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August 1, 2008 By: Lisa Armstrong Travel Agent

Africa’s lesser-known region is coming up

Zambia’s better-known neighbors, such as South Africa and Botswana, might have the lion’s share of the safari market, but it is this relative anonymity that makes Zambia an attractive destination: Visitors can experience Africa far from the crowds.

victoria falls

Victoria Falls in southern Africa is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World

Agent Advice

Zambia is authentic Africa— there are wonderful, comfortable lodges, but they have a more rustic feel than those in South Africa," says Elizabeth Rand, director of operations for Explore, a Colorado-based travel agency. Explore's owner, Cherri Briggs, loves  Zambia so much that she now lives there part of the year. The company owns the property there, which is being converted from a hunting concession to a nonprofit conservation and research field center to train local people in wildlife conservation, create employment and discourage poaching.

Rand says the best time to book trips to Zambia is between May and October, though October can be very hot. "My advice to other agents would be to sell Zambia soon, before it becomes as popular as places like South Africa and Botswana," says Rand. "It's still relatively untouched but it's catching on."

Zambian safaris are often done on foot rather than in a Jeep, which allows for a more intimate and exhilarating game-watching experience. In addition to wildlife, Zambia also has another claim to fame—the thundering Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. While people used to flock to neighboring Zimbabwe to view the falls, that country’s political unrest has crippled its tourism industry, so visitors now go to Livingstone, in southern Zambia, to see the falls instead.

Most people travel to Zambia for the safaris (with a trip to Livingstone as an add-on), and so will fly into Lusaka, Zambia’s capital. Rather than immediately heading out on another flight to the game parks, suggest that clients spend a night at Chimanuka Luxury Lodge, which is a half-hour drive from the international airport, set in its own privately owned 10,000-acre animal reserve. The 30-room lodge was founded by Andrew and Danae Sardanis, who are originally from Cyprus, but have lived on the property since 1978. They modeled the lodge after a Zambian village, and rooms and public areas are beautifully decorated with the Sardanises’ collection of African art and furniture. The enclosed park includes a range of animals, including lions, elephants, ostriches, cheetahs and hyenas, and guests can go out on safari in a Jeep, on foot or on horseback. The lodge has a tennis court and swimming pool and guests can go fishing on the lake or tour the Sardanises’ private cheese factory, which supplies the lodge with freshly made cheese.

Walking Safaris and More
From Lusaka, clients can head to The Bushcamp Company in South Luangwa National Park by taking a flight to Mfuwe on Zambian Airways. With its six secluded camps, The Bushcamp Company specializes in the walking safaris for which Zambia is famous. The luxury camps are remote—at least a three-hour drive from Mfuwe airport—and small, offering absolute serenity. Each camp has a different location and style; guests often start at one camp and then walk to another so that they can enjoy more than one Bushcamp property and view some game along the way.


The Kapamba Chalet, part of the Bushcamp Company, gives guests the sense of truly being in the African bush

Chamilandu Bushcamp’s treehouse chalets and alfresco showers provide a bird’s-eye view of the Luangwa River and Nchindeni Hills. Kapamba Bushcamp has four chalets with large, sunken stone bathtubs that offer a view of the river. Chindeni, a tented camp, is a short walk away from Chamilandu. The camps are generally open from May or June until October or November, with the exception of Kapamba, which is open until the end of December. Since the camps can only accommodate six to eight people at a time, be sure to book several months in advance.

africa elephant

An elephant takes a walk past the Chamilandu Camp at the Bushcamp Company

If clients want to view Victoria Falls, they can fly into Livingstone and choose from a range of accommodations. One of the most luxurious is Tongabezi, which offers several different room choices, including five opulent Treetop Suites with king-size beds. The river cottages are enclosed and have gauze netting, so are more appropriate for guests who might not feel comfortable sleeping in the open-air treetop rooms. The Garden Cottage, with interlinked bedrooms, a living room and a private garden, is ideal for a family, but does not have views of the Zambezi.

Tongabezi also has a private island, Sindabezi, which is 10 minutes away from the main property by boat. The island’s five open-sided thatched cottages are more rustic and have bucket showers and are lit by oil lamps come nightfall.

Room rates at Tongabezi include activities like guided walks, visits to a local village, museum and market tours and, of course, trips to Victoria Falls.


A room at Zambezi Lodge on the Islands of Siankaba overlooks the Zambezi River

About 24 miles from Victoria Falls are the Islands of Siankaba and its Zambezi River Lodge, with seven secluded chalets set on a forested island in the center of the Zambezi River. All of the rooms have river views, though Chalet #6 opens out to a smaller stream and offers more privacy but less of a view. The Honeymoon House is larger than the others.

Guests take a boat from the mainland to the first island, which houses the bar, restaurant and pool. The chalets are on a second island, connected by wooden suspension bridges. Each chalet has a teak floor, four-poster beds with netting, shower and Victorian-style tub. Toiletries are made especially for the lodge with natural ingredients like sandalwood and citronella.

When booking, request a sunset cruise for your clients—the staff will pack hors d’oeuvres and guests’ choice of drink for a trip out into the middle of the Zambezi River. Early risers will enjoy a nature walk as the islands are home to countless species of birds and other animals. Note: The hotel does not accept children under 12.

Managers Tanya and Mark Stephens ([email protected], 011-260-979-312-766) will work to accommodate any special requests.

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By Lisa Armstrong | August 1, 2008
Zambia’s better-known neighbors, South Africa and Botswana, might have the lion’s share of the safari market, but it is this relative anonymity that makes it an attractive destination.