Trips beyond Victoria Falls
If you are seeking an excursion for four or five days from the Falls area, then there are a number of superb game parks within easy reach. Some of the local operators run trips from Livingstone, and for backpackers there are usually a few operators running buses or trucks to Windhoek, Maun or even Harare. Like cut-down overland trips, these often stop at parks on the way.
Kafue National Park, Zambia
The southern side of Kafue is actually quite close to the Falls, though the area is undeveloped. Until recently, the choices here have been limited: fly the length of Kafue to the nearest high-quality lodge, in the extreme north of the park, or lead a mini-expedition of several fully-kitted 4WDs to get to the south side of the park. Both were great experiences, but both were costly.
Now a new camp in the south, Kaingu lodge promises to make the flight shorter and cheaper, and there are persistent rumours that some of the larger companies in Livingstone have plans for satellite safari camps in southern Kafue. see chapter 15 for more details of Kafue, and watch out for more trips here from Livingstone in the coming months.
Chobe National Park, Botswana
This is often suggested as a day trip from the Falls, but is really too far to be worthwhile. (You end up arriving after the best of the morning's game viewing is finished, and leaving before the afternoon cools down sufficiently for the game to re-appear!) However, the Chobe riverfront, around Serondella, probably has higher wildlife densities than any of the other parks mentioned here. So if you can cope with the sheer number of vehicles there, it may be worth a trip for a few days. Its luxurious lodges (and high park fees) mean that northern Chobe is always expensive.
In spite of that, day trips with some of the major operators are proving extremely popular. A typical trip with Wild Side at US$145 a head will incorporate a game drive and lunch at one of the hotels. Bushtracks includes a morning riverboat on the Chobe River, with an afternoon game drive (US$130), and Makora Quest even offers an excursion that also takes in Namibia's Kasai Wetlands followed by a game drive in Chobe Game Reserve, lunch, then a river cruise (US$150 per person). Longer trips are also available.
There are regular transfers between Victoria Falls and Kasane (in Botswana, beside the park) which take around two hours. Then stay at either Chobe Game Lodge or Chobe Chilwero – the only two lodges in that section of the park. Either can easily be arranged by a good tour operator before you arrive, or by a travel agent in the Falls. The lodges in Kasane, outside the park, don't compare. (Though Impalila Island Lodge or Ichingo Chobe River Camp are little-known options on the opposite bank of the river. Both are excellent value, and far cheaper.)
Alternatively, if you have a good 4WD then you can drive yourself around and (advance reservations essential) camp at the basic, unfenced site at Ihaha. Take all your food and equipment with you, and watch for the baboons.
Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe's flagship national park has four established public camps that provide excellent value, basic accommodation and camping. It also has several more basic camping spots at picnic sites.
Alternatively there is a bewildering choice of more expensive, all-inclusive private lodges clustered around its borders (and even dotted inside the park). The cheapest serious safari option from Victoria Falls is probably to rent a vehicle from Victoria Falls, and stay at the national park's camps. (Ideally perhaps Main Camp, then Sinamatella and perhaps Nantwich.) Note that the roads around most of these require a 4WD.
Chizarira National Park, Zimbabwe
One of Zimbabwe's wildest and least visited parks, Chizarira requires patience, lots of driving skill, and preferably a 4WD – and that's just to get there. Most visitors fly in, or are taken by an operator, and because the land is rugged and remote much of the game viewing is on foot. You won't see the quantities of game this way that you see elsewhere, but the wilderness experience is excellent.
One main lodge operates, Chizarira Wilderness Lodge, and also a tented camp, Jedson's Safari Camp. Both are excellent. Alternatively Leon Varley and his team run walking safaris here and have been doing so for years. They're another first-class operation.
Kasuma Pan National Park, Zimbabwe
This small, little-visited national park borders on to Botswana between the Zambezi and Hwange National Parks. Like Chizarira, it is used for walking safaris more than for driving, though the environment is very different. It consists of a huge, almost flat depression – a grass-covered pan surrounded by forests that are dominated by the familiar mopane and teak trees.
Only a few groups are allowed into the park at any time, each requiring a fully-licensed walking guide – which effectively limits access to organised operators.