The capital of Zambia, Lusaka, counts itself amongst the fastest developing cities in southern Africa; a business hub with English as its official language. For many visitors, however, it is the lure of the region's incredible wildlife which draws them to the area and, more specifically, the nearby Lower Zambezi National Park.
Lower Zambezi National Park
Lower Zambezi is the closest National Park to Lusaka – just an hour's drive away from the city centre. Although the park covers 4092 square kilometres, most of the safari tours operate in the valley area which is home to the largest concentration of wildlife. Herds of elephants are frequently spotted by the river banks, hence why many sightseeing expeditions use canoes as their preferred mode of transport – allowing you to get up close to some of Africa's most fascinating animals.
Those staying at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Lusaka can enjoy easy access to the park, with an average car journey time of just over one hour. Most people visit the park on an organised tour and Bundu Adventures offer a range of services across the park, including river safaris, camping, canoeing and white water rafting.
Alternatively, you can hop aboard Sunway Safaris' tour truck and see everything from the road. Each tour consists of no more than 12 people, giving you the chance to pick the brains of your tour guide and learn all the fascinating details about the animals you come across.
Most of the operators run tours from April to November, although June to September remains the most popular period for visitors.
Zambezi's flood plains are home to elephants, zebras, buffalos, leopards, lions and cheetahs to name but a few. Hippos and crocodiles frequent the rivers, whilst hundreds of bird species populate the trees and skies above.
Elephants and lions are perhaps the most iconic animals to be found in the valley, with the former often travelling in herds of up to 100. Keep an eye out for any knocked over trees as they can be a strong indicator of elephant activity; they have been known to push them over in order to feed on leaves. And if you you're looking to impress your fellow tour passengers, here's an easy way to identify the sex of the elephant: It's all about focusing on the head as male heads are round in shape, whilst females take a more square-like shape.
Lions also travel in numbers, with each group spearheaded by up to three males. Although they tend to prefer the more remote areas of the park, the area's guides know the best spots in which to locate them.
If you're planning a jaunt down the river then you will likely encounter the odd hippo and crocodile, as well as waterbuck and baboons on the riverbanks.
If you opt for a guided tour aboard a safari truck, then you generally have little to worry about in terms of safety. You may occasionally disembark the vehicle, but if you do step down following instructions from your guides is crucial. Many of the animals are accustomed to nosy humans coming in for a peek, but remember that the park is very much their territory.
This is particularly important to bear in mind for those planning overnight tours or embarking on sightseeing excursions on the river. Heeding to the advice and instructions issued by your guide is essential and will help ensure your safety. The guides are fully trained and are experts at understanding animal behaviour, and for additional safety they do carry firearms.
If you intend on driving through the park on your own then it is vital that you stay inside your vehicle at all times. Although certain areas may look deserted, animals are often impossible to spot due to camouflage. So you may want to avoid stopping for any road side toilet breaks..
As a general rule you should also avoid any sudden movements whilst observing animals and keep a close eye on their behaviour – if they appear agitated or begin to charge at your vehicle then slowly drive away.
Guided safaris are by far the safest option, however, and the specialised knowledge of your operators can also help make it a far more informative experience.
Kalimba Reptile Park
The African plains are also home to a wide range of reptiles, although their size means they certainly fall into the lesser spotted category. Thankfully, however, Kalimba Reptile Park has gathered some of the most fascinating species under one roof, enabling visitors to get up close to creepy crawlies.
And if you've built up an appetite during your tour of the park then head to the farm shop and tuck into a delicious crocodile burger – yes, it really does consist of 100 per cent authentic crocodile meat (apparently the taste resembles that of chicken). Ketchup is optional…
Kalimba is just a 30 min drive from central Lusaka and its surrounding lakes are open to the public for fishing. Equipment including rods, lines and bait can be hired on site.