Named after the mighty Zambezi River, Zambia is the home of the walking safari. It is also famed for its rivers, which feed a wide range of habitats, as well as the magnificent Victoria Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world.
The country boasts some superb game parks, including the South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi National Parks. The town of Livingstone is a charming and pleasant tourist destination, with many restaurants and shopping opportunities.
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The upside to Zambia’s rough roads and long distances is that self-sufficient, adventurous travellers are rewarded with landscapes all to themselves. Highways leaving the capital, Lusaka, branch out to eight bordering countries, and turnoffs on dirt tracks lead to small villages and dense woodland. Lake Tanganyika, North Luangwa National Park or Ngonye Falls in the southeast are all worthy destinations for a wilderness adventure. Of course if money is no object, simply charter a plane and fly…
Get up close and personal with sunbathing crocs, thirsty elephants and hippo pods on a leisurely paddle along the lower Zambezi River. With Zimbabwe’s sandy shores on one side, a 1200m-high escarpment creating a rift valley on the other, and a continually shifting landscape of midstream islands, there’s hardly an un-picturesque direction to turn. Trips are generally upwards of two nights, but with a bit of preplanning and strong triceps you can spend a week sleeping in wilderness camps all the way downstream to the dramatically beautiful Mpata Gorge.
The Kuomboka, celebrated by the Lozi people of western Zambia, marks the ceremonial journey of the Litunga (the Lozi king) from his summer capital in the flood plains to his winter residence on higher ground. Far from a dull procession, the spectacle involves a huge wooden canoe (really a barge), massive war drums and around 100 paddlers wearing headdresses featuring a piece of lion’s mane and skirts made from animals skins. Though the dates aren’t fixed, the Kuomboka usually takes place in late March or early April.
Hoofing it into the bush is the focus of tourism in eastern Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park and other reserves. A legacy of Zambia’s pioneering conservationists, ambling through lush grass or dusty sandbanks on the trail of a pride of lions is a thrilling experience. And even if you don’t see the animals themselves, the guides or rifle-carrying scouts will explain how much is revealed by the animal scat and paw prints. TV detectives have nothing on these guys.
Something of a surprising sight – a grand manor house more suited to the English countryside – Shiwa Ng’andu shimmers like an oasis in the northeast of the country. Built by an ambitious British colonial officer and revitalised by his grandchildren, the estate includes a working farm and surrounding community, plus manicured gardens and grounds where wildlife roam. Guided tours reveal Shiwa’s fascinating history, as well as its evolving present. Guests can stay overnight in the manor house and be transported back to the Edwardian era – in the African bush.
Victoria FallsVictoria Falls is the largest waterfall on the planet – one million litres plunges down the Zambezi gorge every second – and a trip to Zambia would not be complete without visiting this sublime natural wonder. Livingstone, on the Zambian side, is now a tourism mecca catering to backpackers and luxury-seekers alike, and adventure seekers can choose from a menu of options to get their hearts pumping including a bridge bungee jump, ‘swing’ and ‘slide’, whitewater rafting, abseiling and riverboarding. If you’re after something gentler, an easy walk from the park entrance brings you close enough to be awed by the thunder and soaking spray of the falls.