At a Glance
Dates: October 24th - November 13th, 2023
Extension: We offer extensions to Lower Zambezi NP and Kafue NP on request.
Prices: £4,650 pp sharing (with a £400 single supplement), excluding international flights.
In a sentence: A truly exceptional itinerary taking in all that Zambia has to offer, from the leopards of Luangwa to the cheetah of Kafue and everything in between.
Zambia is a hugely diverse country, full of flagship national parks and hidden gems alike. This sensational trip takes in five key areas of Zambia; South Luangwa, North Luangwa, Bangweulu, Kasanka and Kafue.
South Luangwa is certainly the most famous safari destination in Zambia, renowned for its wealth of wildlife. In particular, this national park is home to a booming population of Leopards, and multiple Leopard sightings on a single drive are not uncommon. The park is also home to an obliging population of African Wild Dogs, which we will dedicate time to tracking down. Bush Elephant, Savanna Buffalo and Lion are easily encountered here, as are the rare Thornicroft's Giraffe, Crawshay's Zebra and Cookson's Wildebeest.
South Luangwa is well-visited, but its northern neighbour North Luangwa has a true feel of authentic wilderness. Remote and unexplored, the wildlife here can be shy but hugely rewarding. This park is the only location in which Black Rhino is found in Zambia, and this iconic species will be our key focus here. Lion, Leopard and Wild Dog can also be encountered on foot here, in what is truly one of the wildest experiences in Africa.
Bangweulu is a little-visited corner of Zambia, consisting of a stunning swamp and its surrounding savanna. Large mammals are mostly absent here, meaning typical tourist routes do not visit, but this is a real mistake. These wetlands are home to a number of stunning sights, including the vast herds of Black Lechwe and Bangweulu Tsessebe that are resident here. Bangweulu's most famous residents are the bizarre and prehistoric Shoebills that reside deep within the swamp. With luck, and persistence, we may be able to lay eyes on this enthralling bird.
Kasanka National Park is again rarely visited, despite holding healthy populations of elusive species such as Sitatunga. The real centrepiece here, though, is the largest mammal migration in Africa, as approximately ten million Straw-Coloured Fruit Bats descend on the park to feed. This extraordinary sight must be a bucket-list item for any nature enthusiast, it has to be seen to be believed!
Kafue National Park is perhaps Zambia's largest area of untouched wilderness. Experiencing this level of remoteness is truly humbling and, with luck, our visit may allow us to track down some of the incredible wildlife in this park. Cheetah and African Wild Dog patrol the park, and visitors should expect sightings of big cats including Lion and Leopard. The Busanga Plains in the north of the park also offer exceptional birding, as cranes descend on the area en masse. Kafue, and indeed Zambia more generally, ticks every box for an off-the-beaten-track safari.
On arrival into Lusaka, you will be met by your Pictus Safaris representative and transferred to your hotel. We will overnight at the Pioneer Camp or similar.
Another long drive is in order today, but it will be worth it! Arriving at Kasanka NP by dusk will allow us time to set up camp before heading off to get a view of the millions of Straw-Coloured Fruit Bats that arrive here each November from the Congo. They descend onto a tiny area of forest within Kasanka to feed, creating an extraordinary sight that should be on the bucket list of every nature-lover. The sounds and smells are, quite simply, indescribable. Don't worry if, in the fading light, you don't get the best view, there will be plenty of opportunities tomorrow!
We recommend using today as an opportunity to soak in the incredible atmosphere in Kasanka when the Fruit Bats are roosting. Kasanka is by no means a one-trick pony, though, and there are plenty of other sights to be seen. Keep a keen eye out for the shy, aquatic Sitatunga, and visitors will also likely encounter the striking Sable antelope also.
Leaving Kasanka behind, we now head for one of the most remote and little-visited areas in all of Zambia - Bangweulu. A large wetland area, Bangweulu is arguably one of the most attractive sfaari destinations on the continent. We will be staying at the rustic Nsobe campsite, an excellent base for exploring this area. We will be sure to seek out the Black Lechwe and Bangweulu Tsessebe that call this swampland home. Also keep an eye out for the Cheetah that were recently introduced here by African Parks - a real bonus if we can track them down!
Our main target today is the prehistoric-looking Shoebill. Widely considered to be one of the most sought-after birds in the world, the Shoebill has sadly become scarcer and scarcer in recent years, but they find a relative stronghold here in Bangweulu. Our success will be largely determined by water levels during our visit - too low and the birds retreat into the remote interior of the swamp, too high and our access will be obstructed. With the help of local experts, we sincerrely hope this is a day that will provide a sighting that will last a lifetime.
Bidding farewell to Bangweulu, we today head east to Mutinondo Wilderness. This beautiful property is situated in a cluster of inselbergs, giving us the opportunity to hike into these rocky formations, from which unparalleled views are on offer. Birdwatching is also excellent here, as this marks a confluence of the dry savannas of eastern Zambia and the more heavily forested areas to the north.
We will overnight at the campsite of Mutinondo Wilderness.
North Luangwa NP
Today we reach the Luangwas - a name synonymous with world-class game-viewing. North Luangwa is our first stop. Wild, remote and beautiful, game-viewing in North Luangwa is not as easy as it is further south, but persistence and hard work are often rewarded with sensational results. This quiet national park is a real gem and, if time permits, we will head out for an evening game drive after setting up camp at Samala Campsite. Lion, African Wild Dog and a number of Luangwa endemics (including Cookson's Wildebeest, Thornicroft's Giraffe and Crawshay's Zebra) are regularly seen here, and these will be our primary targets today.
Days Eight to Nine
North Luangwa NP
Our next two days will be dedicated to exploring North Luangwa. The Luangwa and Mwaleshi rivers provide great habitat to explore, and hold significant populations of Leopard in particular. We will also be sure to dedicate time to tracking down North Luangwa's least common resident - the Black Rhino. Whilst the few specimens left here tend to reside away from main game-viewing areas, careful tracking may see us get lucky, but there are no guarantees!
Days Ten to Eleven
South Luangwa NP
As we make our way south, and down the escarpment, you will notice temperatures increase - unless of course the rains have hit by now. We will traverse Luambe NP on day fifteen - keep an eye out here, Wild Dogs are being seen regularly in this area recently. Reaching Nsefu sector, we will set up camp and spend the evening of day fifteen, all of day sixteen, in breathless pursuit of as many wildlife spectacles as possible. Carmine Bee-Eaters will be nesting in the riverbanks, Wild Dogs will be mobile after raising their pups through the winter months and Leopard will be forced into using roads as thoroughfares after the first rains - this is an incredibly exciting wildlife destination, and we can't wait to show you!
Days Twelve to Fourteen
South Luangwa NP
To end our spectacular tour of Zambia, we will have three days to explore the Mfuwe sector, world-famous for its Leopard viewing. There is plenty more to see here, though, and we can choose to spend our time as the group sees fit - Elephant, Giraffe, Lion and much more abound here, so be sure to soak it all in.
There is one final opportunity for a morning game drive today, before you are escorted to Mfuwe Airport for your flight back to Lusaka. Your flight will land at 19.20, so we include an additional night in Lusaka at no extra charge.
This morning you will be escorted to Lusaka Airport for your flight home.
Please be aware that whilst we make every effort to follow the above itinerary as closely as possible, circumstances may occasionally arise that mean the tour deviates from the itinerary.
Dates and Prices
This tour will run in late October/early November 2023, aiming to visit Kasanka as the fruit bats descend on the park in spectacular style. This time of year is also when African Wild Dogs are fully mobile after denning, and they will be a key target for us in both South Luangwa. The tour will run from October 24th to November 13th.
The cost of this trip is £4,650 per person excl. international flights. This includes all meals (excl. Lusaka), accommodation and wildlife-focussed activities. Juice and water are included, although other drinks are not.. We regret that we must levy a single supplement of £400 pp for this trip. To secure a booking, a deposit payment of £1,900 plus any single supplement must be paid.
Flights and Visas
Pictus Safaris do not offer flight booking services. However, we do recommend the use of travel comparison websites such as skyscanner.net or momondo.com to identify the best fares, and then booking with the airline directly where possible. This will reduce the likelihood of complications and fees should any issues with your booking arise. We strongly recommend arriving into Lusaka on the 19th, as we have arranged an early flight from Lusaka to Mfuwe on 20th October. A hotel for the night of the 19th is included in the tour price.
British nationals do require a visa to enter Zambia - we recommend acquiring this visa before arrival. Clients of other nationalities are advised to check well before travel whether they require an entry visa. Details of the process of obtaining a tourist visa for Zambia will be provided to you upon booking. The cost of a Zambia entry visa for UK citizens is £35 - these must be obtained from your Zambian High Commission, which for UK citizens will be in London. To acquire a tourist visa for Zambia you will require a valid passport, two passport photos, a completed application form and a copy of your itinerary.
Please also note that your Yellow Fever Certificate will need to be shown on arrival.
Weather and What to Bring
The weather in Zambia in October is hot and dry, with maximum temperatures of around 36 degrees Celsius. At night, temperatures will drop to around 19 degrees Celsius. We may get wet if the rains arrive early, which is possible but unlikely.
A full packing list will be circulated at least two months prior to departure. Pictus Safaris will be able to provide one extra set of binoculars and two spotlights per group, and clients are welcome to bring additional camera, videography and scope equipment should they wish to. Please note that the use of drones is not permitted in many protected areas. We strongly recommend bringing comfortable, loose-fitting and neutral-coloured clothing on safari - please do not bring camouflage clothing. We recommend against dark coloured clothing (e.g. black or dark blue) as this attracts biting flies. Worn-in hiking boots with ankle support are a must, as are sunglasses, sun protection and a hat. Importantly, if you are allergic to insect bites or bee stings, you must make us aware and carry your Epipen with you at all times - biting insects are abundant in Kafue and bites/stings should be expected.
Do also remember to budget for any expenses not included in the cost of the trip, including for gratuities and additional activities. We recommend bringing US Dollars.
Safety and Security
All areas visited by this trip are stable and secure. Pictus Safaris are in constant contact with our partners in Zambia, and will make you aware should this change. Travel insurance will need to be purchased and evidenced before your booking is confirmed on this trip.
To secure a booking on this fantastic holiday, please fill out the details below.