(Updated July 2023). Since our first visit to Zambia in 2019 this place has remained one of our all time safari favourites (and that’s why we returned in 2023). Not only Zambia’s fantastic National Parks convinced us, but also the remote and very authentic eco lodges and luxury camps in this often overlooked safari destination.
In this post we’re giving you some tips where to stay when you travel to the country nicknamed the “Real Africa”. From small bush camps to luxury lodges along the Zambezi river bank – Zambia has it all! We love combining adventure and luxury travel, so Zambia had us covered in both areas.
And if that doesn’t convince you – check out our 9 reasons why Zambia should be on your bucket list!
Are you dreaming of visiting Zambia? Let us show you some of the best lodges and camps in the country!
Where to go: Places to visit in Zambia
Before we show you some of the lodges in Zambia, let us start by introducing you to a map of the country and which parts we visited. This can be your first orientation when it comes to planning your Zambia trip. In 2019 we visited Lusaka, South Luangwa National Park, Lower Zambezi National Park and Livingstone and in 2023 we also travelled to Kafue National Park and the famous Busanga Plains.
Lusaka – capital city of Zambia:
We started our roundtrip by staying 2 nights in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. After the long-haul flight Lusaka is the ideal base to start your Zambia trip (as most international flights land here – with a few exceptions that go to Livingstone). 1 or 2 overnights in the capital city are a comfortable way to kick things off. Most guests only stay for 1 night and then head straight to the bush, which is also fine if you don’t need more time to decompress 😉
South Luangwa – the valley of the leopards:
From Lusaka we went to Mfuwe by bush plane and stayed 4 nights in the incredible South Luangwa National Park at the border to Malawi. This region is also called the “Valley of the leopard” and a must do when in Zambia – we had multiple leopard sightings here!
Lower Zambezi – river safaris deluxe:
Next we flew directly from Mfuwe to Jeki airstrip, from where we got transported by car and boat to a remote island to stay 3 nights in the Lower Zambezi National Park. Here you can experience the true wilderness, stay in an off-the-beaten-path bush camp and experience walking & river safaris.
Livingstone – Victoria Falls:
Last but not least we flew to Livingstone to visit the famous Victoria Falls! We stayed in Livingstone for 2 nights. Here you can not only see the “smoke that thunders” (how locals call the falls), but also visit some of the last rhinos of Zambia.
Kafue National Park – Zambia’s largest National Park:
Founded in 1952 Kafue isn’t only the largest National Park in Zambia, but also one with a deep and longstanding tradition and history. We finally got to visit the vast park in 2023 and got to experience what the hype is all about! Leopards and lions were a daily occurrence here.
Busanga Plains – the North of Kafue:
In the very Northwest of Kafue National Park you can find the famous Busanga Plains – chosen filming territory for BBC and the likes for its unspoilt natural beauty and incredible visibility. Plus: A huge density of prey (over 20 types of antelopes roam the plains) as well as predators (some of the most beautiful large maned lions can be found here).
Zambia’s wildlife is among the most abundant in all of Africa!
We recommend to include some of the National Parks into your roundtrip and not just the Victoria Falls.
Apart from these Zambian parks there’s a few more places to be mentioned, which we haven’t visited yet, but are on our never-ending bucket list:
- Liuwa Plains: Here you can witness the second largest wildebeest migration of the world.
- Bangweulu: This is where you can find the iconic shoebill in the swamps.
- Kasenke: The largest bat migration in the world happens here!
Where to stay in Lusaka
Most travellers start their Zambia visit in Lusaka, the capital of the country. While the city itself doesn’t have too much to offer it’s the perfect gateway to a Zambia trip.
Latitude 15 boutique hotel
During our first Zambia trip we stayed at the super chic Latitude 15 boutique hotel and can highly recommend it. It’s a gathering place for all sorts of guests – from safari experts to expats, groups celebrating special occasions – there’s never a dull moment at Latitude 15. Rooms are comfortable and spacious and well equipped with AC, wifi and everything else you’d ask from a city hotel. The garden has a pool and lounge chairs, there’s a spa and gym here.
Wild Dogs lodge
For our second Zambia trip we decided to kick things off with a more rustic safari style lodge at the outskirts of the city. Wild Dogs lodge came recommended and provided a wonderful opportunity to dive right into that safari feeling upon arrival in Zambia. A sandy path leads to the lodge, that consists of a small collection of round clay huts with thatched roofs surrounding a lush garden with a pool. All meals are served poolside and proved to be incredibly delicious!
Where to stay in South Luangwa National Park
The South Luangwa National Park is home of the walking safari and also dubbed the “Valley of the Leopard”. You should come here when you want to encounter leopards, see the magnificent ebony forests and spend time alongside the riverbanks of the Luangwa river where you can’t even count the hippos anymore! We stayed in the wonderful owner-run camps of Shenton Safaris, who truly focus on the needs of photographers. Here we got to test all 4 different kinds of accomodations!
Mwamba: Africa’s best place to hide
Upon arrival you’ll pass by the welcome area, that also doubles as a bar. A small stream passes by the camp and next to the fireplace you might already be greeted by the first giraffe staring right at you! The camp is set up anew every season after the rains and is done with only natural materials. The rooms feature a thatched roof and outdoor bathroom.
Mwamba camp by Shenton Safaris in South Luangwa National Park Zambia
Numbu Star bed
When you stay at Mwamba you have the chance to book a night in the “Numbu Star bed”. We absolutely recommend that experience. After dinner you’ll be driven to a remote plain with nothing but one tree on it. This tree functions as the base of the star bed, that sits atop a platform and is therefore unreachable for any wild animals. Here you’ll sleep under a mosquito net listening to the lion’s roar in a not so far distance.
Numbu star bed by Shenton Safaris in South Luangwa National Park Zambia
Kaingo: Home of the leopard
Only a short walking safari from Mwamba you can check into the more permanent lodge of Shenton Safaris called “Kaingo”. They also call this the “home of the leopard” and we can only confirm that the title is well deserved! We had some amazing close-up encounters with leopards here. The camp itself is located right next to the Luangwa river and offers some of the best cuisine we had in Zambia! Also the team sets up hides every year where you can get close to animals like nowhere else.
Kaingo by Shenton Safaris in South Luangwa National Park Zambia
Elephant Hide Star bed
Since we loved our first star bed night out so much, we decided to also test the star bed at Kaingo. This is very different experience as this star bed is set up right next to the river! Here the hippos will sing (or fart) you into sleep 😉 Waking up for sunrise over the Luangwa river is a once in a lifetime experience which you won’t want to miss!
Elephant Hide star bed by Shenton Safaris in South Luangwa National Park Zambia
Where to stay in Lower Zambezi National Park
The Lower Zambezi National Park is a truly fantastic part of Zambia. We visited the Lower Zambezi twice by now and stayed in two different camps, both incredible gateways to the Zambezi river, adjacent Winterthorn forests and the plains that divide the park from the escarpment. Think herds of buffaloes, a huge density of cats as well as wild dogs and elephants en masse. A true safari paradise!
Chula Camp by Classic Zambia
During our first visit we got to stay at a very special fly camp called Chula Camp by Classic Zambia. Chula is located on an uninhabited island within the Zambezi river and can only be reached by boat, which provides extra privacy.
Fly camps are usually very basic, but the owners at “Classic Zambia” have spent a lot of energy at providing a stylish and well-designed camping experience, although you’re really in the middle of nowhere! The camps are only accessible by boat, but they managed to bring in custom-made tents, copper sinks, water closets, bamboo dressers – everything you could dream of.
Chula Camp in the Lower Zambezi National Park Zambia
Kutali Camp by Classic Zambia
During our second visit in 2023 we stayed at the sister camp called “Kutali”. Also owned by Classic Zambia it follows the same philosophy of authentic owner-run safaris in classic style (so no wifi, plunge pools or AC in the rooms), but with expert guiding and a dedication towards conservation.
There’s 5 tents at Kutali, so a maximum of 10 guests are staying at the camp at the same time – which provides a truly private safari experience. Each tent comes equipped with an outdoor bathroom with a bucket shower, fully functioning flushing toilets and comfortable beds as well as a dresser.
Where to stay in Livingstone
Livingstone is the place to stay when you want to visit one of the 7 natural wonders of the world – the impressive Victoria Falls. Here we tested three different lodges, both located about 30-40 minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the area around the falls. We definitely recommend to stay a bit away from the town of Livingstone, so you can enjoy the piece and quiet of the Zambezi river.
Staying a bit away from the Victoria Falls is a good idea in Livingstone to enjoy the solitude at the Zambezi river.
We spent our first night at one of the fabulous river cottages in the world-renown Tongabezi lodge, that is winning awards all the time – and let us tell you, rightfully so. Design wise this lodge was our favourite in all of Zambia. We loved the neutral color palette and attention to detail. This lodge is a bit bigger than the other ones we stayed at, so it might feel less intimate. But they also offer evening entertainment, a shop with local design and souvenirs, as well as two different pools. We especially enjoyed a sunset cruise on the Zambezi river with sundowner served on a sandbank in the river!
Tongabezi Lodge in Livingstone Zambia
Chundukwa River Lodge
Secondly we stayed in one of the most heart-warming lodges in Zambia, run by the sweetest couple Gail & Doug. They not only built a wonderfully intimate lodge right at the riverbank of the Zambezi, but also host an animal shelter for all sorts of rescues. Their personal service made us feel incredibly welcome and made the lodge truly deserve the title “home away from home” (as much as this phrase is stressed already) 🙂
Chundukwa River Lodge in Livingstone Zambia
Tintswalo by Siankaba
In 2023 we returned to Livingstone and stayed at Tintswalo by Siankaba – a luxury lodge with lavishly equipped tents built on stilts on two private islands in the Zambezi River. Arriving at the lodge by boat adds an extra element of drama and reveal and the suspended wooden bridges between the two islands makes a stay here feel truly wild and embedded in nature.
Where to stay in Kafue National Park
During our second Zambia visit we finally made it up to the iconic Kafue National Park. There’s much to be said about the Kafue, but first and foremost you have to understand how incredibly vast it is. It’s the size of Belgium and that’s why it’s also quite varied. The South is largely uninhabited and the further North you go the denser it’s wildlife becomes. In the very North lies Busanga with it’s scenic plains.
Musekese Camp by Classic Zambia
For our first three nights we stayed at the well-renowned Musekese camp, that is now als part of Classic Zambia. Founder Phil & Tyrone have created something very special here. The camp has moved from its initial spot 10 years ago and is now located at a lagoon, that provides ample wildlife viewing right from the deck of the tented rooms. We stayed in one of the new tented suites with wooden decks and luxurious furnishings (including drinking water from the tap and hot showers inside the tent right from the pipe).
What’s special about Musekese is that they have founded their own conservation non-profit called “Musekese Conservation”. They provide law enforcement as well as scientific research in parts of Kafue National Park and adjacent Game Management Areas that were previously lacking any conservation efforts. Their work has brought back so much game to the area around Musekese, that guests experiences have vastly benefited (alongside nature and wildlife of course) 🙂
Ntemwa Busanga Camp by Classic Zambia
Up in the North of Kafue lies Busanga and at the edge of the plains sits Ntemwa Busanga Camp by Classic Zambia. While most other camps are found deeper into the plains the strategic location of Ntemwa offers access to Lufupa river (a tributary to the Kafue river) with it’s abundant hippo colonies, the miombo woodlands (with it’s rare antelopes such as sable and roan) as well as the plains itself (with it’s lechwe antelope herds and predators).
The camp itself only has 4 bamboo chalets, so a maximum of 8 guests can stay here at the same time. From the elevated thatched bar and lunch area you can overlook the plains and dinner is served at the campfire on an open sand patch, where hyenas, leopards and elephants pass by in close proximity every evening! It doesn’t get more immersive than here.
Best of Zambia: The bottom line
This was our Best of Zambia’s lodges and camps – we hope you now got an even deeper wish to visit the country, that is just waiting for its hidden secrets to be discovered! If you dream of seeing leopards, lions, hyenas, wild dogs, elephants – you name it – in the wild, then we can highly recommend Zambia. The density of wildlife is impressive! Not a day went by without a large carnivore sighting for us – you’ll never forget looking into those all-knowing eyes of a cat and for that alone a trip to Zambia is worth it.
If you dream of seeing leopards in the wild then Zambia is the right place to travel to!
Zambia & all the leopards will definitely see us again.
How to travel Zambia: Practical Tips
Last but not least let us recommend the services of Austria based travel agency “Pinto Africa” if you want to book your Zambia adventure. The couple-run agency has the most profound know-how of Zambia, as Luke grew up in the country and once he married Bettina they lived there together for a while (before moving back to Austria to start Pinto Africa)! They have a profound local network and will provide a tailor-made trip planned just for your needs.