The diversity of animals at Lower Zambezi National Park is not as wide as you will find in other big national parks, but opportunities to get close to game wandering in and out of the Zambezi channels and ‘island hopping’ are spectacular. Many animals like elephant, buffalo, kudu, crocodiles, impala and warthog can be found below the escarpment.
The bird life, especially along the river is known to be exceptional making the Lower Zambezi National Park a paradise for photographers and bird lovers. It’s beauty lies in its state of absolute wilderness.
Lower Zambezi National Park covers an area of 4,092 square kilometres. Most of the wildlife is concentrated along the escarpment valley floor which acts as a natural barrier to most of the wildlife in the national park. This game reserve is completely surrounded by a much larger Game Management Area (GMA).
The edge of the Zambezi River is overhung with a thick riverine fringe. Further inland is a floodplain which is edged with mopane forest and interspersed with winter thorn trees. The escarpment hills forming the background to the park are covered in broadleaf woodland. The park slopes smoothly from the Zambezi escarpment down to the river. In the main it straddles two woodland savannah ecoregions distinguished by the dominant types of trees – miombo, mopane, southern miombo woodlands on higher ground (in the north) and Zambezian and Mopane woodlands on the lower southern slopes. At the edge of the river is floodplain habitat.
Sadly the black rhino died out around the time the national park was declared, in 1983. But there are still huge herds of elephant, at times over 100, often seen at the river’s edge with buffalo and water buck. Lower Zambezi National Park also hosts good populations of lion and leopard. Nocturnal animals like hyena, porcupine, civet, genet and honey badgers can be spotted on night drives. Most large mammals also congregate on the floodplain, including buffalo, elephants, lions, leopards and many antelope, crocodiles and hippos.
Birdlife includes the white fronted and carmine bee-eaters which nest on along the cliffs, the elegant crested guinea fowl, red winged Pratincole, black eagle and the vast swarms of quelea. In the summer season the stunning Narina Trogon makes its home here. Other special species are the trumpeter, Meyers parrot, horn bill and Lilian’s lovebird. Fish eagles can be seen and heard from miles around the Zambezi River area.
Tourist numbers are few because this park is inaccessible by road, unless you have advanced 4×4 driving skills. Even then you can only access the park by road at certain times of the year. Visitors to the area arrive either by boat on the Zambezi River or by light aircraft flying from either Livingstone or Lusaka. Existing lodges and canoeing operators provide the best access to the park and this is not the best national park for self drive safari expeditions. Safari operators offer pick-ups from either Lusaka or Chirundu. The Chongwe River separates the western boundary of the park and this area can be accessed from Chirundu along a rough road then crossing the Kafue River by pontoon just beyond Gwabi Lodge.