Zambia, in southern Africa, is home to incredible wildlife, dramatic landscapes, and various ethnic groups that make it a unique destination for any adventure traveler.
There's an extensive network of beautiful national parks to enjoy. Trek through the bush on a safari to spot exotic species in the wild, or witness the powerful waters of Victoria Falls. Kayak down the Zambezi River while looking for wildlife, or camp out in the bush (in style or on a budget!). Costs may be a little higher than in neighboring countries, so plan and budget carefully.
You won't find very many fellow travelers in Zambia, but even though it's far off the beaten path, the rewards of experiencing such uncharted territory make the journey worth it.
A guide will take you through the African desert or jungle on an unforgettable walking safari, where you’ll be able to spot a variety of different wildlife. You can choose between camps at Anabezi, Bilmungwe, Luwi, or many other places. Some safaris will take you through lagoons where you have the chance to see hippos and crocodiles, while others will take you through woodlands and waterholes where you may see impala and elephants. Choose a company that’s reputable and will go above and beyond to make sure you’re safe.
White-water rafting is a great activity for those fast-paced adrenaline junkies looking for a splash in intense rapids of the Zambezi River, which feeds into Victoria Falls. Adventurers can choose to ride the rapids on a single-day trip, or tackle them over the course of several days, camping overnight in between. As with all activities that could be potentially dangerous, it's important to find a highly reputable white-water rafting tour operator who don't cut corners on safety.
Kayaking or Canoeing
With such spectacular waterways, it should be no surprise that paddling is a top activity in Zambia. Kayaking (in kayaks) or canoeing (in inflatable canoes) on the Zambezi River is an adventurous activity that will get you out into the wilderness and allow you to spot wildlife. Camp overnight on islands and beaches along the river en route.
As a prime safari destination, there are lots of opportunities to sleep out in the wild in Zambia. Whether you want a more luxurious experience (think 'glamping' over camping) or don't mind roughing it a bit, there are bush camping experiences and locations to suit your needs. Staying in a bush camp can be combined with more extensive wildlife safaris, or enjoyed on their own. Whichever you choose, you'll enjoy your meals around a campfire or finer dining under the stars, and some kind of wildlife experience.
Best Time to Visit Zambia
The best time to visit Zambia is during the dry season, from May until October. This is also the best time to go on a safari, as you will have a greater chance of spotting wildlife near known watering holes.
Some accommodation may be closed during the rainy season, from November until April, due to flooding. However, that which remains open may be cheaper due to fewer tourists.
What to Look for in a Tour
Zambia is comprised of a network of national parks, and many of them are very remote. If you're wanting to travel between parks, make sure to check that your tour provider includes the cost of transportation in the price you're quoted. Private jeeps are required in most places to get around, so you wouldn't want to be stranded, or to go seriously over budget through misunderstanding what was included.
Safety is paramount when conducting any outdoor adventure activities, and when going on safari. Make sure that white-water tour operators come with good reviews and safety certification. Safari companies should take both their customer's and the wildlife's safety into consideration, and not engage in risky practices like getting too close. This puts travelers at risk, and disturbs the animals.
Average Tour Costs
Zambia might not be as cheap as you expect. Meals could easily cost you $30 per meal. Therefore, a well-chosen tour might be an economical way of traveling in this spectacular and remote country, where distances between points of interest is quite large. However, some careful planning and budgeting will likely be required for travel to Zambia.
A two night/three-day canoeing adventure that provides some meals and airport transfers costs around $400. On the other end of the scale, an all-inclusive two-week safari adventure could cost you up to $10,000.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
If you’re visiting during the dry season, pack for warm and humid weather. Loose cotton clothing of neutral colors is recommended when going on safari in any country. Always dress modestly to avoid accidental cultural offense, and to avoid any unwanted attention.
Other Tips: Visas
Depending on your nationality, you may need a visa to enter Zambia. A visa costs around $50USD and is valid for up to 90 days.
Visitors traveling to Zambia must have proof of their Yellow Fever vaccination if traveling from a country where the disease is present. Travelers should also be up-to-date on their routine vaccinations before entering Zambia. Taking malaria pills is a good idea, as malaria is present in certain parts of the country.
Only drink bottled or purified water when traveling in Zambia, and remember to hydrate frequently. Also, make sure you’re wearing sunscreen as well as bug spray when out in the bush or on safari.
If you’re going on a walking safari, wear khaki colored clothing so you can blend into the bush. Make sure to remain quiet so not to disrupt the animals for the best glimpse of them in their natural habitat. Never approach an animal, and always stay near your guide and listen to their instructions. It's important to choose tour operators with a good reputation, and who respect nature and the animals.
Zambia is a relatively safe country to visit. Political unrest and demonstrations are not uncommon, though you may never experience them firsthand. If you do, be careful, don't get involved and try to avoid the area for the time being.
Never walk around alone at night and keep an eye on your belongings. Robberies have been reported on overnight trains.