Zambia’s newest reserve, still relatively undeveloped, the Lower Zambezi National Park, it’s beauty lies in it’s absolute wilderness state. The diversity of African animals in Lower Zambezi national park is not as wide as the other big parks, but the opportunities to get close to game wandering in and out of the Zambezi channels are spectacular. The Lower Zambezi lies opposite the famous Mana Pools Reserve in Zimbabwe on the Zambia side, so the whole area on both sides of the river is a massive wildlife sanctuary.
The rivers edge is overhung with a thick riverine fringe, mostly diasporus, ficus and other riverine species. Further inland is a floodplain fringed with mopane forest and interspersed with winterthorn trees Acacia albida. The hills which form the backdrop to the park are covered in broadleaf woodland.
The Lower Zambezi National Park covers an area of 4092 square kilometers, but most of the game is concentrated along the valley floor.There is an escarpment along the northern end which acts as a physical barrier to most of the parks animal species. Enormous herds of elephant, some up to 100 strong, are often seen at the rivers edge. ‘Island hopping’ buffalo and waterbuck are common. A good populations of lion and leopard is host in the Lower Zambezi National Park and listen too for the ubiquitous cry of the fish eagle.
Getting there, one can drive into the The Lower Zambezi National Park on one’s own but it is very underdeveloped and not really structured for vehicle visitors yet. The existing lodges and canoeing operators provide the best access to the park. They all offer pick-ups from either Lusaka or Chirundu (where there is a small motel) or Kariba in Zimbabwe. The Chongwe River demarcates the western boundary of the Lower Zambezi and can be accessed from Chirundu along a rough road (4x4 recommended), crossing the Kafue River by pontoon just beyond Gwabi Lodge.
From April there will be a pontoon that crosses the river from Luangwa Town to Kanyemba in Zimbabwe and to Zumbo in Mozambique. All at the Zambezi/Luangwa confluence.
Where to stay, there are several lodges in the Lower Zambezi National Park, all offering game viewing and relaxing opportunities. They are all reached by arrangement as access is usually by motor boat.
Chiawa Camp has luxury tented, en suite accommodation for 14 guests. Their speciality is game-viewing by motor boat, by open vehicle in the park, night drives, bush walks, canoeing, river cruises and angling safaris. Operating season is from May to October.
Kasaka River Lodge is a beautifully situated lodge on a raised section of the Zambezi River bank with excellent views. Wooden walkways link the chalets and elephants often walk right underneath them.
Kanyema Lodge is the newest lodge in the lower reserve. Five bungalows and the romantic honeymoon suite forming the lodge, are discretely located on the river bank under the shadow of wild mangoes and huge trees. Expert guides will be at your disposal to take you on daytime photographic safaris or night excursions to observe animals while feeding, drinking or hunting.
Sausage Tree camp offers superb comfort in a rustic setting on the banks of the River. Canoeing safaris as well as game drives and night drives, walks in the bush, birding trails and often you can just sit in your tent and watch the action!
Kulefu Tented Camp Deep in the game-rich Lower Zambezi National Park, there is a secluded intimate safari camp settled comfortably in the deep shade of tall riverine trees. Profoundly peaceful, eco-friendly and well appointed, the camp overlooks one of the permanent channels of the legendary riverine. This extremely remote area is abundant with game including the “big Four”. There are good populations of elephant, lion, Buffalo, waterbuck, leopard, hyena, zebra, various gazelle and many bird species.
Kiambi Safari offers superb views over the Zambezi and Kafue Rivers and is only 20km from the Chirundu Border, an eco-sensitive camp in a strategically chosen area, to blend into the environment and enjoy the surrounding scenery to the fullest.
Royal Zambezi lodge has it's own 3.5 kilometers of unspoiled river frontage and is flanked by a back drop of scenic mountains. Fly in to the lodging private air strip in the comfort of a chartered aircraft only half an hour's flight from Lusaka.
One on the River bank visitors will find the Mtondo River Camp and another further up the escarpment with magnificent views of the Shafumbi mountain camp.
Ana Tree Lodge is located within the Lower Zambezi National Park and has 5 raised en suite safari tents with private balcony. Game often walks right through the camp and can be enjoyed from the comfort of the lodge, on game drives or walks. Good fishing spot too.
Mvuu Tented lodge located in an attractive setting on the banks of the riverine is a fully catered camp with the option of self catering. There is also a camp site for those on a budget. Activities available are canoeing, game viewing, birding, fishing and soaking up the wonderful sunsets.
Redcliff Zambezi lodge, sited on the banks of the lower Zambezi much further down, beyond the eastern edge of the park provides an exciting fishing for the traveller seeking for a true African adventure.
Chongwe River Camp, found at the Chongwe River and Zambezi confluence, opposite Mana Pools. It has 6 chalets under the canopy of huge Acacia trees. Unparalleled tiger fishing area, with great game and bird viewing opportunities. The best way to experience the magnificence of this river is to take a canoeing trip down the channels.
In Chirundu there is a simple motel, the Nyambadwe, offering very basic accommodation for overnight stops. More comfortable and picturesque is Gwabi Lodge on the banks of the Kafue River, close to its confluence with the Zambezi.
Things to do:
Fishing is good along the river, all three lodges offer fishing with rods and simple tackle provided. Healthy Tiger fish and bream catches are common as well as vundu, a member of the catfish family, weighing up to 50 kilograms. Strangely, cheap strong smelling soap is an excellent bait.
Canoeing in the Lower Zambezi National Park is a must. The lodges will provide day long canoeing trips. Float down the river at your leisure and they’ll pick you up in a speedboat at the end of the day to bring you back.
Several operators run 3 - 5 day trips, overnight at very comfortable bush camps on the banks of the river. These are highly recommended. The river has a strong enough current to take you easily down the river with little effort. The river guides will take you down remote channels between the islands where your opportunities to get close to game are very high. Hippos are always in sight, elephant, zebra, puku, impala, buffalo, kudu and baboons can be seen browsing on the banks from the laid back comfort of your canoe.
Game drives and walking safaris offered by the lodges and camps provide excellent game viewing opportunities.
Sightseeing, the ecological unit of Lower Zambezi National Park and the Chiawa Game Management Area support a relatively large population of mammals. The escarpment and plateau regions are largely inaccessible and have not been formally surveyed. The valley floor, although a small area is host to many of the bigger mammals, elephant, buffalo, hippo, waterbuck, kudu, zebra, and crocodiles, impala and warthog.
Occasionally, roan, eland and the Samango monkey. Nocturnal animals here are hyaena, porcupine, civet, genet and honeybadger.
The birdlife along the riverbanks is exceptional. Many a fish eagle can be seen and heard for miles around. Nesting along the cliffs are white fronted and carmine bee eaters. Another unusual the red winged pratincole, the elegant crested guinea fowl, black eagle, and vast swarms of quelea. In summer the stunning narina trogon makes its home here. Other specialities are the trumpeter hornbill, Meyers parrot and Lilian’s lovebird.
The vegetation in the area is predominated by Acacia albida trees, a thorn species 10 - 30m high with the classical shady umbrella canopy. It is able to tolerate sandier soils than other woodland species and serves to stabilise infertile sandbanks and reduce erosion. Winterthorn pods are also remarkably nutritious to elephants who digest it leaving about 40% intact, thereby contributing to its proliferation.
When to go, the best time is mid season from June to September, but all lodges and canoeing operators are open from April to November. Kayila lodge is open all year. Fishing is at its best in September / October.
Canoeing can be done from the three lodges as day trips.
- South Luangwa
- Lower Zambezi
- North Luangwa
- Nyika Plateau
- Sioma Ngwezi
- Bangweulu Floodplains
- Liuwa Plains
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