Situated on the banks of the Zambezi River in the south-eastern part of Zambia, opposite Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park, the Lower Zambezi National Park occupies 4092 sq. kms, with 120 kms of river frontage. Its distinguishing features are the rugged escarpment to the north, the river itself, and its numerous islands, lagoons and floodplains which attract most of the Zambian wildlife. There are approximately 50 mammal species and 400 bird species, which thrive in the Park, as well as a wide variety of spectacular trees, grasses and flowers.
This area is still unspoiled as it is new to tourism and is afforded a high level of protection from the Zambian Government and the local tour operators. It was only declared a National Park in 1983, and the Cumings Family, who own and operate Chiawa Camp, brought the first tourists to the Park in 1990, creating one of the finest African safari experiences, opening access and all the game viewing loops enjoyed within the Park today.
Guests to the Park are assured of seeing very little human activity.
Only licensed operators may conduct safaris in the area, and only the few lodges situated within the Park may conduct river and canoeing trips there on a daily basis, with strict regulations governing the number of boats on the water. Visitors to the Park are thus assured of seeing very little human activity. This has led to the Lower Zambezi National Park providing one of Africa’s finest wilderness experiences.
The legendary Zambezi River is, in itself, a spectacle and is the namesake of this pristine wilderness. Along its 2700 km course, the Zambezi fertilises the Barotse floodplains, plunges over the Victoria Falls and replenishes the massive Lake Kariba before reaching the Lower Zambezi. Here, a myriad of islands have formed, creating a home and feeding ground for an incredible amount of diverse Zambian wildlife. Together this creates one of the most diverse and interesting eco-systems on the planet, providing the opportunity to explore these habitats in an unmatched variety of safari activities.
The Lower Zambezi eco system is one of Africa’s most diverse and scenic, with a variety of habitats in a small area, due to the proximity of the river and the escarpment. Many soil types and varying water tables make for an incredible diversity of vegetation, and the most interesting of Zambia safari activities. However, this eco-system is extremely fragile and impacted to some extent by the Kariba Dam which is located some 150km’s upstream. This has led to the designation of World Heritage status upon the neighbouring Mana Pools National Park, and is something we are lobbying for with Zambian authorities, to seek the same from UNESCO.
Most of safari activities take place on the Zambezi and its floodplains, however, drives and walks will often venture onto higher ground, combining all the habitats these have to offer such as grassland, woodland, forest, thicket, floodplain and riverine.
The rich and diverse habitat of the Lower Zambezi is home to a spectacular array of Zambia wildlife. Abundant water, food and shelter give rise to one of Africa’s healthiest elephant populations, vast herds of buffalo, prides of lion, leopards, hyenas, jackals, hippos, crocodile, zebra, various small carnivores and omnivores, antelope and over 400 species of birds.
Although Africa is no stranger to conservation challenges such as encroachment and poaching, the Lower Zambezi National Park is one of Africa’s best protected sanctuaries thanks to cooperation between the safari operators and Zambia Wildlife Authority through the charity Conservation Lower Zambezi (which Grant co-founded in 1994) and of which Chiawa Camp and Old Mondoro are anchor donors.
As a consequence, the Lower Zambezi will nearly always produce a first rate game viewing and birding experience, most especially when measured in the context of the scenery, habitat and variety of Zambezi safari activities available.
Absent from the Lower Zambezi are giraffe and wildebeest which never occurred here. Occasional wild dog sightings are experienced as these come and go (April/May and Sept/Oct are the best times to see them if you will) and no rhinos can be seen, which were poached out in the 1970’s.
What makes wildlife viewing extra special in the Lower Zambezi is the opportunity to watch many of these creatures often at close quarters from, in and around the river.