When it comes to things to do in Zambia, you’re probably expecting us to tell you all about the South Luangwa’s incredible walking safaris, or perhaps even extoll the virtues of the fabulous Victoria Falls. And, well, you wouldn’t be wrong. The country is best-known for its spectacular walking safaris and goosebump-inducing experiences in some seriously wild places, but the beautiful country has a few other tricks up her sleeve too. Read on for our list of top things to do in Zambia– there might well be a few in there that will surprise you.
Walk among the big five in South Luangwa
We hate to disappoint, so we’re going to jump straight into the deep end and start our things to do in Zambia list with the world-famous walking safaris.Walking is available across Zambia (the Kafue, Lower Zambezi and Luambe all spring to mind) but it was in the South Luangwa National Park where the notion of exploring the bush on foot first started, way back in the 1950s. Fast forward a few years and the walking safaris on offer are authentic, thrilling and truly one of the best ways to view Zambia’s plentiful wild things with some of the best guides on the continent by your side.
Our favourite walking safari camps in the South Luangwa include: Chamilandu Bush Camp, a tiny three-bedroom camp tucked away in the south of the park; Tena Tena, located in the prolific Nsefu Sector on the eastern side of the river; and the iconic Time + Tide Luwi Bush Camp, one of our favourite places on the continent. In all three cases, book one of the sister camps and you’ll be able to walk between them on a multi-day adventure. Magic.
Witness the second largest migration of wildebeest in Liuwa Plain
Step aside, Serengeti, for Liuwa Plain is in town! Not many know it, but the vast, golden plains of Zambia’s least-explored national park, Liuwa, play host to the second largest wildebeest migration on the continent and viewing them in all their glory is high on our list of top things to do in Zambia. From November to July each year, the beasties congregate in the south around King Lewanika Lodge, and the spectacle of thousands of wildebeest stretching as far as the eye can see is not to be missed.
It may be the only permanent lodge in the park, but it’s also seriously sophisticated and totally safari-chic. Click here to drool over the interiors at the lodge and then add it to your itinerary.
Take to the skies with a hot air balloon over the Kafue National Park
It may not be widely available, which is exactly why it’s made it on to our list of top things to do in Zambia, but for the best views of Kafue National Park,we highly recommend taking to the skies in a hot air balloon.You’ll float high above the picturesque plains, spotting pretty groups of red lechwe and puku, wildebeest, zebra and, if Lady Luck is on your side, perhaps a lion or two stalking through the palms. The Busanga Plains is just about the only place in Zambia where hot air ballooning is possible, so if it tickles your fancy, you know what to do…
Add Shumba Camp to your Zambia itinerary and book a balloon safari for the ultimate Kafue experience. When you’re not in the air, maximise your game viewing and take advantage of both game drives and night drives.
Safari in the raw untamed wild of Luambe National Park
Undoubtedly Africa’s best kept secret, Luambe National Park is a mind-boggling slice of raw, untamed magic. Kept off the radar for many years due mostly to the lack of accommodation, private investment in recent years has turned the tables and there’s now one tiny bush camp ready to welcome guests (in fact, make that two for 2020!). Pay a visit and spot snorting pods of hippo, big cats and even wild dog in a wilderness that’s all yours. Both walking safaris and game drives are on offer, but a sundowner with your toes in the sand on the edge of the river is just as worthy…
Go completely off radar at Luambe Camp and enjoy the wilderness experience of a lifetime. New for 2020 and set to open in July, ready for the start of the new season, is sister camp Kasikizi. Expect rustic rooms, amazing hospitality and a second-to-none wilderness experience, just like Luambe.
Swoop over Victoria Falls in a microlight
Another classic activity beloved by travellers from all walks of life (and one that we simply couldn’t miss from our list of things to do in Zambia) is a microlight flight above the iconic Victoria Falls. Completely open to the elements, a flight here isn’t just about the views, although they’re definitely worthy of a glance or two. Instead, it’s about immersing yourself in the power of the plunging waterfall as you fly through the ‘smoke’, with the spray in your hair and the sunlight on your face. Now that’s what we call an experience…
Livingstone is the small town that occupies the Zambian side of the Victoria Falls and there are plenty of lodges to choose from, both close to the town and spread out along the river. Microlight flights are operated by third-party companies, but all lodges will help you book the experience. Our top spots here include purse-friendly Waterberry Lodge or Royal Chundu for a dose of push-the-boat-out luxury.
Sleep under the stars in the South Luangwa
If you’re on the hunt for adventurous things to do in Zambia, how about making like the first safari pioneers and sleeping under the night sky in the sand-bed of the Luwi River in the South Luangwa. On these adventurous sleepouts, it’s just you, your guide, a mozzie net and the thrill of being deep in the heart of nature, surrounded by the roaring of the lion and the crackling of the campfire. In the morning, wake up to eggs and bacon and embark on a walking safari, tracking leopard prints in the sand and learning the secrets of the bush.
Add a couple of nights at Time + Tide Nsolo Bush Camp to your itinerary and spend one of those snoozing under the stars on a ‘Return to the Wild’ sleepout. The next morning, you’ll wake to sausages and bacon on the braai before walking to neighbouring Time + Tide Luwi Bush Camp or be transferred to a camp of your choice, anywhere in the park.
Tiger fish in the Lower Zambezi
Known as Africa’s most fearsome, fighting fish, catching a wily tiger fish is a dream for anglers worldwide. One of the best places to catch (and release) one is the Zambezi River in Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park, particularly in the hotter months of August to November. And even if fishing isn’t on your to-do list, head out on the boat anyway and watch herds of ellies splashing in the water and crocodiles basking in the sun.
Chiawa Camp offers tiger fishing boat trips on the Zambezi (as well as game drives, walking safaris and canoe trips) with expert guides, as does Chongwe Camp. In some cases, fishing activities may have to be booked in advance so chat to us for details if it’s on your must-do list.
Stay on a private island in the Zambezi River
It might sound like something from a film but if you’ve always hankered after sleeping on a private island, Zambia might just be the place to do it. Sindabezi is your very own private wilderness, smack bang in the middle of the mighty Zambezi River. Utterly idyllic in every way, the cottages look out over the tumbling waves and one of the fabulous butlers is never far away, ready to draw you a bubble bath or top up your champagne glass. Movie-star treatment indeed…
Treat yourself at the beautiful Sindabezi Island, but if you can’t reserve a cottage here (the rooms are tricky to get hold of in high season), head for sister lodge, Tongabezi; it might not be on a private island, but it’s every inch as beautiful.
Swim in the Mwaleshi Falls in the North Luangwa
The North Luangwa, with its absence of roads and beautiful, swoon-worthy landscapes, is a paradise made for walking safaris, but make sure you reserve some time for a trip to the sparkling Mwaleshi Falls. Arrive in the morning for a swim in the crystal-clear waters, then set up lunch on the banks of the river – after all, sandwiches are best munched with a procession of animals ambling past!
The river’s namesake, Mwaleshi Camp, is a simple and unpretentious bush camp that showcases the best of the North Luangwa. Combine a stay here with sister camp Tafika in the South Luangwa and try your hand at a mountain bike safari too!
Boat down the Luangwa River
Last on our list of things to do in Zambia is to take a step off the well-trodden path and head to the South Luangwa National Park between January and March. In contrast to the stark beauty of the dry season, the landscape is a verdant carpet of emerald green, puku and impala spring around the plains, and the air is crisp, bright and fresh. Most importantly, the great Luangwa River flows freely, allowing you to explore all the hidden corners of the park by boat.
There are very few camps open in the green season, which only serves to make it more special. Try Time + Tide Kakuli Camp or Nsefu Camp, both in the northerly sections of the park and accessible by boat.