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Zambia: The New Eden?

Like Botswana, Zambia is a vast country, sparsely populated and politically stable. It encompasses four huge national parks with game concentrations that rival Botswana's, three of Africa's largest rivers -- the Zambezi, Kafue, and Luangwa -- and a portion of Victoria Falls. But unlike Botswana, where you can sometimes struggle to find a bed in high season, Zambia is a relatively uncharted new frontier. Given its beauty, it was only a matter of time before the top wilderness operators started moving in, providing access to huge tracts of untouched wilderness via charter plane, boat, and (in most cases, given the wildness of the terrain) helicopter. Camps are not nearly as expensive as in Botswana, though Botswana operators may be more inclined to strike a bargain in this current economic climate. Game-viewing, however, is not quite on a par; animals are not as habituated to human presence, and the terrain can be thickly vegetated. If you want vast, untouched wilderness, however, it's hard to beat if you can spare more than a few days.

The place for a first-time visitor to start is the beautiful South Luangwa National Park, which has a host of superb camps such as award-winning Chiawa (www.chiawa.com), followed by a visit to the more remote North Luangwa National Park. Top choices here are Mwaleshi (www.remoteafrica.com) and Kutandala (www.kutandala.com). Alternatively, combine a sojourn in South Luangwa with the equally remote Kafue National Park, to the west (here, take a look at Shumba Camp and Busanga Bushcamp -- both www.wilderness-safaris.com). Lower Zambezi National Park, in the south, is the place to go for a canoe safari (take a look at the laid-back glamour of Sausage Tree Camp, www.sausagetreecamp.com) before or after popping down to witness the magnificent Victoria Falls.

For a one-stop shop, Wilderness Safaris (www.wilderness-safaris.com), the biggest and most successful southern Africa operator, has -- predictably -- nabbed some of the best locations, mostly in Kafue. Following closely behind is Ker & Downey, which has five camps in South Luangwa, three in Livingstone, and one in Lower Zambezi. Aside from these are a number of independent owner-managed lodges and camps. For background information, visit the official site, www.zambiatourism.com.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.