The Lower Zambezi National Park is a late starter and a fast developer. Only gazetted in 1980 (all Zambia's other parks have a pre-independence history) it's perhaps precisely because the safari operators here don't feel the need to doff-their-caps to any bygone legacy that the camps have evolved independently from a standard model with a style and panache that has been making waves far beyond Zambia's borders.
Mana Pools on the opposite bank in Zimbabwe used to be the place to go and has retained a wilder edge – there you will find wild-eyed bearded gentlemen who have made it their life's work to take you ridiculously close to elephants on foot. The Lower Zambezi is all together more refined, clean cut and clean shaven.
The camps here are extremely comfortable and stylish and offer, shock-horror, a choice of fare. The idea here is not to sweat and toil for the game but rather to float amongst it, not to take it all too seriously but rather have a very pleasant and civilised time with plenty to see and do.
This is the perfect epicurean safari, a spot of fishing, maybe a gentle amble, pop out in the boat or take a little look-see in the jeep. The knowledge of the guides is however as good as you will find anywhere and so it can be as seriously educational as you wish, they just haven't forgotten that you are here to have fun and nobody will sneer at you if you can't tell a waxbill from weaver.
The fact that the river is navigable by boat or canoe adds a huge amount to the experience – swimming elephant, wading buffalo or lions lounging on a river bank surveying their domain are majestic sights and all eminently possible.
On paper the Lower Zambezi has a slightly inferior species list to the Luangwa or Kafue but in reality does it really matter? Lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and hippo are all here and in a glorious technicolour setting (hands-up if you've missed the hartebeest?) and so while it may never be the destination of choice for the safari-zealot it is possibly THE perfect place to combine game-viewing with relaxation.
There is as much or as little to do as you wish – the activities are varied and the unfailingly stunning positioning of the camps along the river bank mean that there is always plenty to watch back at base. As the hottest spot in Zambia swimming pools are welcome and, of course, provided.
The damming of the mighty Zambezi upstream has tamed the seasonal flooding somewhat which in turn has changed the landscape that otherwise would be more comparable to the Luangwa. Mighty forests of winterthorn have grown unhindered by the floods, creating picturesque glades often replete with elephant who covet the fruit.
The Lower Zambezi makes for the perfect climax to a Zambian safari – a place to chill-out somewhat after the slightly more challenging exertions of the Luangwa or the Kafue, spoil yourselves in comfort and style while still being exposed to the most fabulous animals in a seriously photogenic setting.