When most people think of Zambia they think of Victoria Falls and don’t realise there is so much more to see and do on a self drive safari. Zambia is a large country and although the road network has improved over the past few years allow plenty of time and overnight stops between main attractions.
Towns like the capital Lusaka and Livingstone were once dusty shabby towns, with a few mediocre hotels, badly dilapidated roads, no street lighting and no supermarkets have now been transformed into modern cities with brand new super highways, an influx of international hotels, remarkable restaurants and a flood of South African chain supermarkets and speciality stores.
But we are not here to talk about the great infrastructure, although it is important to know you can get pretty much anything in the large towns and cities.
Zambia is a dynamic country with magnificent scenery, ever improving road network, unbelievable wildlife and offers a range of activities.
Victoria Falls is the draw card and you cannot visit Zambia without seeing the Falls in Livingstone. Livingstone has benefited from Zimbabwe’s demise with most tourists now viewing the Falls from the Zambian side rather than the Zimbabwean side. The increase in tourism has seen Livingstone flourish with a broad range of hotels and campsites covering all budgets, an incredible range of activities from traditional village tours, sunset cruises, walking with lions, rhino trekking and canoeing to the more adventurous adrenalin activities of bungy jumping, microlighting, white water rafting and jet boating.
Although Livingstone has developed it has not lost its historical town charm with 19th century architecture still very much predominant. The well thought through and planned museum gives an in depth insight into Zambia’s history from the original tribes through independence and modern development. There is a room dedicated to David Livingstone with original diary entries on display along with a number of original artefacts.
Lake Kariba is Africa’s largest man made dam a whopping 226km long and up to 40km wide it is a haven for those after a few days of relaxation or for the budding sport fisherman. Every year in May Lake Kariba hosts the Tiger Fishing Competition attracting anglers from all over the world in pursuit of this elusive fierce fighting fish. A popular activity to do on Lake Kariba is hire a houseboat for a few days and set sail enjoying the peace, calm and unbelievable sunsets; a magical activity for the weary self driver wanting to recharge the batteries.
Kafue National Park is Zambia’s oldest national park and the biggest in all of Africa, home to over 55 species of mammals it is a wild park with few graded tracks. Allow yourself plenty of time to get there as the 200km from Lusaka is on rough broken tar and dirt tracks. Once you arrive at the park there is an array of activities from game driving to boat safaris on the Kafue River, ballooning, walking safaris and canoeing however try to avoid the months between November and April during the wet season when tracks in the park become impassable.
South Luangwa National Park is one of our favourite parks and we never miss the opportunity to visit whenever we are in Zambia on a guided self drive safari. It claims to be the best park in Zambia and one of the best in Africa and we have to agree! The scenery is nothing short of stunning and the variety of animals never disappoints. If leopard is on your wish list then this is probably the best park to spot one or two. Only a couple of years ago this park was difficult to access on a self drive safari however a new road has been built from Chipata to Mfuwe reducing the travel time from up to 8 hours to less than 2 hours.
Zambia is a tremendous country for a self drive safari particularly for camping trips however as you are so close to Malawi it would be a pity to travel all the way to the African continent and limit yourself to only one country.
We travel through Zambia visiting Livingstone and South Luangwa National Park on a number of our multi country guided self drive safaris and expeditions including Dr Livingstone, Africa Overland Adventure, Africa Discovered and Cairo to Cape. If you have the time, as little as 4 weeks you can enjoy the best of Zambia but also experience the splendour of Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya on our Dr Livingstone trip.
You won’t be disappointed taking a bit of extra time for a dream holiday to Africa especially when you experience the great Wildebeest Migration in the Masai Mara National Rerserve in Kenya, wake up in the morning to incredible views of Mt Kilimanjaro from Amboseli National Park, explore the historic town of Stone Town on Zanzibar, drive along the shores of Lake Malawi stopping to watch skilled craftsman carve the most intricate designs on furniture in addition to discovering the best of Zambia.
Here is our blog entry from a trip just before the road to South Luangwa was rebuilt.
South Luangwa National Park is Zambia’s number 2 tourist attraction; second only to the mighty Victoria Falls however the road to access the park is the worst road we travel on through Southern Africa. Large holes, heavy corrugations, narrow boggy strips, sharp rocks and deep ravines cut through heavy tropical rain for approximately 40kms. We had been told in Lilongwe the road was impassable before meeting a Dutch couple who had just come from the park telling us it is bad but they managed to get through. So the next morning we left Lilongwe at 7am ready to cross into Zambia and tackle the road; the plan was simple – see how we go…
The first 50kms we pretty good; the Chinese had built a new dirt road and although a little corrugated in all terms was a good road. We reached the turn-off to South Luangwa and the road slowly deteriorated, although it had been visibly very wet and boggy in parts; the road had dried enough to get through without too many hiccups. We were 5kms from South Luangwa when the fun really started; 800m of deep bog holes and no way around. Peter and Linda went first, weaving their away around the holes until they had no choice but to go through – water seeping up over the bonnet with the left hand side falling into deeper holes we slowly made our way through without incident – good old Land Rovers!
We enjoyed sunny days, hippos wandering through the campsite in the middle of the day; elephants playing a few hundred metres away, impala grazed in the field next door, baboons raided the camp and the vervet monkeys stole Sue and Russ’s anti-malaria tablets (he gave them back once discovered they did not taste so great!). Early morning and late afternoon game drives through the Park spotting large herds of elephant, hippo, crocs, genet, lions and lots of antelope.
As we were leaving I asked Sean, the manager, if they had any hippo steaks…yes they did. So I grabbed their last 10 steaks and threw them into the fridge; a bit of a treat for the group tonight.
We had to leave via the same road we entered; it had only rained a small amount the afternoon before leaving so we knew the road would be passable. Thiemo went first to test the water level and to be the first across to get the rest of us crossing on video camera. Although deep, he managed to cruise on through; Russ and Sue were next…oh dear…stuck. Great footage for the video camera!! After a bit of pulling they were through; the rest of us decided to walk the bog hole to find the best way through… Ok we chickened out but got through without incident.
We drove close to 400kms that day to a few hundred kilometres from Lusaka. That night I cooked up the Hippo steaks; after a bit of a pounding and flash frying. Surprisingly, they were pretty tasty; a bit like veal… Certainly a first for Thiemo and I; although some of the group did not believe it was hippo – I can guarantee you we ate Hippo steaks for dinner!
The Smoke That Thunders
Mosi-oa-Tunya (smoke that thunders) is the local name for what the rest of the world knows as Victoria Falls. In 1855 David Livingstone sat awestruck by this amazing find and in his journal wrote “on sights as beautiful as this, angels in their flight must have gazed”; a perfect way to describe one of the seven natural wonders of the World.
So here I am sitting in the car park only metres from the Victoria Falls while the rest of the group are enjoying a fresh spray shower straight from the Zambezi river! With museums to visit, rhino to trek, sunset cruise and micro-lighting on the menu over the coming couple of days we are in for a full on time in the historic town of Livingstone, Zambia.
Livingstone truly lived up to the expectations of the group. The Victoria Falls was everything everyone imagined it would be, if not better; an afternoon/evening on a sunset cruise with alcohol included saw everyone a little “happier” than usual, rhino trekking was a hit as was the rather informative Livingstone museum. It was time to continue.