Move over Botswana. On Wildland Adventures’ Ultimate African Adventure, Zambia takes center stage. Top-notch animal viewing, a relatively undiscovered outback, and small group sizes make this trip one of the best deals going for a complete Africa experience. “Zambia is comparable to Botswana for wildlife, but with far fewer people,” says program director Julia Nesbitt. “It’s the ultimate Africa adventure for active teens—they can feel independent, like they’re going out in the wilderness on their own, but still do it safely.”
The first stop on the tour is 300-foot (91-meter) Victoria Falls, where you can raft the Zambezi River’s Class V rollers or plunge toward the spray on a group bungee jump. From there, you’ll head into South Luangwa National Park for a three-day walking safari with local Zambian guides. You’ll spot creatures you’d never see from a vehicle—whether as small as a dung beetle or as heart-stopping as a pride of lions. Bed down at Puku Ridge, a traditional tented safari camp overlooking a dambo (wetlands) full of elephants, leopards, giraffes, wildebeests, and impalas. At night, carry your flashlight in case you run into a hippo—their trails go right through the camp!
The game-watching is hard to beat, but the private island camp in Lake Malawi National Park comes close. The fully furnished safari-style tents—with fire-warmed bucket showers—welcome you after a day of secluded kayaking and beachcombing. “Malawi and Zambia are just coming into their own,” says Nesbitt. “Now is definitely the time to go.”
Where to Play
At Victoria Falls, go tiger fishing or canoe the calm waters above the waterfall. If water level is low, you might get the chance to boat out to Livingstone, the island that seems to teeter on the brink of the massive waterfall. There, gaze at rainbows in the mist as you swim in a natural infinity pool, where overflowing waters plunge 300 feet (90 meters). Take a break from the water to visit a local school. Kids are paired up with locals their age to hang out or join in a game of soccer.
At Day's End
Sneak off midday for a solo hike while guides, back from their morning treks, keep an eye on the kids. At Puku Ridge, send the teens off for a family-style meal with the rest of your travel group. Then settle in for a private sunset dinner on your veranda overlooking silhouetted baobabs on the dambo.
11 days, $7,895 per person; www.wildland.com
Based on articles from National Geographic Adventure and updated by Greer Schott