Heaven on the banks of the Zambezi

Welcome to one of Zambia’s best-loved destinations…

On the northern banks of the mighty Zambezi River, at a point where the river is wide and lazy, chugging along at a steady three miles an hour on its way from Kariba Dam in the west to Mozambique’s Cahora Bassa Dam in the east, this is both a critically important ecological region and a superlative safari destination, all rolled into one. The Zambezi is the biggest eastward-flowing river on the continent and its fourth-longest. On the opposite bank is Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Lower Zambezi National Park is the star of the show on the Zambian side of the river, flanked by the Chiawa Game Management Area (GMA) to its west. 


The game viewing is outstanding, with lots of plains game and predators. Lion, leopard, hyena and painted wolves (African wild dogs) are prevalent here and guests are blessed with regular sightings both in the GMA and in the park itself. Plains game includes kudu, impala, waterbuck, wildebeest and zebra. There are no giraffe here as they have never managed to negotiate the high mountains to the north that form a formidable barrier, and excellent viewing points for sundowners!


This vast area is home to some of the most lauded safari camps and lodges in Zambia that attract travelers from all over the world who fall in love with the diversity of wildlife, the breathtaking beauty of the river and the exciting range of activities this region is renowned for, most of which have the river as their focal point. You can indulge in river safaris, cruising past islands filled with life, spotting the huge herds of elephant and buffalo that make this destination such a huge tourism drawcard. Stop for coffee on a sand bank or island, and if you like take a fishing rod and some bait and try your hand at some tiger fishing. This is the home of Africa’s tiger fish – also called the river dog – with its fearsome teeth and legendary fighting ability giving anglers a run for their money! 


You also have the chance to catch huge vundu – a local catfish that lives mostly on the bottom of the river in the quiet drop off areas and which can reach monstrous proportions. The river is also filled with bream. All fishing is on a catch and release basis, so what you hook you give back to the river. 


Here are our recommendations for where to stay in the Lower Zambezi:


Royal Zambezi Lodge:


With its unique blend of understated elegance and warm hospitality, this beautiful lodge is a short flight by small plane from Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in the Zambian capital city of Lusaka, landing on the tarred airstrip that runs parallel to the Zambezi River. You can also transfer from other lodges or the border town of Chirundu or by boat, mooring at a jetty that seems to go on forever, lapped by the waters of Zambezi (it’s Africa’s fourth longest river, after the Nile, the Congo and the Niger). 


Royal Zambezi Lodge is located in the Chiawa GMA. There are no fences, so the local wildlife roams freely with game activities taking place both inside the nearby Lower Zambezi National Park and in the GMA itself. While the usual safari season lasts from April to November each year (due to the rainy season which makes most of the national park inaccessible), Royal Zambezi Lodge stays open all year and offers mostly boat-based safari activities during the summer months (December to March).


The lodge has a total of 15 rooms – eight deluxe suites, two of which are conveniently conjoinable to create a lovely family suite, and seven combined presidential suites and honeymoon suites, some big enough for families who don’t mind being under the same roof. All have river views and private plunge pools, with private, enclosed courtyards and wonderful decks that are the perfect place to enjoy a refreshing drink and the panoramic vistas. 


The lodge has its own spa, lovely curio shop and swimming pool on the edge of the river, with a well-stocked bar and lounge area alongside. It’s the perfect place for a refreshing cocktail in the afternoon, watching the river pass by and the birds come and go in the canopy above. 


Chiawa Camp 


Family owned and operated, Chiawa Camp was the first commercial lodge to be launched in the Lower Zambezi National Park and has since become one of Zambia’s best-loved luxury safari camps. Founded on the principle of simple, authentic bush experiences without scrimping on life’s little luxuries, Chiawa offers gentle, unhurried immersion in the surrounding splendour of the national park with unrivalled views out over the Zambezi.


The camp is located inside the national park on the banks of the Zambezi and is accessed by small plane from Lusaka via Jeki Airstrip, with daily scheduled flights during the safari season. It is open from April to November each year. With eight safari tents and the family friendly Safari Suite, all taking advantage of their riverfront position, each room blends in perfectly with its surroundings while offering all the space you need to unwind, relax and commune with Mother Nature. 

Each huge tent has a super-king sized bed that splits into two oversized single beds under a massive mosquito net complete with fan, a lounge area with another fan and the option for a third bed or bunkbed for younger families. 

The tents open on to a shaded veranda with lots of space for relaxation including a “bench wallow” which in cool weather is a sunken lounge area and in hot weather, a plunge pool on demand. The Safari Suite is double the size of the standard safari tents and has its own plunge pool and more than enough space for three children sharing with their parents.

Sausage Tree Camp 


Embodying the ethos of bush chic, Sausage Tree Camp enjoys a wonderful riverfront location with stunning views up and down the Zambezi. With a maximum of just 18 guests, the camp offers a truly exclusive safari experience with lots of luxury and pampering to boot. 


Overlooking beautiful reeded islands filled with game and regularly visited by elephants, the accent is on providing an idyllic base from which to explore the Lower Zambezi National Park, either on traditional game drives, on foot with guided bush walks or out on the river – the star of the show. As its name implies, the camp is shaded by a grove of sausage trees, dotted with the odd mahogany or two. Elephants regularly amble through camp on their way to drink at the river and the ambience is one of blending effortlessly with wild Africa.


Each of the seven suites is kitted out in gorgeous minimalist style and comes with the services of a private butler. Open air showers, large spacious decks overlooking the river and private plunge pools add to the overall feeling of space and tranquility. 


A private family suite named Kigelia House offers privacy for small groups or families, consisting of two en-suite bedrooms separated by an open-plan living area leading on to a private deck with its own pool.

Please get in touch with us if you’d like to book a safari to the Lower Zambezi and maybe combine it with a walking safari in the South Luangwa or a visit to the Victoria Falls and Livingstone. 

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