In Search of Zambia’s Stunning Wildlife: A Virtual Safari

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With travel restrictions in place worldwide, we’re turning to photojournalists who can help transport you, virtually, to some of our planet’s most beautiful and intriguing places. We’re calling this new series “The World Through a Lens.” This week, the photographer Marcus Westberg shares a collection of wildlife photographs from Zambia, which he’s visited six times in the last decade.


Although highly appreciated by safari aficionados, Zambia has long flown under the radar for first-time visitors to Africa, overshadowed by its better known regional neighbors: Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana and South Africa.

But this landlocked country boasts some of the continent’s best national parks, primarily those lining the crocodile- and hippo-infested Luangwa River — and that’s not to mention the magnificent Victoria Falls.

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The first time I set eyes on the muddy-brown Luangwa, I was 23 years old and on my first big African adventure. I arrived by public bus; the 75 miles from the border town of Chipata took over seven hours.

(I had to enter and exit the bus through a window, and I shared my chair-frame — the cushion was missing — with a very large lady and her rather terrified-looking hen.)

I spent the next three weeks camping high up on a tree platform — so as to avoid playful baboons and marauding elephants — and exploring South Luangwa National Park when I could.

Often, though, I’d stay within the camp for days on end. The elephants would come through twice a day, the hippos every night, and the monkeys were never far away.

I’ve been back here and to the neighboring Luambe and North Luangwa national parks half a dozen times since. I have spent nights in dried riverbeds with friends and atop vehicles with wild-dog researchers, blanketed by nothing but the Milky Way.

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I have tracked elephants and lions on foot, watched leopards hunt, hippos fight, zebras run and flocks of carmine bee-eaters dart in and out of their nests.

In Zambia, there’s something for everyone. The wildlife viewing in parts of South Luangwa can rival that of most of Africa’s top safari destinations. In Luambe you may literally have an entire park to yourself.

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There are other Zambian gems, of course — the wide-open spaces of Liuwa Plain and Kafue national parks; the unspoiled wilderness of the Lower Zambezi; the thundering Victoria Falls.

But the Luangwa Valley was my first, and still strongest, love.


Marcus Westberg is a photographer and writer who focuses primarily on conservation and development issues in Sub-Saharan Africa.


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