A Rare Treasure for Safari Aficionados—Discover Some of Africa’s Richest Wildlife Enclaves
Day 1: Lusaka, Zambia / Kafue National Park
Arrive in Zambia's capital of Lusaka and meet our Expedition Leader. Our safari begins with a flight by light aircraft to little-visited Kafue National Park, twice the size of Yellowstone. 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. Our small camp is the only safari outpost in the region, and an important presence when it comes to protecting the park's wildlife: as a result of this frontier ecotourism presence, the wildlife gains in Busanga have been substantial in recent years and are growing.
Days 2 & 3: Kafue National Park—Busanga Plains
Spend two full days exploring the Busanga Plains in the heart of Kafue. We visit these seasonally flooded plains once they begin to dry out, though there are still marshy areas with flowing water that act as a magnet for the park's abundant wildlife—we're likely to get close to plenty of hippos, and antelope may spray us as they spring through the shallow channels.
As the sun rises over our isolated camp each morning, heavy mists lift from the river, revealing animals that dot the plains around us. Kafue has Zambia’s greatest species diversity, with wildlife that is 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 resident species. 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. Each evening, 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
Fly this morning to Livingstone. On arrival, visit a local village where we meet a family and learn about their community's history and culture. Then we head to nearby Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park in search of rhinos. The park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, surrounds Victoria Falls, and its name means "the smoke that thunders," a reference to the spray from the mighty cataract. 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 the rhinos' 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 efforts 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 through the park. We then cross the famous bridge over the Zambezi Gorge to reach Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, where we overnight at the historic Victoria Falls Hotel. This 5-star colonial landmark 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 gorge in full view of the falls, surrounded by rolling lawns and tropical gardens.
Days 5–7: Victoria Falls / Hwange National Park
This morning includes a privately guided tour of Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwe side, where views are best this time of year. The world's largest cataract spans more than a mile across the Zambezi Gorge and plummets 350 feet into the canyon below, which divides Zimbabwe from Zambia. View the falls from varying vantage points via the network of trails along the rim, as we walk through the rain forest
microclimate created by the profuse spray.
An afternoon flight brings us to Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park and 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 primarily of desert sandveld
with 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 frequently on view include zebra, giraffe, sable, roan, blue wildebeest and impala. We'll also look for endangered gemsbok, brown hyena and African wild dog. Birdlife is exciting, with more than 400 species in the park. While our focus is game drives, a well-situated platform at camp provides a chance to spend a lazy afternoon watching passing wildlife, and a blind overlooking the waterhole adjacent to camp provides unobtrusive wildlife encounters—we frequently see lots of elephant at very
close range. Bush walks with renowned guides are a highlight, when safety permits.
Days 8–10: Mana Pools National Park
Fly by light aircraft to Mana Pools. This is true wilderness, with one of Africa's highest dry-season animal concentrations. Our scenic camp base within the private Ruckomechi Concession, backdropped by the Great Rift Valley escarpment, is tucked into a large grove of acacia and mahogany trees along the Zambezi River. Mana Pools National Park abuts 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 and
kudu, plus aquatic birds on islands and sandbanks. On these broad floodplains, we also find herds of graceful eland and plenty of predators, including lion, leopard, cheetah and
jackal. Rafts of Nile crocodile lie along the river's edge. Some 380 bird species reside in the park, including the Nyasa lovebird, Livingstone’s flycatcher, banded snake eagle, yellow-billed kites and huge numbers of iridescent carmine bee-eaters that burrow nests into the sandy riverbanks.
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 and an exhilarating speedboat, surveying an environment rich 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 Zimbabwe's capital of Harare to meet departing flights.
Physical Rating: Easy