- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
Vast lakes and wetlands, long and life-giving rivers, breathtaking African sunsets and a rich tradition of guiding all contribute to Zambia’s immense appeal as a safari destination.
Its most famous landmark, Victoria Falls, which it shares with Zimbabwe, attracts nature lovers and thrill-seekers alike. Visit in March or April, when the falls are in full spate, and you’ll be bowled over by the rainbows, the roar of the cascading water and the dense, drenching clouds of spray.
Livingstone, the closest urban hub to the falls and once Zambia’s colonial capital, has a number of accommodation options, colourful markets and a busy restaurant and nightlife scene. The mighty Zambezi River itself is glassy-smooth above the falls and wild below. It’s perfect for booze cruises, canoe safaris and adrenaline activities such as white-water rafting and river surfing. There are a plethora of beautiful riverside lodges dotted along its banks.
Beyond the falls, Zambia is not as high-profile a safari destination as Kenya, Tanzania or South Africa, but it’s a favourite with those in the know. Packed with untamed wilderness and fascinating wildlife, minus the crowds, Zambia is the African bush at its most raw and romantic.
Things to See in Zambia
Arguably the world’s largest waterfall, Victoria Falls in Southern Province never ceases to amaze visitors. This is Zambia’s — and Zimbabwe’s — biggest tourist attraction. It lives up to its local (Tongan) name, Mosi-oa-Tunya, meaning “The Smoke that Thunders.” Most visitors stay in the nearby towns of Livingstone, Zambia or Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The upper falls is in Zambia, while the lower portion is on the Zimbabwe side. Both offer different and spectacular views of this natural wonder. Of special note are the two statues of the explorer and missionary David Livingstone (1813-73) locate on each side of the falls. Livingstone is still revered by many Zambians, and the City of Livingstone is named after him.
The best time of the year to visit the falls is between July and September, when the Zambezi River is aplomb with water. In November and December, the falls are almost dry and look like a canyon. Heavy rainfall fills the Zambezi between January and May, and it’s difficult to see the falls through a wall of mist created by falling water.
South Luangwa National Park
South Luangwa National Park is one of many national parks in Zambia, and the most popular, because it’s filled with abundant wildlife. It’s a short flight or a ten-hour drive from Lusaka via Eastern Province. Flying is more convenient but can be expensive. The daytime and nighttime game drives in South Luangwa are fabulous.
Lower Zambezi River
The Lower Zambezi River basin in Southern Province is a short drive south from Lusaka and a great place for a long weekend getaway. There are several lodges near the towns of Chirindu and Chiawa not far from the confluence of the Zambezi and Kafue rivers. It’s great for bush camp excursions, hunting, fishing, and boat cruises, and popular with tourists who want to fish for tigerfish or camp “in the bush.”
Zambia is keen to promote tourism in Northern Province on the Tanzanian border. Kasaba Bay on Lake Tanganika, one of Africa’s Great Lakes, is currently under development as a major tourist destination. Once it’s completed sometime in the next decade, the area will boast several high-end resorts. Fly to the Mbala airport near Kasaba Bay, or into the regional capital, Kasama. Hire a car and travel the back roads through beautiful country with subtropical forests, colorful villages, and spectacular waterfalls overshadowed by Victoria Falls such as Chishimba Falls.