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Walking safaris in Zambia: everything you need to know

The best spots for walking safaris in Zambia, when to go and what to pack.



Malawi and Zambia guest writer
Published on

28 Nov 2022

Updated on

05 Dec 2022

Pic 1 Old Mondoro Walking Safari

Over time, ‘safari’ has cemented itself on the bucket lists of many adventurous travellers, and Zambia with its remote and unspoilt areas filled with wildlife certainly ticks this box. As more and more people are wanting to connect with nature, they immerse themselves in it in any way they can. For some living in a New York highrise, this may be following National Geographic on Instagram. For others, it means jetting across the world to unknown lands to face it in all its glory.

As you land at Mfuwe Airport, the hot air flicking in every direction gives off a distinct smell of the land. You can’t say what that smell is exactly, but it fills you with anticipation. Somehow this foreign smell of Africa is more comforting than anything you’ve experienced before. Perhaps it’s something primal - your subconscious reminding you where we all came from. And it is here, in the wilds of South Luangwa National Park, where walking safaris began.

Pic 2 Time Tide Walking Safari
Walking safari at Time & Tide

Why do a walking safari?

When most people think of a safari, they think of people piled into a Land Rover, laden with cameras, binoculars and goofy hats. Now, a game drive is a spectacular experience, trundling through the wilderness in an open vehicle. The warm breeze ruffles your hair as you scan the trees and tall grasses for birds and big game. Exploring the park on wheels is definitely the best way to see the most wildlife. It lets you cover more distance and look in different habitats for varied sightings. It also allows you to get up close to those majestic ellies, wild cats and cantankerous buffalos from the safety and comfort of the vehicle.

For you curious souls, while a game drive is great, setting off on foot into the depths of a national park is a whole other experience. Paring safari back to its roots, encountering the wild like the early explorers.

Escorted by a professional safari guide and an armed National Parks scout you will make your way through the wilderness on your own two feet. Stopping to admire the smaller details of nature that often get overlooked. A chubby caterpillar, a luminous sunbird, a dainty bloom, a silver-spun web. On these walks you will understand the inner workings of the delicate ecosystem that all these creatures, great and small, belong to.

Pic 3 Chiawa Safaris Walk Eles River
Eles River at Chiawa safaris

How does it work?

After the sun has come up but it’s still cool, you will set off from camp for a short drive to a pre-selected location in the park. Adrenaline pumping as you disembark from your vehicle, the legs suddenly feel a little heavy in this unfamiliar territory. Your senses come alive in the bush and a hypnotic symphony of sounds and smells fills you with a buzz of excitement. Your guide and ranger will brief you on the walk ahead. An all-important safety talk will include rules and instructions to ensure your safety and that of the rest of the group.

With a mapped-out route, you will set off for your adventure as you’re guided single-file through the bush. The guides are fountains of knowledge. Just when you think you know a thing or two about the natural world, you’re bowled over by a new discovery. An unknown plant or creature with astounding behaviours and abilities.

Where to do a walking safari in Zambia

1. South Luangwa National Park - Time & Tide

What better place to start this blog than in South Luangwa National Park? Pioneered by the godfather of South Luangwa, Norman Carr, photographic walking safaris were first done right here. After founding the first photographic safari camp in the country, Norman was instrumental in establishing the area as a national park. He dedicated his life to conservation through tourism, focusing on local employment and empowerment. Here you will find that same camp, still standing after 72 years: Nsefu Camp, now owned and run by Robin Pope Safaris.

Norman soon set up his company Norman Carr Safaris, with a number of bush camps under his name. In 2006 this was then taken over and expanded by Time + Tide who now run the camps with the same spirit and respect for the wild as Norman himself. Chinzombo, Kakuli, Mchenja, Nsolo & Luwi. With a big focus on walking safaris, these camps are situated near to each other, allowing guests to walk between them during their stay. Starting at one camp guests will make their way on foot through shallow streams and quiet, shady woodlands to arrive at their next luxurious yet authentic camp. South Luangwa is home to lion, leopard, wild dog, spotted hyena, elephant, Cape buffalo, hippo, Nile crocodile, Thornicroft giraffe, Crawshay’s zebra, Cookson’s wildebeest, and lots more.

Key highlights of South Luangwa:

  • Zambia’s most famous national park and home of the walking safari.
  • ‘Sleep outs’ available – fall asleep in the open wilderness!
  • Nicknamed ‘the Valley of Leopards’ because of the population density of these elusive cats.
  • Many accommodation options in different price brackets.
  • Combines well with Malawi – just 4hr drive to the capital, Lilongwe.

For more information, take a look at our complete guide to South Luangwa.

Pic 6 Time Tide Mchenja
Time & Tide Mchenja

2. North Luangwa National Park - Remote African Safaris

Situated in North Luangwa National Park, Remote Africa Safaris own and run the only two camps in the whole park. Takwela and Mwaleshi. This remote and untouched park offers a wilderness experience like no other. With a very limited road network, guests are encouraged to skip the game drives and lace up their walking shoes! These experienced safari experts offer a unique perspective of nature. Offering morning and early evening walks, returning before sunset. The area around Takwela is a hotspot for lion, leopard, hyena, hippo, elephant, kudu, waterbuck, Cookson’s wildebeest and wild dog. The Mwaleshi area also gives you a chance to spot the elusive and carefully surveilled black rhino.

Check out this 10-day Remote Luangwa Walking Safari Itinerary

Key highlights of North Luangwa:

  • Completely remote and unspoiled.
  • A chance to see the black rhinos.
  • Rustic and authentic experience.
  • Only 2 camps in the park – exclusive and uncrowded.
  • Zambia’s largest elephant population.
Pic 7 Remote Africa Safaris Takwela Camp
Takwela Camp - Remote Africa Safaris

3. Lower Zambezi National Park - Chiawa Safaris

Venturing to the south of Zambia, we find ourselves in the Lower Zambezi National Park. Known for its exquisite beauty perched on the brimming banks of the Zambezi River, this park is a spectacular walking safari destination. Chiawa Safaris in particular are known for their expertise in this area. With 2 camps in the park, you can spend a lengthy and varied vacation basking in the splendour of this part of the world. Chiawa Camp is the more luxurious of the two whereas its little sister Old Mondoro offers a more rustic vibe. With the constantly flowing river and escarpment behind, the habitats vary greatly offering a diverse eco-system to discover. Explore the grassland, woodland, forest, thicket, floodplain and riverine of the park on foot. Lower Zambezi is home to lion, leopard, wild dog, hyena, African wild cat, elephant, buffalo, hippo, waterbuck, zebra, kudu and more.

Key highlights of Lower Zambezi:

  • Exquisite selection of luxury lodges.
  • Abundance of river-based activities: sunset cruises, fishing, canoe safaris.
  • The diverse, scenic beauty is unmatched.
  • Not too many lodges, uncrowded.
  • Combines well with Victoria Falls.
Pic 8 Chiawa Camp
Chiawa camp

When should I go?

Well, ideally you don’t want to be walking in the rain! So, for walking safaris it’s best to avoid the rainy season in Zambia which starts sometime in November and finishes around the end of April. At this point, you start to enter the winter season where things start to cool down and the landscape starts the process of drying up.

May - June is what most consider ‘mid-season’. A great time of year for a walking safari with nice cool temperatures. The landscape is green and lush, the flowers, birds and butterflies are out in a flurry making for beautiful photography opportunities. There’s still lots of water around the parks, so the wildlife is a bit more spread out making them a little harder to find, but the park is quieter in terms of other visitors.

Once July hits, winter is in full force and it starts to get quite chilly, especially in the early mornings. Now, this is considered peak season. The reason for this is that the low temperatures make for a more comfortable day out in the park. It is also now a number of months since the end of the rains and therefore the park has become quite dry. A dry park means reduced foliage, offering more visibility for the wildlife you’re looking for! A dry park also means that the whereabouts of this wildlife is more predictable. With water sources throughout the park drying up, the animals will make the move nearer to the main river and large waterholes. This means denser populations in smaller areas and your sightings go through the roof! One thing to consider about peak season (approx. start July to end Oct), is that while this time means more wildlife, it also means more people.

As we approach October things really start hotting up – on a wildlife front AND a temperature front! If you can handle the heat, this is considered the best month for wildlife viewing but is also the hottest month of the year. The hotter it gets, the shorter the walks – but you sure will appreciate that swimming pool back at camp after your activity!

For more details, take a look at when to visit Zambia.

Pic 10 Remote Africa Safaris Walking Safari
Remote africa safaris


1. Do I need to be very fit to do a walking safari?

No, you do not need to be especially fit to do a walking safari. Your guide will tailor your walking safari route and length to your preferences and abilities. Walking safaris are generally slow paced, you’re not catching a bus so there’s no need to rush! You will stop regularly as you or your guide spots something interesting, like animal tracks. Or if you just want to rest and cool off in the shade and enjoy a sip of water. A walking safari will last anything between 1 and 3 hours, depending on what you find and the fitness and willingness of the group.

Pic 4 Remote Africa Safaris Walking Safari1
Remote africa safaris

2. Will I come across dangerous animals?

Sometimes, yes! Although your guide will select a route designed to avoid any dangerous wildlife territories, nature is unpredictable. Sometimes you may stumble upon a herd of elephants or a pride of lions. It’s for this reason that routes are planned through open spaces - then no one gets startled. You will spot the animals in good time before you get too close, giving them a chance to spot you too. People on foot are an unusual sight for the animals. Their instinct about this unfamiliar creature tends to drive them to move away or simply ignore you if they feel no threat. After watching them for a while and giving them a wide berth, you will continue on your excursion. Of course, there is always an armed ranger with you for protection, who will first fire a warning shot at the sign of any danger. But this is rare and you can feel sure that you’re in good hands with the professionals included below.

Pic 5 Chiawa Safaris Walking Safari
Chiawa safaris

3. What shall I bring on my walk?

  • Small day pack
  • Binoculars and/or camera
  • Closed walking shoes
  • Long socks
  • Long lightweight trousers
  • Hat that covers face and neck
  • Sunglasses
  • High factor sunscreen – no less than SPF 50
  • Water

If you’re ready for your next vacation to be an adventurous one, contact us to learn more about these holidays. Walking safaris are conducted by a number of other safari companies and in many other locations around Zambia and Southern Africa, so don’t be afraid to explore further!

If you’re looking for a tour that can be tailor-made to you, check out this 10-day Remote Luangwa Walking Safari Itinerary.

If you’re interested in combining a walking safari with a beach holiday, check out this Luangwa and Lake Safari itinerary which hops you across the border into Malawi to experience the famous Lake Malawi.

If you’re interested in combining a walking safari with Victoria Falls, check out this Classic Zambia Safari itinerary.

Looking for more walking safari ideas? Take a look at our top Africa walking safaris.