Neighbors Zambia and Zimbabwe both offer a remote, true wilderness experience found in few African destinations. Zimbabwe’s tourism industry nearly disappeared completely due to the political turmoil of the early 2000s. Now Zimbabwe has returned to stability, its economy is recovering and its friendly locals are keen to show off their country’s natural riches. Meanwhile, Zambia is typically off the radar of all but the most avid safari-goers.
Tourism in both countries is critical in supporting and protecting the region’s wildlife when so many other competing interests are waiting, ready to bang down the door.
Having difficulty choosing which country to visit? Here are some things to consider:
Both countries border Victoria Falls, considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The best photography opportunities are found in Zimbabwe, which is home to the largest portion of the falls. Visiting the Zambia side, however, allows for closer proximity. Devil’s Pool, for instance, enables adventurous visitors to swim right up to the cliff of the falls.
Both countries boast impressive wildlife in seldom visited parks. Zimbabwe is home to some of Africa’s largest herds of elephant and buffalo while in Zambia you may spot two unique subspecies—Crawshay’s zebras and Thornicroft’s giraffes.
Unusual wildlife behavior can be found in both countries: Elephants in Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools stand on their hind legs to reach fruit up in the trees, and Zambia’s Kafue National Park is home to tree-climbing lions.
Zimbabwe is the more famous bird watching destination. More than 660 species have been spotted in the country; Hwange National Park in particular is well-known for its staggeringly high concentrations of birds. Birder certainly won’t be disappointed in Zambia either, which is home to some 750 bird species, more than 400 of which can be found in South Luangwa.
There’s no better place to explore Africa by foot than Zambia’s Luangwa Valley, birthplace of the walking safari. The experience provides an unmatched intimacy with your surroundings. You’ll also observe the African plains from above during an included hot air balloon safari in Kafue National Park.
Guided bush walks are part of our Zimbabwe itinerary too but, with the country’s myriad lakes and rivers, explorations by boat and canoe are the focus. There likely won’t be any shortage of hippo and crocodile sightings, and keep your eyes peeled for the elephants that live along the Lake Kariba shoreline, which have developed a semi-aquatic lifestyle.
All of our lodging has been strategically chosen for its seclusion and proximity to wildlife. You often won’t need to leave camp to witness incredible wildlife sightings.
The safari camps in Zimbabwe are true luxury and we explore Victoria Falls from the base of a 5-star historic hotel. Our Zambia accommodations, meanwhile, are classic bush camps, three of which accommodate no more than eight people—you are truly off the grid.
By Marsea Nelson, WWF guest blogger