Following the Elephants: A Multi-Country Safari to Zambia and Botswana

A 14 day trip to Botswana & Zambia 
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Zambia and Botswana radiate authenticity and celebrate the remarkable diversity of big-game Africa. This handcrafted safari reveals the best of both countries, starting in Zambia with drives and walks on the South Luangwa savannah, then canoeing and exploring the Lower Zambezi wetland. Stop at Victoria Falls, then follow the elephants into Botswana and the Chobe woodland, before completing the journey on the world’s largest salt pan, guided by Zu/’hoasi Bushmen from the Kalahari.

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General Information

Photos
Elephants roam by the river in Chobe National Park.
Chobe National Park
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Lusaka, South Luangwa National Park, Luangwa River, Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambezi River, Livingstone, Victoria Falls, Chobe River, Chobe National Park, Kalahari Desert, Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, Nxai Pan National Park, Maun

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Lusaka to South Luangwa National Park – Into the Big-Game Wilderness

An elephant wanders past, trunk swinging, tusks curling. Thornicroft’s giraffes are half hidden by the nearby trees, their heads poking above the canopy, and a zebra herd is nearby, as you wait for the rumble of hoofs that accompanies their gallop across the savannah. It is midday, and you have only just landed, but already you have seen so many of the animals that make Zambia special. On the drive from the airstrip to your camp, you might see 10 different species, the giants accompanied by the rare antelopes that thrive in this remote world. You land at Lusaka International Airport and are assisted onto a light aircraft bound for South Luangwa, the country’s flagship park.

Settle into the camp, and get accustomed to the wild animals roaming past. Even when you are reading a book on the veranda, it is good to have a camera on hand, as baboons swing through the camp and the odd hippo grunts in the river below. In the afternoon, you take a first full game drive in the park, exploring the landscape close to the Luangwa River. Antelope come to drink, the herds sipping away as sentinels keep guard with their ears pinned skyward. Follow the prints you see in the sand, to a pride of lions, majestic creatures hanging out beneath an ebony tree. At first, it seems they do not recognize your presence. Keep watching, and the lions start to move, elegantly wandering down to the banks to inspect their dinner menu. Return to the camp at dusk, and spend your first night beneath the stars, a floodlight illuminating the animals that drink from the river below.

You may wish to read some of our travelers' reviews of Zambia luxury trips to learn more this exhilarating tour.

What’s Included: airport transfer, domestic flight, accommodation, safari, dinner

Day 2: South Luangwa National Park – Game Drives on the Untouched Savannah

This iconic savannah is a landscape of abundance where you can admire the enthusiastic jumps of Cookson’s wildebeests, young males leading the herds’ charge toward the water. Watch impala skip, eland stand, and klipspringer nimbly jump. Find the charm beneath the snarling face of a hyena, and seek out two of Africa’s most elusive species, leopards and wild dogs. This park provides a great opportunity to witness these hunters on the prowl, either on your daytime drives, or on a nighttime drive where, beneath the cloak of darkness, you will find that South Luangwa feels like a completely different park, one with a tense atmosphere and endearing mystique. Spend today on game drives, exploring the corners of the park, slowly encountering a huge range of animals. There are options for multiple drives punctuated by downtime at the camp or a full-day expedition into the park’s furthest reaches.

What’s Included: accommodation, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 3: South Luangwa National Park – A Beautiful Connection on Africa’s Premier Walking Safari

Leave the trails behind, and forge your own path into the wilderness, stepping across the open plains and exploring a landscape that is mostly inaccessible to vehicles. South Luangwa is where the walking safari was invented, and it continues to be the best place on the continent to fully open your senses to nature. With a walking safari, you seek out a different set of animals, staying clear of the predators and giants. You smell every change in the air and hear each rustling of life, as you are enveloped by the atmosphere, savoring a rare opportunity to walk on landscapes that have rarely seen human eyes. These walking safaris are not just about getting closer to particular animals; they also serve to reaffirm your connection with nature and the wild world that still exists on our planet. There are options for both half-day and full-day walks.

What’s Included: accommodation, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 4: Lower Zambezi National Park – Immersed in the Wetlands

A dramatic change of scenery follows the light aircraft flight to the Lower Zambezi National Park. Like South Luangwa, the wildlife is concentrated around the river. But this river really rumbles, seasonally flooding its banks and perennially creating a labyrinth of canals and lagoons. Colors are lush and tropical, animals parade through the shallows, and you might see buffalos taking a swim from Zambia to Zimbabwe on the opposite bank. A game drive provides today’s introduction to this land, following the giants on their daily journeys. Elephants abound, hippos are seen in staggering numbers, the giraffes are a different subspecies from those in South Luangwa, buffalos block the trail, and the lions here like to bask in the open. As you will come to expect in Zambia, the activities ensure you are continually surrounded by the great animals for which the continent is famous. There are no fences, just the raw ambiance created by the country’s authenticity.

What’s Included: accommodation, domestic flight, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 5 – 6: Lower Zambezi National Park – Thrilling Big-Game Safari from Land and on Water

Cross the lagoons, and follow the Zambezi at dawn, a motorboat helping you explore vast sections of the park. Animals are drinking in the morning light, and you will find four-legged icons along the banks, from prowling lions to hippos starting the day with a quarrel. Switch to a canoe, and paddle into the mystique, moving softly and silently through the wetlands. This mode of travel enables you to get incredibly close, just a few meters of water separating you from the neck of a giraffe or the snout of a buffalo. Like a walking safari, these exclusive canoe journeys help you explore with all the senses, every sound and smell an integral piece of the experience.

Your safari program is fully flexible here, and these water-based activities are complimented by game drives and walks. Visit any park for a day, and there are always certain animals you cannot miss. In Lower Zambezi, it is the buffalos, elephants, and hippos. But to make sense of the park’s diversity, you need to get fully involved, spending two or three days exploring from multiple angles. It heightens the chance of spotting leopards and cheetahs, enhances the opportunity to see pride and herds battling each other, and ensures you settle into the pulsing rhythm of these unique worlds. Spend these two days personalizing your program, each activity improving your understanding of an iconic wetland environment.

What’s Included: accommodation, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 7: Livingstone – A Day with Victoria Falls

Your safari interlude is provided by Victoria Falls, the world’s most plentiful waterfall and the third of Zambia’s iconic destinations. Fly to Livingstone, where you are transferred to a serene lodge on the banks of the river. After lunch, you spend the afternoon at the falls, a series of self-guided walking trails taking you above, alongside, and below the falls. Like the safari, it is a sensory experience, the sight of tumbling water accompanied by the growling noise of what the locals call “the smoke that thunders.” In the evening, you toast to the waterfall with a sunset cruise along the Zambezi, where hippos are likely to be roaming along the banks.

What’s Included: accommodation, domestic flight, transfer, tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 8: Livingstone – Relaxed Free Day on the Banks of the Zambezi

On a big-game safari, it is important to maximize the first few hours after dawn. This is when the animals are most active, the cats prowling, and the herds marching onward. You will have had a few early starts over the last few days, but today is a chance to rest and recuperate. Spend the morning on your private veranda, watching baboons and monkeys swing past. Lounge by the pool or read a book in the decadent main camp area, or you may choose to return to Victoria Falls, where there are a couple of nice picnic spots by the river to discover. Or you might prefer to dine on the veranda, awaiting the hippos that emerge, before a sunset dinner cruise completes the day, reaffirming the idea of rest and relaxation in nature.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 9 – 10: Chobe National Park – Following the Elephants into the Forest

You cannot miss the elephants in this part of Africa, they are found close to your Livingstone camp and spotted along the highway on the short road journey to Botswana. Upwards of 100,000 migrate around this area, their different routes centered on the woodland of Chobe National Park. Follow their journey into the trees, a game drive taking you on remote sandy trails. At first, you see hundreds of them; elephants are continually crossing the trail, healthy babies in their midst. They are bulldozing paths between the trees, bashing the trunks with their monstrous rumps, and bathing in the Chobe River, squirting water and using their trunks as snorkels.

After an hour, you start counting in thousands. It is almost impossible to turn a corner and not see another elephant, whether a lone male bull with gigantic tusks or a large herd led by the matriarch. Giraffes are not quite as plentiful, but they are still spotted in staggering numbers, usually hundreds of them seen every day. Down at the river, you continue your encounters with hippos and on the open plains, you find zebra and impala huddled together. With so many elephants around, it is only safe to explore using game drives and boat safaris, and over these two days, you can combine both activities. While the numbers are eye-catching, the Chobe experience is most memorable for its detail. You will not remember how many elephants or giraffes you saw, but you will remember the moment the vehicle was surrounded by five with their tusks high above you, the tiny baby stumbling through its first steps, and the resounding hoots that perforate the nighttime silence.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 11: Makgadikgadi Pans National Park – Sublime Aerial Safari across Woodland, Delta, and Desert

Only from the air can you get a grasp on the scale of Africa’s habitats. The light aircraft connections between parks are not just a means of accessing these nearly inaccessible lands; they are a sublime window into the colors and contrasts of the continent. Today’s flight is the most striking, taking off above the thick green woodland, crossing the lush blue of the Okavango Delta, then descending across the dusty yellow and barren enormity of the Kalahari Desert. You land beside what was once Africa’s largest lake. It dried out in a prehistoric era, leaving behind a shimmering salt pan and the odd baobab tree. Check into a glamorous old-world camp, and spend the afternoon on a game drive in the Makgadikgadi Pans, searching for rare desert-adapted species that are difficult to spot anywhere else in Africa.

What’s Included: accommodation, domestic, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 12: Makgadikgadi Pans National Park – Adventures on the World’s Largest Salt Pan

Cross the mirage, a zebra herd coming out of the hazy blur along the horizon. Enormous and ethereal, these salt pans are bigger than Switzerland. There are no roads or permanent trails, as the landscape has been washed clean by the transformative summer rains, which briefly turn the pans white to green. From December to April, you will find the pans dappled with herds. From May onward, there is the same wildlife to find, but the game drives need to follow localized movements toward the last vestiges of grazing land and water. Springbok jump past, oryx horns rise skywards, and out of the mirage comes a white rhino, majestic on its nomadic journey.

Two animals provide the most iconic highlights. Less than 8,000 brown hyenas remain in the wild, and you find this bashful creature leaving prints all over the salt, traveling onward with a curious smile on its face. Meerkats poke their heads from their burrows, and a whole mob of them has been habituated to human presence, allowing for some very personal moments. When night falls, you continue to explore, a combination of moonlight and the guide’s spotlight helping to illuminate the nocturnal hunters such as aardwolves. Expect to spend this full day without seeing any other people, and expect to be awed by the silence and solitude, an experience that is as escapist as any other in Africa.

What’s Included: accommodation, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 13: Makgadikgadi Pans National Park – A Day with Zu/’hoasi Bushmen

Zu/’hoasi Bushmen are the gatekeepers of the pans, the pioneers of bush survival in the harsh surroundings of the Kalahari. They are your guides today, leading a unique journey into culture and nature. Start off on foot, learning the tricks of animal tracking, following the traditional methods of hunters. Discover how to forage on the pans, where every single plant has its own unique use, and spend time in a small semi-nomadic village, uncovering parts of culture that make the Zu/’hoasi Bushmen unique. You will fully immerse yourself in their world, quickly realizing that they should not be considered primitive, but rather, skilled experts capable of coexisting with wild four-legged giants and surviving on the rawest of the world’s landscapes.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 14: Makgadikgadi Pans National Park to Maun – Departure

You depart Southern Africa from Maun, a desert outpost in the heart of Botswana. It is just over a three-hour journey, about 40 miles on a rough road through the pans, then two hours on the desert highway. You will be transferred to Maun Airport with plenty of time to meet your international departure, which connects at O. R. Tambo International as it takes you home.

What’s Included: airport transfer, breakfast

Price

Price 

Your custom trip package will include accommodations, transportation within the country, guided tours and activities, unique experiences, trip planning, and 24X7 support during your trip. 

Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates!