Formerly Northern Rhodesia, Zambia is made up of a highland plateau (approximately 1000 metres above sea level) which rises toward the east and which - in the north, along the border of DR Congo- houses enormous reserves of copper, cobalt, coal, zinc and lead, the mining of which is of extreme importance to the economy.
Tourism is of increasing importance with the magnificent Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River marking the border with Zimbabwe. The game parks of Zambia, although not as well-known as those of Kenya and Tanzania, are large and well stocked with wildlife of all types. Zambia is one of Africa’s newest democracies with its first multi-party elections in 1991.
‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ – (the smoke that thunders) is the local name for Victoria Falls. At most times of year the Falls is an inspiring sight: 1,708 metres wide and drop between 90 and 107 metres into the Batoka Gorge. An average of 550,000 cubic metres of water per minute plunge over the gorge and at high water times the spray can be seen from 20-30 kilometres away. The Batoka Gorge forms the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. David Livingstone, the first European to see Victoria Falls in 1855 (and who named them after Queen Victoria) reported ‘Scenes so lovely, they must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight’. Today, visitors come here not only to look at the Falls themselves but also to try the various adventure activities available in the area - white water rafting, river boarding, jet boating, bungi, microlighting, helicopter flights, sunset cruises and elephant back safaris to name a few. Most tours spend several days in the area, just outside Livingstone, the nearest town, giving opportunity to view the Falls themselves and to try some of the adventure activities available.
When to Travel
Zambia’s rainy season runs from November through to mid April with the cooler winter months being drier. Temperatures are hottest in the build up to the rains at the end of October.
Victoria Falls is generally most spectacular at the end of the rainy season in March when the waters are high. In October, November and December the flow of water on the Zambian side of Vic Falls is light so at this time of year it’s worth taking the trip across to Zimbabwe where the flow of water is much greater.
Some activities, most notably White Water Rafting, are seasonal based on the levels of the river. During high water, generally 20 Jan through to 10 July rafting takes place from Rapids 10 – 25, however the river can close completely in May and June depending on the level of water. During low water, from July through to Jan, a full day of rafting can done from Rapid 1 through to 25.
Getting there and away
Zambia’s capital city, Lusaka, is served by a number of airlines, both regionally and further afield.