A Rare Treasure for Safari Aficionados—Discover Some of Africa’s Richest Wildlife Enclaves!
Day 1: Lusaka, Zambia / Kafue National Park
Arrive in Lusaka, Zambia, where we meet our Expedition Leader. Our safari adventure begins with a flight by light aircraft to little-visited Kafue National Park, twice the size of Yellowstone. We transfer by road, or via road and mokoro (traditional dugout canoe; dependent on water levels), to remote Busanga Bush Camp on the Busanga Plains. This wide floodplain attracts a multitude of wildlife during the dry season, drawn to the pools left as the Lufupa River recedes.
Days 2 & 3: Kafue National Park—Busanga Plains
Spend two full days exploring the Busanga Plains in the heart of Kafue. The park has Zambia’s greatest species diversity, with animals that are rare elsewhere in southern Africa, such as roan, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest and the diminutive oribi. Herds of puku, lechwe, wildebeest and buffalo, as well as wild dog and cheetah, roam the plains, and our camp offers some of the best lion viewing in Africa. Birdlife is spectacular, too, with 400 species in residence. In this location we are led by specialist local guides whose intimate familiarity with the region unveils amazing wildlife sightings we would surely miss otherwise. In the evenings we return to our isolated camp on the plains, immersed in the vast silence of the African wilderness.
Day 4: Livingstone—Rhino Tracking / Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
A morning flight takes us to Livingstone, Zambia. On landing, we head straight to Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, surrounding Victoria Falls. Its name means "the smoke that thunders," a reference to the spray from the mighty falls. Accompanied by a local guide and park rangers who guard the rhinos around the clock, we trek on foot, learning to read signs and track their movements. We can never predict how long it will take to find a rhino, but if we sight one fairly quickly, we'll focus our sights on other wildlife, too. Since there are no predators in the park, we're able to walk safely on foot as we look for zebra, giraffe, warthog, numerous antelope species, and a variety of smaller mammals and birds. Elephants also cross back and forth over the river, frequently wandering throughout the park.
We continue by road a short distance, crossing the famous bridge over the Zambezi Gorge to reach Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. We'll overnight at the historic Victoria Falls Hotel, a 5-star colonial landmark that offers the same splendid panorama and genteel Edwardian ambience that made it a legend when it opened in 1904. The sprawling white hotel overlooks the Zambezi Gorge in full view of the falls, surrounded by rolling lawns and tropical gardens. This afternoon we meet a family at a local village, learning about community's history and culture, then continue to the falls for a closer look. On a privately guided tour, we get varying vantage points via the network of trails along the lushly forested rim. Victoria Falls is the world's largest cataract, spanning more than a mile across the Zambezi Gorge and plummeting 350 feet into the canyon below, which divides Zimbabwe from Zambia.
Days 5–7: Hwange National Park
An early flight brings us to Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, where we settle in to remote Little Makalolo Camp, one of the few camps found within the park’s vast boundaries. Bordering the Kalahari Desert on Zimbabwe’s western edge, Hwange is the country's largest and most famous national park. Its 5,600 square miles are comprised of predominantly desert sandveld supporting teak and mopane woodlands and dry acacia scrub, interspersed with saltpans, grasslands and granite outcrops. The varied habitat is home to enormous herds of elephant and buffalo and a vital predator population including lion, leopard and cheetah. Other animals we frequently see include zebra, giraffe, sable, roan, blue wildebeest and impala. We'll also look for endangered residents such as gemsbok, brown hyena and African wild dog. Birdlife is exciting, too, with more than 400 species in the park. While our focus is game drives, a well-situated platform at camp also provides an idyllic way to spend a lazy afternoon watching passing wildlife, and a blind overlooking the camp’s adjacent waterhole offers unobtrusive wildlife encounters. Bush walks with renowned guides are a highlight when safety permits.
Days 8–10: Mana Pools National Park
A journey by light aircraft brings us to Mana Pools. Our scenic base is Ruckomechi Camp, tucked into a large grove of acacia and mahogany trees along the mighty Zambezi River and backdropped by the Great Rift Valley escarpment. Mana Pools sits on the southern bank of the river, bordering Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia. Mana means "four" in the Shona language, referring to the four large pools, remnants of ancient oxbow lakes, which sustain great numbers of hippo, crocodile, elephant, buffalo, Burchell's zebra, waterbuck, kudu and aquatic birds on islands and sandbanks. On these wide floodplains we also find herds of graceful eland and plenty of predators, including lion, leopard, cheetah and jackal. Rafts of Nile crocodile lie on the river's edge, and 380 bird species reside in the park, including the Nyasa lovebird, Livingstone’s flycatcher, banded snake eagle, yellow-billed kites and huge numbers of carmine bee-eaters that burrow nests into the sandy riverbanks.
This is true wilderness, with one of Africa's highest dry-season animal concentrations. The riverine environment is ideally suited for exploration by boat and on foot, with walking safaris providing a perspective that simply isn’t available in a vehicle. We have opportunities to cruise a stretch of the Zambezi River aboard a leisurely pontoon boat, an exhilarating speedboat, and silently via a canoe that enhances the sense of quiet in this environment brimming with waterbirds. We also explore the landscape on wildlife drives in open 4x4 safari vehicles, allowing a chance to get very close to big game and large herds of animals.
Day 11: Harare / Depart
Our safari comes to a close as we fly back to Harare, Zimbabwe's capital, to meet departing flights.
Physical Rating: Easy