Zambia invented the walking safari, it’s home to one of the largest wildlife parks in the world. The mighty Zambezi runs here, rivalled only by immense Victoria Falls. It’s the land of uncrowded wildernesses, kids can sleep in treehouses or under the stars, and it makes unforgettable family holidays.
Landlocked Zambia is one of southern Africa’s most rewarding and least travelled safari destinations. The wildlife here is amazingly diverse, and protected in dozens of pristine wilderness parks dotted with beautiful camps and lodges. Families are welcome everywhere, and countless experiences are designed just with kids in mind. Travelling around with children independently isn’t easy, but the number of experts specialising in Zambian family safaris make that small inconvenience irrelevant.
Why go on holiday in Zambia
Flights from UK to wildlife park regions
Flights from the UK to Livingstone, Lusaka and Ndola, all year round, take between 13 and 18 hours.
Dry season from April to October
The best time to visit Zambia’s national parks is dry season, which coincides neatly with UK summer holidays.
Safari holidays year round
Dry season is best for wildlife viewing, but the wet ‘Emerald’ season is good too and Zambia looks magnificent. Several parks are now open all year round.
Exceptional family camps and lodges
Zambia is far from touristy, but it does have an excellent choice of places to stay in each of its national parks.
54 National Parks and wildlife reserves
Over 30% of Zambia is given over to wildlife conservation, that’s a protected area of 752,614km², much of which is accessible in the country’s national parks.
The world’s greatest aerial migration
Every year in autumn, over 10 million fruit bats migrate to Kasanka National Park. A sight to behold for wildlife loving teens.
Over 793 species of birds and four of the Big Five
Rhino were poached to extinction in Zambia by the early 1980s. But Lion, Leopard, Buffalo and Elephant all thrive here. It’s excellent for spotting African Wild Dogs (rare in most other countries), and one of the best places on the continent to see Cheetah.
Where to go
Kafue National Park, Central Zambia
At over 22,000km², Kafue is one of the largest parks in the world, it’s also the best place in Africa to spot leopards and has four of the big five (lion, buffalo, elephant, leopard). But it’s not best loved of all Zambia’s parks for its most glamorous residents. This is the place for up-close encounters with a huge diversity of wildlife, fantastic cultural experience, charming traditional camps and zero crowds. Younger kids like the friendly atmosphere, and drive safaris. Walking safaris, night treks, sleeping under the stars and skill-building will appeal to older kids and teenagers.
Kafue has a good choice of family accommodation, ranging from luxury camps and private lodges to self-catering campsites.
The best time to visit Kafue is the dry season between June and October.
Like all Zambian parks, Kafue is an unspoiled wilderness area and certain safari experience are for over 12s only.
South Luangwa National Park, Eastern Zambia
Conservationists say South Luangwa is one of the world’s finest nature reserves. Africa’s most complete river system runs through its heart and 60 species of animals and over 400 species of birds can be seen here, so it’s hard to argue with that claim. At 9000km², the park’s more intimate in size than some, but it isn’t on the mass tourism radar yet, and crowds are about the only thing you won’t witness. The elephant population here is very healthy and vast herds of buffalo during the dry season are one of Africa’s most awe-inspiring sights.
South Luangwa has an excellent range of luxurious camps and lodges, kids can even sleep in treehouses or thatched cottages here.
Walking Safaris were pioneered in South Luangwa and it’s the world expert in this thrilling experience for older kids.
There are up to 50 hippo per kilometre in River Luangwa and the park’s also known for Thornicroft Giraffe; elephants; leopard; and Cookson Wildebeest.
The dry season here runs from April to October and the tail end is best for wildlife sightings.
The park’s one of the few open during the spectacular ‘Emerald’ wet season from November to March.
Lower Zambezi National Park, Southern Zambia
One of Zambia’s most beautiful parks, but still relatively unknown, Lower Zambezi brings kids closer to wildlife than anywhere else in the country. The unspoiled, wilderness landscape is diverse and unforgettably dramatic. Good for lion and leopard spotting, island-hopping buffalo are stars of the mighty Zambezi here, and 100 strong herds of elephant aren’t an unusual sight.
Lower Zambezi specialises in elegantly designed lodges and charming camps, all very family-friendly, many with excellent childcare for younger kids.
Canoe safaris are great fun for teenagers in Lower Zambezi.
The dry season here runs from June to September, a few of the luxury lodges are open all year round.
What to do
Kafue National Park, Central Zambia
Spread across more than 22,000km², Kafue is the largest wildlife park in Africa. It’s also Zambia’s longest established, and expert in family safaris.
South Luangwa National Park, Eastern Zambia
Spread around the immense Luangwa River, this lovely park is where walking safaris were first pioneered
Zambezi River Rafting
If white water rafting on the mighty Zambezi River isn’t ticked off teen to-do list yet, this is where to face the challenge.
Lower Zambezi National Park Canoe Safari
Accessible and wildlife-rich Lower Zambezi National Park is known for safari experiences, but canoeing is especially thrilling for older kids.
Emerald Season Safaris
The wet season is known as ‘Emerald Season’ and runs from November to March in South Luangwa one of the few parks to safari year round.
Swimming under Victoria Falls
Seeing Victoria Falls is the experience of a lifetime, swimming under them takes the excitement to another level entirely
Elephant Sanctuary, Lusaka
One of the world’s most highly respected animal sanctuaries, Lilayi Lodge is wonderful for a day visit, or to stay a few nights.
Devils Pool, Victoria Falls
The famous Devil and Angel Pools at the head of Victoria Falls are like no other swimming experiences anyone will ever have tried.
Sanctuary Sussi & Chuma Family Safaris
In Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park, on the Zambezi riverbank, the Sussi & Chuma Sanctuary is a fantastic first time safari choice for kids.
Kasanka National Park, Northern Zambia
Over 10 million fruit bats descend on Kasanka between October and December each year. It’s the park where Zambia meets Congo, and good for older kids.
Educational value for kids
Spend some time at the Maramba Cultural Museum in Livingstone. More heritage village than exhibition space, it was set up to protect the indigenous arts, crafts and culture of Zambia. But the real experience is watching local blacksmiths, mask makers, wood carvers and potters at work.
The Choma Crafts’ Project is another museum that’s really a traditional work space, this time dedicated to preserving ancient skills of the Tonga people. Fascinating for older kids and the intricacy of the beadwork, baskets and textiles is astonishing.
If you’re visiting Victoria Falls, spend some time in the Livingstone Museum. It’s Zambia’s oldest and largest national museum, and explores the country’s natural, cultural and social evolution.
Walking safaris are a tradition in Zambia and the thrill of venturing into the African bush on foot is unforgettable for kids. Best suited to over 12s and organised through camps or lodges.
‘Under the Stars’ experiences in South Luangwa National Park are remarkable adventures for older kids and teenagers, keen to see the wilderness without leaving at trace.
Between October and December every year, you can witness the greatest wildlife migration on earth, when more than 10 million fruit bats descend from the skies into the dense swamp forest at the heart of Kasanka National Park.
Kids too young for Zambezi white water rafting can try the ‘Livingstone Drift’, a gentle introduction to the river on inflatable dinghies, navigated by local guides. A fun way to see wildlife on the banks and in the air.
Getting around with kids in Zambia
Zambia’s an emerging travel destination and the beauty of its national parks and family safaris is the relative lack of crowds and unspoiled landscape. On the downside, the country’s roads are very poor and it can take hours to cover as little as 50km. The safest and easiest way to get about with kids is to arrange travel with your park accommodation or through a tour operator who specialises in Zambia family safaris.