Zambia is one of Africa’s true wilderness destinations and a country close to my heart. I was fortunate to recently travel with Green Safaris on a hosted trip which visited their lodges, scattered across this vast land and what an amazing experience it was. A Scintilla partner with a focus on sustainable initiatives and a strong commitment to reducing their footprint on the environment, Green Safaris prioritises eco-friendly practices. In Zambia, Ila Safari Lodge, Chisa Busanga and Shawa Luangwa all run completely off-grid and on remote Likoma Island, Kaya Mawa was Malawi’s first lodge to use solar for its total electricity needs. In addition, Green Safaris is heavily involved within their local communities, giving back substantially to those in the areas that they operate.
My journey began in Lusaka with an overland transfer to Ila, a luxury tented lodge, perched on the banks of the meandering Kafue River. This wonderful lodge blends luxury with sustainability and sets the eco-friendly bar with its solar-powered pontoon boat for cruises on the Kafue River and electric Land Rover for silent safaris. The diversity of habitats in this pristine wilderness allows for excellent birding and I notched up a very healthy list that included Collared Palm Thrush, Black-backed Barbet, Holub’s Golden Weaver, Narina Trogon, Schalow’s Turaco, Africa Finfoot and African Barred Owlet to mention but a few. On the wildlife front, there were sightings of plains game such as Puku, Defassa Waterbuck, Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest, Impala and several herds of Africa Elephant, numerous Hippo and a pride of 3 beautiful Lions! A night drive outside the park also produced some interesting species with Four-toed Elephant-shrew, Spotted Hyaena, White-tailed Mongoose and Large-spotted Genet being highlights. An activity I highly recommend is the morning excursion with Panthera Zambia, who do stellar work monitoring and tracking the big cats of Kafue.
Next up was a charter flight to the Busanga Plains in northern Kafue – one of Zambia’s lesser-explored wilderness areas, famous for lion and an abundance of plains game. Swooping into Chisa Busanga Camp, overlooking vast floodplains teeming with wildlife, we set off to explore this enchanting wilderness. Uniquely designed to mimic birds’ nests, Chisa’s treetop pods rest amongst the branches on a small tree-lined island. The wildlife and birding were off the charts and in just one and a half hours, we spotted numerous species. Large herds of Red Lechwe littered the plains along with Puku, Oribi, Zebra, Roan Antelope, a bachelor herd of 7 magnificent Sable Antelope, African Buffalo, Blue Wildebeest and 5 massive male Lions in mint condition! The birds also turned on the goods with Crowned and Wattled Cranes, Saddle-billed Stork, African Skimmer, Rosy-throated Longclaw, Pallid Harrier and Collared Pratincole topping the list. Completely mind-blowing experience and an absolute must to include on any trip.
Moving to Shawa Luangwa Camp in South Luangwa National Park, for our final night in Zambia, we were in for yet another thrilling encounter. Set in stunning, tall, mature riparian forest, this lodge reveals views of the South Luangwa River and the national park beyond. Tents are all mounted on wooden decks, built from locally sourced timber and fitted around existing trees in order to minimise environmental impact. In complete contrast to previous lodges but superb in every way, Shawa Luangwa consists of only 5 suites and the setting is intimate and relaxed. Exploring the park from the lodge, by safari vehicle or on foot, yielded many good sightings of a wide variety of animals and birds. A memorable sighting was that of a herd of African Elephant, including half a dozen bulls that had displaced a Hippo from his mud bath in one of the pans. However, the best sighting by far was a pack of 21 African Wild Dogs along the South Luangwa River! Watching these striking beasts interact with each other and to see so many in one pack and in very good condition was simply incredible.
Leaving Zambia behind, we boarded our charter flight for Lake Malawi. Also called Lake Nyasa, Lake Malawi is the southernmost and third largest of the Eastern Rift Valley lakes of East Africa. Located on Likoma Island, Kaya Mawa Island Lodge is rated by Conde Nast Magazine as one of the planet’s top ten most romantic destinations, and this “beach-side” retreat is pure bliss! Sandy shores, devoid of tourists and the most gloriously blue water is ideal for snorkelling, stand-up paddling, wakeboarding and scuba diving. Whether it’s relaxation you are after or a plethora of water-based activities, Kaya Mawa has it all and makes for the most fitting end to any safari in Zambia! The lodge is a warren of uniquely designed suites, each with their own charm and style and there are plenty of welcoming spaces to simply kick back and take in the paradise all around you. On remote Likoma Island, Green Safaris supports the Katundu Workshop, a socially conscious organization that provides a sustainable income for the local community – particularly women – through artisanal training. Throughout the rooms, houses and main areas of Kaya Mawa you will find statement pieces handcrafted by the creative artisans at Katundu.
What sets Zambia apart is, that you get respectfully close to nature and her striking beauty, and this truly unforgettable trip etched many fond memories into my soul, which was embellished by the incredible, warm and humble people of Zambia!
If you’d like to experience the magic of Zambia, get in touch with one of our expert Southern African travel consultants who can help you plan your trip.