Lower Zambezi National Park

Elephants enjoying the riverine spoils of Lower Zambezi National Park.

Zambia's Lower Zambezi National Park lies on the lush banks of the Zambezi River.

Country:
Zambia
Size:
4092 km2
Number of Bird Species:
265
Number of large mammal species:
61
Established:
1983

Introduction

The Lower Zambezi National Park is an extremely beautiful conservation area that lies on the northern bank of the Zambezi River, opposite Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe. The hills are covered with Miombo woodland and mopane and acacia are found in the valleys. There is a great variety of game species, which include elephant and buffalo, but unfortunately the numbers have been reduced because of poaching. Of the predators, lion and leopard are the most active in the park, while massive elephant herds are seen along the river. You will find plenty of crocodiles basking in the sun, and the birdlife is truly something to behold, from the tiniest bee-eaters to tall shoebill storks and everything in between.

The beauty of the Lower Zambezi National Park is its wildness. Canoeing here is an amazing experience and is one of the best ways to observe a wide variety of birds. The lodges in the park give you the choice of day-long canoe trips or a leisurely hour on the river. Out on bush walks while engaging in animal tracking, you will meet up with various different animal and bird species.

Game viewing is best in mid-season between June and October. Naturally, the river should be at its highest in June (when all the rainwater in the catchment area has reached downstream) - but the levels are heavily controlled by the hydro-electric scheme at the Kariba Dam wall - so it can rise overnight if more electricity output is needed. There are no operations inside the park during the rains, as roads become impassable and the wildlife moves to the security of the hills rather than the vulnerability of the river banks.

Reasons to Visit

1

Boat Life

Boating along the Zambezi River with magnificent views within close proximity to the hippos and crocodiles is an unforgettable experience. The area is teeming with life, in the water and on the banks – the riverine vegetation creating the perfect environment for smaller animals to find protection and shelter. There is never a dull moment.

2

Eye of the Tiger (fish)

The Zambezi River is synonymous with the infamous tiger fish. If you are looking for a place where you can enjoy an African safari experience combined with an angler’s dream of catching one of these monsters, you've found it. Everything is arranged for you, which includes tackle and gear, so you can focus on bringing you A-game.

3

Swimming Cats

Visiting the Lower Zambezi National Park offers guests the once in a lifetime opportunity to see the kings and queens of the wild swim. Although their noses are scrunched up just like that of a house cat in a bath, they swim with great determination and skill, and are known to be the only predators for which the crocodile is also prey.

Useful Info

Getting There
Plane

By Air

Upon arrival at OR Tambo International, guests will be welcomed and assisted in transferring to their flight to Lusaka, Zambia. A short two hour flight will take you to Kenneth Kaunda International Airport. Once in Lusaka, guests will be directly chartered to the Chiawa Game Management Area conveniently located within the Lower Zambezi.

Car

By Road

The Lower Zambezi National Park is situated approximately 150km from Lusaka, and although it is accessible by road, the drive can take up to four hours. Guests on an African Sky safari will be chartered directly to the park, from where they will be transported privately to their lodge. Guests can rest assured that they are in the very capable hands of an expert ranger.

Weather & Best Time To Visit

The dry season, from June to October, is the best time to visit the Lower Zambezi National Park. The park is not only more accessible (some lodges even close due to inaccessibility in the rainy season), but it is also at this time that wildlife can better be viewed through the sparser vegetation. The clearer skies are also perfect for stargazing. Fishing is fantastic in September and October.

During the wet season the park is truly beautiful, with the vegetation becoming a lush green and flowers blossoming. It is the best time for birders to visit the area as the breeding season gets underway. An array of new-born antelope can also be seen on the floodplains. The park is known to be sunny with rains showers during summer afternoons, and the skies clearing shortly afterwards.

History

The Lower Zambezi National Park is one of the youngest national parks in Zambia. It was only established as a national park in 1983 and before that it was the private nature reserve of Zambia’s president. This makes Lower Zambezi National Park a truly pristine wilderness that hasn’t been assaulted by mass tourism. The Cumings family that own and operate the Chiawa Camp brought the first tourists into the park in 1990. Over the last thirty years, very little development has taken place in the national park, making accessing the park and moving around in the park very difficult.

The park itself is part of a larger conservation area known as the GMA (Game Management Area) and animals roam freely between the GMA areas. The Lower Zambezi is surrounded by three other GMA participants. The first European to explore the area of the Lower Zambezi National Park was the famous explorer Dr David Livingstone. Livingstone was born at Blantyre, Scotland on 19 March 1813. In 1836 he started studying medicine and theology and eventually he decide to become a missionary doctor. He crossed paths with the lower Zambezi area after he set out in 1852 to complete a four year expedition from the upper Zambezi to the coast.

Wildlife

The lush and pristine wilderness that encompasses Lower Zambezi National Park is filled with a mind-blowing array of animals that occur in high numbers. It is not uncommon to see elephant herds of a hundred or more on the floodplains, and even more buffalo. Healthy antelope populations of impala, kudu, eland, wildebeest, waterbuck and bushbuck occur alongside spectacular dazzles of zebra. Smaller antelope are not spotted as frequently, but there is a chance of coming across duiker or grysbok. The rivers are filled with hippos and crocodiles, but what enthusiasts come to the rivers for are the large water monitor lizards.

All of the Big Five - except the rhinoceros - can be found in Lower Zambezi National Park. Lions, leopard and spotted hyena are plentiful due to the abundance of prey. The varied terrain - with many large trees - suit the leopards perfectly, and lions can often be found stalking buffalo, antelope or zebra in the floodplains. The Zambezi River plays host to a multitude of fish and recently fishermen started flocking here to catch the highly predatory tiger fish. With more than 378 bird species that have been identified, it is a birdwatcher's dream. Kingfishers, storks, bee-eaters, darters, cormorants and eagles are common. Ospreys, spoonbills and African skimmers are amongst the less common residents.

Vegetation & Terrain

The Lower Zambezi valley was formed millions of years ago by volcanic activity, which created the enormous fissure through which the Zambezi River flows today. It is because of the volcanic nutrient-rich soil that the area has such lush foliage. The Lower Zambezi National Park lies to the north of the prolific Zambezi River. The river section is characterized by thick riverine vegetation and woodlands. Large ebony, leadwood and fig trees are often found on the banks. The dense riverine vegetation is an ideal habitat for animals. Geologically, the Zambezi valley is related to East Africa's Great Rift Valley, found in the northeastern parts of Africa.

As you move up north from the river, the vegetation changes to floodplains bordered by thick mopane forests and miombo woodlands on the higher ground and top of the ridges. Acacias and winterthorn trees are commonly found in the area, and the latter is especially popular amongst the elephants that enjoy their fruits. The areas usually has short grass and is thus great for guided bush walks. The floodplains, however, provide sustenance for the grazers throughout the year, and during the dry winters the animals converge on these areas. Large baobabs and acacia trees are some of the most recognized symbols of the park.

Activities

Situated on the Zambezi River, the Lower Zambezi National Park offers visitors a variety of game viewing experiences. Daily game drives in 4x4 vehicles with experienced rangers are a great way to view the lush plains and some of the higher grounds. Bush walks are led by armed game rangers and offer visitors the opportunity to explore the natural habitat of the various creatures that reside in the region. One of the most popular activities in the park are boat rides on the Zambezi, from where the hippos and crocodiles can be viewed up-close in their natural environment. Canoes can also be taken out into the waters.

If you like fishing, the feisty tigerfish can be found along the river and offers a great challenge to even the most experienced anglers (fishing is strictly catch-and-release in the park, so don’t expect to take any trophies home). Bird enthusiasts are sure to be impressed by the multitude of species that can be seen in the park. The mighty fish eagle also calls the area home, and will sometimes join anglers in the hunt for fish in the river. The area is also perfect for wildlife and landscape photographers. Guests can relax at their lodge by taking a dip in the pool or visiting the spa for a well-deserved treatment.    

Experiences to be Savored

A canoe safari on the Zambezi River in the Lower Zambezi National Park.

Go Fish!

All the lodges at the Lower Zambezi National Park cater for fishing, and rods and tackle are readily provided. Making your way down to the banks of the Zambezi River where anglers from all over the world come to catch the tiger fish is exhilarating.

Relax on the river

One of the best experiences in the park is climbing into a canoe and flowing gently down the river, taking in the beautiful surroundings, and then being picked up by a speedboat at the end of the day and taken back to camp – no effort, just a pleasure.

Breaking down the barriers

There are no fenced camps in the Lower Zambezi National Park, which just adds to the naturalness of the terrain and the excitement of staying in the park. Animals wander through the lodge sites regularly, and there’s no saying what you will find when you step out your door.

FAQ

How many elephants are in the herds?
The herds are enormous, some hosting up to 100 elephants.
Do the elephants really swim?
Yes, and sometimes they disappear complete under the water - except, of course, for their trunk which is used as a snorkel.
Are the roads paved?
Unlike many other reserves, Lower Zambezi contains no paved roads.
Are the camps fenced?
No, the camps aren’t fenced, but not to worry - armed and highly qualified rangers will take care of you will accompany you between buildings when its dark.
What makes the park so unique?
The park is in a pristine condition, as it was previously privately owned by the former president. It was therefore protected from mass tourism and too much human development.
Are there any medical precautions that I would need to take?
There is malaria in the area, so it is advised to consult your personal physician prior to your travels to Southern Africa.
Is there electricity?
There is 24 hour electricity available, and lodges use British round 3 prong plug points.

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