Essential Zambia and Malawi: The Idyllic Safari Getaway

A 15 day trip to Malawi & Zambia 
5 out of 5 stars
9 reviews

Escapist and evocative, this two-week safari will explore the very best of Zambia and Malawi. Nighttime drives to admire leopards on the prowl, lazy days on Lake Malawi and the Zambezi River, elephants spotted while on a walking safari, canoeing past hippos, exquisite luxury camps, and a daily program that is expertly tailored to your interests. Including over a week of inspiring Big Five safari, this itinerary brings a relaxing getaway into the world where lions are king, and you can watch hippos while sunbathing.  With so many safari options, consider browsing some of our other itineraries to see how a walking safari brings amazing perspectives.

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General Information

Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Livingstone, Victoria Falls, Zambezi River, Sindabezi Island, Lower Zambezi National Park, South Luangwa National Park, Luangwa River, Luwi River, Lilongwe, Lake Malawi, Likoma Island

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Livingstone – Victoria Falls Welcomes You to Zambia

Step off the plane in Zambia, and you will probably be a little tired from the flight. Zambia is not really close to anywhere, and that is part of the appeal as you can escape into a world that has not been polluted by modern noise and excess. Nature has always ruled, and within 30 minutes of stepping off of the plane, you will discover the power of these expressions of nature. Stand before Victoria Falls and watch millions of gallons of water metronomically pour over the edge while you listen to the growling thunder that confirms nature’s authority.

This is nature untouched and untamed, a monument that will help you to settle immediately into the rhythm of this two-week safari. You will be greeted at the airport and transferred to the falls, and it will be a 15-minute walk to a number of viewpoints. Later in the afternoon, the guide will transfer you to Tongabezi Lodge, a stunning waterfront property that continues this immersion in the serene ambiance of Zambia. Exquisitely located and built from local wood, this is the first of five handpicked lodges on this safari. Take your time, enjoy dinner as hippos are grazing nearby, and watch the stars slowly transform the night’s sky.

What’s Included: accommodation at Tongabezi Lodge, airport transfer, tour, dinner

Days 2 – 3: Zambezi River – Tranquility and Exploration From a Luxurious Island Base

Relax, take your time and enjoy breakfast on your balcony or you can enjoy it by the lake at a table nestled beneath the shade of an ebony tree. There is nothing planned for this morning so that it will just be you and the wildlife enjoying each other’s company. Baboons may swing past to say hello as hippos grunt as if vying for attention. Coffee and fresh juice are served with uninterrupted views over the water as you take it all in. After lunch at the lodge, you will be transferred by boat to Sindabezi Island for a beautiful journey that will give a glimpse of the wildlife that occupies the banks. It will be blissfully quiet, and your thatched suite will be hidden amongst the trees at the river’s edge.

For the next two days, it will be rare to see any other people beyond the local staff that will serve you, but there is a lot to experience depending on your mood. Explore the Zambezi in a canoe and gain a first-hand perspective on how the hippos quarrel over their wading space or return to Victoria Falls to helicopter above them. Cruise along the Zambezi in the morning, travel up to the lip of the falls and see where the intensity of the spectacle is inescapable. You could also cruise the Zambezi at sunset as it glows golden while you sip cocktails. There are also options for a private picnic on another island, along with fishing excursions: both are included in your package. The guides will discuss potential options, and you will be able to tailor these two days to your interests.

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

Days 4 – 6: Lower Zambezi National Park – Dreamy Big-Game Safari in a World Heritage Wetland

Your small plane will follow the curves of the Zambezi River and fly east to the World Heritage wetlands. As with the last three days, your accommodation will be on the water with the spacious Chongwe River Camp perched on the confluence of the Zambezi and Chongwe rivers. Lounge chairs and a swimming pool provide the dreamy views, and there’s lots of wildlife passing through. Buffalos occasionally swim across the river, zebra kick up water as they canter along the shallows, while elephant herds dot the banks with their enduring grace. The Lower Zambezi National Park is a place of abundance, a site of permanent water that attracts animals from hundreds of miles around. Safari is easy here, and you will not need to travel far in order to see the big mammals.

Rivers and channels form a maze that can be explored in a canoe while walking trails connect a series of lakes. Game drives follow rugged tracks, bumping you into a wilderness where elephants and lions thrive. The itinerary is flexible, and you will create a personalized daily program with a private guide. Some like to maximize their time on the water, others prefer game drives that reach the park’s remote corners.  Others cannot get enough of walking safaris while some find more than 20 minutes to be a little frightening. It is hard to know you will like if you’ve never been on safari before, which is why a privately guided safari is so important in Zambia.

Walk through the wilderness with an armed guide and follow the huge elephant footprints to the lakeshore. Your heart rate will rise as you watch the herd from a safe distance, the matriarchs squirting cooling water over their backs. On another day, you will be following a pride of lionesses, five of them stalking a zebra herd as sunset colors light up the sky. In the gloom, you can make out the kill and listen to the haunting crack of jaws ripping bones from the carcass. Out on the water, you can spend an hour admiring a hippo pod and come to understand how size controls almost everything in the wild. Whatever you plan for the day, your safari never stops just because you are back at your camp. Just sit back and enjoy the wildlife that wanders along the banks, barely 20 meters from your raised vantage point.

What’s Included: accommodation at Chogwe River Camp, domestic flight, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 7 – 11: South Luangwa National Park – Immersed in the Wonder of Zambia’s Flagship Destination

A short flight to Mfuwe and you will see why it is important to go on a safari in different national parks. The landscapes of South Luangwa are entirely different, made up of singed grassy plains, open photogenic valleys and tracts of remote woodland. The region is dry and dusty, which forces animals to stay within easy reach of the park’s lifeblood, the Luangwa River and its tributaries. These five days of safari will be split across two exquisite Norman Carr bush camps in the heart of the park. Both stand over the river for dreamy game viewing without leaving the camp. Chalets are nestled beneath the trees have sublime en-suite bathrooms that are open to the stars while the canvas walls allow the sounds of South Luangwa to lull you to sleep.

These five days will be all about immersion in the wilderness and the natural theater of Zambia’s flagship destination. Like the Lower Zambezi, you will be free to create your own daily itinerary from a wide range of potential activities. Nighttime drives are a must, and you will go in search of leopards as the spotted hunters prowl in the dark, pouncing on lechwe, wildebeest, zebra, bushbuck and other antelope. Your guide will find them with a roving spotlight, and then all artificial light is turned off, and your eyes will adjust to the gloom. Sounds will then be your guide, and when the light returns, you will see the leopard bounding off with a carcass.

Walks are exquisite, and they can take you far from any vehicle trails and into landscapes that will delight you with their primitive atmosphere. Your guides will teach you how to track animals, how to recognize all of the different clues and creep safely towards giraffe, buffalo, gemsbok and other ungulates. Game drives will follow the clues left by the big cats while also introducing you to South Luangwa’s endemic species. Cookson’s wildebeest gallop past in the morning hours, their infectious enthusiasm lingering long in the memory. Thornicroft giraffe will showcase the photogenically bright markings, and it will be easy to get lost in the tight stripes of Crawshay’s zebra.

This is a destination of drama and charm. Watch as baby elephants chase away warthogs, their trunks throwing up dust as they swirl on the ground. Find cheetah cubs hiding in the grass, tucked into the nurturing bosom of their mother. Listen to two male lions roaring and then jump quickly into your safari vehicle to explore what they are quarreling about. Some days you will lie in and spend a morning amongst the diaphanous soundtrack of the wild. Other days, you will explore the plains at sunrise to find fresh lion kills and energetic migratory herds. For five days, there will be nothing artificial, and you will escape to where elephants are your neighbors and every moment can bring surprise and enchantment.

What’s Included: accommodation at two Norman Carr bush camps, domestic flight, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 12 – 14: Likoma Island – The Unrivaled Serenity of Lake Malawi

A short flight via Lilongwe and you will be immersed in another ancient landscape. Mango trees flourish along the banks of Lake Malawi, bougainvillea and the odd baobab envelop Kaya Maya camp, and your detached hut will have glorious vistas over the water. Your private deck has direct access to the lake, and the clear waters are a haven for easy snorkeling. There will be no need for shoes and little use for time here, something that’s epitomized by the camp’s name. Kaya Mawa translates as “maybe tomorrow,” a recognition that once you arrive, it is okay to lounge around and not feel any guilt whatsoever.

Lake Malawi connects three countries and hundreds of miles of rugged escarpments. Likoma Island provides views out onto the mainland, yet also has its own treats. Take a bicycle or quad bike and marvel at St Peter’s Cathedral, an enormous structure built by missionaries from stone imported from Britain. Enjoy the friendly welcome at a local village to see first-hand the laid-back lifestyle that makes Malawi such an idyllic destination. Nothing is ever rushed here, and while that does not impress UN rankings on economic development, you will find the Malawian people to be amongst the most optimistic and hospitable on the planet.  There is a reason that the country is nicknamed the “warm heart of Africa.”

Back at your camp, there will be options for sailing on the lake, guided snorkeling excursions, and walks through the native forest. But mostly, these last three days are about lying back and savoring the serenity. Eat dinner with your toes in the sand, watch sunsets paint the sky, lose yourself in the rhythm of the island, and enjoy the classic waterfront escape. You will be at the sort of destination that could hold you captive for weeks on end, although three days is just about right to immerse you in the atmosphere without letting you slip too deeply into island life.

What’s Included: accommodation at Kaya Mawa, international flight, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner  

Day 15: Likoma Island to Lilongwe – Departure

You will depart from the region at Lilongwe International Airport via a short flight from Likoma Island. Even at the airport, you will come to notice the laid-back atmosphere that makes Malawi and Zambia such memorable destinations.

What’s Included: domestic flight, transfer, breakfast


Starting Price 

This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.