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Zambia is a large country with a lot of unspoiled wilderness thanks to the urbanisation of the population. Of the unclaimed land, nearly 30% has been given over to conservation and national parks. Many of these parks are untended and provide no infrastructure for visitors, while other offer service on par with some of the best places in the world.
South Luangwa National Park
At the tail end of the Great Rift Valley on the western bank of the Luangwa river lies the South Luangua Park. This large reserve is the 'home' of the walking safari where the visitor is taken out into the wild on foot to experience Africa the way the first explorers did. The nearly unspoilt wilderness offers some amenities to guests, but they pale in comparison to what has been called one of Africa's greatest wildlife sanctuaries.
The 9 050 km² expanse of wilderness has some of the highest density of game around. There are a recorded 60 different species of animal and 400 different species of bird that can be found within the park. From the woodlands in the higher altitudes, to the open savannah of the lower plains, there are few places that teem with as much wildlfe as South Luangwa. The rivers teem with hippo and crocodiles and lion prides of up to 30 members have been spotted on more than one occasion. Herds of elephant and buffalo stride across the plains in great numbers and nighttime safaris almost always find a leopard looking for its next meal.
North Luangwa National Park
The northern neighbout of the South Luangwa National Park, this particular reserve is not open to the public. The 4 363 km² stretch of wilderness is pristine and untouched by the hand of civilisation.
Only a few safari companies have persmission to take visitors into the park and even then they are not allowed to leave any trace of their passing. Most of the safaris in this park are walking safaris with vehicles only used to get to the park. While some companies offer game drives, the best way to see the park is on foot.
The park is known for its herd of buffalo that stampede across the plains. Large prides of lions are a common sight while elephant and leopards are sometimes spotted. Wildebeest, zebra, warthogs, impala and hyena are also common sights.
Lower Zambezi National Park
In comparison to the other parks of Zambia, this park is relatively new. Part of its wonderment, however, is the fact that it has been relatively untouched and much of its wilderness remains intact. The park extends over 4 092 km² of wilderness though the only area that is really accessible to visitors are the low-lying floodplains. The rocky escarpment provides a beautiful backdrop against the wooded, plains where the animals roam.
The park may not have the same level of diversity as some of the other parks in Zambia, but it does offer a different way to experience Africa. From a canoe floating down the Zambezi river, visitors can take in the magnificence of the wilderness around them. Enormous herds of elephant are not uncommon sights. Lions and leopards, who come to the river to drink, are also seen quite often. For the anglers, the river also provides some wonderful opportunities.
Kafue National Park
Zambia's oldest and largest park stretches to over 22 400 km² in size. This also makes it the second largest park in the entire world. Ever since 1950, the park has been a haven for a great many species different species and a destination for people wanting to see the wildlife that Africa has to offer.
The park consists of a combination of savannah dotted with clumps of miombo trees, In certain parts of the park, dambos (small marshy patches of grassland) are quite common, especially around the rivers and the Itezhi Tezhi dam. The grasslands are famous for the red lechwe that can be found in their hundreds all over the park. A decades ago, these animals were almost hunted to extinction, but conservation efforts ensured that they made an incredible comeback.
Other common herbivores include the blue wildebeest, the buffalo, zebra, reedbucj, oribi, and impala along with bushpigs and warthogs. This wealth of game makes the park an ideal home for lions, leopards and cheetahs.
Lochinvar National Park
On the southern edge of the Kafue River and Itezhi Tezhi dam there extends a large floodplain. The area includes the Chunga Lagoon and a wide variety of vegetation that makes it a fascinating park to visit thanks to the diversity of landscapes and habitats that it has to offer.
The floodplain is one of the few places in the world where visitors can see the Kafue lechwe. These herds move along the floodplain, their behaviour dictated by the flows of the water. In the so-called Termitaria Zone, visitors can spot buffalo, zebra and other typical African herbivores. This area is characterised by the shrubs and trees that only grow on the termite mounds. In between these mounds grasses flourish. The southern area of the park is mainly woodlands inhabited by bushbucks, kudu, baboons, bushpigs and species of monkey.
There are no dangerous animals in the park and walking safaris are common. Other places worth seeing include the hot springs, the iron age village excavation site and the caves.
Nsumbu National Park
Aloing the northern edge of Zambia, on the southern edges of Lake Tanganyika, lies the Nsumbu National Park (also sometimes known simply as Sumbu Park). The roughly 2 000 km² park is the site of some of the most beautiful shores one can find in Africa. A combination of sandy beaches, vertical cliffs, deep valleys, rugged hills and coves make up the shoreline of the Lufubu River and Lak Tanganyika.
The area is famous for both its walking safaris and canoe trips. While game viewing is the main attraction of the area, sport fishing is also a very common activity in the area. While the numbers of wildlife have declined over the years human influence in the area, conservation efforts have seen them starting to recover. There is still no guarantee, however, that a visitor will be lucky enough to see what they want. Still, the park is home to roan, sable, eland, hartebeest, buffalo and zebra. Sometimes elephants, lions and leopards are spotted.
The birdlife in the park remains unaffected however and migratory flocks of flamingoes descend on the park annually along with all manner of other migrants.
'The Smoke Which Thunders' refers to the Victoria Falls that are part of this park. While only a few 66 km² in size, the park may be small it offers some beautiful vistas along with the chance to see some of Africa's famous wildlife as well.
The park is home to numerous species of antelope, zebra, giraffe and other smaller animal species that live without fear of predators that tend to avoide the area mainly because of the string of human visitors to the area. Elephants, that are able to come and go through the park at their leisure are also often seen. Visitors can see the animals from the comfort of their own vehicles as before or after they have seen the falls.