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Zambia - Lower Zambezi National Park

Hippos are a mainstay in the Zambezi river environment.
© Sharon Loudon larger image
The Lower Zambezi Valley is actually large rift in the earth's crust, through which the Zambezi River flows. Over time, the river's mineral-rich soils have nurtured the park's varied and lush vegetation, while old meanders and oxbow pools give nourishment to wildlife.

Lower Zambezi National Park is stunning. Its amazing landscape is dotted with towering leadwoods, ebonies, acacias and figs, as well as varied shrubs and grasslands. Its backdrop is a beautiful, mountainous escarpment. Directly across the river in Zimbabwe lies Mana Pools National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Together, these parks are home to vast array of big game, smaller species and hundreds of bird species.

This lion cub is bored as the rest of his family sleeps off a recent meal.
© Sharon Loudon larger image
Lower Zambezi National Park boasts all the game one comes to expect from a safari - buffalo, hippo and elephants regularly graze on the river's islands and often swim between them. It is not unusual to hear the clacking of tusks as two playful adolescent elephants duke it out in the cool river waters. The low grunting of hippos is omnipresent; and very large crocodiles regularly bask along the river banks. The beautiful and delicate impala are prolific; shy antelope species such as kudu, eland, waterbuck and bushbuck also make their home in this park. Zebra also live here; notably absent is the giraffe. There is no record of giraffe ever having been here. (Thornicroft's giraffe, unique to Zambia, are plentiful in South Luangwa National Park, so combining Lower Zambezi with South Luangwa is recommended if you are keen on giraffe.) Rhino, sadly, were poached out of existence in this park (and most of Zambia) in the 1980s.

A graceful heron on a Lower Zambezi tributary.
© Sharon Loudon larger image
As for predators, lion, leopard, spotted hyena, and the rare African wild dog are the main event here. (Although the wild dogs roam widely are famously difficult to spot.) Smaller mammals, including the tiny elephant shrew, lovely civet and African wild cat also are found in the park.

A mother warthog and her youngster in Lower Zambezi National Park.
© Sharon Loudon larger image

An abundance of water means an abundance of birdlife: Roughly 378 species have been recorded here, including many species of eagle, kingfisher, heron, ergret, stork and bee-eater.

On Safari
Two juvenile elephant bulls play in the Zambezi River.
© Sharon Loudon larger image
If you are prone to indecision, prepare to be stymied beyond imagination in Lower Zambezi National Park! Most camps and lodges along the river offer canoeing along the Zambezi and its peaceful channels; game walks, day and night game drives, and even tiger fishing. (Catch and release only.) Of course, activities vary by camp. Our advice is to stay long enough to participate in as many of these activities as you can. While game drives generally yield the best game viewing in terms of species seen, there is nothing like the quiet of gliding in a canoe along a channel of the Zambezi, stopping while a small family of elephants finishes up its drink, a buffalo scurries up the bank, baboons run screaming to and fro, and malachite kingfishers pose on the reeds for a perfect photo.