Lusaka, the capital
All roads lead to Lusaka, the geographic, commercial and metaphorical heart of the country. However, Zambia’s capital and largest urban zone, with its mishmash of dusty tree-lined streets, bustling African markets, Soviet-looking high-rise blocks and modern commerce, doesn’t easily justify exploration by the casual visitor. There are no real attractions, grand monuments to drool over or historical treasures to unearth. Lusaka, like the rest of the country, is not well-equipped for independent tourism and you’ll likely find more travellers in Zambia who, besides a short stopover in its airport, have bypassed the city.
Lower Zambezi National Park
The Lower Zambezi National Park lies on the north bank of the Zambezi River in south eastern Zambia. Until 1983 when the area was declared a national park the area was the private game reserve of Zambia’s president. This has resulted in the park being protected from the ravages of mass tourism and remains one of the few pristine wilderness areas left in Africa. On the opposite bank is Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools national Park. The two parks sit on the Zambezi flood plain ringed by mountains; the area is a world heritage site. In fashion with the current trend in Southern Africa there is talk of linking the two parks to form a massive trans-frontier park.
Kafue National Park
This stunning park is about 200km west of Lusaka and is a real highlight of Zambia. Covering more than 22,500 sq km (nearly the size of Belgium), it’s the largest and the oldest park in the country and one of the biggest in the world. This is the only major park in Zambia that’s easily accessible by car. Many watercourses derive from the Kafue River, which flows from north to south irrigating the park and ensuring lush vegetation. Most of the park is covered by forests and the landscape is dotted with teak forests and large black rocks that are often confused with elephants.
South Luangwa National Park
For scenery, variety and density of animals, accessibility and choice of accommodation, South Luangwa is the best park in Zambia and one of the most majestic in Africa. Impalas, pukus, waterbuck giraffe and buffaloes wander on the wide-open plains; leopards, of which there are many in the park, hunt in the dense woodlands; herds of elephants wade through the marshes; and hippos munch serenely on Nile cabbage in the Luangwa River. The bird life is also tremendous: about 400 species have been recorded – large birds like snake eagles, bateleurs and ground hornbills are normally easy to spot. The quality of the park is reflected in the quality of its guides – the highest in Zambia. The local professional guide association sets standards, and anyone who shows you around this park should have passed a set of tough examinations.
Much of the park is inaccessible because of rains between November and April (especially February and March), so many lodges close at this time.
Livingstone and the Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls presents a spectacular sight of awe-inspiring beauty and grandeur on the Zambezi River, forming the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. It was described by the Kololo tribe living in the area in the 1800’s as ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ – ‘The Smoke that Thunders’. In more modern terms Victoria Falls is known as the greatest curtain of falling water in the world.
Columns of spray can be seen from miles away as, at the height of the rainy season, more than five hundred million cubic meters of water per minute plummet over the edge, over a width of nearly two kilometres, into a gorge over one hundred meters below. Facing the Falls is another sheer wall of basalt, rising to the same height, and capped by mist-soaked rain forest. A path along the edge of the forest provides the visitor prepared to brave the tremendous spray, with an unparalleled series of views of the Falls.
The wide, basalt cliff over which the falls thunder, transforms the Zambezi from a placid river into a ferocious torrent cutting through a series of dramatic gorges. Batoka Gorge provides one of the most intense sensory thrills imaginable. Its twenty three whitewater rapids and striking scenery deep within the sheer black cliffs afford the adrenaline junkie a wild roller-coaster ride along a route carved over millennia by the Great Zambezi.