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What Makes Zambia Safari Unique?

By Enestle zimba

Zambia is Africa's best kept secret. It is the sleeping giant of African safari. It's also the friendly people and the peace the country safeguards and continues to enjoy. That's what makes the country a haven of peace for refuges from civil strive. …And Zambia is the hub of African travel.

Zambia is located in south central Africa with eight neighbouring countries. There are 19 national parks and 34 game management areas. Thus a whopping 30 percent of the country's 752,614 sq kms. The country has the largest water resources in southern Africa. There are large empty tracts of land in pristine state and a large wildlife estate. Zambia's unique natural resources include minerals such as copper, precious stones and lumber; both native hard wood and soft exotic pinewood timber.

The National Parks

Of the 19 national parks South Luangwa is Zambia's premier game reserve. The South Luangwa National Park has probably the largest variety and concentration of game in Africa and perhaps in the world. Experts in wildlife safari consider the 9,990 sq kms park has some of the finest viewing areas. It is rated one of the top game reserves in the world with a unique profusion of wildlife. Some animals are rare and only found in the park. An example is the Thornicraft giraffe.

Another game reserve is the Kafue National Park. The sprawling 22,400 sq kms is the second largest national park in the world and is about the size of Wales in Britain and twice the size of Yellowstone National Park in the USA. The park is located in the central-western Zambia and boasts excellent game viewing, bird watching and fishing.

The park has two unique wetlands. The Busanga Floodplain in the northern sector is special. The emerald green Lunga, Lufupa and Kafue Rivers crisscross it. Here are found multi-species of animals and birds. The Busanga plain is an antelope country. The endemic lechwe fill its plains. The park's southern limit also breaks into another wetland the Nanzhila Plains. The plains are next to Zambia's newest lake at the Itezhi-Tezhi Dam.

Copper and Gemstone Reserves

Apart from the fauna and flora estate the country holds 6 percent of the worlds copper reserves. In addition Zambia is the leading producer of precious and semi-precious gemstones including the rare beauty, the green emerald. Amethyst, garnet, tourmaline, citrine and their verities are also found in Zambia. Most of the finished and semi-finished gemstone products are exported worldwide.

Tracts of Land and the Wilderness

The population to land ratio is one of the lowest in Africa. At less than 15 people per sq km it is one of the lowest in the world. The sparse population has left a large portion of Zambia unspoiled and in its natural state.

You get to see teeming wildlife in pristine wilderness. The wildlife is completely ‘wild and untamed.' Some of the animals have had little or no contact with humans. So the national parks present wildlife in its natural habitat, the very same way nature has always wanted it to be.

The Rivers and Lakes of Zambia

Zambia's major rivers, lakes and wetlands are considered to hold the largest component of water resources in Southern Africa. There are four major rivers. The Zambezi covers the largest part of Zambia from northwest through southern to southeastern. The Kafue cuts the country in the middle. The Luangwa nearly cuts off the eastern part of the country. But the Chambeshi that discharge into Lake Bangweulu in north-central Zambia has suffered name changes along its course. After leaving Bangweulu it changes its name to Luapula River. It becomes the Congo River on leaving Lake Mweru and entering the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In the south is Lake Kariba on the Zambezi. It was the largest man-made lake until the Aswan and the Cobara Bassa were dammed. Lake Kariba is the latest destination for safari investment besides the Victoria Falls. Another is Lake Bangweulu surrounded by white sand beaches and by the tenth largest wetland in Africa. The wetland is the home of the endemic lechwe antelopes and the rare shoebill stork. The third is Lake Mweru on the border with Democratic Republic of Congo. And Lake Tanganyika Africa's deepest lake has its southern tip extending into northern Zambia.

The Wild Zambezi River

One river that deserves mentioning is the Zambezi River after which the country is named. From its source near Kaleni Hills in the northwestern corner of the country the Zambezi cuts a lying down “S” shape as it flows through its course a total of 3,450 kms before discharging into the Indian Ocean. Its entrance at the ocean is dramatic for it ends in many river channels called a delta.

The Zambezi passes through changing landscapes and environment. From the rapids in the notrhwest through the wide river and the site of the “Likumbi Lya Mize” ceremony of the Luvale people. It then passes through the Zambezi floodplain where the Ku-omboka ceremony of the Lozi people takes place. Later the river traverses a hilly area and becomes wide and tranquil. Suddenly the river breaks into the world's most spectacular waterfall. This is the mystic and awe-inspiring Victoria Falls.

Before the waterfall the Zambezi passes through a point near Kazungula where four countries meet; Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Nowhere else do countries converge on one point in a manner such as this.

Down stream of the waterfall the Zambezi collects into a lake at Kariba Dam. Down stream it is joined firstly by the Kafue, Zambia's second largest river and secondly by the Luangwa River at a confluence where three countries meet: Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. …And before its mouth at the Indian Ocean the Zambezi River forms the second and larger lake at Cobara-Basa Dam in Mozambique.

The Beautiful Victoria Falls

Now the Victoria Falls is something worth talking about. Its awesome, beautiful and a world heritage site. The Toka-Leya people of Chief Mukuni who have always lived there have built many shrines for their deities and ceremonies. Because of the continuous thunder from the largest curtain of falling water and the accompanying mist that plumes from the bottom of the gorge they have called the waterfall “Mosi-Oa-Tunya” meaning the “smoke that thunders”. But I like the other name. “Shungu wa Mutitima.”

Little wonder Dr David Lingstone the famous Scottish missionary doctor and explorer could not resist to write in his dairy, “…scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.” Because the beauty is awesome. Dr Livingstone was the first European to see the waterfall on November 16, 1855. He named it after Queen Victoria.

At the bottom of the falls are red Kalahari sands. Opposite the waterfall it rains 24 hours a day 7 days a week (24/7). This mist rain nurtures a small rainforest. And two rain bows too. One is seen during the day and the second occurs at night on a full moon. These are the popular solar and lunar rainbows of Victoria Falls …but then that's another story!

Adventure Centre and the Safaris

After the Victoria Falls the Zambezi River passes through nine gorges it has cut down 122 metres deep. The nine gorges are in fact former waterfalls at different stages of the development and migration of the falls up stream. This migration covers the past 150 million years!

Now the gorges are a spectacular sight. They also form part of the area where adrenaline pumping adventures take place – whitewater rafting over 22 rapids, bungi jumping through 122 metres, gorge swinging, abseiling, river boarding, jet boating, etc. It is for this reason that Livingstone town near the Victoria Falls is now recognized as the Southern Africa Adventure Centre.

If you have a daredevil spirit take to the air in a microlight flight. Fly over the Victoria Falls, watch animals in the nearby Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park…and get really close to the cascading water of the world's largest curtain of falling water. But if you would rather like mundane pastime then you might want to enjoy the “Flight of Angels.” Hire a helicopter or indeed a rigid wing airplane. Even this choice will be your life's memorable experience.

Where to Stay

The banks of the Zambezi River are dotted with many lodges and camping sites. A visit to the Zambezi Waterfront might be what you want. More interesting though is the theme designs of most lodges. They have a strong African architectural style.

The Sun International resort is the latest inclusion and is built closest to the Victoria Falls. The resort is a combo of two hotels: one, the Zambezi Sun is a three star hotel only minutes from the Victoria Falls and the other the Royal Livingstone is a five star royal opulence.

The red walls of the Zambezi Sun depict decorative symbols of prehistoric times. The colour of these African drawings is similar to the Kalahari sands found at the bottom of the falls. But the luxury of the Royal Livingstone is all very different. The ever present butlers and staff wear uniforms reminiscent of the dress of Dr Livingstone at the time he discovered the waterfalls one and half centuries ago. He named the waterfalls in honour of Victoria, then queen of England.

Next to the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park is another new hotel. Chrismar Hotel has just been completed near the 60 sq km national game park. It's as if the hotels and lodges are ‘popping' up everyday!

In Lusaka the capital city of Zambia you'll find other exciting hotels and lodges; the 5 star Taj Pamodzi, the 5 star Hotel Intercontinental, Holiday Inn and other fine hotels.

The private game lodges are all within fifty kms. Popular ones are the Lilayi Lodge, the Protea Safari Lodge, and Chaminuka. But Siavonga at Lake Kariba has exciting lakeshore lodges. It's only a two-hour drive from Lusaka. My advice…you'll enjoy the hospitality of Zambia!

How to Get to Zambia

The choice is wide. You can choose to arrive by air and land at any of the four international airports that have full custom and immigration facilities. Mfuwe International Airport is on the boundary with the Zambian premier game reserve, the South Laungwa National Park. Another is at Ndola on the Copperbelt of Zambia. And yet another is the Lusaka International Airport 22 kms from the capital city of Zambia. But Livingstone International Airport is special. Only 8 kms from the Victoria Falls whose first sighting you get from the air on approach to landing.

And then you may choose to arrive by road from any of the eight neighbouring countries but mainly from Bostwana, Namibia, Malawi, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

Get on a plane or car and come to Zambia …And you'll leave without ever forgetting Zambia safari!

About The Author

Enestle Zimba a geologist for over twenty years manages Zambia African Safari (ZAS) part time. Enestle promotes safaris and tourism in Zambia...and conservation is his great passion.

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