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Adventure Holiday in Zambia

Africa's best authentic tailor-made safaris

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Adventure Holiday in Zambia

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By Diane Du Plessis

Safari Travel Planner

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For a true adventure, a self-drive 4×4 safari through Zambia is guaranteed to thrill. It’s best done well into the dry season (mid-June to October), when tracks inside the national parks are at their driest, and there’s less chance of getting stuck. Even then, thorough preparation, good backup (minimum two vehicles), and some previous African 4×4 experience are essential.

Zambia is one of Southern Africa’s most challenging off-road destinations, and you’ll need to be entirely self-sufficient. Essentials include a good map, a GPS with up-to-date software (Tracks4Africa is best), vehicle-recovery equipment, spare tires, a compressor, extra fuel, food, medical supplies, and a satellite phone for emergencies.

If you’re keen on self-driving but feel a little daunted, hop-in guides are sometimes available from camps inside Zambia’s national parks. For around $50 a day, a guide can provide both route and road advice and local wildlife and bird expertise.

A self-drive or 4x4 trip through Zambia is the ultimate adventure holiday
A self-drive or 4×4 trip through Zambia is the ultimate adventure holiday

It’s a great way to heighten the experience, save time and reduce stress, especially for less-experienced drivers. For multi-day trips, guides typically bring their own tents and food. They can be hired via reputable in-country safari operators, but check availability well in advance.

The most popular, and probably the easiest, 4×4 route is up from Livingstone/Lusaka into the Luangwa Valley. The road from Lusaka is tarred (though badly potholed in places), and the network of tracks inside South Luangwa National Park is manageable, even for relatively inexperienced drivers.

Campsites for self-drivers are outside the park, so head for Mfuwe Bridge and take day trips from there. From South Luangwa, the more intrepid can head even further north and explore the network of more demanding dirt tracks that cross North Luangwa National Park. The remote wilderness, an abundance of game, and a lack of other travelers mean you’ll likely have excellent wildlife sightings entirely to yourself.

Lilac Breasted Rollers inhabit acacia country with well spaced trees, rolling bushy game lands, riverside areas
Lilac Breasted Rollers inhabit acacia country with well spaced trees, rolling bushy game lands, riverside areas

Kafue National Park is another popular option for self-drive safaris in Zambia. A tar road from Lusaka provides good access to Hook Bridge Gate, and in the dry season, the internal network of roads is extensive and very productive for spotting wildlife.

Western Zambia and the upper Zambezi River area are among the more adventurous regions for experienced drivers. New tar roads have made access to parks such as Liuwa Plain easier, but there’s still an extensive network of sandy tracks on either side of the Zambezi River that feel remote and will test your navigation skills.

A smattering of tiger fishing camps along the river with good facilities complete a truly wild experience. Some even offer multi-day river safaris up through the Barotse Floodplain to the Angolan border. For those who love being out on the water, a guided river-whacking adventure with wild camping along the Zambezi River is the kind of experience that will live on in the memory for a lifetime.

If you want to try a change from the more traditional abseiling, then you can also try rap jumping, where you descend the rock face facing the ground and keep pushing off from the rock face as you head towards the bottom of the gorge.

River Boarding in Zambia

For the more adventurous, it’s possible to experience river boarding on the great Zambezi. Armed with a body board, a wetsuit, a life jacket, helmet, and fins, you will embark on a river journey playing in the currents, charging the rapids, and surfing some of the world’s biggest freshwater standing waves.

The most notable difference between river surfing and rafting is that you are entirely responsible for managing your own vessel on the river. Instructors teach and guide you, but in the end, it’s you taking on the rapids.

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