Why You Should Skip Kenya and Honeymoon in Zambia Instead

With tourists flocking to the Masai Mara, your safari could come with more views of humans than wildlife

Updated 09/24/17

Courtesy of Tongabezi

If your perfect safari honeymoon includes a secluded game drive in a park with nothing around you but sleeping lions, elephants playing in waterholes and lurking cheetahs, you might want to scratch Kenya off your list. With more and more tourists flocking to the Masai Mara, your safari honeymoon could come with more views of humans than the coveted wildlife. That's why you should skip the crowds of Kenya and safari in Zambia instead.

The parks, like the country's famed South Luangwa National Park, offer walking safaris to trek alongside wildlife and the chance to glamp in the bush next to giraffes, as well as plenty of active ideas for fitness-enthused couples, like kayaking and canoeing along the Zambezi River and hiking to the thundering Victoria Falls. Plus, with more unique wildlife sightings—like the fruit bats in the north and the rare wild dogs that roam the plains—you'll leave with an even deeper understanding and appreciation of the true wildlife haven Africa truly is.

Luxury Camps in South Luangwa

South Luangwa National Park is, without a doubt, one of Africa's most varied and beautiful game parks. Surprisingly though, it has far less visitors of Kenya's Maisa Mara or Tanzania's Serengeti. Situated on the Luangwa River, you're bound to see any and all of the park's 60 mammal species and hundreds of birds from the deck of your tented camp.

Thanks to the park's rather flat and prairie-like landscape, wildlife spotting's are nearly unobstructed from any of the park's top-rated safari lodges, like Sanctuary Retreats, Chindeni Bush Camp, or the Nsolo Camp. Along with candlelight dinners overlooking the plains, these camps tout five-star accommodations, like private balconies, infinity pools, four-posted beds, gourmet fare prepared by a private chef and soft-spun hammocks overlooking the rivers and lagoons. Plus, these camps offer private game drives and guided safari treks to their guests, getting you up close and personal to the park's most famous (and frequent) visitors—the elusive leopard.

Unique Wildlife

With over 40 mammal species and one of Africa's largest leopard populations, you're going to see at least three or four of Africa's big five during a visit (the elephant, lion, rhino, giraffe and zebra). However, a safari trek, raft or drive through Zambia's parks (like South Luangwa and the Lower Zambezi), will bring an entirely different set of wildlife spotting's entirely. Along with the famed five, a safari in Zambia will also offer the chance to cruise alongside Nile crocodiles and photograph the pangolin, a rare and unique animal that looks like a prehistoric anteater.

If you're a fan of the bat, a honeymoon during October and December in the muggy and swampy forest of Kasanka National Park will bring you smack dab in the middle of the fruit bat migration, which brings over 10 millions of these little bats to the area.

Safari by Water

Zambia's Zambezi River is one of the most astounding natural wonders in the entire country, and no activity will put you closer to connecting with it than a raft or kayak safari through it. With the sandy shores of neighboring Zimbabwe to one side and a 1,200-meter-high rift valley on the other, the winding river boasts some of the country's best views. Beyond that, a canoe safari will put you right next to the mammoth hippos, bathing elephants and elusive crocodiles that call this body of water home.

With itineraries that range from 2-4 days, you can paddle to your hearts content during the day and sleep with the sounds of hippos wading beneath the starry sky. Outfitters like River Horse Safari also add a luxury element to the adventure—offering glamorous tented camps and gourmet dinners after a full day on the water.

Action-Packed Itineraries

Why drive through a herd of elephants or past a family of giraffes when you can walk instead? Zambia's South Luangwa National Park is one of the pioneers in walking safaris, which take you alongside the area's incredible wildlife on foot. The guides, which go through a strenuous 2-year course, are armed and experienced in navigating around the unpredictable wildlife. Plus, as leaders in conservation, these safari guides will educate you on the importance of sustainable and responsible tourism.

For a chance to walk with elephants as they splash in watering holes or canoe alongside hippos, head to Zambezi park. The lush green banks of the mighty river are hotbeds for elephants, zebras, giraffes, hippos, lions and more—and the relatively flat, albeit still picturesque, landscape makes for enjoyable trekking.

Beyond the safari, Zambia touts a slew of other adrenaline-pumping activities for newlyweds who crave a bit more adventure in their honeymoon. Couples can soar over Victoria Falls' roaring waters on a bungee, horseback ride along the wildlife-laden banks of the Zambezi River, kayak through the 250-meter-deep gorge of Victoria Falls, white water raft through the 23 sets of thrilling rapids in the Bakota Gorge or fly above Victoria Falls in a helicopter. If that's not thrilling enough, you can also participate in lion and cheetah walks, which literally have you walking right beside these majestic cats.

Less Crowds

Despite having one of the highest densities of wildlife anyone, most of Zambia's parks are still largely unexplored. Even the busier sections of the country's biggest parks—South Luangwa and Zambezi—feel relatively devoid of game vehicles and tourists. Many of the country is still relatively unexplored—with dirt roads leading to small villages or quiet lakes. Along with having the parks relatively to yourself, less crowds also mean you can enjoy more meaningful and authentic experiences with the locals.

With more than 70 tribes calling this country home, the diversity is awe-inspiring. Visits to the local villages will bring the chance to connect with the women as they fill their buckets of water, buy goods made in front of you by the tribe's matriarchs or even sleep in a mud-thatched hut next to a local family. Plus, with no fear of violence—Zambia has been named one of the safest countries in Africa—you can actually immerse yourself in the villager's way of life without fear of tribal or touristic violence.

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls—the largest waterfall in the world—is reason enough to visit Zambia. With an astonishing one million liters of water plummeting and plunging through the Zambezi gorge every second, the sheer force of this collection of waterfalls is enough to make your jaw drop. Livingstone, a tourism beacon, boasts adrenaline-packed adventures for those seeking a more adventurous way to see the falls (think bungee jumping, swinging, rafting or swimming in Devil's Pond). For those looking to soak up the views in a more leisurely capacity, the park entrance brings you close enough to feel the powerful spray of the falls.

For a unique perspective that'll give you shots worthy of a million likes, book a helicopter tour. From the sky, you'll see just how expansive this collection of waterfalls is, and you'll get a bird's eye view of the gorge, the weaving and winding Zambezi river and the lush forests and trees surrounding this natural wonder. For the ultimate in honeymoon relaxation, book at a stay at Tongabezi—a five-star, award-winning camp that offers stunning views of the falls, plus luxurious bungalow and treehouse accommodations along the banks of the Zambezi River.

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