Zambia is a perfect example of a country where borders where drawn by Europeans without taking boundaries of local tribes into consideration. It is one of Africa's poorest countries, in spite of its rich copper mines. Due to the drop in copper prices and the resulting drop in foreign income, living standards have also dropped over the last decades. But what it misses in financial terms, nature makes up for in abundance. No less than 19 game parks dot the countryside with a variety of animal and bird species. The country shares one of the world's natural wonders with Zimbabwe - the grandiose Victoria Falls. The mighty Zambezi River drops over a 1.5 kilometre long precipice into an abyss of turning rumbling whirlpool more than 100 meters down, providing the Falls with its original name that translates as "The Smoke that Thunders". Unfortunately it is not a cheap country to travel in because of little or no infrastructure and far-off attractions that often offer, only luxury accommodation, but it does provide the perfect off-the-beaten track opportunity for explorers.
The oddly shaped country is landlocked and its neighbours include Malawi in the east, Tanzania in the north-east, Democratic Republic of Congo in the north and Angola in the west. In the south-west it touches Namibia and Zimbabwe lies on its southern border with Mozambique in the south-east. The country is located on a high plateau averaging 1300 meters above sea level. It is mainly covered by deciduous savannah, small and medium trees, forests and marshlands. Its main features are the Zambezi River, the man-made Lake Kariba, various game parks and open landscapes with relatively few people.
Area size: 752 972 km2 (about 294 000 square miles)
Official Language: English
Other Languages: Bemba, Tonga, Nyanja
Time: GMT +2
Telephone Country Code: +260
Electricity: 220/240 V
Neutral coloured clothing like khaki is ideal for hiking in the bush and safaris. Long sleeves and trousers are recommended both for the cooler morning and evening period and for preventing mosquito bites. Sweaters are recommended for the whole year and raingear for the wet season.
Health and Safety
Be cautious in Lusaka as armed hijackings, muggings and petty crime are common. Travelling at night should be avoided at all costs due to the bad roads, animals and invisible local traffic. Avoid swimming in stagnant water because of the high risk of bilharzia. Extreme care should be taken when swimming in rivers and lakes due to the danger of crocodiles and hippos. It is advisable also to buy bottled water or purify and boil local water.
1 Zambian kwacha (ZK) is equal to 100 ngwee.
Although all major foreign currencies (travellers' cheques and cash) are accepted by banks, forex bureaus and certain luxury hotels, it is advisable to bring along currencies in US Dollars and British Pounds. American Express credit cards are accepted by most of the top hotels and tourist companies, while Visa, MasterCard and Diners Club are less accepted. Declaration of currencies might be expected at the airports and it is essential that all exchange receipts are collected for departure purposes.
Accommodation and Food
Hotels are graded to a maximum of 5-stars and there are some luxurious hotels and lodges in Lusaka and in the nature reserves. There are also government hostels (GRZ) and camp sites in certain tourist areas of Zambia. For more information on accommodation contact the Hotel and Caterers Association in Lusaka. Tel: +260 1 251734.
Markets are stocked with a variety of fruit and vegetables. Supermarkets can be found in Lusaka. There are some restaurants and the luxury hotels and lodges offer excellent Western standard meals. Fish delicacies include freshwater fish like perch and salmon.
Do not take pictures without obtaining permission and do not photograph sensitive areas like governmental building, bridges, airports and control posts.
The law prohibits tipping in hotels, but a 10% tip is customary in restaurants.
There are a few diplomatic missions across the world including:
2 Palace Gate,
London W8 5NG
Tel: +44 171 5896655
Fax: +44 171 5811353
2419 Massachusetts Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC 20008
Tel: +1 202 2659719
Fax: +1 202 3320826
A passport (valid 6 months beyond intended stay) and a visa are required for most nationalities and tickets and documents proving return or onward travel. An International Certificate of Vaccination for yellow fever is required if arriving from an infected area within 5 days.
Departure Tax are as follow: International - US$20 Domestic - ZmK2000
Attractions & Activities
Sport activities include golf, tennis, horse-riding and flying with various types of planes over the Zambezi and Victoria Falls. Water-sports include fishing (especially tiger fish, one of the world's best fighting fish), sailing, canoe safaris and some of the best white water rafting in the world for the more adventurous. Or one can relax on a houseboat cruise on Lake Kariba. For the adrenaline junkies the spectacular 111meter high bungi jump off the bridge will prove to be a rush of awesome dimensions.
Kalambo Falls Totally off-the-beaten track near Mpulungu near the Tanzanian border is the incredible Kalambo Falls at nearly 220 meters high. It is quite a difficult three-day hike to get there, but worth the sweat.
Cities & Towns
The capital of Lusaka has not much to offer the visitor except to replenish on stocks. Take a cautious stroll at the Lumburma Market and the Cultural Centre for curios and other wooden carving.
This quiet rustic town is next to the world-renowned Victoria Waterfalls. Just before the Falls there are numerous islands in the river with a rich bird-life to be explored. In the near vicinity, between the Falls and the town is the Maramba Cultural Village where traditional dancing is performed on Saturdays. For the visitors interested in the history of Dr Livingstone's treks and memorabilia, visit the Livingstone Museum. Indulge yourself on a sunset cruise and while sipping from a glass of cold champagne, watch fish eagles swooping down to catch fish against a red sun setting over the peaceful African forest.
There are 19 parks in Zambia, but many have very little facilities. The most well-known are mentioned and even some of them only cater for the upmarket tourist. Independent travellers will often find it difficult to find camp sites.
Lochinvar National Park
The park is 110 kilometres south-west of Lusaka and has no large predators or bigger game. This makes the park well-suited for the hiker and bird-watcher. It has a fantastic array of birds (especially at the beginning of the rainy season), some extremely rare in Africa. The main lodge is a beautiful old farmstead with wonderful views over the surrounding plains.
South Luangwa Park
This park, located in the paradise of the Luangwa Valley, is Zambia's most famous park and also one of Africa's best wildlife sanctuaries. One can go on numerous hiking trails with armed guards, camping in huts in the bush for the real African experience or just linger around the various lodges along the river and watch the flow of animals. There is a rich variety of nearly 50 animal species including a small group of rhinos, elephant, giraffe, wildebeest, buffalo, lion, leopard and hippos and crocodiles in the river. It is also possible to go on numerous evening game drives to spot the nocturnal animals. This is birders' paradise with more than 400 bird species. There are various camps that cater for a variety of budgets. Take note that the northern areas of the park is closed during the rainy season.
North Luangwa Park
This park is situated north-east of South Luangwa Park and is still very underdeveloped. This is where one can experience the real undisturbed African bush. Only a few tour operators are allowed to set up camp here. It is open in the dry season from May to October and there are various opportunities for guided hiking. In spite of a poaching problem, there is a beautiful variety of animals and birds.
Sumbu National Park
Again far away from the normal tourist roads and on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, is Sumbu with game including hippo, elephant, buffalo and puku antelope. Fishing is allowed and popular fish include Nile Perch and salmon. There is also a boat excursion available on the lake.
Victoria Falls National Park
This world-famous falls, known locally as Mosi-oa-Tunya or "Smoke That Thunders" is a must when visiting Zambia. The awesome sight of 5 million litres of water per second dropping over a mile long edge into a chasm of white water foam 120 meters below is one that is not easily forgotten. One feels immensely small looking at this natural wonder and the sound of the thundering roaring waters is sometimes deafening. Bring along a light rain coat for a heavy mist hangs above the Falls often rising to 150 meters and creating a spectrum of rainbows. The best time to visit the Falls is in July and August when the river is low, and the mist does not obscure the view. But it does not matter when you see it, you will still be dumbstruck by it all. Local operators offer an over-flight with microlights, light aeroplanes or parachuting. Any of these will be money well spent.