Most adventure seekers and safari enthusiasts would probably draw a blank when you mention visiting Zambia. Only those ‘in the know’ have an inkling to the natural secrets that this land-locked destination holds. One of the best-kept secrets is that the country hosts the world’s largest falling sheet of water. In case there is any confusion, no, Izgazu Falls is not the largest, as beautiful and magnificent that is. Also known around the world as Victoria Falls, Zambia drew the long straw on Mosi-oa-Tunya, which translates to ‘the smoke that thunders.’ The name was given by Scotland’s David Livingstone who was on an expedition in Southern Africa in the late 1800s. Scattered throughout the country, there are an additional 17 waterfalls to choose from. Sorry, did I fail to mention that this was coming from a native Zambian? One that now lives in London, but is still dedicated to sharing all of the beauty that Zambia has to offer.
Whether you’re looking to live in the lap of luxury or you’re on a budget, there is something for everyone in Zambia. It is truly is an adventure seeker’s paradise.
Though Zambia has nine provinces, the most popular destination for tourists is Livingstone (the home of Victoria Falls). Livingstone offers a myriad of places to explore, and the city is small enough to be done within 3-4 days if you are tight with time. Below are some tips on where to stay and what to do during your time in Zambia.
If trying something new isn’t your thing then you are in the wrong country. Those up for something new must try the most popular dish: infinkubala (dried caterpillars). It may sound unique (or maybe even a bit gross), but they are delicious, paired with the traditional ground maize meal staple that is nshima. If infinkubala is not available, then you can request capenter (tiny dried fish) and also pair it with nshima and vegetables that are cooked in various styles. It’s so delicious that you will be going back for seconds or thirds.
There are markets where you can by souvenirs, artwork and many other items to take back home in Livingstone’s main town center. There, you will also find the main museum showing the journey and changes that Livingstone has underwent. Right next to the museum is the tourist information office where you can get advice on where to stay in town, available activities and transportation guides. Game drives are quite popular in this part of Africa, so if you are open to exploring Zambia I would encourage you to also explore places in the North and South East, as these have been known to have some of the last remaining tree climbing lions in the world.
Since Zambia borders with Zimbabwe, why not jump off the knife bridge, overlooking the Victoria Falls, which allows you to swing back and forth like a pendulum between both countries? If you find that you are still hungry for more adventure, then how does diving into the falls sound? Not only can you dive off, but right into it by way of the Devil’s Pool. This is a pool that sits on the edge of Victoria Falls with a drop of 100 meters. Simply put, it’s what adventure-seeking globetrotter’s dreams are made of. The Devil’s Pool is open from late September to November when the water flow of the falls recedes enough to allow safe passage to swim to the pool. From the pool you can wave to the tourists standing on the other side of the border that are viewing Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwean side who are jealously wishing they had the courage to take the plunge as well.
Maramba River Lodge
Maramba offers luxury chalets, luxury tents and spots to pitch a tent if you want to take the cheaper route and camp during your visit to Zambia. Maramba has an onsite restaurant, bar and views of crocodiles and elephants that graze the trees while you relax with a cold drink in the shade. Maramba varies in pricing, from budget camping to chalets that are approximately $150 per night. You can also find deals on booking.com, but bare in mind that this will not list all the available lodging types at Maramba.
Tongabezi offers private and exclusive lodges that come with stunning views of the Zambezi, where hippos roam the river as you sit by the lounge areas. At Tongabezi you get your very own butler available to you 24/7 and amazing food via its Michelin trained chef. Attentive service, relaxed surroundings and the stunning views make it well worth the price, as it also includes activities to Livingstone Island where you come face to face with Victoria Falls and the Devil’s Pool. Additionally, the resort offers trips to local markets, cycling through the national park as well as candlelight dinners on the crocodile infested river. There are also activities that are not included in the price, such as a helicopter ride over the falls and so much more.
Royal Livingstone Hotel
Royal Livingstone Hotel offers similar luxury to that of Tongabezi, but it’s not as exclusive. With views of the mighty Zambezi, where it lacks in exclusivity it makes up for due to the fact that you can see the smoke that is created by Victoria Falls. Imagine being able to witness the force of the water falling off the edge of the falls into the 100 meter deep crevice that separates Zambia and Zimbabwe right from your hotel. You also have zebras and antelopes that roam the grounds as you relax by the pool sipping cold cocktails in the warm and toasty African heat.
There are plenty of buses and taxis available to get around Livingstone and in between local cities. Because my trip started in Lusaka, I opted for a flight from Lusaka to Livingstone, which was only about an hour of flying time. If you’re looking for additional options, a chartered coach bus from Lusaka to Livingstone is less than $15 and takes about 4-6 hours; the trains only run twice a week to on specific days and take roughly as long as the coach; the flights were $230 with Zambia’s internal airline, Proflight. This can be cheaper if you book in advance and you arrive in Zambia too. There is also the option of hiring a car, which will give you the freedom to move and stop at your own pace.