Photographic holiday in Zambia
Zambia is an incredible country to photograph, with its stunning wilderness landscapes, superb birdlife and some of the best opportunities for up-close wildlife interactions in Africa. Every corner of the country has something to offer, but two experiences in particular stand out. In late winter, ideally just before the rains begin in November, keen photographers should head to Liuwa Plain National Park where tens of thousands of blue wildebeest gather in what is the second largest wildebeest migration in Africa (after the Serengeti). Then, for something truly unique, try a wet season photographic safari to the Luangwa Valley and explore the swollen Luangwa floodplain by boat, drifting across the mirror-like waters through a dreamscape wilderness of half-submerged trees.
Of these two photo safari options, Liuwa Plain is perhaps the trickier to undertake. If you’re self-driving, then some prior 4x4 experience is essential and it’s best to travel in convoy, especially if you’re going for the wildebeest migration which coincides so closely with the onset of the summer rains. It’s difficult to time the journey with precision and if the rains begin early local rivers can flood quickly, turning roads to mud and making driving near impossible.
Unless you’re very experienced it’s best to join an organised tour. Dedicated photographic safaris are available, specifically aimed at capturing the wildebeest. There’s also a single high-end luxury lodge in Liuwa Plain National Park where guests can fly in and photograph the region on private game drives. Liuwa Plain is a fantastic birding destination year-round, but the coming rains signal the return of migrant species and the wet season is the best time to photograph them in their breeding plumage.
The best way to reach the Luangwa Valley during the wet season is by air, although road transfers from Lusaka to South Luangwa’s Mfuwe Gate are still possible even during the rains. Both regular and dedicated photographic safaris are available, but a boat-based photo safari is not to be missed if you love unusual landscapes and birds. There’s also the opportunity to photograph other iconic African species in a rarely-seen environment. This period in Zambia is commonly referred to as the ‘emerald season’ and it’s unrecognisable from the desiccated wilderness most see when they visit the country in winter. These exclusive rainy-season experiences aren’t cheap, but package rates are far lower than during the July to October peak. March and early April are the best emerald season months, when the floodwaters are at their highest and the afternoon storms less severe.