5 great reasons to visit Zambia

Have a look through most reputable international travel guides and you’ll find that the whole of Zambia is all too often reduced to little more than Victoria Falls. Spectacular as the falls are, this is a terrible injustice to the rest of this incredible and enigmatic country that I have come to love so deeply. From pristine, unspoilt national parks teeming with game, oceans as big as lakes and some of the finest lodges you’ll find anywhere in Africa right through to the rich cultural heritage and incredibly welcoming people, Zambia has so much to offer those in search of a unique African adventure that a single ‘listicle’ could never really suffice to say it all.

So take this rundown of five Zambian highlights as little more than a small glimpse of the entire package that makes Zambia, in my eyes at least, the most special place to visit in the warm heart of southern Africa:

South Luangwa National Park

Although South Luangwa is only about half the size of other southern African heavyweights like Kruger in South Africa or Etosha in Namibia and not so well-known internationally,  from my experience Zambia’s finest comes out on top every time. Aptly nicknamed the Valley of the Leopard, if you go to South Luangwa and don’t see leopard you need your eyes tested. The incredibly diverse landscapes range from dense forests of mopane trees and the leopard’s favourite sausage trees, to wide open savanna punctuated only by the occasional lonely baobab, all hugged by the wide and winding Luangwa River. Stay at the rustic Track and Trail River Camp just outside the park and enjoy their unique photographic game drives, or if it all gets a bit too much just relax and watch the hippos from the raised riverside rim-flow pool.

Lioness, South Luangwa

Kapichya and Shiwa Ng’andu

If you are in need of a healthy dose of colonial history and an unbeatable hot bath, then a stopover at Kapichya Hot Springs Lodge is an absolute must. The hot spring at Kapichya is like a secret tropical oasis, with a canopy of enormous palm leaves arcing over the crystal clear water that bubbles up from the white sand below. Kapichya is just 19kms away from the spectacularly incongruous Shiwa Ng’andu, the former home of a young British colonial officer. The huge and elaborate manor house that stands today tells a number of fascinating stories about both the eccentricity and determination of its creator and the colonial heritage of Zambia in general.

Kapichya

Lower Zambezi Basin

Just a few hours drive from Lusaka (or a quick 30 minute chartered flight), this part of the might Zambezi River has become a particular favourite with fishing aficionados. Healthy tiger fish and bream catches are common. Fishing trips can be organized from a number of the lodges that are found along the lush green river banks within Lower Zambezi National Park, as can day long canoeing trips and even 3 – 5 day canoeing safaris. On these trips it’s not uncommon to see herds of up to a hundred elephants “island hopping” across the river channels. Potato Bush Camp and Chiawa Camp are among the best for luxury and activities.

Lower Zambezi

Lake Tanganyika

For the most part, the further north you travel in Zambia the fewer the tourists. In many ways, that’s precisely the main appeal of Lake Tanganyika. The people you’ll meet here will be amongst the most welcoming of anywhere in Zambia. And that’s saying something. The lake itself, one of Africa’s Great Lakes, looks more like a vast ocean stretching across the horizon. It’s another great spot for fishing, kayaking, exploring the local villages along the water’s edge, or hiking into the forests that cover the surrounding hills. Stay at Ndole Bay Lodge for a particularly peaceful beach getaway and enjoy a sundowner on what must be one of the most picturesque pontoons in the whole of Africa. Getting to and from the lake you can visit a number of stunning waterfalls, some of which are only narrowly surpassed by Victoria Falls.

Ndole, Tanganyika

Livingstone and Victoria Falls

Although I set out at the beginning of this post to level the playing field somewhat and give some lesser known Zambian locations the spotlight they deserve, obviously I couldn’t leave Victoria Falls out of this list altogether. Over the years this incredible natural wonder has exhausted all the superlatives in the dictionary in attempts to describe it, but none manage to do it justice. You have to see it for yourself. Once your jaw has returned to its usual position and your eyes have stopped popping out of your head, sign up for some of the unprecedented number of adrenaline activities on offer in and around the falls, and then enjoy a drink on the banks of the Zambezi at the Royal Livingstone Hotel while zebras graze on the lawns behind you.

Victoria Falls

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