Looking for a real African experience? Right in the heart of central Africa, traveling in Zambia offers some of the world’s best safari opportunities, a glimpse into the “real heart of Africa”.
Zambia is a landlocked country in Southern Africa roughly the size of France. Bordered by Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, the narrow Caprivi Strip in Namibia, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Formerly known as Northern Rhodesia in colonial times, the name was changed to Zambia on independence in 1964.
Getting to Zambia is easy enough: You can do so by train, plane or car. If you choose to fly into Zambia, Proflight Zambia, the country’s leading scheduled airline, provides internal domestic routes to major centers and regional routes to Lilongwe in Malawi and Durban, South Africa. You can also fly on fastjet, who offer low-cost international flights to numerous countries in East Africa.
Now that you’re in the country, let’s take a look at what activities in Zambia you can expect to experience:
1. Walking Safaris
Trekking through lush grass or dusty sandbanks on the trail of a pride of lions is a thrilling experience and one of the most special experiences for safaris in Zambia. Walking safaris are a focus of tourism in eastern Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park, Royal Zambezi Lodge and other reserves.
2. The Luangwa Valley
This vast expanse of African bush features the best of Zambia’s national parks. It is rated as an excellent safari destination.
The South Luangwa National Park is the most popular and has year-round access. It is one of Africa’s ecologically unspoilt wilderness areas. The national park is 9,050 square km in size and home to more than 420 species of birds and 60 species of mammals.
The park is renowned for its high population of leopards, large herds of elephant as well as great numbers of hippo and crocodile in the river. Lions are commonly seen in South Luangwa National Park. The lion prides here include up to 20 animals.
In Kasanka National Park in the northeast “sitatungas”, a semi-aquatic and highly elusive antelope, are commonly spotted. Nearby the Bangweulu wetlands is the only place in Africa where you can see vast herds of black “lechwe” antelope. In November, tens of thousands of blue wildebeest gather on the plains of Liuwa Plain National Park, and in Kafue National Park. lions can be seen swimming in swamps and even climbing sycamore trees. You also have a chance to see wild dogs, a hard-to-spot carnivore endangered throughout Africa.
3. Rafting on the Zambezi
Extreme sports enthusiasts flock to this venue for the thrill of a lifetime! Acclaimed as the “wildest one-day whitewater run in the World” and recognized as one of the top 10 paddling rivers in the world, the Zambezi river, below Victoria Falls, has class 3- 5 rapids interspersed with tranquil pools.
If however, you prefer something a little more tranquil, you can get up close and personal with sunbathing crocs, thirsty elephants and hippo pods on a leisurely paddle along the lower Zambezi River. Trips are generally upwards of two nights, but you can spend a week sleeping in wilderness camps all the way downstream to the beautiful Mpata Gorge.
4. Victoria Falls
One of the world’s Seven Natural Wonders and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Victoria Falls is nothing short of spectacular. Located on the Zambezi River, the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, it is one of the most magnificent waterfalls in the world.
The noise of Victoria Falls can be heard from a distance of 40 kilometers, while the spray and mist from the falling water rises to a height of more than 400 meters and can be seen from a distance of 50 kilometers. Known to local tribes as “Mosi-oa-Tuntya – The Smoke that Thunders” it is more than a kilometer wide, and more than 100 meters high. It was discovered by Scottish missionary and famous explorer David Livingstone (1813-1873) who named it after Queen Victoria. Adventure seekers can choose heart-pumping activities including a bungee jump from the bridge, a ‘swing’ and ‘slide’, and abseiling.
5. The People and Culture
Zambians are easy-going, welcoming and open. Zambia’s capital of Lusaka is a cosmopolitan mix of people in a city featuring stylish restaurants and clubs and traditional bustling outdoor markets.
Accommodation in Zambia offers a wide range of options and you can choose from fabulously luxurious riverside lodges, 5-star hotels, stylish tented safari camps, rustic and remote bush camps, to homely guesthouses and B&B’s, self-catering chalets, backpackers, campsites, a houseboat or even a mud hut in a rural village where you can experience true Zambian village life and fare.
An example of the cosmopolitan flavor of Lusaka can be found at the new 4-star Best Western Plus Lusaka Grand Hotel, a striking addition to a fast growing, dynamic and energetic capital.
A cultural highlight of any trip to Zambia is a visit to some of the traditional festivals held throughout the country. Try to get to:
Kazanga, Kaoma: Zambia’s oldest traditional ceremony, celebrated by the Nkoya people for more than 500 years, celebrates and maintains Nkoya traditions of music, dance and other ancient practices.
Kuomboka, Lealui/Limulunga: The most famous of Zambia’s festivals, this is the ceremonial migration of the Lozi king (Litunga) from his dry season abode at Lealui to his wet season palace at Limulunga. Wearing an elaborate Victorian ambassador’s costume, the Litunga is taken by a flotilla of barges down the river, with musical accompaniment and much feasting at the destination.
Likumbi Lya Mize (August): A popular August festival (The Day of Mize) sees people of the Luvale tribe gather to celebrate their cultural heritage , with displays of handicrafts, traditional singing and dancing while the chief holds court.
You can find the other selections for tours in Zambia through Destination Zambia.