With neighboring Zimbabwe in turmoil, Zambia has emerged as the newest player in southern Africa’s safari triangle. It shares Victoria Falls’ thundering whitewater and the Lower Zambezi’s hippo-studded canoe trail. But it’s South Luangwa National Park that rivals Botswana’s Okavango Delta, South Africa’s Kruger National Park, and other celebrated wildlife haunts. No one knows the Luangwa Valley better than Robin Pope—the Zambian-born bush guide was leading trips before anyone here had ever heard of adventure travel. In keeping with his unconventional—and acute—bush wisdom, Pope advises clients to come during the "Emerald Season," a six-month stretch beginning in November when spectacular thunderstorms roll through, swell the Luangwa River to its high mark, and leave the land a brilliant green and the sky an intense blue. Birds break out in breeding plumage, and elephants, zebras, and warthogs form nursery herds. Witness the local life cycle unfold during an eight-day floating, walking, and 4x4 safari. Candlelit dinners and South African vintages are served up nightly at Nkwali, the Pope family’s 14-guest homestead ($2,700 per person; robinpopesafaris.net).