Thanks to conservation in its 20 national parks and 34 reserve areas, sparse human population and ample freshwater reserves, Zambia is teeming with stunning wildlife in wide open wilderness
The great news for safari lovers is that Zambia’s fabulous wildlife reserves are so extensive that tourists are not such a common species, making for a pure and unspoilt pursuit of the big five – lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and Cape buffalo – and other magnificent animals like the cheetah.
As an example, ecologist James Milanzi, regional operations manager-Anglophone of African Parks, points out that, at 22,400 square kilometres, Zambia’s Kafue National Park is slightly larger than South Africa’s renowned Kruger, and yet the former has 23 tour operators to the latter’s 2,000. “Kafue is a sleeping giant. Eventually, it will be the park to go to; it’s a must-see,” he adds.
While South Luangwa National Park remains Zambia’s jewel in the crown due to the density of its wildlife populations, Edjan van der Heide, director of Mukambi Safaris, also believes that in Kafue, Zambia offers “the real deal”. The reason is that there are no fences, the animals move freely and you can go all day on safari without seeing another vehicle. “We could triple the number of lodges here and you would not notice any difference.”
“The animals are relaxed and undisturbed in the presence of humans because of the good quality guiding, which is a staple of Zambian tourism. We have very strict standards for training in Zambia and nearly all guides are indigenous,” explains Grant Cumings, owner of Chiawa Camp and Old Mondoro, two lodges located in the world’s first carbon neutral national park, the Lower Zambezi.
The true nature of the wilderness and absence of visitor saturation means tour operators can offer a tremendous variety of authentic experiences. “On the banks of the Zambezi River you can see the animals from a canoe, from a boat, a game ride vehicle, by foot, or while you are catch-and-release fishing for tigerfish,” says Mr Cumings. “This country has something for everyone, from the very basic backpacker to air-conditioned safari lodges that serve champagne for breakfast.”
A successful fight against poaching now means Zambian parks again host both black and white rhinos, 20 years after the animal was declared extinct in the country. African Parks, which currently operates Bangweulu Wetlands and Liuwa Plain National Park, teaches local communities to run reserves for a sustainable future.
Thanks to this focus on conservation, the Liuwa Plain is again hosting Africa’s second-largest wildebeest migration after that of the Serengeti. But the largest migration of mammals on Earth is centred over Kasanka National Park, visited each year between October and December by 10 million giant straw-coloured fruit bats descending from forests in the Congo.