I have to admit, a bit bashfully, that after my first traditional safari in South Africa I thought that I wasn’t a safari person. There was a lot of sitting, a lot of eating, and then a lot more sitting. It also didn’t help that I shared my Jeep with avid birders who wanted to stop to analyze every feathered creature we saw. I was just hoping for a little bit more action.
Well, action was exactly what I got on a recent trip to Zambia. Here’s how I was made into a safari convert.
1. You’ll ditch the jeep.
Sitting in a Jeep all day is my idea of torture, even if I’m spotting elephants and rhino. So, naturally, I thought safaris weren’t for me—until I learned about the walking safari. Zambia is arguably the top spot in Africa for walking safaris, an option that active travelers will appreciate. The exercise is great, but there is something incredibly thrilling about the vulnerability of being on foot. As you trail your guide, every sense is on high alert, especially when you hear the roar of nearby lions and see the fresh tracks of elephants. If you’re a more active adventurer like me, book your trip with Robin Pope Safaris—one of the first companies to offer mobile walking safaris—and stay at one of their seven lodges throughout Zambia.
2. Think lions are cool? Meet a hippo.
I used to think of hippos as the animal version of Homer Simpson—but then one charged at me in shallow water. They may look fat and awkward, but believe me, hippos can move. Sausage Tree Camp, set on the banks of the Lower Zambezi River, offers one of the most exciting hippo-viewing experiencing in Africa. Guests accompany guides in canoes and paddle through “Hippo Alley” along the Chifungula Channel, where pods of hippos await at every corner. The guides are experts at reading the water depth (hippos don’t feel threatened in deep water) and the temperament of the hippos.
3. You’ll get stranded on an island—and love it.
Tongabezi Lodge gives guests lots of options for being stranded in the middle of nature. Guests can be canoed out to a floating table and dine under the stars in the middle of the Lower Zambezi River. To get truly off the grid, guests can be dropped off at Sindabezi Island Lodge. A 30-minute boat ride from Tongabezi, this eco-friendly sister property has just five open-sided thatched cottages and no connectivity. You fall asleep to the sound of elephants crossing the river.
4. You’ll see Victoria Falls from all angles.
Anyone who has visited Victoria Falls can immediately guess why it was nicknamed the Smoke that Thunders. The mist from the falls can be seen more than a dozen miles away, while the sound of the water cascading more than 350 feet over the lip of a large basalt plateau sounds like the rumble of thunder. The defining border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, this UNESCO World Heritage Site will wow you from any vantage point. Take in the famous rainbow from the Knife Edge Bridge (warning: you will get wet). For the ultimate view of the falls, travel by twin-engine boat through the fast-moving waters of the Zambezi out to Livingstone Island, the place where Dr. David Livingstone first saw the falls. Tongabezi Lodge offers five trips a day and guests can actually get in the water for the ultimate Instagram shot.
5. You’ll catch a tiger (a tiger fish, that is).
The Lower Zambezi River offers spectacular tiger fishing. Potato Bush Camp, set on the banks of the river, has some of the country’s top fishing guides. Casting off the edge of the boat into a river filled with crocs and hippos is nearly as big an adrenaline rush as hooking one of the sharp-toothed fish. And having a G&T in hand at sundown helps when the fish aren’t biting.