HAVE ZAMBIA’S WILDERNESS ALL TO YOURSELF
In Zambia, a tangible sliver of the past, you walk to the beat of a different drum. Here, time ticks in an authentic African. Nowadays, this beautiful untamed country is making a name for itself as a must-go safari destination. So, what makes a safari experience in this 752,618 km2 (290,587 mi2) country unique? How would it differ from going on safari in Botswana or South Africa? Well, first and foremost, no traffic jams. That should be no disappointment. In most safari locations, if there is an animal sighting, (maybe a pack of lions comes up to the side of the road) the 4X4 vehicles will usually congregate in hoards. Not in Zambia. You’ll have the road all to yourself. It’s untamed, wild at heart and home to some of the region’s most unspoiled areas. Sound good? Then let’s reveal more of this gem of a country. Zambia is nestled in the heart of Southern Africa, with eight countries as its immediate neighbors. It’s famed for its waterways – rivers such as the Zambezi, the Kafue and the Luangwa function as the lifeblood to the reserves. You’re sure to witness large concentrations – and a ridiculously rich diversity – of wildlife. WILD ZAMBIA Unparalleled game viewing… the country is geared towards it – be it game drives, walking safaris, canoeing or boat cruises. Gone are the days when Zambia only offered exclusive safaris. Nowadays, it also caters to budget travellers. Distances between places are vast, and most of your road traveling will require a 4X4. So, it’s great to also have the charter plane option. Over 30% of Zambia is a national park. What a drawcard! Let’s see where the bush’ll take you. BUNGEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! You can indeed approach the majestic Victoria Falls from the Zambian side. It is said that on a clear day, the resulting spray generated by the falls can be witnessed with the naked eye for as far as 50 km (31 mi). The mist twirls as it rises above the woodland savannah, much like the smoke emanating from a bush fire. The locals call it, Mosi-oa-Tunya – The Smoke that Thunders. No wonder it is regarded as one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. The Zim side serves up panoramic views, but it’s on the Zambian side of the Falls where the Knife Edge Bridge offers you the opportunity to stand virtually suspended over the Boiling Pot – the initial bend of the river after the Falls – with the thunderous water crashing about you. Get ready to get thoroughly drenched! Should you stand with your back to the sun, you’ll be surrounded by a spectrum of rainbows. You’ll be able to capture spectacular views of the Falls – the said Boiling Pot right below, the railway bridge plus Batoka Gorge. When the water levels are lower, set forth on a guided walk to Livingstone Island, where you can splash about in the Devil’s Pool. This is a natural pond situated on the lip of the abyss. If you are the adventurous type, then pump yourself up for a 20 m (65 ft) free-fall bungee jump off the 105 m (345 ft) high Victoria Falls Bridge. The initial drop lasts for three seconds – we can’t promise that’s how long those three seconds will feel, however! THE BEST WHITE-WATER RAFTING IN THE WORLD Batoka Gorge offers up one of the most insane sensory thrills you can imagine. With a total of 23 whitewater rapids and breath-taking scenery with black cliffs looming all around you, this route chiseled over millions of years by the Great Zambezi is something to behold AND experience. The rapids are run in large yellow rubber rafts launched from just below the Falls. You have the choice of a half-day, full-day, or multiple day trip. From March to July, the river is in full force, and only the last 13 rapids can be negotiated, but as the level subsides, (which occurs from June to February) all 23 are navigable. So, what’s it going to be, intrepid adventurer? Zambia has a number of national parks – Kafue, in the area of the Lower Zambezi, and Vic Falls are the main ones. Oh, and as for the Big Five? You’re sure to have numerous opportunities to see them all. KICKING BACK IN KAFUE NATIONAL PARK Welcome to Zambia’s largest and oldest national park – we’re looking at an area of about 22,400 km2 (8,648 mi2). This giant has been operating since the 1950s. A large portion of the national park remains uncharted, which allows for more access to the continuous development of the rich wildlife, plantlife and birdlife. Kafue certainly derives its attraction and uniqueness from its size and the wild game within. The consistent Kafue River chops and changes as it flows along through pathways of rocks that seem almost impossible for the river to find its way through. Here you’ll find a wide array of activities, some of which include game drives, birding, canoeing, nature walks, and fishing. While on a game drive you’ll come across elephants, antelopes, zebras, buffaloes, lions, leopards, spotted hyenas, wild dogs, wildebeests, hippos, crocs, cheetahs and many more. LET’S HEAD FOR SOUTH LUANGWA This area is known as ‘the spiritual birthplace of the walking safari.’ Blissful. Here are open, grassy plains and mature, mesmerizing woodlands, and, of course, the wondrous Luangwa River. Its reputation for abundant wildlife and pristine vegetation is well earned, so whether driving around or walking through, you’ll be amidst dramatic and fascinating beauty. There are 9,050 km2 (3,494 mi2) of the Luangwa Valley floor that lies between 500 m (1,640 ft) and 800 m (2,624 ft) above sea level. You’ll need to relax after a long day of sight-seeing and animal viewing. You can choose between luxurious lodges and tented bush camps to kick back in after your safari. You can expect to see all the big species on your safari trip, except for the rhino. Despite efforts to repopulate the endangered species, poaching has had a devastating effect on the rhino populations here and everywhere, so you’ll still have one animal left unchecked on your ‘Big Five’ bucket list. However, it’s not only about the Big Five. There is so much more to discover – other mammals, predators, both big and small, and abundant birdlife. ON THE ROAD TO NORTH LUANGWE It’s a remote region, but it certainly offers one of the finest wilderness experiences in Zambia, if not in Africa itself. Note that it’s not open to the public and there are no permanent lodges here. You can get access via a number of safari operators who have been granted permission to conduct walking safaris. EXPERIENCE AFRICA AS IT WAS North Luangwe is that place: wild, untouched… it is indeed a privilege to experience the natural beauty and drama of this wilderness area. The pristine Mwaleshi River makes its way down the escarpments in a series of small waterfalls. When it’s the dry season, the river recedes, leaving a series of cool pools along the way. This is a huge drawcard for the wild animal from the bush – they frequent the banks in their search for water. The vegetation in North Luangwe encompasses mopane woodland, riverine forest, open grasslands, and acacia thicket. You will also come across the exquisite sausage tree, vegetable ivory palms, red mahogany, and leadwood trees. TOO OLD TO BELIEVE IN BATMAN? Every year, between the months of October and December, about 10 million straw-colored fruit bats descend into a tiny patch of evergreen swamp forest inside Kasanka National Park in Northern Zambia. It’s a spectacular natural phenomenon, unique only to Kasanka. You can enjoy this fantastical and jaw-dropping experience at sunrise or sunset as the bats leave and return to the Bat Forest. Get an unforgettable view from the amazing treetop hides within the Bat Forest. Alternatively, you can choose to go on a game drive where bat viewing is combined with sightings of sitatunga, blue monkey, puku, and elephant. WELCOME TO THE LONGEST FRESHWATER LAKE IN THE WORLD Tanganyika’s waters reach Tanzania, Burundi, Congo DR, and Zambia. You have arrived at the second deepest lake in the world, after Lake Baikal in Russia. The reason for its incredible depth is that it lies in the Great Rift Valley. This is also the cause of its steep shoreline. It reaches a depth of 1,433 m (4,700 ft), which is a mind-blowing 642 m (2,106 ft) below sea level. Zambia claims 7% of the lake’s surface area. From north to south it covers a distance of 677 km (420 mi) and is 50 km (31 miles) wide. Now for great news: its waters host more than 350 different species of fish. Excellent for angling, so cast your lines! Sport fishing is the name of the game here. Catches include the goliath tigerfish and Nile perch. Crocs inhabit most of the shoreline (note to self!), except around Mpulungu – they’re not much into the noise of people and motorboats. Swimming in the lake (only at Mpulungu!) is just balmy. Warm, clear, salt-free water changes from silky stillness, to tall waves for an excellent body surf – formed as storms from way up north cause the still waters in the south to swell. ZAMBIA’S WEATHER PATTERNS You’re looking at three seasons (some camps flood during the wet season): May to August: cool and dry (safari anyone?). September to November: hot and dry – with unbearable heat in Luangwa! December to April: warm and wet, with frequent wild thunderstorms followed by sunshine (bring your camera!). There’s an ancient Zambian proverb that has this to say: “When you run alone, you run fast. When you run together, you run far.” So, why not go together on a safari in wonderful Zambia with your friends or family for a memorable, life-changing experience?