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Zambia

Introduction:

Zambia is a country dominated by wilderness and an amazing sense of space. Lush river valleys and floodplains offer excellent habitat for a huge range of wildlife species, as do the dense woodlands that cover much of the country.

More Info:

General Information

Geography - Environment

History, Culture and Politics

Useful Information

Country Hotspots

General Information

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Still relatively unexplored by most visitors to Africa, Zambia conjures images of a bygone era, with vast areas of pristine wilderness still to be fully discovered. The roads are generally unsuitable for self-driving and distances between the countries highlights are huge. The infrastructure is improving but the best way to visit Zambia is still to take an organised safari with an experienced tour operator.

Geography - Environment

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Zambia is dominated by its namesake, the Zambezi River which rises in the northwest and forms the countries southern boundary. Zambia is landlocked and bordered by Zaire in the north and northwest, Tanzania in the northeast, Malawi in the east, Moçambique in the southeast, Zimbabwe in the south, Botswana and Namibia in the southwest and Angola in the west! With an area of 750,000 square kilometres, Zambia is based around a central plateau with a height of 1060 to 1363m above sea level. The landscape is mostly flat with isolated mountain ridges and outcrops containing the countries mineral wealth.

The level of the land falls moving southwards from the Zaire border to the Zambezi, and the central plateau is broken by the huge valleys of the Zambezi and its main tributaries; the Kafue and Luangwa being the largest.

The three natural lakes of Zambia (Bangweulu, Mweru & the southern end of Tanganyika) all originate from headwaters in Zaire. The northern section of Lake Kariba also lies in Zambia; Kariba is the largest man-made lake in the world at 5000 square km.

History, Culture and Politics

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Zambia lies on the Central African Plateau and at the southern end of the Great Rift Valley. A number of early Stone Age sites have been uncovered throughout the country; the main sites are located at Kalambo Falls in the north and Victoria Falls in the south. Evidence of the use of fire up to 60,000 years ago has been found at Kalambo Falls. By the late Stone Age, around 15,000 years ago, people were using cave shelters and creating rock paintings of which unfortunately only a few have survived due to Zambia's humid climate. These early people were probably of San descent, as in other areas of Southern Africa.

Between 300BC & AD400, Bantu speaking tribes moved south and dominated the area that is now Zambia. They brought with them domestic animals, pottery and tool making skills and began to concentrate on agriculture and a more settled way of life. With the discovery of copper

Around AD350, mining began and currency and jewellery was made. Trade with Swahili tribes began around AD1500 - 1800 and at this time many of the tribes in the Zambian area were organised into chieftaincies or monarchies. The Chewa tribe was dominant in the east, the Lozi in the west and the Bemba & Lunda in the north. By the 18th century, trade links were strong from the Atlantic coast to the eastern shores of the African continent. Copper, ivory, rhino horn and slaves were the main trade commodities.

Influences from Europe began to filter into the area from the time of the Portuguese landings, around 1515. The people of this area would also experience the influence of the Dutch and British colonisation of the Cape from 1652 onwards. Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama, landed on Mozambique Island in 1497 and by 1515 Portugal had established colonies at Mozambique and on the western coast of Africa at present day Angola. In the 1790's, the Portuguese began to travel into Zambia from Angola.

The actions of Shaka Zulu and his nation around 1818 forced many tribes to move north to avoid repression and violence. A Sotho clan, the Kololo, was one of the first to escape, along with two other groups of Ngoni people. They crossed the Zambezi in 1835 and moved north as far as the southern end of Lake Tanganyika. In 1865 they established themselves permanently in Zambia's eastern province. At this time, present day Zambia was not a country as such, but was occupied by a number of varied and distinct kingdoms, for instance the Bemba, Lunda, Kololo and Chewa.

David Livingstone had visited the Kololo in 1851 during his travels north and had been appalled by the extent of the slave trade. In conjunction with the Kololo, Livingstone had plans to establish a system of 'fair trade' promoting ivory and cotton among other goods. Before extensive trade could begin, an export route had to be found that would enable the goods to be transported in bulk to the coast. Livingstone first trekked from Barotseland (the home of the Kololo) to the Angolan port of Luanda, this journey proved to be a failure with the terrain being completely unsuitable for transportation. Livingstone next tried the Zambezi River which he believed would be the perfect route. During his journey towards the coast, he 'discovered' the magnificent Victoria Falls and returned to England with tales of wonder. Unfortunately, Livingstone had failed to travel the full length of the Zambezi, and subsequent plans to use the river as a trade route into the interior were abandoned when the Cahora Bassa gorge in Mozambique was discovered to be un-navigable.

Following Livingstone's death in 1873, many missionaries were sent to Zambia from Scotland, France and other countries. Zambia became better known to the outside world and by the end of the 19th century; the British South Africa Company (BSAC) had taken over Zambia as part of Cecil Rhodes' plan to control Africa from the Cape to Cairo. Suddenly, the country of Zambia was arbitrarily marked out and the separate kingdoms that had existed prior to colonial takeover were thrown into single governance. In 1911, the area was named Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia being present day Zimbabwe. The capital was the town of Livingstone, located next to the Victoria Falls. The capital was moved to Lusaka in 1935.

Treaties of submission were obtained from the kings and chiefs of the countries tribes, often by fraud and deceit. However, official slavery was abolished. A hut tax was imposed on local people, to raise funds for work on the Cape to Cairo railway and to pay for the administration of the country. A rebellion followed with many villages being destroyed and inhabitants being taken into forced labour in the South African or Southern Rhodesian mines. Vast tracts of land were given to white settlers and around 20,000 Zambians also found themselves forcibly recruited as porters for British troops fighting WWI in east Africa.

In 1923 the British Colonial Office took Zambia over as a protectorate and promised to run the country with African interests as a paramount concern. The reign was very paternalistic and although things were a little better, Zambians were still subject to pass laws and limited land ownership. The copper mines which had been worked on a very small scale basis hundreds of years ago were re-discovered in the 1920's and the 'copperbelt' as it was known became one of the world's most concentrated mining areas. Many Zambians migrated to the area for work and this was a catalyst in breaking down traditional tribalism with everyone living and working together.

The mines were initially run exclusively under white management, but a series of strikes against taxes and poor pay led to black Zambians eventually being included in management in the 1950's. At the end of the 1940's, the Northern Rhodesia African Nationalist Congress was formed out of various welfare associations which had been initiated by Missionary school graduates who had been taught something of politics. The Congress leader was Harry Nkumbula.

Things were to become economically worse for Zambia with the formation of a federation including Nyasaland (Malawi), Southern and Northern Rhodesian in 1953. Northern Rhodesia became the financial supporter of a failing Southern Rhodesian economy and millions of dollars were siphoned off to the South.

The fully fledged fight for independence began in the mid 1950's when Nkumbula's Congress split and the Zambian African National Congress was formed, followed by the United National Independence Party in 1958 with Kenneth Kaunda as it's leader. Intense rivalry between the two parties resulted. In 1963 the colonial federation was dissolved and Zambia's first elections were held in 1964 with UNIP winning and Kaunda becoming the first president.

Today Zambia's population is made up of around 70 different tribes, numbering approximately 9 million people. No single traditional culture is dominant and the Zambian people regard themselves as a united nation with little tribal animosity. Most of the population live in urban areas, unusual for a developing country, and the growth rate is a high 3.7%. Unemployment in the cities is huge with many people taking part in informal employment such as street markets. Primary education and health care are free and 95% of the population attend the first stages of school. However, the dropout rate is high and health care is still inadequate to cope with demand.

Useful Information

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  • [?]Health & Malaria

    Most of Zambia is a malaria area and recommended prophylaxis should be taken. The low lying river valleys are where malaria is most virulent and extra care should be taken in these areas. Your doctor can advise you on the best type for the area of travel and your personal requirements. However, taking prophylaxis will not guarantee that you will not contract malaria! The best way to avoid malaria is to avoid being bitten by the mosquitoes that carry the parasite. Only the females of one species of mosquito (Anopheles) carry the tiny parasite, and the greatest incidence of malaria is in areas of high population where there are many people for the mosquito to bite and pass the parasite between.

    Mosquitoes usually bite between sunset and sunrise, so make sure that you are covered up during this time! Wear loose fitting, long sleeved shirts and trousers, use a good insect repellent and sleep underneath a mosquito net or in a tent/ room sealed with netting. If you do develop flu-like symptoms, or feel at all unwell, during your holiday or after your return home, you must make sure that your doctor knows that you have recently travelled in a malaria area. Malaria is not a serious problem provided people take adequate precautions and seek advice and treatment immediately if they feel unwell.

    Zambia\'s major private hospitals are of a fair standard; however, serious medical cases will be evacuated by air to South Africa where further facilities are available. For this reason you must make sure that comprehensive travel insurance is taken out before you travel, this insurance should cover any medical expenses, air evacuation and repatriation if necessary.

  • [?]Water

    The water is safe to drink in Zambia\'s towns, when visiting the remote areas purification tablets should be used, or bottled mineral water bought en-route. Plenty of water must be drunk to prevent dehydration. We recommend 2-3 litres minimum, excluding beverages such as tea, coffee, juice and alcohol. Dehydration is responsible for many emergency evacuations and can cause very serious problems, it is totally avoidable, so don\'t let this spoil your holiday!

  • [?]Climate

    Rainy season: December to April. Rainfall does not usually occur every day, and generally takes place in the afternoon with mornings being fairly clear.

    Summer: September to April with a high of 35° C and a low of 18° C.

    Winter: May to August with a high of 27° C and a low of 10° C.

    The best time to visit Zambia is in the winter months of May to August, and many safari operators do not run trips into the National Parks during the rainy season due to the condition of the roads and the intensity of the heat in lowland areas.

  • [?]Photography

    Bring plenty of memory cards and a spare camera battery as these items may not be available in some of the more remote areas of Zambia. A good zoom lens (minimum 200 mm) is essential for wildlife photography.

  • [?]Clothing

    Neutral, muted colours such as khaki, dark green or beige ensure as little disturbance to wildlife as possible whilst on game drives or walks. White or bright colours are not advised and army camouflage uniforms or army hats are not recommended.

  • [?]Recommended Packing

    Neutral coloured casual clothing (shorts/shirts) for everyday wear, stout shoes (with soles thick enough to protect against thorns and for walking), light waterproof jacket for summer, warm jumper/ fleece for winter, warm long trousers for winter, two sets of good casual clothes for evening dining where appropriate, towel, broad brimmed hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, camera, plenty of memory cards & spare battery, binoculars, reliable torch, sleeping bag if camping. It is also worth noting that if you are travelling by light aircraft or as part of a guided safari, you should carry no more than 10-15kg of luggage in a soft bag for ease of packing.

  • [?]Currency

    Zambia\'s currency is the Zambian Kwacha which is divided into 100 ngwee, although these coins are very rarely used due to devaluation. US$ can be exchanged throughout the country, as can Euro and pounds sterling although US$ generally receives a better rate. Travellers’ cheques can also be changed in banks and most accommodation establishments accept credit cards, mainly Visa or Mastercard, although this should be checked before arrival. Fuel cannot be purchased with credit cards, and in the more remote areas most places only accept cash.

  • [?]Visa Requirements

    Visitors from the Commonwealth and some other European countries can obtain tourist visas for up to 3 months at the border. The cost depends on your nationality. Please contact us for details regarding your personal visa requirements.

Country Hotspots

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  • [?]Kafue National Park

    Approximately 200km west of Lusaka, Kafue National Park is one of the largest and wildest protected areas in the world. Covering more than 22,000 square kilometres, Kafue was originally established as a protected area in 1950.

    The astounding variety of ecosystems within this area include lush, riverine forest along the banks of the Kafue River and its main tributaries, open mixed woodland of mature teak and miombo trees, grassy plains and the seasonally flooded Busanga Swamps in the north of the Park which alone covers 750 square kilometres! The Itezhi-Tezhi Dam in the south of the Park covers 370 square kilometres and is more of an inland sea than a dam, providing habitat for the African fish eagle and numerous heron species among many others.

    In addition to the more commonly sighted African species such as lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant, buffalo, hippo and hyena, Kafue is home to many rare and endangered species now found in very few areas of the continent. Such species include the sable antelope and the red lechwe, puku and sitatunga antelope species which thrive in semi-aquatic swamp areas. Over 400 bird species can be found in Kafue, and similarly these include many rare species such as the majestic wattled crane, the large, and elusive, Pel\'s fishing owl and the purple crested lourie.

    The bad condition of the Park\'s roads is a blessing for the protection of the delicate ecosystems which now thrive despite a previous history of poaching and lack of management. Since the establishment of the Park, a lack of human activity and development has allowed populations to increase steadily and Kafue remains a raw, Africa wilderness providing a home to many hundreds of species of animals, birds, reptiles and fish. Wildlife viewing is best between April and October, during the dry season when animals are drawn to more permanent water sources.

    Most of the Park\'s roads are inaccessible from November to April. The best way to visit Kafue is with an organized, guided safari, enabling visitors to enjoy the wilderness with the support of knowledgeable professionals.

  • [?]North Luangwa National Park

    The remote northern section of the Luangwa Valley covers 4636 square kilometres and is not usually open to the public. For more than 30 years, the only people allowed to enter this area were National Park rangers. There are no lodges within the Park area and only a very few safari operators have permission to enter this wilderness which was home to the well-known researchers Mark & Delia Owens in the early 1990\'s.

    Wild and untouched, the North Luangwa Park is a nostalgic throwback to the Africa of old with massive herds of buffalo and elephant, prides of lion, solitary leopard and packs of hyena.

    Very few roads exist through the Park which lies on the Luangwa River, bordered on its eastern bank by the Muchinga escarpment. A number of tributary rivers flow through the Park bringing life-giving waters to this beautiful environment.

  • [?]Livingstone Town

    Livingstone is a more authentically \'African\' town than Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwean side of the border. The view from this side of the gorge is equally spectacular, and during the low water period of October to February it is possible to walk right to the edge of the thundering Falls themselves or to swim (carefully!) in one of the rocky pools at the edge of the gorge.

    Many adventure activities can be arranged from Livingstone, varying from bungee jumping, gorge swinging, micro-lighting and white water rafting to more leisurely boat cruises on the upper stretches of the river.

  • [?]South Luangwa National Park

    The concentration of wildlife in this Park is one of the most intense in Africa. The appearance of the 9050 square kilometres varies throughout the seasons from bare bushveld in winter to a lush wonderland in the summer months. Over 400 bird species and approximately 60 mammal species make the day and night game drives and walking safaris offered in the Park an amazing experience. Thornicroft\'s giraffe are unique to the Luangwa Valley and some of the bird species that may be seen here include crowned crane, steppe eagle, open-billed stork, goliath heron and beautiful swallow and bee-eater species.

    Wildlife viewing is best between April and October, during the dry season when animals are drawn to more permanent water sources. Most of the Park\'s roads are inaccessible from November to April

    In addition to the animal and bird species within the Park, the environment is characterized by beautiful, mature trees including stands of ebony, mopane, leadwood, slender ivory palm, bizarre baobab, marula and tamarind.

  • [?]Luangwa Valley

    The Zambezi is Africa\'s fourth largest river system (after the Nile, Zaire and Niger Rivers). Running through six countries, many areas along the river banks are protected and therefore offer a range of safe habitat for wildlife species.

    The river itself is remarkably free of pollution, mainly due to the lack of human development on its banks, and opportunities for water sports and game viewing along its 2700 km length are exceptional.

    The river forms the border between Zambia and Namibia and Zambia and Zimbabwe before it flows into the Kariba Dam. The Lower Zambezi National Park is Zambia\'s newest protected area and covers 4000 square kilometers on the northern, Zambian banks of the river. Habitat types include riverine floodplains, woodland and grassland, a heavily wooded escarpment and several islands.

    These islands vary from large, rocky outcrops with towering, mature trees under which explorers such as Livingstone and Selous slept and carved their names in the trunks, to ephemeral, grassy sandbanks. Lying opposite Zimbabwe\'s Mana Pools National Park, the Lower Zambezi is rich in wildlife and also offers excellent fishing opportunities.

    Canoeing trips are run along the meandering river; the best time to take part in this activity is between June and September. The river banks are dominated by Faidherbia albida (winterthorn) trees which tolerate sandy soils better than competing species and provide the resident elephant population with nutritious and tasty seed pods.

  • [?]The Zambezi River

    The Zambezi is Africa\'s fourth largest river system (after the Nile, Zaire and Niger Rivers). Running through six countries, many areas along the river banks are protected and therefore offer a range of safe habitat for wildlife species.

    The river itself is remarkably free of pollution, mainly due to the lack of human development on its banks, and opportunities for water sports and game viewing along its 2700 km length are exceptional.

    The river forms the border between Zambia and Namibia and Zambia and Zimbabwe before it flows into the Kariba Dam. The Lower Zambezi National Park is Zambia\'s newest protected area and covers 4000 square kilometers on the northern, Zambian banks of the river. Habitat types include riverine floodplains, woodland and grassland, a heavily wooded escarpment and several islands.

    These islands vary from large, rocky outcrops with towering, mature trees under which explorers such as Livingstone and Selous slept and carved their names in the trunks, to ephemeral, grassy sandbanks. Lying opposite Zimbabwe\'s Mana Pools National Park, the Lower Zambezi is rich in wildlife and also offers excellent fishing opportunities.

    Canoeing trips are run along the meandering river; the best time to take part in this activity is between June and September. The river banks are dominated by Faidherbia albida (winterthorn) trees which tolerate sandy soils better than competing species and provide the resident elephant population with nutritious and tasty seed pods.

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