providing an unpredictable and exhilarating safari experience to anyone that visits.
Boasting an endless and exciting variety of things to do, see, explore, and experience, here are the top 5 reasons to travel to Zambia for your unforgettable African safari trip, adventure, or getaway.
#1 Prolific Wildlife Sightings & Encounters
Zambia has emerged as a premier African safari destination due to its unapologetic natural beauty, untouched and unspoiled landscapes, and incredible diversity and remarkable abundance of wildlife species. Home to some of the most magnificent National Parks and game reserves in Africa, Zambia packs quite a massive punch when it comes to its amazing array of wildlife species – One of its most impressive being the renowned South Luangwa National Park.
South Luangwa National Park is by far the greatest wilderness and wildlife highlight of eastern Zambia. Known by locals as simply ‘the South Park’, this impressive National Park covers an extensive area of approximately 9050 square kilometers of the Luangwa Valley floor. Beyond its untouched wilderness landscapes and sheer unapologetic natural beauty, Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park is known to draw wildlife enthusiasts and safari connoisseurs from all corners of the globe. Accompanying its reputation for offering extremely high-quality expert guiding, South Luangwa’s concentration of wildlife is some of the most dense in all of Africa.
Brimming with exuberance and fueled by the life-giving Luangwa River – The pristine Luangwa River is the most intact and unspoiled river system in Africa, with its tributaries and lagoons being the lifeblood of this region – South Luangwa National Park’s expansive savannah grasslands are home to over 60 species of wildlife, boasting a vast diversity of game that will undoubtedly satisfy any safari bucket list. From Africa’s top predators like the mighty majestic lion, lean and elusive leopard, agile cheetah, hungry hyenas, and the famed, yet endangered, African wild dog to big game favorites which include large herds of elephants, buffalos, rhinos, giraffes, and hippos (to mention merely a few) – you better believe South Luangwa National Park has them ALL, including the iconic African Big 5! Here’s a quick tip – For the best Big 5 sightings and game-viewing experience, head to the Valley’s oxbow pools – you definitely won’t be disappointed!
South Luangwa’s wildlife wonders DEFINITELY don’t end there! This glorious National Park and wildlife haven is also home to a number of rare and endemic species as well as some of the most unique wildlife sightings, such as Zambia’s beloved Crawshay’s zebra herds (whose stripes are more distinct than those found further south and west), the Thornicroft’s giraffe, and Cookson’s wildebeest. Not to mention 14 different species of antelope, including the elusive bushbuck and the attractive kudu, with its spiral horns and delicate face.
Another one of South Luangwa National Park’s wildlife highlights takes place in late October, just before the start of the rain, when thousands of hippos gather in the Luangwa River’s deeper pools – It truly is a remarkable spectacle to witness as they jostle and fight for space.
Situated along the lower section of the Zambezi River, the Lower Zambezi National Park is another 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.
#2 Zambia is home to the world-renowned 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 experiencing the many thrilling activities and adventures on offer. From relaxed sightseeing on foot, scenic helicopter flights, going on a guided tour of the Victoria Falls or historical tour of the Victoria Falls Bridge, embarking on a sensational sunset cruise, Tiger Fishing along the Zambezi River, or enjoying an enriching, immersive, and exciting local village tour, to heart-pounding, adrenaline-inducing experiences like white water rafting on high-grade rapids on the Zambezi River, taking the ultimate leap-of-faith by going bungee jumping, going swimming in the rocky bathing pool on the Zambian side of Victoria Falls, and taking to the skies on a microlight flight – there is something for absolute everyone to enjoy and tick off their bucket-list.
**Check out our ‘Top 10 Things to do at Victoria Falls’ blog for everything you need to know about these thrilling once-in-a-lifetime experiences and adventures.
#3 Zambia is the site of The Annual Kasanka National Park Bat Migration
While The Annual Great Migration of Wildebeest in Tanzania and Kenya may well win both the attention and the fancy name, did you know that, despite popular belief, the largest mammal migration in the world as well as Africa’s largest wildlife migration doesn’t take place on the grass plains and savannas of the Serengeti National Park and Masai Mara National Reserve – but rather the skies over the Congo and Kasanka National Park in Zambia? We’re talking about The Annual Kasanka National Park Bat Migration!
This means that while Kasanka National Park in northern Zambia may well be one of the smaller and ‘lesser-known’ game reserves in Africa – occupying only about 4000ha²/400km² – it is in no way stopping it from making some NOT-TO-BE-AVOIDED global African wildlife spectacle noise – attracting people from far and wide to see what it’s all about – and let’s not forget, to witness the largest mammal migration in the world!
Every year, from late-October to December, the skies around this tiny African jewel – Kasanka National Park in Zambia – come alive with around 10 million straw-colored fruit bats. These African straw-colored bats are said to migrate from the Congo Basin and arrive from all over central Africa to feed on the fruiting trees of the evergreen swamp forest in Zambia’s Kasanka National Park. This remarkable migration and spectacle tend to coincide with the start of the rains.
The scale of this migration is not only immense, but utterly extraordinary – with bats dispersing and flying about as far as the eye can see! Seeing these millions of straw-colored fruit bats fly out every evening from their roosts to feed is both an exhilarating and spectacular spectacle that has to be seen to be believed!
To maximize your bat safari experience, Kasanka National Park has a few custom-built bat hides where there are two bat-specific viewing times. You can see the bats in the evening when they set out to feed as well as in the morning when they return to roost with up to twice their body weight full of fruit. It is quite something to listen to the sound of branches straining and cracking under the increasing weight and burden of tired and stuffed bats. This truly is the very best and most memorable way to fully immerse yourself in this annual phenomenon.
While the sheer volume of bats is nothing short of jaw-dropping and is bound to render you speechless, the atmosphere surrounding this phenomenon is equally thrilling and captivating. You will see countless huge birds of prey swoop through the skies in an effort to take down as many bats as possible. That’s not all! Several small predators and scavengers can also be found waiting below, ready to pounce on any bats that may fall or become injured during their battle for survival.
*Interesting Fact: Conservationists think that these African straw-colored fruit bats are not only responsible for pollination, but up to 60% of forest seed dispersal. Making this event not only spectacular in every way possible but also ecologically crucial.
- Best time to see the Annual Kasanka National Park Bat Migration: Late October – mid-December
#4 Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park is deemed ‘The Home of the Walking Safari’
Loudly and proudly claiming the title as ‘The Home of the Walking Safari’ – Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park is by far the top destination in Africa to go on a walking safari. Considered the birthplace of walking safaris, going on an exhilarating walking safari in the renowned South Luangwa National Park promises to exceed all your expectations – Because, as stated by the locals, a South Luangwa walking safari is not JUST a South Luangwa walking safari or a thrilling wilderness experience, adventure, or activity to be enjoyed, but rather a way of life.
If you decide / have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of going on a walking safari adventure on your visit to this iconic National Park you’ll have the additional privilege of traversing the untamed landscapes of South Luangwa National Park on foot while being guided by an exceptional, highly experienced, and incredibly knowledgeable wildlife guide or ranger.
So lace up those hiking boots and ditch the conventional 4×4 safari vehicle as you embark on your exhilarating and bucket-list worthy South Luangwa walking safari expedition – an experience this region pioneered and remains famous for even to this very day. As South Luangwa National Park is arguably one of the greatest wildlife-viewing destinations in Africa, you’ll cross paths with an incredible and diverse array of wildlife species, including large herds of elephants, buffalos, zebras, hippos, giraffes, an abundance of antelope, the mighty and magnificent lion – the ultimate king of the jungle – leopards, cheetahs, endangered African wild dogs, as well as Zambia’s beloved Crawshay’s zebra herds, the Thornicroft’s giraffe, and Cookson’s wildebeest. Boasting such an amazing abundance of wildlife your South Luangwa walking safari will undoubtedly be filled with the most magnificent up-close wildlife sightings and encounters.
South Luangwa’s essence of true wilderness, relatively untouched surroundings, remote location, and limited number of visitors allowed ensures a pristine walking safari experience that’s genuinely unparalleled. You’d be hard-pressed to find anything quite like it! With all that being said, South Luangwa National Park continues to wear the crown and covet the title as the ultimate destination in Africa for those who desire to traverse big-game terrain on foot and entirely immerse themselves in the natural world.
#5 Witness Zambia’s Liuwe Plains Wildebeest Migration up-close & first-hand
The wildebeest migration to Liuwa Plains in Zambia is possibly one of Africa’s most scarcely known great natural phenomena and wildlife spectacles – and therein lies its power fellow wildlife lovers! While The Annual Great Wildebeest Migration between Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve and Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park harbours all the attention, fame, and glory, it also draws enormous crowds, with thousands of people travelling from across the globe to watch this extraordinary wildlife spectacle and glorious natural phenomena unfold. And therein lies the silver lining – This not only spells good news for safari afficionados and avid wildlife enthusiasts as it means fewer crowds and far less people gathering around to catch even the slightest glimpse of the spectacle, but some may argue that the Liuwa Plains Wildebeest Migration offers a more authentic and immersive experience all together.
While it may be somewhat less extravagant than the Masai Mara / Serengeti Great Migration, it will certainly not disappoint. Zambia’s Liuwe Plains Wildebeest Migration sees between 45,000 to 50,000 wildebeest migrate to fresh grazing plains in the remote Liuwa Plains National Park. This makes it the second largest migration of wildebeest in the world.
Following the rains, the wildebeest migration typically reaches the Liuwa Plains between September and November each year. This means that if you’re planning an action-packed safari trip to Zambia, this would without a doubt be the best time to do so, with the month of November offering the best chance of seeing these huge herds of wildebeest grazing in their natural habitat – it truly is a spectacular sight!
*Extra Insight: Zambia’s wildebeest migration, if timed to perfection, would work brilliantly as a compliment to the Annual Bat Migration in Kasanka National Park (Zambia) which also reaches its peak in November (ending in mid-December). This gives visitors, tourists, and nature and wildlife aficionados the incredible opportunity to witness two of Africa’s remarkable wilderness and wildlife spectacles on one single trip.