Zambia's Wilderness with Pie Aerts
Zambia's Wilderness with Pie Aerts
Home to the highest population of leopards in Africa, the famous walking safari, and the mighty Victoria Falls, Zambia will undoubtedly steal your heart. Although the safari experience is truly exhilarating, Zambia is not always the first safari destination on people’s minds. But I’m here to change that.
Zambia is a wild destination. During the dry season, between June and October, animals congregate around permanent water sources during the day, quenching their thirst from the rising temperatures and the African sun. Predators take full advantage of this as prides of lion, leopards, and packs of wild dog lurk nearby, awaiting their opportunity to hunt.
At the end of last year, we collaborated with conservationist and world-renowned photographer, Pie Aerts. Our Africa specialists spent time organising his trip, and were on hand at all times to make sure that all logistics ran seamlessly. We arranged for Pie to stay a week in the South Luangwa National Park, and a week in the Lower Zambezi National Park in October. These are two of Zambia’s most established national parks, and offer a remote and thrilling safari experience. Combining the two parks also provides a great contrast. The South Luangwa is dry and while there are many types of landscapes, you’ll often see wide and expansive plains, occupied by plains game and big cats The Lower Zambezi on the other hand, is a park centred around water.
Image credits: Pie Aerts
Both parks offer an immersive safari experience. Over the decades, game drives in open-sided vehicles have become the most sought after activity on safari, and rightly so. From the comfort of your 4×4 safari vehicle, you can cover a lot of ground and be at a sighting that was radioed-in within minutes. In Zambia, you are able to do both day and night game drives, which give you a well-rounded sighting of species. On night drives, you are more likely to see nocturnal species like civets, honey badgers, and porcupine.
But Zambia has something that few African destinations have. It is a destination far more than a game drive. The South Luangwa National Park is the birthplace of the walking safari. Norman Carr is considered the ‘grandfather of safari’ in Zambia. He created a long-lasting legacy of safari experiences and was the pioneer of modern-day walking safaris, and he believed that “you never truly knew a place until you had walked it.”
In the fast-paced world we live in today, being out on safari allows you to take a step back and enjoy a slower pace as a form of purposeful travel. Generally speaking, the wildlife in South Luangwa is less reactive to seeing humans on foot than other destinations. Often you will manage to edge closer and closer to animals, like a tower of giraffe or a dazzle of zebra. Without patience and perseverance, there would be no walking safari.
In the Lower Zambezi, safari activities are focused around the Zambezi river. Boat safaris are a great way to get a feel for the size and sheer impressiveness of the Zambezi. Across the river, you’ll see the Zimbabwean border, which is home to Mana Pools National Park. During your boat safari, your driver and guide will be on lookout and you will undoubtedly see a range of species – from elephants swimming, to carmine bee-eater birds nesting.
Canoe safaris are also available on the smaller channels of the Zambezi. In a small canoe, you and your safari guide will float down the tributaries, at eye-level with crocodiles basking on the banks, and hippos surface for air.
Pie Aerts stayed in Chiawa’s camps across Zambia – Puku Ridge in the South Luangwa National Park, and both Chiawa Camp and Old Mondoro in the Lower Zambezi. During his trip, he experienced all types of safari (walking, day and night driving, boating, and canoeing) and saw some incredible sightings.
These camps offer barefoot luxury in the heart of Zambia’s wilderness. These are all family owned and run by the Cumings Family. Chiawa Camp was the first to set up in the Lower Zambezi National Park and today, with an exceptional guiding team, it offers one of the best safari. Its sister camp, Old Mondoro, is also an iconic camp in the park. With only five chalets, you’ll see families of elephant walking through on a daily basis.
Pie also spent time with Conservation Lower Zambezi and got to meet their Zambia’s first all-female anti-poaching unit, named Kafadza. Here, he got to see a real insight into the work that these rangers do on a daily basis – something that is to never be underestimated.
“I’m a big believer that more women in conservation and world politics at large would be solving many of our current problems. I could therefore not be more excited to witness that – a Zambian industry which has historically been dominated by men – now also recognizes the importance of equality and the value women bring to the protection of natural resources. Because climate change and environmental degradation have disproportionate impacts for women who play a considerable role in environmental management, yet they have often been left out of the decision-making process. Investing in women directly leads to development improvement, poverty reduction and children experiencing better nutrition, health, and school attendance.
Therefore, these Zambian women and their spirits deserve a global audience. They are already acting as role models for women and girls in communities all across Lower Zambezi, and hopefully soon for girls all around Africa. Kufadza translates as “inspire’ in Goba language and that’s what every single one of them did to me.” – Pie Aerts @because.people.matter
Pie’s trip was a snapshot of what Zambia has to offer. Whilst the wildlife in both the South Luangwa National Park and the Lower Zambezi are second-to-none, a safari in Zambia is far more than just game viewing. The experience is raw. Authentic. Wild.
It is why so many experienced safari enthusiasts visit Zambia. They look for a rounded safari experience and the thrills that Zambia offers: canoeing next to crocodiles, tiger fishing at sunset, and walking through the bush finding fresh leopard tracks. These are the experiences that really fulfil a safari. The ones that will remain with us, and spark adrenaline as we retell our safari stories.
If you’d like to experience the same trip as we put together for Pie Aerts, please get in touch with our Africa specialists!
Zambia camps featured in this trip
One of the best thing about a Zambia safari is how wild it is. While there are more permanent safari lodges, most of the safari camps in Zambia are small, intimate tented camps, offering a really authentic experience. The camps featured on this itinerary are all part of the Chiawa collection. Both Old Mondoro and Chiawa camp are located in the Lower Zambezi National Park, and Puku Ridge is in the South Luangwa National Park. Get in touch with our specialists to find out more about the camps, and put together your Zambia itinerary.
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