Separated from Victoria Falls National Park in 1979, the Zambezi National Park, stretching over 4092 km², lies upstream from Victoria Falls on the great Zambezi River which forms the northern border of the Park and a part of the Zimbabwe-Zambia border.
The major part of the Park is covered with Mopane woodlands, with a narrow fringe of riverine forest running along the ends of the river. Among the vegetation are the unique Umbrella-shaped Poison Pod Albizia, the Knob Thorn, the Sycamore Fig, the Apple Leaf, the distinct Ilana Palm, the Wild Date Palm, Waterberry and the Leadwood. These provide shade and cover for the Duiker and the Bushbuck as well as offer perches for the Fish Eagles, Kingfishers and Herons.
The soil types in the Park vary, from the riverine sand, black cotton soil, alluvial as well as Kalahari sand. The natural spring-lines which occur within this park are total hidden gems and regularly have an abundance of wildlife traversing through them. These are prime walking areas for those who enjoy adventuring and exploring on foot.
Zambezi National Park plays host home to an array of land mammal species including the Elephant, Lion, Giraffe, Buffalo, Zebra, Impala, the majestic Sable, Eland, Kudu and the Waterbuck. In the waters, Hippopotami and crocodiles lie.
The Park is also a bird lovers’ paradise with an estimated 400 species of birds recorded. These include the Long-toed Lapwing, the African Skimmer, the Goliath Heron, the Pel’s Fishing Owl, Lanner Falcon, African Fin foot, Palm Thrush, Rock Pratincole and the Kori Bustard. Apart from the animals and birds, Zambezi National Park boasts of over 75 fish species including the Bream and Tiger Fish.
What to do
Game drives are the usual way that visitors experience the abundance in the park. There are two main game-viewing sections. The Zambezi Game Viewing section has an established network of road going upstream running pretty much parallel to the Zambezi river. There is also the Chamabondo Game Drive which is a 25 kilometer drive through the heart of the park from Victoria Falls through the Chamabonda Vlei.
Those who like water rafting and canoeing safaris there are a number of of offering along the Zambezi river. River Wild Safaris offers an 18km game viewing
Getting to the Park by road from Victoria Falls town, one drives on the Bulawayo Road or Mosi-oa-Tunya Road, turning left into Park Way Drive which will go through the town center and to the Park entrance.
Visitors who would have landed at the Victoria Falls Airport and have booked accommodation at one of the private safari lodges at the Park would be picked form the airport whilst those landing at Livingstone could be picked up or would need to get a private transfer in.
There are several private safari lodges and camps are also spread along the river as well as on the Zambezi River islands. These are all luxury camps with fully inclusive stays and a variety of their own activities. Zimbabwe National Parks also offers a number of basic self-catering lodges and camping facilities along the river.
Upstream along the Zambezi River Drive, there are 25 numbered sites where day visitors may picnic or fish. These sites are attractively situated on the banks of the river and sheltered beneath the beautiful shady trees like the Natal Mahogany.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Zambezi National Park is during the dry season, from April to October, because as the Park dries out, animals drift towards the river to drink and also vegetation would be thinner, making game spotting easier. In this period, there is a huge possibility of enjoying bright, sunny days and warm nights. There are also fewer mosquitoes when it is dry thereby reducing the risk of Malaria.
It is also good to visit during the wet months from November to March, as it is breeding season and spotting newborn animals is possible. The scenery during this period is also beautiful as vegetation is green and flourishing, allowing for bird watching. Rates tend to be lower as there would be fewer tourists visiting at this time of the year.
Weather and Climate
The summer months in the Zambezi National Park are hot and humid whilst the winter months are cooler and dry with a possibility of becoming colder at night.
Other Safety Considerations
As malaria is prevalent in most parts of Zimbabwe, visitors are urged to carry out preventative measures like taking prophylactics, using mosquito repellent sprays, sleeping under nets and covering exposed skin at dusk.
With the rivers being hippopotamus and crocodile infested, visitors are advised against swimming in the lake or river. To avoid sunburn and sunstroke during the hot summer months, visitors are also reminded to use sunscreen and lip balm as well as to wear a good pair of sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat.
When on game drives, visitors are urged to remain in the vehicles all the time unless the guides give an instruction to disembark.