Written by: Mindy Roberts
Over the years I’ve heard guests confuse Zambia with Zimbabwe and Zaire. A guest actually said to me last year: “I’m so happy to be here in Zaire, I’ve always wanted to come,” and I’ve even been asked: “So whereabouts in South Africa is Zambia?”
But Zambia should be taken seriously in its own right, thanks to the unbeatable wildlife viewing and Vic Falls that are just a few of the many attractions. As someone who’s lived here for seven years and calls the country home, I wanted to put together my top five reasons to visit one of the continent’s lesser known countries.
1. The guides
Most guides in Zambia are born and bred in the Zambian bush, so the wildlife is second nature to them. They genuinely love what they do and have a passion for wildlife. I’ve often seen a guide of 15 or 20 years come back more excited than the guests with what they’ve just witnessed.
Zambia has some of the best guides in the world. Every year more than one of the companies in Zambia have their guiding team nominated for Best Guiding Team Awards around the world. And many of them have won those awards year after year.
Safety is of utmost importance when it comes to guiding and the Zambian guides have to continuously complete stringent exams for walking in the bush, canoeing, and boating, as well maintain advanced driving and first aid skills.
2. Remote, vast, magical and unique – Liuwa Plain National Park
Many people have never heard of Liuwa Plain National Park. Well, it is home to the second largest migration of wildebeest in the world. It is so exclusive and remote that there is only one permanent camp, Matamanene Camp, in over 3,600km² of land that the local lions decided to redecorate.
Liuwa is a photographer’s paradise with internationally acclaimed photographers like Will Burrard-Lucas visiting frequently. The birdlife is breathtaking too.
For more on Liuwa Plain National Park, read: Living Wild in Liuwa
There are more and more options for family travel in Zambia, with family units being offered in many of the bigger lodges (which are still small compared to the hotels offered in other parts of Africa). Here is some information if you are traveling to Zambia with your family:
– Intergenerational travel is hugely popular in Zambia, with private villas and houses as well as interconnecting family tents to accommodate the needs of families.
– Although walking and canoeing is only offered for children who are older than 12 years of age, there is plenty to keep kids under this age entertained. I’ve found kids in the kitchen cooking with our chefs, on walks in an open area near camp, or just learning more from the main area with one of the guides.
– Most Zambian camps offer pretty good child rates.
4. A last great wilderness experience
Zambia is a lot less commercialised than other parts of Africa, and one still gets the chance to see wildlife without competing with other vehicles or tourists.
Although there is 5-star accommodation available, the soul of Zambia is still to be found in the smaller, remote bush camps that use natural materials as part of the construction and give a much more intimate experience with nature.
Over 33% of the country is designated to national parks, which means that there is a huge variety within Zambia of different habitats, activities, animals and vistas – you don’t need to go anywhere else to get the whole safari experience.
5. Owner operated
There is a legacy in Zambia that the camps and companies are owner operated and this is still the case for many of the top camps around the country. This means that the people who manage the company, own the company.
Why does this make a difference?
– Guests can have a meal with someone who lives and breathes the values of the business, creating long-term friendships.
– Personal pride. As the people who own the camps, we feel a personal responsibility; issues are sorted quickly and there is pride in giving you the best safari of your life.
– Atmosphere. In effect you are being invited into a ‘home’, which provides for a relaxed and very personal safari.