Lower Zambezi National Park
Lower Zambezi National Park is one of Zambia’s premier wildlife destinations, certainly in the top three with South Luangwa and Kafue. Ravaged by poaching in the 1980s, the park has since recovered well, though tragically the rhino population was wiped out completely. Wildlife viewing is best along the rivers, which border the park on three sides. The Zambezi River itself is the region’s main source of water and the major attraction, both for visitors and game. There are no campsites at all inside the park and all the lodges and tented camps are mid-range to luxury.
The Lower Zambezi is known for its large populations of buffalo and elephant, which congregate along the Zambezi River during the dry winter months. Lion, leopard and hyena are also common as well as large numbers of hippo and crocodile. If you’re feeling adventurous you can take to the river itself – most lodges offer short canoe and/or boat excursions. Multi-day canoe safaris are also available, ranking among Africa’s most special experiences. Although not without risk, these canoe safaris are truly unique, with experienced river guides leading small groups between the crocs and hippos, down one of Southern Africa’s wildest, most spectacular rivers. Also on the river, tiger fishing is very popular and the best conditions are between August and October. Many lodges cater specifically for anglers who are drawn to the area by the huge tigerfish on offer.
May to November is the best time to visit the Lower Zambezi, and the prime game-viewing season begins in June. October and November can get extremely hot, however, with daytime temperatures well over 40°C. Once the rains begin – usually by mid-November – most camps inside the park close. Between January and April all the park’s lodges shut down, but there are year-round lodges and campsites outside the park, across the Chongwe River. Within Lower Zambezi National Park there is no budget accommodation – self-drivers can camp along the Zambezi to the west. Many visitors opt for a fly-in safari or drive to Chirundu and take a boat transfer from there. A number of safari operators offer packages to the region, often at better rates than booking directly with a lodge.