...Just back from


Zambia has a big reputation to maintain. Esteemed as an unspoilt wilderness, it's home to the wildest wildlife, a land of vast rivers and thunderous waterfalls and is the pioneer of off-grid walking safaris.

Ben, our resident Africa expert has just revisited and reports that Zambia continues to succeed in offering the safari purists' dream.

A Different Drumbeat

The area just upstream from the mighty Victoria Falls known as the Upper Zambezi is often the launch or end point to a Zambian safari. The deafening roar and huge plumes of mist thrown up by the “smoke that thunders” is obviously a major draw here but the riverside lodges that cling to the banks offer a relaxed introduction to days on safari.

With a good safari scene beyond the river, a few days here can be the perfect way to gear up before or wind down after a dedicated safari in one of Zambia’s other National Parks. As various parcels of land have amalgamated into protected reserves, wildlife viewing in the area has improved immeasurably with rhino sanctuaries making the Big 5 a distinct possibility.


"A sundowner boat trip on the river is a magical way to round off a days exploration. The final hour of sunlight is known as the Golden Hour, elephants swim across the Upper Zambezi, the ripples reflecting another dramatic African sunset"

Ben Oxley-Brown

Lower Zambezi

By visiting a combination of National Parks, you can experience greater contrasts in landscapes than you’d imagine is possible in just one country. The Lower Zambezi used to be the more relaxed “soft” option; a place to catch Tiger fish and enjoy sundowners overlooking the vast expanse of the Zambezi with the chance of spotting wildlife between the river and the escarpment.

Now, due to years of better wildlife management and conservation on both the Zambian and Zimbabwean banks, the wildlife in the Lower Zambezi catchment is flourishing. Large herds of buffalo kick up the dust and impala race through the trees. Huge packs of wild dogs, scarce for many years, rampage through the riverine leadwood forests. Leopards – once the preserve of South Luangwa, slink through the miombo and mopane woodlands. Elephants are ubiquitous and thoroughly relaxed, the days of mock charging vehicles seems to be a distant memory for them as the gently graze the rich grasslands mid-stream. The skies are filled with wonderful birds from angular skimmers to darting kingfishers and this vibrancy makes the Lower Zambezi truly feel like a slice of Eden.

Mana Pools, Zambia


“Spending time in one of the hides alongside the river bed offers a cool zen-like retreat during the hotter hours of the day. Quietly sitting and waiting to see which animals come in for a drink is hugely rewarding and gives you incredible up close photograph opportunities”

The South Luangwa, a seasonal river valley beloved by safari enthusiasts for both its walking adventures and exceptional habitats continues to dazzle while the properties have also matured beautifully.

Vibrant flocks of breeding carmine bee-eaters arrive in late August and take up noisy residence in steep banks of the seasonally dry riverbed, seemingly endless murmurations of red-billed quelea roll like wisps of smoke across the valley at dusk to roost. The relative cool of the morning reveals various prides of lions spaced at vantage points surveying the herds of puku antelope.


The South Luangwa is famed for its leopard population, I had high hopes of spotting a cat or two on my travels. The reality was extraordinary as I found leopards on a daily basis, hunting antelope on the river bank, lazing out in the open and droopily resting in the fig trees with their tails hanging languidly down in their trademark curl.

The heat builds through October until it shatters with the arrival of spectacular thunderstorms. The rain hammers down into the dust and within minutes it is pooling into puddles which creep and link together, creating wetlands from parched earth.  These much-needed rains completely transform the landscape in just a few days, from the black cotton soil a carpet of bright grass appears, the trees erupt into blossom and leaf and from further north the migratory birds appear.

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Lolebezi Zambia
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Zambia's Lodges

The original thatched bush camps deep in the wilds where electricity is still a luxury can still be found, yet design-led contemporary luxe lodges are now in place too. Creating top-end lodges in beautiful wilderness areas while maintaining a positive impact is extraordinarily well balanced. Arriving by boat into Lolebezi for example, the lodge is almost imperceptible from the river. A clever blend of vintage repurposed railway sleepers and a non-reflective glass façade belies the extraordinary design within.  

A pioneer in walking safaris, an activity that requires vast swathes of undisturbed bushveld, Zambia has paid heed to its eco-credentials and only allowed minimal-impact projects. Another key feature of these new design-led camps is the collaboration with local artists and companies like Tribal Textiles who impart traditional skills, weaves and patterns into fabrics creating exceptional design statements. Taking inspiration from the natural hues helps the lodges root beautifully within their wild surroundings.

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2022-12-12 10_32_37-Kaingo Gallery
2022-12-12 10_34_34-Mwamba Gallery
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Zambia's Camps

Camps like Kaingo and Mwamba, run by the dedicated Shenton family have retained the safari ethos of providing everything you need and nothing you don’t, and while exceptionally comfortable, its the exceptional quality of the guiding in this pristine wilderness that does the heavy lifting.

Kaingo is the Shenton’s HQ. Rooms are bright and uncomplicated with an attention to detail and creative flair that create a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere overlooking the riverbed. Fresh and zingy lunches are served in the thatched chitenge where safari plans are hatched. A unique network of photographic hides get you down to the water’s level at various vantage points and the pared back Mwamba Bush Camp demonstrate the Shenton’s commitment to an immersive safari experience be it on foot or from one of their Land Cruisers.


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