Are you considering a visit to Zambia but you’re not sure how to get started when it comes to choosing where to go, and mostly where to stay? Read on!
We’ve been promoting Zambia as a prime safari destination for over 25 years now, so we feel confident we know the country inside out. Yes, it’s true that we’re also a safari operator (we have three properties in South Luangwa) so it’s likely we’ll list our name somewhere along the way. But the real goal of this article is to talk about the many hotels, lodges, and camps we have had the opportunity to stay at and work with over the years and give you our honest opinion; this will hopefully give you some tools to start planning your trip.
We’ve looked at different locations and experiences and came up with our 11 best Safari Lodges in Zambia recommendations, along with a few honourable mentions. This is not a list of the most luxurious companies or the most expensive ones. Not at all. We’ve considered mostly the location and the quality of services provided (with an eye on the value), and a guaranteed spectacular experience. The list is solely based on our own experience and nothing in this article has been monetized. It’s completely independent.
View by category
- Best safari lodge in Livingstone
- Best safari lodge in South Luangwa
- Best safari lodge in Lower Zambezi
- Best safari lodge in Kafue National Park
- Best safari lodge in Lusaka
- Best safari lodge for wildlife viewing
- Best safari lodge “off the beaten track”
- Best safari lodge for honeymoons
- Best safari lodge for families
- Best down-to-earth safari camp
- Best safari lodge on a budget
1. Best Safari Lodge in Livingstone
Waterberry Zambezi Lodge is a privately owned property located on the banks of the beautiful Zambezi River but in a more tranquil area upriver from the Victoria Falls. It’s peaceful and yet offers access to all the activities one would find closer to the falls or further out in the bush. Different types of accommodation are available, from the family farmhouse to river-front chalets or the newly added safari tents. A great team of staff and affordable rates. To top it up, Waterberry is also highly involved in the local community supporting education and community development.
- Sindabezi Island Camp: We do love this unique camp located on a tiny island in the middle of the Zambezi River.
- The Royal Livingstone Hotel by Anantara: This colonial-style hotel has probably the most privileged location, overlooking the Victoria Falls.
2. Best Safari Lodge in South Luangwa
Yes, of course, we think our flagship property wins “best in show” for South Luangwa. We’re a bit biased of course. But we think Kafunta River Lodge has one of the most desirable views in South Luangwa overlooking the floodplains of the Luangwa River and its teeming wildlife. It is a classic safari lodge with only 10 rooms, keeping things very personal and exclusive. In the peak season, the lodge accesses the national park using a unique pontoon crossing, bringing you in one of the best game viewing areas.
The staff is particularly accommodating and the guiding team one of the bests in the valley. Kafunta River Lodge offers great value rates and can easily be combined with its remote camps – Three Rivers Camp and Island Bush Camp.
- Kaingo Camp by Shenton Safaris: If money is no object, then we can recommend Kaingo with its great location in the upper part of the park, and its network of photographic hides.
- Lion Camp: We particularly like the layout of this 10-chalet property, even though it doesn’t have a direct view of the Luangwa River.
3. Best Safari Lodge in Lower Zambezi
This is all about simplicity and pure wilderness. Tusk & Mane is a “new” old-style safari camp, with all the amenities that ensure comfort and safety, and an exceptional safari experience, but far from the over-the-top sophistication that one can find in some of the neighbouring camps. It’s back to the essentials: a comfortable bed, a bucket shower, a campfire and a starry sky. Both Chula and Kutali camps are tiny and are tucked away on remote islands of the river where you can make the most of all the activities on offer.
- Old Mondoro Camp: If you like intimate camps but with more comfort, Old Mondoro is a good choice.
- Chongwe River Camp by Time & Tide: We particularly like the location of this more upscale tented camp, on the confluent of the Chongwe River and Zambezi River.
4. Best Safari Lodge in Kafue National Park
A small owner-ran camp hidden away on the edge of a spectacular lagoon, Musekese Camp offers some of the best game viewing in Kafue National Park. The team behind this conservation-focused camp is extremely passionate, and their enthusiasm is incredible. The choice of activities is extensive with top-class wildlife viewing and birding. You can also combine with Ntemwa Camp, based in the Busanga Plains.
- Kaing’U Safari Lodge: This property will greatly complement a stay in the northern part of the Kafue due to its exclusive location among the impressive boulders of the Kafue River.
- Busanga Plains Camp by Mukambi: We love this little tented camp ideally perched in the middle of the unique Busanga wetlands.
5. Best Safari Lodge in Lusaka
This is probably one of the trendiest hotels in Lusaka and we absolutely love its décor and atmosphere of cosmopolitan Africa. It’s the perfect place to start or end a safari, away from the chain hotels that line the jam-packed Lusaka boulevards. Once you enter the lobby or the bar, you find yourself in a swirl of fashion, music, and arts, only 30 minutes from the airport. The dining and social scene is a favourite with locals and international visitors.
- Lilayi Lodge: This is a wonderful full-service lodge on the edge of Lusaka, serving excellent food and offering a variety of activities. Perfect if you have time for a few nights.
- Pioneer Camp & Wild Dog Lodge: These 2 smaller “outback” properties are close enough to the airport for an overnight stay, yet offer a first (or last) safari atmosphere at a good value.
- Ciela Resort & Spa: If you want something quick and easy – this is it. This newly built resort (the first of Marriott’s Tribute Portfolio in Africa) is less than 20 min from the airport, with no traffic whatsoever. There are 4 restaurants to choose from, a huge pool, a spa, a golf course… and even its own brewery. Easy for a quick overnight or even for a day room while waiting for your night flight.
6. Best Safari Lodge for Wildlife Viewing
We’re promoting our friendly competitors in this first place because of its little secret! Mwamba bush camp is located near the Lion Plains in the northern sector of the South Luangwa National Park, and the game viewing there is absolutely stunning. But the best thing about this camp is its photographic hide located at “the last waterhole”. You could be sitting there all day long watching buffalos, elephants, kudus, Lilian’s lovebirds, lions and so much more without the need for a game drive! No wonder they nickname it “Africa’s best place to HIDE”!
- Any lodge in South Luangwa really. When it comes to game viewing, we’ve already established that South Luangwa was the park of choice in Zambia and should be the first on your list. From there the choice of accommodation depends on preference: lodge, tented camp, bush camp… there is something for everyone on every budget.
- Sausage Tree Camp, Lower Zambezi NP: A luxury tented camp located in a pristine area on the banks of the Zambezi River, across from low-reed islands teeming with game, especially elephants. Make sure to take a canoe trip down the Chifungulu Channel.
7. Best Safari Lodge “off the beaten track”
In addition to its most famous national parks, Zambia offers a multitude of very remote locations which can sometimes be challenging to reach but are well worth the effort. One of these is the lesser-known Liuwa Plain National Park in Western Zambia. It is home to the second-largest wildebeest migration, with roughly 30,000 individuals transiting through the park – making it one of the most magnificent spectacles on earth (less the crowds!).
And where else to stay but at the five-star King Lewanika Lodge, the only permanent safari camp in this extremely isolated and beautiful wilderness.
- Shoe Bill Island Camp, Bangweulu Swamps: If you’re in for an adventure (and don’t mind your feet getting wet), this should be on your list. The Bangweulu Wetlands are home to the peculiar shoebill stork and a staggering variety of other bird species, as well as herds of black lechwe.
- Nhanzilla Camp, Kafue NP: A vast 3000 sq/km area in Southern Kafue, just for yourself. The definition of hidden gem.
8. Best Safari Lodge for Honeymoons
An exceptionally romantic destination just 12km upstream from the Victoria Falls with beautifully appointed honeymoon houses. For a quirkier experience, choose the Honeymoon Chalet at Sindabezi – the island camp nestled in the middle of the Zambezi River. Apart from the obvious visit to the Victoria Falls, you can enjoy a wide range of activities from tranquil sunset boat cruises to adrenaline-loaded swims in Devil’s pool.
- Three Rivers Camp, South Luangwa NP by Kafunta Safaris: We think the romantic star beds of our remote tented camp make a perfect nest for newlyweds and a justifiable reason for a sleep-in!
- Chiawa Camp, Lower Zambezi NP: For the ultimate luxury in the bush with spectacular views of the Zambezi.
9. Best Safari Lodge for Families
By 2023 we will offer an upscale two-bedroom, two-bathroom cottage geared towards families and friends (up to 5 people) with views of the Luangwa floodplains, a private pool and exclusive dining and activities. Although the house name is still to be decided, we already know that it will have an amazing view of the sunset and benefit from the remarkable skills of our smiling staff and guides.
- The Farmhouse, at Waterberry Zambezi Lodge, Livingstone: This will be your home from home, surrounded by lush gardens and overlooking the Zambezi River. A very private option.
- Crocodile Nest at Flatdogs, South Luangwa NP: Flatdogs Camp’s latest addition is the beautifully appointed tented house “Crocodile Nest” which is perfect for families of up to 6 people – and a 24/7 game viewing right from the comfort of the deck.
10. Best Down to Earth Safari Camp
Made of simple grass, this is the genuine definition of a bush camp and Island BC is one of the few remaining authentic camps in Zambia. Instead of chasing luxury, choose a minimalist and unobtrusive approach to the wilderness. No wifi, no cell phone, no electricity. Just the sound of nature, the light of the bonfire and the hot water from the bucket shower. Oh, and the view of the Luangwa River, in one of the most remote areas of South Luangwa.
- Tusk & Mane, Lower Zambezi NP: With two lightweight fly camps, this is the least fussy choice in Lower Zambezi, but the most rewarding.
- Ntemwa Busanga by Jeffery & McKeith, Kafue NP: Four simple thatched-chalets and open-air bathrooms. Lowkey in style, remarkable in experience.
11. Best Safari Lodge on a Budget
With a variety of great value accommodation options, Flatodgs Camp is the ideal gateway to South Luangwa with a perfect location only minutes from the main gate. From the simple classic tents to the more exclusive tree house, you will enjoy the facilities of the camp without exploding your budget. And best of all is the delicious restaurant with an à la carte service, no set meals, no set time – order what you want when you want it. A hotspot in the valley!
- Baines River Camp, Lower Zambezi NP: With its Stay for 3 nights, Pay for 2 Special available all season, this is probably the best value option in the otherwise costly Lower Zambezi National Park.
- Mukambi Safari Lodge, Kafue NP: Mukambi is one of the first lodges you will encounter when reaching Kafue NP from Lusaka, and a very affordable option for an all-inclusive safari package.