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.
Flights from the UK to Livingstone, Lusaka and Ndola, all year round, take between 13 and 18 hours.
The best time to visit Zambia’s national parks is dry season, which coincides neatly with UK summer holidays.
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.
Zambia is far from touristy, but it does have an excellent choice of places to stay in each of its national parks.
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.
Every year in autumn, over 10 million fruit bats migrate to Kasanka National Park. A sight to behold for wildlife loving teens.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.