Best time to visit Zambia

Best time to visit Zambia


TEMPERATURE & RAINFALL

The best time to visit Zambia is clearly defined by two seasons: wet and dry. Walking safari bushcamps in and around South Luangwa are open for six months per year during the dry season from June to Nov. During Sept and Oct the temperatures can really climb in the Lower Zambezi, Mana Polls and the Luangwa Valley, but if you can take the heat you’ll see incredible game as animals vie for limited water sources. Rain falls heavily from Dec to March.

Things to do in Zambia


WHAT TO DO IN ZAMBIA & WHAT NOT TO

Things to do in Zambia


Have we mentioned how perfect Zambia is for walking safaris?! The notion of the walking safari as an experience to bring travelers into the landscape and wildlife they’re observing as opposed to just watching it from afar was founded in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park and the country is known for its world class guides. Their knowledge will blow you away as will the opportunity to get up close and personal with animal behaviour.
Say what you will about Zambia’s roads, but one of the best laid routes is that from South Luangwa to Malawi, which only takes about four hours to drive. Combining the two gives you a really unique safari and beach vacation (the beach being the sun-kissed shores of resplendent Lake Malawi) – something that people just don’t expect to get from these landlocked nations.
You cannot go to Zambia without seeing the magnificence of Victoria Falls; it is a crime (well, not a crime crime, but you will be doing yourself an injustice). They really are as awe-inspiring as they’re said to be. From Zambia, when the water level is low you can get to Livingstone Island, which is idyllic. There’s also the Devil’s Pool – a small pool that you can go and sit in right over the top of the falls – quite the adrenaline buzz.
Booking a safari with a local guide is advice that we’d give anywhere in Africa, but especially in Zambia, where walking safaris are known to be really brought to life through the eyes, ears and knowledge of the expert local guides that lead them. Keeping it local is one of the most interesting ways to go on safari – and the most beneficial for local people and wildlife too.

Things not to do in Zambia


Cut yourself off in a super luxury lodge. Everyone likes a bit of indulgence in the right context, but grand pianos, bottles of champers and menus from which you can pick your perfect pillow don’t exactly scream ‘Zambia’, or ‘safari’ for that matter, and will likely distance you from what is really special about your surroundings. You’ll have a far more memorable experience if you swap your flatscreen TV for a spectacular sweeping view across the open wilderness.
Don’t ignore the lesser-known national parks. There are other wildlife areas in Zambia besides South Luangwa, such as the Lower Zambezi, which is downriver from Vic Falls and home to some really remote camps and much wilder game due to limited exposure to people. You also have Kafue, which is an enormous, teeming national park in the south of the country, and North Luangwa too – both areas that are much less travelled and offer a real African bush experience; you won’t see many, if any, other people on game drives.
Worry about your WiFi. Staying connected is something even the least techy of us are a bit obsessed with these days, but just because you have phone reception, or access to the internet while walking in the bush doesn’t mean you should use it. A vacation is supposed to be a break from “real life”, and a safari in Zambia could well be the trip of your lifetime – ditching the technology means you really can make the most of every moment and look forward to telling everyone about it when you get home.

Zambia travel advice


TIPS FROM OUR FRIENDS IN ZAMBIA

Tips on walking safaris


Simon Mills, from our supplier, Native Escapes, shares his Zambia travel advice: “Zambia is unbeatable for walking safaris – they originated in South Luangwa, so it is a huge thing there. The northern part of South Luangwa is quite remote, so there’s some incredible walking to be had – some trips are set up seasonally and you can walk between lodges, and there are other, more wild trips where you have a team of locals with you that unpack and pack your tent each night and day and you walk between sites camping as you go. Safari in a game vehicle is one thing, but safari on foot with a ranger is another thing entirely because all of your senses are heightened. It’s not set up so you stumble into lions, although you can do that, it’s more about noticing the smaller things around your feet – you start to understand so much more about the flora and the fauna. It’s a very special experience.”

Visa advice


Simon Mills, from our supplier, Native Escapes, shares his tips on making the most of the Victoria Falls: “The Victoria Falls really are as incredible as they are made out to be. The Zambian side is on the corner, which is a slight disadvantage to the Zimbabwe side, which is face on, but that said, Zambia have really got their act together with Zimbabwe and they have a UniVisa now, which is brilliant. You used to have to get a different entry visa every time you crossed between the countries even though it’s just a bridge that you can walk across that links them, but the UniVisa allows you numerous entries and exits throughout your stay, which allows people to get great views of the falls from both angles.”

Shoot like a pro


Dereck and Beverly Joubert are internationally renowned filmmakers, conservationists and National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence. Here is their advice for taking better photographs on safari: "When people arrive with short lenses, the problem is that they push to get closer to the animals. But with digital cameras today, you don’t have to be as close as you think. You can always crop later on. The key is really to get natural behaviour by standing back a little bit and letting these things pan out. If you push too hard you will destroy the animals’ natural behaviour and your opportunities as a photographer.”

Zambia travel advice


TIPS FROM OUR TRAVELLERS IN ZAMBIA

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Zambia travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation - and the space inside your suitcase.



“Don't delay... Go now before you are too old or sadly the animals gone! This rates as the top vacation we have done, equal with an Antarctica expedition!” – Heather Gratland

“Do it! Especially if you enjoy wild camping - not the kind with running water and generators at each site, but camping in places that are quite remote with few amenities.” – Kelly Towle

“Definitely go to Lower Zambezi: in any brochure or website it’s presented as a second choice to South Luangwa, but it's a "can't miss" location.” – Vincenzo Baracciale

“Pack light - and bring comfortable shoes. And don't worry about bringing massive amounts of toothpaste or back-up shampoo. Every few days the group stops at fairly well stocked groceries at which just about anything can be purchased and re-stocking is a breeze.” – Honey Bernstein

“Check what time of year you are going – I found it was very cold camping and I hadn't packed enough warm clothes. Don't expect to see every big cat, but you'll see some amazing animals.” – Anna Downie

“Do it! Money well spent.” – Katrin Nyman
Photo credits: [Temp chart: Surreal Name Given] [Walking safari: Michiel Van Balen] [Dereck & Beverly Joubert quote: Wildlife films] [Review 1 - Jean Pierre Kruger: Paul Kane] [Review 2 - Neil Maddock: lucianf]

Written by: Polly Humphris
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