Top tips for planning your Zambia safari.
1. Introduction: This expedition was in an area which is not often visited by tourists and, when tourists do visit Ngonye Falls and beyond, they are usually on a self-drive trip on their way to one of the really remote parks in the west of Zambia (such as Liuwa Plains, West Lunga, and Sioma Ngwezi National Parks), on their way to the 'find' the source of the Zambezi or perhaps to view the Kuomboka Ceremony of the Lozi people. While this remoteness is one of the reasons why we chose this are for our expedition and we highly recommend a visit, it must be said that the more popular safari areas lie eastwards from this western edge of Zambia - and there are a great deal of incredible areas under the 'popular' banner to boot. These areas include Livingstone (to visit the Victoria Falls), the gem which is Kafue National Park, and then the two safari hot spots, the South Luangwa National Park - famed for walking safaris and intense game-viewing along the highly seasonal river of the same name - and the Lower Zambezi National Park which, it has to be said, offers some of the most majestic scenery in which to view wildlife in the vast Zambezi Valley. A little further north from the South Luangwa lies the very wild North Luangwa National Park, with very few camps and very few visitors.
2. If you have time: Hire a car and go exploring. Zambia is very diverse as it is the bridge between southern, central, and east Africa. The Zambians themselves are a collection of people who have wandered - for a myriad of reasons - into Zambia to live over the centuries. The result is a country with over 70 different languages (nearly everyone speaks English) and just as many different cultures. At times, Zambia may be quite a dusty, raw travel experience, but it is a figurative river trip dotted with the most incredible islands of natural diversity and scenic splendour.
3. If you have neither time nor inclination to bump along for miles over dusty roads: Fly. It is as simple as that. The more popular parks are linked by scheduled charter flights, with Lusaka as the hub. While the classic fly-in safari would definitely include both the South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi with a side of Victoria Falls, if time and budget allows, add a dollop of the Kafue National Park, North Luangwa, or both.
4. Zambia is a year-round destination: While, as with most safari areas, the drier winter season is usually the obvious time to go, the green season is often lauded as having splendours of its own. Make sure you plan and check who and what is open when as, when it rains in Zambia, it really, really, really rains. Some camps are only open from April/May onward, but others are open from earlier on in the season and offer a wet season and a dry season road to allow for access. Activities drift from more traditional game drives and walks towards more water-based activities on aluminium boats, dugout mekoros, and canoes.
5. To make the most of your safari, pack these bare essentials: a good quality pair of binoculars; comfortable, cool, safari-appropriate clothing; insect repellent and sunscreen tested to really work in Africa; a wide-brimmed hat; and a safari fleece or jacket as it does get cold at night and on early morning game drives, especially over the winter months.