The Lower Zambezi National Park spans 4092 square kilometres and holds within it’s borders 120 kilometres of breathtaking river frontage. The first people to inhabit and lay claim to the Lower Zambezi area were the local Nsenga Bantu people.
The Nsenga occupied the area from Chongwe all the way up to the confluence of the Zambezi & Musensenshi river upstream. They controlled much of the valley floor of what is now the Lower Zambezi National Park, until the colonial Government began to administer the area from Feira (now Luangwa).
The history of the Nsenga people was characterised by movements in and out the area due to sleeping sickness outbreaks between 1940 and 1945. By 1946, large numbers of people had been evacuated to the lower Rufunsa, or westwards to the Chakwenga. A second outbreak in 1952 resulted in 1000 people being evacuated from Mwambashi River to Luangwa. Almost 400 people refused to go to Luangwa and dispersed elsewhere; some merged with the Goba of chief Chiawa.
The status of the park in terms of its recognition as a protected area dates back to 1951 when an area slightly smaller than the present park was declared a first class controlled Hunting area.
In 1969 a concession to hunt the area was granted to the Zambia Safaris company who held the concession until 1971. In the same year, the area was gazetted as Zambezi Game Management Area (GMA) number 16.
In 1973 the area was granted the status of an international park under the jurisdiction of Wildlife Conservation International (WCI). G & G Safaris (Cumings) and Zambezi River Safaris (Games) commenced operations inside the park in 1989 and 1990, creating and developing a tourist product between the Chongwe and Mwambashi Rivers. In 1995, the Zambian Government tendered sites allocated for tourist development inside the park, based on an EU funded management plan. All sites offered were leased, except for two plateau sites. The Lower Zambezi National Park Management Plan is dated July 2001, and was signed on the 1st November 2001. This remains the current working document.
A sunset cruise on the Lower Zambezi is a highlight on any trip to this region. Not only does the expansive river offer a welcome coolness from the heat on land, but the islets and sandbanks throughout the waterways are teeming with wildlife. The setting of fresh water, muddy banks and greenery also make for capturing gorgeous photographs of birds, animals and the landscape in its’ entirety.
On my recent trip to the lodge I was delighted to see an abundance of hippo, elephant with calves, croc, heron, baboon, warthog, fish eagle and kingfisher, as well as the breathtaking escarpment set against a massive setting sun in fiery gold, orange and red hues. On our sunset cruise we passed local fishermen, fishing villages, lodges and fellow visitors & guides who all offered cheery greetings from across the water. The cool spray off the river and the arrival of early evening provides welcome and refreshing coolness for both man and creature.
Returning back to the lodge after sunset, we are welcomed by a campfire and a refreshing beverage or two.At 7.30pm a delicious dinner is served overlooking the gently lapping river. Hippo start to frolic as the light fades and a male lion’s powerful call can be heard from across the other side of the river, in Zimbabwe. The perfect ending to a memorable day on the Zambezi.
Planning for your upcoming safari is an exciting time! The key is to pack light and pack smart. When travelling to Africa for a safari it’s very important that you leave your bright colours at home. Here are some other useful tips on what to wear on safari:
- Dress casually and for comfort, choosing items of clothing in more neutral shades. Avoid all brights colours, including blue, as well as bold prints. Rather let the wildlife do all the showing off.
- Clothing in lightweight, loose-fitting fabrics are most comfortable, easier to wash and dry off. They also take up less space.
- Leave your camouflage or military styled clothing items at home. This is not appropriate and can cause confusion or questioning from local bush police.
- Temperatures can drop considerably in the evenings and mornings so bring a light weight jacket/sweater and a scarf.
- Head gear is vital to protect you against the vigorous African sun. Bring a full brimmed compact hat,as well as an extra hat just in case.
- Comfortable and durable UV protective sunglasses. The more lightweight the better.
- Shorts for men and women are fine in the bush, but longer trousers are socially acceptable in rural villages.
- Pack a pair of open comfortable sandals for milling around the campsite or lodge, and a pair of lightweight walking shoes with ankle support for extended outdoor activities.
- A few pairs of thin socks. Rather layer thin socks than wear one pair of thick wintery socks. It is often more comfortable and you can remove a few layers should you wish.
- Lightweight, breathable shorts are best for men and women, but pack in a pair or two of light long pants for evenings. These are also often more suitable for when visiting rural communities.
- Sunscreen should be worn at all times. The African sun is ruthless and you wouldn’t want to spoil any of your trip by catching sunstroke.
We hope this helps your packing & enjoy your safari!
If you would like to find out more about the best time of year to visit Zambia and the Lower Zambezi, check out this post
When planning your trip to Zambia and it’s beautiful parks and wildlife hotspots, it’s important to consider the seasons to ensure you get the most out of your trip. Game spotting is at its best in the drier months, when foliage is sparse and animals gather around diminishing water sources, yet in the wetter months the landscape is lush and an abundance of migratory birds are an absolute delight to behold.
The climate in the capital, Lusaka, is representative of the climate found in the higher areas of central and southern Zambia, such as Kafue National Park. South Luangwa and the Lower Zambezi National Parks are located in lower-lying valleys and follow similar weather patterns, but are considerably hotter. Temperatures increase by about 6°C for every 1000m you descend (or 3.5°F per 1000ft).
Zambia, situated in the tropics, receives good rainfall, and has a dry season from May to the end of October and a wet season from November to April. During this wet season, many areas become largely inaccessible by vehicle, and most camps in these areas close down. The higher areas in the East generally receive more rain than western and lowland areas.
The Dry Season (May – Oct) ~ Winter
This can be divided into the cool dry season (May to August) and the hot dry season (September and October).
There is little to no rainfall during the entire winter and humidity is very low.
- Days are bright and filled with sunshine.
- Wildlife will congregate around waterholes when other water resources become scarce.
- The chances for malaria are lower since there are fewer mosquitos.
- Humidity is at its low point, making the heat less bothersome (except in October).
- Warm clothing is recommended for early morning game drives, which can be cold.
The Wet Season (Nov – April) ~ Summer
- The landscape is lush and green.
- A time for new-born animals
- With the appearance of migratory birds, birdwatching is at its best.
- Game viewing is not as good as during the dry season as the foliage is thicker and water more abundant
- Some roads become muddy and hard to drive on.
- The heat and humidity can be intense
High tourist season: June – October
Low season: January – June
Best weather: April – September
Less-favourable weather: October – Feb (humid & rainy)
Highest rainfall: Dec/January
Best time for game watching: June – October
Best time for bird watching: Excellent year round but particularly rewarding from December to April.
Best time for tiger fishing: Sep – mid November