Lower Zambezi National Park

... some information about Lower Zambezi National Park

The 4092 square kilometer Lower Zambezi National Park is one of Zambia’s premier wildlife destinations. Bounded by the Zambezi escarpment to the north and the enormous Zambezi River to the south, this extremely picturesque park is renowned for its dramatic scenery and forms part of the southernmost extent of the Great East African Rift Valley. 

Officially gazetted in 1983, this relatively new national park “adjoins” the Zimbabwean World Heritage Site, Mana Pools Reserve, which is situated on the opposite river bank and thus creates a natural transfrontier wildlife sanctuary.

The diverse habitats create fantastic land and water-based game viewing opportunities.  Elephant, buffalo, hippo, leopard and lion occur together with a wealth of other wildlife.

In some regions the river is up to 2km in width, the clear water with its reed lined banks and quieter side channels provide the perfect environment for fishing and canoeing safaris, for which the park is famous.

Fishing: Anglers will be thrilled with some of the most spectacular fresh water sport fishing in the world.  The legendary Tigerfish (a relative of the piranha) is a feisty and highly sought after catch whilst the Vundu (a catfish) weighing over 50kg provides equally interesting sport.  All fishing in the park is catch and release.  Spinning, fly and bait casting is available.

Canoeing: Drifting peacefully along with the current is a memorable and relaxing way for nature lovers to experience this beautiful river.  Lodges offer short morning excursions to multi-day mobile safaris. 

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The Tigerfish renowned for its fighting performance.
  • Elephants swimming in the mighty Zambezi River
  • Wild dog, one of the parks’ elusive, but favourite residents.
  • The Lower Zambezi is an important bird area with over 300 species.
  • A choice of safari activities -  game drives, walking, canoeing or boat Cruises.

CLASSIC COMBINATION

  • Lower Zambezi and Victoria Falls
  • Lower Zambezi and Luangwa
  • Lower Zambezi, Kafue and Luangwa

THE PARK DETAILS

Mammals:
Common animals include elephant, buffalo and hippo, with healthy numbers of lion and leopard.  Zebra, impala and kudu also occur in addition to smaller mammals such as the side striped jackal; dwarf, slender & banded mongoose; large spotted genet; civet; honey badger and porcupine.

Birds:
The Lower Zambezi Valley provides for excellent birding with about 300 of Zambia’s 732 species occurring in the area.

Fishing:
Fishing enthusiasts who prefers to have their own equipment should bring.

Spinning and Bait Casting Tackle

  • Medium - heavy action 15 - 20 lb spinning and bait casting rods (6-7ft) and reels with 110 yd (100m.) line capacity.
  • Wire leaders (30lb) are essential for Tiger fish, usually about 12 inches (30cm) long.
  • Good quality sharp hooks (1/0 up to 6/0 - Bream to Tiger fish to Vundu...)
  • 15-20lb good quality line, preferably abrasion resistant (bring extra).
  • Small - medium sized lead sinkers.
  • Snap swivels and swivels (120 - 130 lb)
  • Repala Magnums (4-6 inches long): Colours change daily depending on the time, conditions, visibility, so bring a range to choose from.
  • Spinners: Good for both bream and tiger, so bring a mix of small, medium and large spinners, with a variety of colour reflectors.
  • Spoons (7-8 ounce): Good for tiger

Fly-Fishing:
This is definitely the most challenging way to land a Tiger and just as much fun can be had chasing bream. The tackle and technique has been described as very similar to that of "Bone-fishing".

We recommend  8-10wt fly rods with fast sinking line. 15-20lb tippets with 20-30lb short (4-6 inches) wire leaders. Tapered leaders are preferred, but not necessary.

The most commonly used flies are the streamer type with epoxy or weighted heads. Favourite colours are: silver, silver and red, black and silver, orange, white, chartreuse, yellow and blue. Length of flies range from 2-5 inches on either a 2/0 or 3/0 hook.

TIPS

Two piece bait/spinning rods and four piece fly rods are much easier to travel with and you can quite often travel with them as "carry on" luggage. It is also recommended that you bring sufficient back-up tackle.

BEST TIME OF YEAR TO VISIT

Fishing: The hotter months of the year from September to December are definitely the best time to catch tiger fish. This is also the breeding season, when the fish are much more active, feeding more regularly and far more aggressively.  The water level is typically lower and the visibility at its very best.

Game and Birds:

Early Season - April to May
This period after the rains is stunning as the skies are clear providing for excellent photography. The migratory birds are still in plumage and preparing to move on whilst the dense vegetation forces the lions and other mammals to use the game-viewing roads.

Mid Season - June to August
As the vegetation starts to dry and the waterholes recede, elephant and buffalo start to gather in larger herds. Warm clothing is a definite must for safari activities in the morning and evening.  African Wild Dog den in this period for mating, so sightings at this time are extremely rare.

Late Season - September to November
As the weather hots up, game viewing and fishing becomes even more rewarding. Most of the waterholes are now dry forcing game to congregate at the river to drink.  Birding also improves with the arrival of summer migrants and the nesting carmine bee eaters creating a beautiful spectacle. At the break of the first rains (generally in early November) the impala give birth. Around the same time, the warthogs and many other species also produce their young.

Approximate temperatures (guide only):

  JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
TEMPERATURES (centigrade)
Max 32 31 32 32 31 30 29 30 35 40 37 33
Min 20 20 19 18 19 12 11 12 15 20 22 22
RAINFALL (mm)
normal 195 287 141 91 0 0 0 0 0 50 108 110

Normal activities offered in the Lower Zambezi

  • Game drives – night and day in open safari vehicles.
  • Walking safaris (June – October)  Children under 12 are not allowed on walks in the park.
  • River Safaris, Boating & Canoeing: note there are age restrictions.  Not all camps have canoes on site. It is best to check these details before confirming.

Additional Activities
Other places to visit in the area include:

  • Conservation Lower Zambezi Centre – situated close to Chongwe Camp. This is where conservation work and the safari guides training is conducted from.
  • Villages/schools – the lodges outside the park can arrange visits to their local village and School.

The normal daily program at most camps is approximately as follows

  • 05:30 (summertime) / 06:00 (wintertime) Wake-up call and a light continental breakfast served.
  • 06:00 (summertime) / 06:30 (wintertime) Morning safari. After a few hours walk or game drive, the guide will chose a scenic spot where guests can stop for a break and enjoy a light refreshment and snack. The safari will then continue for another hour or so (depending on what game is seen).
  • 11:00 A hearty brunch is served.  The afternoon is spent at leisure.
  • 15:30 (summertime) / 16:00 (wintertime) Evening safari similar to the morning.  The guide will choose a picturesque spot to watch the sunset whilst enjoying drinks and a snack.  If the guests are walking, they will return to camp before dark. If on a game drive, the drive will then continue using a spotlight for about an hour and a half to two hours, whilst they look for the nocturnal animals.
  • 20:30 Dinner is served.

Some lodges offer special meals in the bush, such as bush brunches, all day drives or picnic lunches, depending on the length of stay of the client.

Conservation Programmes

Conservation Lower Zambezi (CLZ) www.conservationlowerzambezi.com.zm) an enthusiastic and proactive volunteer organization that assists the Zambian Wildlife Authority in protecting the area from poaching, deforestation and encroachment by providing funding for and facilitating conservation activities in the fie3ld. The organization provides equipment, transport, rations, fuel, radio communications, mapping and navigation equipment, morale, recognition and incentives to ZAWA wildlife rangers.  The organization also supports research, undertakes surveys, examines and licenses safari guides in the Lower Zambezi and immobilizes and treats injured wildlife.

Commencing in 2003, CLZ embarked on an Environmental Education Program that provides surrounding village communities with information and encouragement on sustainable options to improve upon and minimize their natural resource usage. School children from the same communitie4is are periodically brought into the protected areas to learn first hand about nature and the benefits of natural resource protection.

HEALTH AND INSURANCE

Insurance: We advise you to have comprehensive travel insurance including: medical evacuation; hospitalisation & repatriation; baggage loss and loss of funds through cancellation or curtailment of package booked.

Malaria: Zambia is a high risk malaria area.  All visitors must take appropriate prophylactics to prevent them from contracting the disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes. Consult your medical practitioner. It is important to adhere strictly to the dosages. We further advise you to use mosquito repellent, wear long clothing in the evenings and sleep under a mosquito net at night to prevent being bitten.  If you come down with flu-like symptoms either during, or within four to six weeks after your visit to a malaria area, seek a doctor’s advice immediately.

Inoculations: A yellow fever certificate is mandatory if you are travelling from an infected area. Vaccinations for cholera, tetanus and yellow fever are advised. Again, consult your medical practitioner.

A small personal medical kit will give you extra comfort whilst travelling. However please be aware that any medication must be accompanied with a doctor’s prescription.  The Zambian government strictly enforce the law when it comes to drugs of any sort.  If in doubt, get an official prescription and make sure your medication is in a sealed container.

COMMUNICATION: There is no cell phone coverage in the more remote areas of Zambia. Where there is cellphone coverage at lodges, management request that guests refrain from using their cellphones within public areas of the lodge and on game viewing activities.

PAYMENT FOR SERVICES IN ZAMBIA

The currency in Zambia is the Kwacha.  The denominations are K50,000, K20,000, K10,000, K5000, K1000, K500, K100, K50, K20.  Since the devaluation of the Kwacha ngwee coins are no longer in circulation (100 ngwee = 1 Kwacha).

Many of the lodges accept US Dollar, Pound Sterling or Euro bills for payment instead of Kwacha but it is advisable to always have enough Zambian currency just in case.

Credit Cards: Credit cards are becoming more widely accepted at lodges but should not be relied on for payment. A commission varying from between 5 – 7% is generally charged on both credit cards and travellers cheques in order to cover the bank charge commission. Visa is the most widely accepted card with some institutions accepting MasterCard.  American Express and Diners is not accepted in Zambia.

Changing Money: Zambia is a free market economy and foreign exchange can be readily converted. It is best to come into the country with United States dollars (USD) cash (or travellers cheques), which can be exchanged at any of the banks or Bureau de Change and some lodges. 

USD are easier to change than Pounds sterling and Euro. It is essential that your USD notes are fairly recently printed with "large heads". Old notes with "smaller heads" (except One Dollar Bills) are not accepted ANYWHERE in Zambia.  Some banks will also charge a different rate for small denominations. We recommend that you have some smaller denominations of USD bills for change and tipping.

There are banks in the main cities across the country. Opening hours are 08:30 to about 14:30 or 15:30 hrs Monday to Friday.  Bureau de Changes stay open on Saturdays and week day afternoons.

ATM: The main cities have ATM machines which will enable you to withdraw cash in the local Kwacha currency.  Visa is the most widely accepted card at these machines.

WILDLIFE SAFETY

Wildlife can, and does, roam freely near national parks.  When staying at a lodge please take the utmost care when walking about.  If you come across game, do not approach the animal.  Elephants in particular can move fast and can be dangerous – they are scared of humans and can react suddenly without warning.  Nile crocodiles occur in Zambia and we advise you not to swim in any waterways.

WHAT TO BRING

Please note that luggage is restricted to 12kg packed in soft bags for internal flights. Both men and women dress smart casual in the evenings at lodges. Whilst there are no regulations for dress code, it is customary in Zambia for women to cover their legs for the sake of modesty. 

For safari activities we recommend comfortable, lightweight clothing in khaki, brown, green and beige bush-toned colours. Pale or bright colours are not advisable for walking safaris as the animals can easily see these shades. Tsetse flies, a biting fly, are also attracted to dark colours, especially navy blue.

  • Light cotton shirts with long sleeves (even in summer; to protect from the sun and mosquitoes)
  • Cotton trousers, shorts or a light skirt
  • Trousers for evenings and cooler days
  • Sweater or warm jacket (game drives in open vehicles can be very cold in winter – for those who feel the cold make sure you bring gloves, beanie and scarf too!)
  • Raincoat (if your holiday is during the green season or visiting the Victoria Falls!)
  • Sports bra for bumpy roads (believe me!!)
  • Comfortable shoes and light walking boots
  • Sun block, sunglasses & hat. (Important that the hat doesn’t blow off your head easily!)
  • Swimsuit
  • Insect repellent, anti-histamine cream, personal toiletries and medication
  • Binoculars (one pair each is preferable when game viewing)
  • Camera equipment: a telephoto lens (200/300mm); film (100,200,400 ASA); Camera cleaning equipment and a good dust proof bag. For videos and digital cameras bring spare batteries – Not all lodges have recharging facilities.
  • If you wear prescription glasses – bring a spare pair.  For contact lens wearers bring a spare pair of glasses as the dust and insects on the open game viewing vehicles can be a problem
  • Little torch

Getting there by Air

Royal airstrip – all weather. 1400m

  • Lusaka – Royal Airstrip approx 30 to 40 minutes

Distance from Royal to camps:

  • Royal Zambezi Lodge & Kasaka River Lodge - 2 minutes drive
  • Chongwe - 15 minutes drive

Jeki airstrip – seasonal. Location within the park.

  • Lusaka – Jeki Airstrip approximately 30 minutes. 
  • Livingstone – Jeki approx 1 3.4 hours
  • Mfuwe to Jeki Airstrip approximately 1 ¾ hours

Distance from Jeki to camps:

  • Sausage Tree - 20km or 1 ½ hours drive
  • Chiawa - 1 hour drive

Masstock Airstrip opposite Gwabi Lodge – Charter flights only.

  • Lusaka - Royal takes approximately 30 minutes

Restrictions - luggage is restricted to 12kg on charter flights in soft suitcases.

Getting there by Road - Directions

  1. From Lusaka take the Kafue Road to Chirundu, 146km on good tar (about 2 ½ hours)
  2. Before Chirundu town turn left at the Customs Clearing depot (this will be surrounded by big trucks).
  3. Continue 11km on an all weather gravel road (slow driving for a saloon) to the pontoon which crosses the Kafue River. See below for pontoon operating times and costs.
  4. From the pontoon the park boundary is about another 80km, however the road is rough with deep gullies requiring 4 x 4 and making driving slow. Estimated time is about 3 hours driving. Follow the map provided by the lodge as there are many roads.

Places to stop off

  1. Oasis – situated a few km before Chirundu Customs on the left hand side of the road.
  2. Gwabi Lodge – just 2km off the road to the pontoon. Swimming pool, bar and Restaurant.

Pontoon information

In 2007: The ferry across the kafue river to the lower zambezi is now motorized. It runs strictly from 0600 - 1800 every day. Estimate about K40 000 per locally registered vehicle, and US$20.00 per foreign registered vehicle. Heavy vehicles pay per tonnage.

Transfers – Boat transfers by lodges are possible from Gwabi but can take 2 + hours to the park.

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