Which are the traits behind the best safari lodges in Zambia? How to decide where to stay: should you emphasize the location and wildlife watching opportunities over the facilities? Or the level of service and general atmosphere over safari guides? When you are planning the most perfect safari experience, you should get it all. Check out our picks for the best safari lodges to smell out the hidden gems of Zambia!
1. Royal Zambezi, Lower Zambezi National Park
Welcome to the ultimate safari bliss! If you are planning just one splurge, Royal Zambezi Lodge is your choice. Soak in ”the Royal Experience” from the moment you wake up in your luxurious chalet, witness elephants marching by the shore of Zambezi, enjoy 5-star gourmet meals under starry skies, and fall under the spell of Lower Zambezi National Park during unequalled private safaris.
Special treats include private plunge pools and verandas with panoramic views to the Zambezi with an abundance of elephants, warthogs, hippos, birds, and other wildlife; outdoor showers and free-standing copper baths; and stylish interior design without any sense of ostentation. Royal Zambezi combines untamed nature with the utmost luxury. Elephants pound along the property making every moment exciting.
You can choose daily between game drives, fishing, canoe and river safaris, bush walks, and even mountain hikes. Your private guide knows which animals you’ve already seen making every exploration unique. One of the highlights of our trip was the last night’s surprise beach barbecue: we were transported to the deserted beach and pampered with intimate, candle-lit dinner under the stars.
Royal Zambezi was hands down our favorite safari lodge in Zambia. If I’d have to visit just one national park, I’d also pick Lower Zambezi. Wildlife watching is fantastic with the healthy lion, leopard, and hyena populations. Still, it feels like a real wilderness with a bunch of small-scale lodges. We encountered just a couple of other cars during 4-hour game drives.
2. Robin Pope’s Luangwa River Camp, South Luangwa National Park
Romantic Luangwa River Camp has just five luxurious chalets facing the Luangwa National Park at the opposite bank of the Luangwa River. Location is excellent for entering the best game viewing areas in the park.
The thatched ”bush suites” come with adorable interior and soothing level of privacy. One of the highlights is the elevated bathroom with lavish, sunken bathtub that is designed for two. You can admire your private slice of Luangwa River straight from the bath, bed or terrace.
We also visited Robin Pope’s another luxurious safari lodge in South Luangwa National Park, the nearby Nkwali Camp, but Luangwa River Camp won us with a higher level of intimacy. For practical reasons, we also preferred their tradional brick cabins over Nkwali’s open architecture. During the day, we kept the large sliding doors in front of the bedroom and bathroom wide-open but closed them in the evenings keeping living areas pleasantly bug-free. Both Robin Pope properties are visually exquisite examples of the rustically luxurious Zambian safari lodges.
3. Islands of Siankaba, Livingstone
Almost every traveler in Zambia visits the epic Victoria Falls, locally known as Mosi-oa-Tunya, the Smoke that Thunders. ”The Seventh Wonder of the World” lies on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Since the bordering towns on both sides are just dusty transit points, I’d recommend picking a more remote safari lodge, again by the shore of Zambezi River. In Zambia, the clear winner for us was the unique Islands of Siankaba, located between Victoria Falls and Chobe National Park.
The luxurious safari lodge hides in the middle of Zambezi River, on two private islands. Seven secluded cabins are scattered among the tree canopy and connected with beautiful, hanging walkways. Strolling around the lodge is an adventure in itself! Each suite boasts miraculous views over the Zambezi – straight from the bed or the huge, private terrace. The combination of teak and canvas gives a luxurious feel, still merging the chalets with nature effortlessly.
4. Mayukuyuku Tented Camp, Kafue National Park
Our safari lodge pick from Kafue National Park represents a little bit different ideology. Unlike the top 3 lodges, Mayukuyuku is not a 5-star property. However, the level of service is excellent, as are their guides. The tented camp section is well maintained and homey. The view to Kafue river is hard to beat, and hippos roam through the lodge during the night.
At Mayukuyuku, you can get a taste of the real wilderness and exclusion. Wildlife sightings are excellent just outside the lodge: Mayukuyuku has even designed their own safari trails in cooperation with the Kafue National Park. The trails are virtually empty from other cars, yet it’s easy to find lions and leopards along with the other game. We loved their outdoor showers and atmospheric al fresco dinners. Patrick and Boyd were among the best safari guides we’ve ever had, and we enjoyed their genial company throughout our stay.
Have you visited Zambia? What were your favorite safari lodges?
*Disclaimer: Zambian Traveller hosted our tour in Zambia and provided the accommodation in the safari lodges mentioned above but all opinions remain our own.