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LOWER ZAMBEZI NATIONAL PARK

Images by Mana Meadows & Tusk and Mane Safaris 

Storytelling by Matt Blair 

@mana_meadows / @tuskandmanesafaris 

Lower Zambezi National Park

The dawn light catches the dust kicked up by the buffalo herds, setting the forest on fire, a powder of reds filtering through the trees like flames. These aren’t just any forests: they are some of the most impressive and enchanting faedherbia albida – or winterthorn – woodlands that you will probably ever have the privilege of seeing. 

 

For me, they are one of the most magical places that exist in the Lower Zambezi Ecosystem. And what I love about Lower Zambezi National Park is that there are so many ways to explore these woodlands, and meet the wildlife that call them home. 

Hosting an array of wildlife, Lower Zambezi National Park boasts some of the best game-viewing in Zambia. It may not be as diverse as Kafue or South Luangwa (there are no cheetah or giraffe in Lower Zambezi) but with massive herds of buffalo, large lion prides, abundant leopard sightings, elephant everywhere and wilddogs always a possibility – and all in such beautiful environs, you’re probably not going to feel short-changed. 

Lower Zambezi Mana Meadows Tusk and Mane
Lower Zambezi Mana Meadows Tusk and Mane

How about getting to know Lower Zambezi on foot – it has to be one of the most scenic places to walk in Africa, with the brooding Zambezi escarpment on one side, and the beautiful Zambezi river on the other. It will also allow you to truly breathe in the quiet and the grandeur of the winterthorns, feeling your vulnerability and place in the food chain as you connect even more deeply with the world around you. 

 

Or explore it via a game viewer: wildlife here is famously relaxed and sightings are up close and personal – though always respectful: high guiding standards and very low volumes of tourists result in ideal viewing conditions for both animals and people – probably one of Lower Zambezi’s biggest selling points. 

Want another viewpoint? It’s time to get on the water and meet the true star of the park – the magnificent Zambezi River. Whether you are on a slow boat cruise, or a paddling canoe safari through the river channels, you’re at eye level with your subjects, entering their world – and what a delight for any photographer. Game view in tranquillity as you watch a plethora of animals coming down to the river for a drink, or just to have a swim to escape the inland heat. The Zambezi is one of Africa's great rivers, a lifeline for so many people and wildlife through southern Africa, yet here you often feel that you are the only person sharing the river with the wildlife.

Lower Zambezi Mana Meadows Tusk and Mane
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And away from the river’s dense forests and lush riparian glades there is more – an alternate face of this park. Travel further inland, following the ancient elephant trails up towards the impressive Zambezi escarpment and you will find another world – a drier world, but nonetheless beautiful, fringed by ilala palms, stark open plains and isolated inland pans. Maybe it is this sweet contrast which is so refreshing.

 

Whatever you choose, the end of the day will most likely end with the distant (or close) roar of a lion, whilst the water thick-knee serenades the setting sun and the fire crackles at your feet.