BY INVITATION: MINDY ROBERTS WRITES FOR KUNZUM
Over the years I have heard guests confuse Zambia with Zimbabwe and Zaire. A guest actually said to me last year, “I am so happy to be here in Zaire, I have always wanted to visit.” I have even been asked, “So whereabouts in South Africa is Zambia?”
Zambia deserves to be taken seriously in its own right, thanks to its unbeatable wildlife viewings and the Victoria Falls – these are just a few of the many attractions. As someone who has lived here for seven years and calls the country home, I wanted to put together my top five reasons to visit one of the continent’s lesser known countries.
1. The guides
Zambia has some of the best guides in the world, with companies winning best guiding teams awards internationally every year. Most guides in the country are born and bred in the Zambian bush; knowing the wild is second nature to them. They genuinely love what they do and have a passion for wildlife. I have often seen a guide of 15 or 20 years come back more excited than the guests with their sightings.
There is never a compromise on safety issues, and Zambian guides have to regularly pass stringent exams for walking in the bush, canoeing and boating and also maintain advanced driving and first aid skills.
2. Remote, vast, magical and unique – Liuwa Plain National Park
The Liuwa Plain National Park is not very well known but a few facts will astound anyone. It is so exclusive and remote that there is only one permanent camp, Matamanene Camp, in over 3,600 square kms of land. You can witness the second largest migration of wildebeest in the world. The bird life is extraordinary. Liuwa is also a photographer’s paradise with internationally acclaimed photographers like Will Burrard-Lucas visiting frequently.
And the hyena pups… they are just so cute!
3. Perfect camps for family travel
The travel industry in Zambia is very family friendly. Many camps offer family units in the form of private villas, houses and interconnecting tents. All these feel small and intimate like a bush home, not a hotel in the bush. While children under 12 may not be able to walk or canoe, there is plenty to keep them entertained. I have children in the kitchen cooking with our chefs, on poo walks in an open area near camp or just learning things from guides or waiters!
Most camps offer pretty good rates for kids, as does Proflight for all scheduled flights within the country.
4. One of the last great wilderness experiences
National parks account for over 33 percent of the country thus offering a rich picking of different habitats, activities, animals and vistas – you don’t need to go anywhere else to get the complete safari experience. Zambia is a lot less commercialised than other parts of Africa; wildlife spottings take place without jostling with too many vehicles or tourists.
Even though one can check into 5-star accommodation, the soul of Zambia is still to be found in the smaller, remote bush camps that use natural materials as part of the construction and offer a much more intimate experience with nature.
5. Owner operated
There is a legacy in Zambia that the camps and companies are owner operated and this is still the case for many of the top camps around the country. This means that the people who manage the company, own the company. Why does this make a difference? Guests can have a meal with someone who lives and breathes the values of the business, creating long-term friendships. As the people who own the camps, we feel a personal responsibility; issues are sorted quickly and there is pride in giving you the best safari of your life. And in effect, you are being invited into a ‘home’, which provides for a relaxed and very personal stay.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mindy Roberts is the sales and marketing director at Norman Carr Safaris in Zambia. Being from Australia, she has always loved the bush. She met the company’s managing director, Dave and his wife Kate in London, attended their wedding in the South Luangwa National Park in 2008, went for her first safari and realized the corporate rat race was not for her. She has been in Zambia since then. She still pinches herself every now and again, especially when elephants walk past her bedroom window and thinks, “Wow, I’m living in Africa – who would have thought I’d end up here!”