Located in South – Central Africa, Zambia is a landlocked country bordered by Angola, Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Botswana.
Most of Zambia’s land area is a flat rolling plateau. The eastern part of the country is bounded by eroded uplands called the Muchinga Mountains. Southeast of the uplands lies the Luangwa Trench that is an extension of the Great Rift Valley. The country that has been described by many as “The Real Africa” is teeming with open areas populated with rich varieties of wildlife, majestic forest areas, as well as wild rivers and wetlands that are coupled with stunning lakes and impressive waterfalls.
Zambia is a country full of surprises. The country is a great tourist destination for people and families that are ready to experience and witness exceptional game viewing. Enjoy a river cruise in the Zambezi National Park. Experience walking the safari in Luangwa National Park or have a game drive in Kafue which is the largest of Zambia’s 19 national parks and the only place where you can see real cheetahs. Probably, the main highlight of a Zambian visit is staying on the Zambezi River – just upstream of the jaw dropping view of the thundering Victoria Falls. This site is not only popular as the longest sheet of falling water in the world but also known for its wide array of adrenaline rushing water activities.
If you are out for a good thrill, the country has some of the best wildlife parks, like the Lake Kariba and Lower Zambezi National Park in Southeastern Zambia. Fishermen from all over the world try their luck on the mighty Zambezi River with the hopes of catching any toothy tiger fish or the rare giant vundu. Bird enthusiasts also flock in Zambia to witness its fantastic species of birds; one of them is the popular Chaplin’s barbets.
The country is also a great challenge for some independent travelers, with every distance from one major town or city to other tourist attraction sites needs effort. Getting around may pose a great ordeal but this is exactly what attract people who are into one good adventure.
When to Travel
Although located in the tropics, Zambia has distinct seasons due to its elevated position. This provides visitors with various perspectives depending on the time of the year.
The dry season that starts from May to August is the coolest time of the year. This is the best time to visit Zambia for bird watching or to visit the majestic Victoria Falls as they are at their best. Water levels are low allowing tourists to catch a glimpse of the magnificent rock formations or simply sit in a rock and peer over the edge.
September to November on the other hand is the start of the hot season. Temperatures may climb up to scorching degrees. Traveling can also be a hassle because of the dusts and heat on dirt roads. Despite this, good game–spotting on safari is entertaining as thirsty wildlife congregates around some remaining watering holes. This season is known as the “Emerald Season” mainly because of abundant green vegetations. Bird watching is great during these months too – much better than the dry season.
Then, temperatures begin to cool down during the months of December to April which is the wet season. As the name implies, there is really a lot of rain that may take few hours or days to end. Roads become murky and muddy, thus making them impassable.
Cuisine and Drink
Zambian Cuisine mainly involves one staple food which is maize, served in one form, nsima. It is a kind of porridge rolled into balls and dipped into various types of stews known as relishes. Meat relishes are commonly in the form of beef, chicken or fish but there are also peanuts and beans that are delicious as well.
Western Food is also served in various restaurants but is particularly found in some major cities like Lusaka or Livingstone where you can see almost any food you like.
Tourists will likely to pass by some fast-food stalls where burgers, pizzas, and chicken are typically served. In fact, this is becoming very popular in Zambia that even the locals cannot resist it.
Restaurants worth visiting include “The Intercontinental” in Lusaka which is famous for their Sunday brunch. On the other hand, if it is Indian food that you love, be sure to hit The Dil. They serve the best Indian dishes in town.
“Tuck shops” are commonly found along the roadways. This is quite handy for travelers since they feature take-away meals like meat pies, sausage rolls and even packaged cookies.
For thirsty travelers, a local drink worth trying is maheu – a refreshing beverage which is somehow similar in texture to yogurt and is made from maize meal. The factory version of maheu is sweet and comes in different flavors like banana, chocolate and orange while those that are homemade are often unflavored and less sweet. Coke products are also available in the country. Alcohol drinkers will definitely enjoy Zambia’s best known brew Mosi. Eagle is even tastier while Zambezi Lager is a must – taste. Imports can also be found in large markets like Carlsberg (Malawi), Simba (Congo), Tusker (Kenya) and Kilimanjaro from Tanzania. “Homebrews” are the local’s choice of drink – from beers made of honey to wine made from tea leaves.
The awe – inspiring waterfall should be seen up close and not just from any photograph or post card. No amount of digital technology can do justice to this natural wonder of the world. It is a hotspot for some exciting activities like whitewater rafting, elephant-back safaris, bungee jumping and walking with lions. The thundering sound of Zambezi River in full flood crashing down to Batoka Gorge and drenching visitors in a fine mist – which also creates wonderful rainbows is such a spectacular view one should not miss. This is the main reason that the locals branded the place as “The Smoke that Thunders.”
National Parks and Game Reserves
Kafue National Park
This is Zambia’s largest reserve located north of the famous Victoria Falls. The rivers here are full of crocodiles and hippos making it a classic big game. Just like all other parks in Zambia, this is also a paradise for different species of birds, attracting a number of bird watchers every year.
Vast herds of red lechwe, hartebeest and even the rare sitatunga graze freely on the Busanga flood plains where prides of lion and rare African Wild dogs usually hunt. There are lots of predators seeking haven in Kafue. In fact, this is the only park where you can see cheetahs.
South Luangwa National Park
A park where walking safaris began – this is also a vast wildlife reserve. Surrounding sceneries are worth seeing and great game viewing based around the Luangwa River has given the South Luangwa National Park the reputation as the country’s top park.
The area is pretty well-known for its numerous leaps of leopard. Lions are common sights too. Huge Nile crocodiles lie around on sunny riverbanks and herds of elephant can be seen gathering around lakes for a drink. Thornicroft’s giraffe – a rare land animal can also be sighted in South Luangwa.
North Luangwa National Park
Although less popular than its southern counterpart, North Luangwa National Park is still one of the country’s most impressive sight. Only a number of operators are licensed to organize safaris into this exclusive park. Usually, tourist will need to book before any trips are allowed.
Lower Zambezi National Park
Located on the banks of the Zambezi River just opposite of the Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe, the Lower Zambezi National Park is one of the newest and most beautiful reserves in Zambia. It is known to give some exciting water based wildlife viewing either by canoe or by boat. Tiger fishing is also popular in this part of the country.
Kwacha(k) is Zambia’s unit of currency. Kwacha means “sunrise” named after Zambia’s independence. It is sometimes listed as Zambian kwacha (ZMK or kw). Prices can be quoted in kwacha, US dollars and some other known currencies depending on different businesses that base their rates in different currencies. However, changing Euros will pose a great deal of effort especially up country because bureaus will be giving a poor rate even 25% less than the market rate. International banks will accept Euro exchange but with accompanied higher commission charge. Known banks and establishments to accept Euros at an acceptable rate are Finance Bank and Arcades in the shopping center of Lusaka. They do not even charge any commission fees.
Branches of Barclays Bank and Standard Chartered Bank are widely accessible in major cities and other large towns. These are the two trusted banks in the country where you can change cash and travellers cheques. There are also branches with ATM machines and accept major cards like Visa. Aside from banks, foreign exchange offices and bureaus are also available and easy to find in all cities and major towns.