Exploring Zambia on Foot
Our consultant/travel specialist from the Australian office, Karen Peasley, recently travelled to Zambia on an educational trip. She enjoyed a fantastic walking safari through South Luangwa National Park and Lower Zambezi National Park where she encountered Zambia’s wildlife and explored the beautiful African landscapes during the trip. She shared some of the highlights with us
I have wanted to experience authentic walking safaris in Zambia since first hearing about the activity several years ago and was lucky enough to do so last month!
The end of May is right at the start of the season in South Luangwa National Park and so the vegetation is still lush and green with the rivers just starting to dry up. We stayed at two of the four Norman Carr bush camps in the remote part of the park and never saw another vehicle! Sheer bliss for anyone who wants to get away from the maddening crowds and with no wifi or phone service, it was very special. The entire National Park is unfenced so unexpected visitors can come calling to camp!
Giraffe and impala spotted on safari
The Luwi & Nsolo bush camps offer just four reed & thatch chalets with en suite outdoor bathrooms & showers, flushing toilets and plenty of hot water! Kakuli & Mchenja bush camps have four to five tents with views stretching across the Luangwa River.
We arrived at Luwi camp in time for lunch – a fresh and light meal with loads of salads. The food at all the bush camps was excellent. The camps make their own bread, yogurt, ice cream etc. and have a vegetable garden at Kapani Camp Headquarters to service all of the camps.
That afternoon we ventured out from our private chalet veranda onto the plains for our first game walk!
A walking safari can vary in length from a short bush walk of around 30-45 minutes to a much longer walk lasting three to four hours. In South Luangwa you can walk from camp to camp and your luggage will be placed in your tent on arrival! The terrain is generally flat open grassy plains, river beds and woodlands. There are a maximum of four guests on a walk, with a National Parks Scout who is armed for safety leading the way, and a professionally trained Walking Guide. The pace is leisurely and as much a nature walk as a game walk, stopping often to examine the “Small 5”, the “Green 5”, amazing bird life and of course the game. The guide’s training and knowledge is extensive, and one feels absolutely confident of safety at all times.
Animals suddenly appear larger than when viewed from a Land Rover during a game drive; even the humble warthog looked much bigger as we watched a warthog family foraging for food. A herd of impala was bothered by a couple of males chasing each other for territory, as they pranced around trying to win a female. Finally, walking along one side of a watering hole we saw two big bull elephant wander down the opposite bank for a drink – only 20 metres away from us! We walked on further to a dry river bed where we met a vehicle and enjoyed sun-downers and snacks as we watched a sliver of a moon appear alongside thousands of stars.
The safari guides
The next morning we enjoyed a hearty bush breakfast around the camp fire – eggs of your choice cooked in front of you right on the fire – as well as mugs of steaming tea and coffee which we enjoyed before starting our longer walk to the next camp, Nsolo. We journeyed at a leisurely pace, and with loads of stopping points of interest. We experienced fauna & flora, numerous birds, a solitary lion walking parallel to us along the dry river bed, and two river crossings, where we had to remove shoes and socks and roll up our trousers. We reached our destination three to four hours later. That afternoon we opted for a game drive and lazy sun downers at another beautiful location on the river.
Luwi Bush Camp lounge and bar area
Lion seen on safari
The local Zambian staff are warm, friendly and engaging, with a wonderful sense of humour that so appeals to Aussie humour. The guides are exceptional and lived up to their reputation of being some of the best guides in Africa.
Before departing South Luangwa National Park we enjoyed a night of sheer camp luxury at Chinzombo – a new five star camp from Time + Tide on the Luangwa River. It’s a beautiful camp that you access by road followed by a short boat trip across the river. Contemporary, stylish, and minimalist, Chinzombo is not fussy, over the top luxury, and the food is delicious; the service and location are both excellent. Six canvas villas all face the river with a private plunge pool, massive covered deck and pit seating a step down from your deck. At Chinzombo, we went on an evening game drive and morning drive. Both were excellent with loads of wildlife, including wild dogs and a pride of eight lions devouring a recent kill of an adult giraffe.
Fish eagle seen on safari
Wild dog seen on safari
The next morning we took a charter flight to the Royal Airstrip in Lower Zambezi National Park, and a game drive to Chongwe River Camp based at the confluence of the Chongwe & Zambezi Rivers – a stunning location in the park backed by a high escarpment. The mighty Zambezi River at this point is huge, almost like a lake. There are lots of channels off the main river which are perfect for canoeing, boating, tiger fishing and game cruises.
Chongwe River Camp is in a sublime location nestled in a grove of huge winter thorn trees. All nine en suite tents have river views and the main dining, living and bar area is extremely spacious and open plan with views across the rivers. We embarked on another game walk with an excellent guide, Moses, who also looked after us for the next day’s game drives and cruises up the river.
Enormous herds of elephant are often seen at the river's edge and around camp. After lunch we tried to go back to our tent to collect a hat only to discover a visitor chilling near our veranda! We were advised to wait until the elephant moved on!! What a treat to watch from a safe distance.
Elephant seen near camp
This area is now my top African destination for a diverse wildlife safari experience. It’s very accessible, there is an abundance of birdlife, little to no other vehicles, and no queues. Zambia walking safaris offer peace, relaxation and a ton of exciting animal encounters!