|© Sharon Loudon
Once a well-kept secret amongst safari and adventure aficionados, Zambia's star is on the rise. There are good reasons why this butterfly shaped country is affectionately dubbed "The Real Africa" by its tourism officials and most recently was named the New York Times' "Luxury Destination of the Year."
Where else can you choose to ply the waters for tiger fish, canoe a peaceful river tributary teeming with birds and the occasional hippo, walk the stunningly beautiful mopane woodlands or go for day and night game drives - all from one park? Zambia also is home to the famous Victoria Falls - the world's largest and one of the natural wonders of the world - where you can relax or enjoy the thrill of adrenaline sports such as white water rafting and bungee-jumping. Indeed, Zambia offers it all, and in abundance, from the flowing waters of the Lower Zambezi and ever seasonal Luangwa rivers, to the Bangweulu swamps and the plains of Kafue.
Zambia is a large country - just slightly larger than California and Nevada combined. In addition to its many large national parks, there are many game management areas; sustainable wildlife conservation is encouraged here.
If you like your game viewing on foot - walking safaris, it is universally agreed, were born in Zambia - or in an open vehicle and on the wild and unpredictable side, you will feel at home in Zambia. It matters not whether you prefer a rugged little bush camp, a full-on luxury lodge or something in between. Zambia truly does offer something for everyone.
When to go
Zambia's climate is generally divided into three periods. December to April is the hot and rainy period; you may see late afternoon downpours. May to August is the dry season. It is cooler during this time, mostly in the mornings and evenings. The days warm up quite nicely. From September to November it is dry and hot.
Peak game viewing occurs later in the year, August-October. This is the driest of the dry season. Foliage has died back, interior lagoons have dried up and game makes its way to main rivers and water sources for hydration. It's also dusty and quite hot. That said, there is plenty of game to be seen earlier in the year, and for those who prefer cool nights around a crackling fire and warm sunny days, May-July are excellent months for a safari.
In Zambia you will find an incredible diversity of game. Elephant, lion, leopard, hippo, warthog, buffalo, hyena, African wild dog, crocodile, baboon and vervet monkey share mopane forests and grassland plains with subspecies endemic only to Zambia: Thornicroft's giraffe and Crawshay's zebra. Antelope are especially plentiful and include puku, waterbuck, impala, and in some areas, Cookson's wildebeast and lechwe. Smaller creatures are found here, too: mongoose, elephant shrew, bush baby, African wild cat, serval, civet, wild hare, chameleon, all are regularly spotted on safari.
Parks in Zambia host more than 700 bird species, both resident and migrant. These include bee eater; fish, martial and bataleur eagle; maribou and yellowbilled stork; several kingfisher varieties including pied and malachite; egrets, geese... the list is endless.