Inside the Zambia expedition with Ultimate Adventures

One lucky Tracks4Africa user is going on an expedition to Zambia with Ultimate Adventures. Tour leader Simon Steadman shares some of the highlights encountered on their Zambian trip.

Organised by Ultimate Adventures, the Zambia Migrations Expedition takes in two unforgettable wildlife spectacles. What’s more, it explores untamed parts of Zambia and allows you enough time to really get to know the country. Simon Steadman and his wife, Desiree, not only co-own Ultimate Adventures, they also lead the overlanding tours. Simon tells us what to expect on the Zambia expedition.

Simon and Desiree Steadman are your guides and hosts on an expedition with Ultimate Adventures.

What makes Zambia an appealing destination for overlanders?

What draws us to Zambia is that it’s not crowded or commercialised. The parks are still wild and remote – a proper African experience. And then the people in Zambia are amongst the most friendly and helpful on the continent. Dealing with Zambians is always a pleasure, they just can’t do enough for you.

People also always comment on the colours in Zambia. When you drive through the little villages, you’ll notice women in brightly coloured sarongs and shopfronts painted in vivid colours. It’s the vibrance that stands out. Photographers have a field day in the country – not just for the abundance of wildlife found in the parks, but also for the landscapes and people.

What are some of the gems on this expedition?

Liuwa Plain National Park is proper, untouched Africa: it’s wild and really remote. Liuwa is a big highlight of the expedition, along with the wildebeest migration. We time the trip so that it coincides with the start of the rains and we usually catch the migration in full flow.

Then the Kasanka bat migration is something that everybody should see at some stage in their life. On the first night we go to the viewing area just outside the forest. When those bats start coming out, the wonder is written on people’s faces.

The skies above Kasanka National Park are the setting for an extraordinary display when millions of bats leave their roost at dusk.

One of the gems on the tour that everybody enjoys is Sioma Falls, which not many people know about. Getting there is like a little adventure. After walking through the bush and crossing rivers, you reach this amazing waterfall in the middle of nowhere.

On our way from Liuwa to Kasanka to see the bats, we stay just outside the Kafue National Park, right on the banks of the Kafue River. It’s a beautiful place to watch the sunset and listen to the hippos in the river. It’s not just a stopover or transit camp, it’s got lots to offer. And that’s true of all the places we choose to stay at.

What makes this tour a good holiday?

It’s time away from the distractions of work and technology. So you can give your full attention to the experience and to your partner or family. On expedition you’re spending quality time with the people in your vehicle. That’s why a lot of the folk on our tours are high-powered businesspeople. This tour gives them the time to really unwind and reconnect. Also we try not to rush through places, so people don’t get home feeling tired. You won’t be packing up and moving on every day.

Being part of an expedition takes a lot of the stress of travelling away. We deal with the border crossings – we frequently have contacts that can smooth the way. We also prepare dinner in the evening, so you can focus on your game drive and relaxing with a gin and tonic afterwards. Basically you’re free to focus on the fun parts of overlanding.

The wildebeest migration in Liuwa Plain National Park is second only to the Serengeti’s, but doesn’t attract nearly the same number of tourists.

Do you need to be a hard-core offroader?

Our expeditions are great for experienced overlanders, but novice 4×4 drivers can easily join. When we get to terrain that’s tricky – rocky surfaces, water crossings or sand driving – we discuss each obstacle in advance. You’ll get on-the-go training about the right gears and techniques to use in order to tackle the obstacle safely.

You don’t have to go all out in terms of equipment either. In fact, it’s better not to buy everything ahead of an expedition, but rather see what works for others on the trip and then gradually add to your setup. You’ll be fine with the basic camping equipment. And you don’t need to bring recovery gear, because we’re there as the guide vehicle with all the necessary equipment.

It’s really an experience for everyone. There’s this image that 4×4 is a male dominated thing, that it’s about going into the bush and getting dirty. But this is an overlanding experience, it’s not rough and ready. My wife is on expedition, so that gives other women peace of mind.

Known as Ngonye or Sioma Falls, this waterfall in the southern part of Barotseland is one of Zambia’s lesser known gems.

How should you approach the expedition to get the most from it?

What I always try to instil in people over the first few days is to slow down. Take off your watch, get into a slower pace, forget about the timings and distances. We’ll handle the logistics, you just need to appreciate every moment.

Enjoy the journey, don’t be focused on the destination. To help people, Desiree does a chat around the fire about the highlights of each day. There might not be a great lion sighting on a transit day, but we might have driven past a beautiful baobab. It’s interesting to see the different things people notice. When you immerse yourself in the culture and open your eyes – and your mind – to everything around you, you get a lot more from the experience.

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