Cape Town-based guest blogger David Bristow reveals some lesser-known destinations that you’ll want to add to your safari bucket list. Kafue National Park in south-central Zambia in an excellent option if you're looking to avoid crowded areas during the peak season, which runs from May to August.
You have no doubt heard of the Okavango and are longing to visit, but why not consider Kafue National Park in south-central Zambia. For starters Zambia is, like Botswana, an extremely laid-back and politically stable country. No travel issues here other than the usual anti-malarial measures.
The park (the oldest in Zambia) covers around 15,000 square miles and consists mainly of open grass plains and wetlands extending out from and fed by the Kafue River, the main tributary of the Zambezi.
In the wet season most camps and lodges have to close for half the year due to seasonal flooding, and at some you will enjoy your first game viewing experience from air strip to lodge by boat. In the dry season you can expect to get the full safari package when it comes to this wild and remote national park. Welcome to the real Africa!
Kafue has its fair share of big game including lions, leopards, elephants and buffalo but more than its fair share of some less familiar species such as the aforementioned lechwe, puku and sable antelope. Also those rarest of large carnivores, cheetah and African wild dog. Keen birders will delight in seeing rare spectacles including large flocks of wattled and crowned cranes, as well as local “specials” such as – among the 500-plus species recorded – Pel’s fishing owl, African finfoot and Böhm’s bee-eater.
Safari innovator and co-founder of Wilderness Safaris, Great Plains Conservation and Natural Selection, Colin Bell says: “Hot spots such as the Okavango and Serengeti/Masai Mara experience ‘overtourism,’ but only at certain times of the year. The tourism load can be spread geographically throughout Southern Africa and to the smaller reserves, which in turn creates jobs that, all in all, boost the economy.”
And then there is the cost thing. Kafue does have at least one five scatter-cushion lodge, but also some charmingly rustic ones. Anyway, who needs cushions when you have the comforts of real, uncluttered Africa wilderness to savor.