Zambia is an undiscovered safari gem. Victoria Falls, in all its powerful splendor, is on many people’s bucket list. But delve deeper and you’ll find some of Africa’s most pristine and uncrowded wildlife havens. Top-notch parks such as South Luangwa, Lower Zambezi and Kafue National Parks are just waiting to be explored on game drives, as well as expertly guided walking, boat and canoe safaris.
Visit any combination of the country’s trio of premier parks (South Luangwa, Kafue and Lower Zambezi National Parks) and you’re almost certain to see four of the Big Five. Buffalo, elephants and lions are very common throughout. Zambia is also famed for offering high-quality sightings of Africa’s most notoriously secretive cat, the leopard. Your best bet of seeing rhino is in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, where you can track these heavyweights on foot.
Although highly endangered, wild dogs are thriving in Zambia; seeing these highly skilled hunters in action is a real treat. One of their preferred prey is lechwe and Zambia is home to three different subspecies of this swamp-loving antelope: the endemic Kafue and black lechwe as well as the more widespread red lechwe. Also of interest are the endemic subspecies Thornicroft’s giraffe and Cookson’s wildebeest.
The best wildlife-viewing time coincides with the Dry season (May to October) when water is scarce and animals gather at waterholes and rivers. The bush is less lush at this time, and animals are easier to spot. From October until the rains, it can be unbearably hot. Some roads become impassable during the Wet season (November to April), and many camps close at this time.
Weather and Climate
The Dry season in Zambia is a lovely time to visit – it’s divided into a cooler period (May to August) and a hotter one (September and October). Zambia is right in the tropics and gets lots of rain in the Wet season (November to April). At that time many camps in Kafue, Lower Zambezi and the more remote parks shut down. The Mfuwe section of South Luangwa can be visited at any time of year.
The climate of the capital, Lusaka, is the same as that of the higher areas of central and southern Zambia, including Kafue National Park. The climate of the lower-lying South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi National Parks is considerably hotter: temperatures rise by about 6°C for every 1,000m you descend (or 3.5°F per 1,000ft).
Dry Season – May to October – Winter
Wet Season – November to April – Summer
Best Time To Visit
You’ll see lots of wildlife in Zambia during the middle and end of the Dry season (May to October). This will fit in nicely with a visit to Victoria Falls, which is at its best from June to August. A Wet season safari (November to April) is much more challenging, as most parks and camps shut down because of heavy rain. The exception is the Mfuwe section of South Luangwa National Park, which has a small circuit of all-weather roads.
For the best wildlife viewing in the main parks (South Luangwa, Kafue and Lower Zambezi), visit in the dry winter months (July to October). This coincides with the best opportunities for great photos of Victoria Falls – from June to August. Most camps close in the rainy season and washed-out roads make travel difficult. However, the landscape is beautiful and bird watching is superb at this time.