Lower Zambezi combines the Lower Zambezi National Park and the Chiawa Game Management Area (GMA). It is dominated by the imposing Zambezi Escarpment which drops down to the lowlands along the Zambezi River.
Lower Zambezi is opposite Mana Pools in Zimbabwe so it is common to see elephants crossing the river from one park to the other. In the past a lion and then an eland have been seen swimming across the river.
In 2016 Lower Zambezi was proclaimed the world’s first Carbon Neutral Park, a worthy accolade to all the operators who have strived to put the environment first, knowing that the human impact on our wildlife estates has to be kept to a minimum. In order to achieve this recognition all the tour operators have reduced their carbon emissions. Those emissions which are unavoidable have been offset by the investment in Rufunsa GMA forests to the northeast of the park.
Always dominant in the landscape of Lower Zambezi is the Zambezi Escarpment. The river is at about 350 metres above sea level; the plateau above the Zambezi Escarpment is at around 1,200 metres, a difference of 850 metres. There are peaks in the range of hills rising to 1,350 metres. They are seriously photogenic. From the top of the Zambezi Escarpment the rainwater has formed deep gullies down the hills.
The Chongwe River is the largest of the streams from the Escarpment and forms the border between the Game Management Area and the Park.
The vegetation is similar in the park and the GMA. There are various habitats from mixed woodland, to open plains and marshy waterholes. There are areas of Ilala palm; also some magnificent baobabs. And then there is the eerie light and shadows of the acacia forests. Finally, the riverine woodland is sometimes open, sometimes dense; the thick sections making a favourite home for shy water-loving birds.
Throughout the whole area the wildlife abounds, with predators being one of the specialities – wild dog, lion, leopard and hyena. Mammals include buffalo, impala, zebra, wildebeest, waterbuck and kudu. There is not the wide variety of wildlife as there is in other parks but Lower Zambezi makes up for it by the size of some of the herds. The elephant are very habituated to the human presence in the park and are often found visiting lodges to feast on nearby trees. They form no danger but visitors should be aware to keep their distance, especially from a mother and young or a bull in musth (evident by ‘tear drops’ coming from a gland behind his eyes).
Lower Zambezi is an Important Bird Area (IBA). The bird list has 390 species recorded. The specials in Lower Zambezi are the water birds which are abundant. The Fish Eagle can be seen perched on a branch high up over the river watching closely for its prey; the herons poke around in the grassy islands; the ducks and geese form large flocks on sandbanks. Carmine and White-fronted bee-eaters nest in the banks of the river; skimmers glide over the water surface hunting for insects, small fish or crustaceans.
For a list compiled by Pete Leonard for BirdWatch Zambia CLICK HERE
Activities in Lower Zambezi are driving around the many loop roads, fishing, cruising and canoeing along the Zambezi River. Boats leave all the lodges for fishing or sight-seeing early in the morning or in the late afternoon. Similarly, guides take guests on drives through Lower Zambezi mornings and afternoons. During the heat of the day, visitors can relax in their rooms for a siesta or just watch the wildlife as it visits the lodge while chatting or reading.
Fishing is on a Catch and Release basis. A competition is held in October each year.
To find out more about fishing in Zambia click here
Citizens K42 per person per day
Residents and SADC Nationals US$20 per person per day
International US$25 per person per day
Self-drive US$30 per person per day
Vehicle (Under 3 tonnes)
Local K25.50 per vehicle per day
International US$15 per vehicle per day
Note that park fees are not applicable in the Game Management Area.
Conservation Lower Zambezi
Conservation Lower Zambezi has been working in the park and the Game Management Area since1994. They started off with an old land rover which carried out patrols on the lookout for poachers. These operations were totally funded by the lodge owners in Lower Zambezi. Since those early days, many overseas charities have joined the tour operators to assist the operations and now Conservation Lower Zambezi has a solid foundation. Although they still carry out anti-poaching their focus has diversified and they have become a multi-pronged organisation.
In order to keep high standards in the safari guides, they carry out training and very stiff examinations for all guides in the park.
One of their favourite activities is to teach the children surrounding the park about their natural heritage and the need to preserve it. The children are brought to the headquarters where they stay in the dormitories for a 4-day stay. They go into the park by safari vehicle and onto the river, all the while learning about the environment and the wildlife it supports.
Recently, Conservation Lower Zambezi has started a canine unit with the dogs helping patrols in the park and around its borders.
To find out more: