Zambia is a vast plateau bordered by Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia. The Zambezi River together with Lake Kariba forms the frontier with Zimbabwe. Victoria Falls, at the southern end of the man-made Lake Kariba, is one of the most spectacular sights in Africa (if not the world).
In the east and northeast, the country rises to a plateau 1200m (3937ft) high, covered by deciduous savannah, small trees, grassy plains or marshland. The magnificent Luangwa and Kafue National Parks have some of the most prolific animal populations in Africa. Apart from some of the greatest scenery on the continent of Africa, Zambia also boasts world-class wildlife parks. It is the true heart of Africa.
Lusaka is a sprawling city that has grown very fast. Lusaka didn’t exist before the 20th century, and until the 1930s it was just a small, sleepy agricultural centre. Although it became the capital in 1931, rapid growth didn’t occur until the 1960s. Since then, most of Lusaka’s middle class has headed for the suburbs, leaving a population consisting mainly of civil servants, diplomats and poor Zambians. Downtown is in the western part of the city; the government district lies a few blocks east. The city is surprisingly rich in galleries featuring local artists. A major attraction in the capital is the bustling open-air Kamwala Market, a few blocks south of the centre.
The capital is in the southern part of the country, about 100 km (62mi) from the Zimbabwe border.
Livingstone dates from just after the turn of the century, springing up when the Zambezi Gorge was first bridged in 1904. Tourists were among the first to cross the bridge, and Livingstone remained the area’s tourism hub for the next 70 years. The town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe eclipsed Livingstone in the 1970s, though Livingstone has been battling back ever since. Anyone who knows their narrow-gauge from their standard should drop into the Railway Museum – the short name for the Zambezi Sawmills Locomotive Sheds National Monument, which lies a few hundred meters west of Livingstone’s train station. The rag-tag collection of old engines and rolling stock will warm a rail buff’s heart, but to someone else it might look like a rusty pile of junk.
The National Museum has a slightly broader appeal, featuring a collection of archaeological and anthropological relics. One highlight is a copy of a Neanderthal skull estimated to be over 100,000 years old. There are also examples of ritual artifacts and Tonga crafts, an African village mock-up, a collection of David Livingstone items and a display of Africa maps dating back to 1690. Livingstone is located about 300 km (185mi) southwest of Lusaka.
The Victoria Falls are one of the world’s most spectacular plunges: the 2 km (1.2mi) wide Zambezi River drops over 100m (330ft) into a steeply walled gorge. The Zambian side of Victoria Falls provides an entirely separate experience to its better-known Zimbabwean counterpart. First off, the views are different; you can sidle right up to the falling water by walking down a steep track to the base of the falls and following spindly walkways perched over the abyss.
One of the best spots for a close-up is at Knife Edge Point, reached by crossing a hair-raising (but safe) footbridge through swirling clouds of spray to a cliff-girt island in the river. If the water is low and the wind favorable, you’ll be treated to a magnificent view of the falls and the yawning abyss below the Zambezi Bridge. Souvenir hunters can find an excellent selection of crafts and the sellers are keen to barter.
South Luangwa National Park:
For scenery and wildlife spotting, South Luangwa is the best National Park in Zambia. Vegetation ranges from dense woodland to open grassy plains, and oxbow lagoons act as natural water holes. The animals you are likely to see include lions, buffalos, zebras and Thornicroft’s giraffes. The park is also home to one of Africa’s largest elephant populations and is particularly noted for its leopards and birdlife.
In the Luangwa River you’ll spot hippos and crocodiles. Day, night and walking safaris are available, as are horseback rides. Accommodation includes rustic camp sites, barebones hostels, comfortable chalets and full-service resorts. The park is located about 250 km (155mi) northeast of Lusaka. Most people arrive by air at Mfuwe Airport, 20 km (12mi) southeast of the village of Mfuwe and the park’s main gate. The park is closed during the rainy season from December to April.
Area: 752,614 km² (290,586 mi²)
Angola, Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana & Namibia.
Population: About 13 million
Capital: Lusaka 1,100,000
Time GMT: +2 hours
Languages: English is the official language. There are 73 local dialects.
Religions: Christian 60%, Muslim 40%.
Currency: Kwacha. 1 Kwacha = 100 Ngwee.
Although Zambia lies in the tropics, the altitude is high enough to ensure the climate is seldom unpleasantly hot except in the valleys. There are three seasons: the cool dry winter season from May to September, the hot, dry season in October and November and the rainy season, which is hotter, from December to April.