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ZAMBIA

ZAMBIA

Known as Northern Rhodesia from the late 19th century until gaining independence from Britain in 1964, Zambia is home to 13 million people, including more than 70 tribes. The discovery of copper deposits during Britain’s colonization of the area in 1895, led to the metal quickly becoming not only Zambia’s most lucrative export, but a single crutch upon which the country’s entire economy continues to lean with all its weight. Today, its agriculture and tourism industries represent beacons of hope as modern-day Zambia works towards ensuring stability by way of economic diversification.

The only place on earth where you can find Rhodesian giraffes and Kafue Lechwe, Zambia’s woodlands, grasslands, and forests contain more than 12,000 plant and animal species. And in addition to its diverse wildlife, well-preserved remnants of its 19th-century British colonial roots and their enduring social impacts—especially visible in Livingstone—make Zambia an ideal destination for those looking to explore African nature, culture, and history. 

Zambia Interactive Map

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*Destinations shown on this map are approximations of exact locations

Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park

Founded in 1972 and named "the smoke that thunders" after the nearby Victoria Falls, Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site whose small size—occupying only 66 square-kilometers along a 12-kilometer stretch of the Zambezi River—makes it a highly concentrated wildlife-viewing area. Elephant, Cape buffalo, antelope, giraffe, zebra, and warthog roam the park, as does a small population of the once-endangered southern white rhinoceros, which you can learn how to track on foot with an experienced guide during game-viewing excursions.

Explore Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park with O.A.T. on select departures of:

The Zambian Side of Victoria Falls

The most iconic images of Victoria Falls depict the base of the falls, with billowing waters pouring over the edge of hundreds-of-feet-high cliffs into Zimbabwe. But, the Zambian side offers completely different views from above the falls that are equally dramatic in their own right. Here, you can watch as water from the Zambezi River rushes towards the cliff's edge, creating whirlpools along the lip of the falls. During the dry season, some daring adventurers even choose to walk along the waterfall's ledge and bask in Devil's Pool, a natural infinity pool that butts up against the very edge of the falls.

See the Zambian side of Victoria Falls with O.A.T. on select departures of:

Kafue National Park

Both the oldest and the largest national park in Zambia, Kafue was established in 1924 and is roughly the size of Massachusetts. Kafue National Park is one of the best places to spot wildlife in all of Africa, with the greatest diversity of mammal species in the entire country, plus nearly 500 species of bird. Elephants and hippos lounge along the banks of the Kafue River, and through the park's forests and savannah plains roam a number of elegant animals including puku, a type of antelope only found in Zambia and the Congo. Because the Kafue River runs through the park, it's an excellent place for game-viewing drives as well as scenic wildlife cruises.

Visit Kafue National Park with O.A.T. on:

Livingstone, Zambia

A stroll through the historic streets of Livingstone, which was Zambia's capital until 1935, reveals well-preserved ties to its roots as a late 19th-century British colonial town. Here, the country's largest and oldest museum, named after David Livingstone—the area's first European explorer whose name the town also bears—boasts artifacts detailing the town's archaeology, history, and culture. Travelers can get an immersive look into a cultural side of Zambia you just don't witness out in the wilderness as they explore the local market, stop at some of the town's historic landmarks, and mingle with locals.

Learn about Livingstone's culture and history with O.A.T. on select departures of:

Most Popular Films

Films featuring Zambia from international, independent filmmakers

Travelogue: Zambia 1948

Watch this vintage 16mm footage of a Zulu tribe taken in 1948 by two adventurous film enthusiasts in what is now Zambia.

Produced by David Conover & Paul Villanova

Victoria Falls

Soak in the beauty of Victoria Falls in this film illuminating the wildlife, scenery, and outdoor adventures that attract thrill-seeking visitors.

Produced by Tom Varley

Wildlife of Southern Africa

Let the wildlife and scenery of Southern Africa captivate you in this 2-minute film showcasing the natural rhythm of life out in the open plains.

Produced by Rudi Zisterer

Featured Reading

Immerse yourself in Zambia with this selection of articles, recipes, and more

ARTICLE

Did you know you can discover Africa’s wilderness without the use of a vehicle? Consider a walking safari.

ARTICLE

Learn how to snap wildlife photos like a pro with a few expert tips from Photo Editor Greg Palmer.

Walking in the Wild

Exploring southern Africa on foot

by Philip McCluskey, from Dispatches

When many people picture a safari, they see themselves in a rugged four-wheel-drive vehicle, rumbling across the savannah. While this is a dominant—and fascinating—part of most great African adventures, some regions offer another way to discover this prodigious wilderness: the walking safari.

First developed in Zambia and primarily offered in southern Africa, walking safaris offer a completely different experience than their vehicular counterpart. There is something about feeling your feet thump against the earth in this timeless place that brings you closer to its beauty and its wildness. You feel as though you’re not simply viewing the wildlife; you’re entering their world.

Safari guides are experts at tracking animals—after all, they’ve spent years studying and exploring the bush to learn its secrets. Experienced guide Robson Zimbudzi of O.A.T. has some things you can keep in mind.

The most important first step, of course, is finding the right sites to explore. “First, we choose places that are open, so that we can see animals from a distance,” says Robson. “Before starting the walk, some guides will throw ashes in the air to determine the wind direction. That way, if they see an animal, they’ll know which direction to walk so that the animal won’t pick up their scent.”

Once out in the bush, tracking skills become vital in spotting wildlife. And while it might not be the sexiest way to track, animal droppings are certainly one of the most common ways to do so. “We look at the animal droppings on the ground to know which animals have been in the area,” Robson says. “We joke that this is called the ‘bush newspaper.’”

There are a number of things a guide can tell from the “newspaper”: “We can tell whether certain droppings were made by a male or female,” says Robson. “We can tell whether they came from a kudu or an impala, and how long ago the droppings were left.” Droppings can also indicate the age of an animal. As elephants age, for example, their molars wear out, and they are increasingly unable to fully break down plant matter. This results in more fibrous droppings.

Tracks are another great way to find some fascinating creatures in the wilds of southern Africa. If the tracks are clear enough, you can use their size and shape to get a better idea of what species left the mark. “The freshness of the track helps us determine how close the animal is to those footprints,” says Robson.

Wildlife doesn’t need to be moving to leave a trace, however. In areas of shelter (under trees or in shallow caves), you may even see makeshift beds where larger mammals have slept (known as “lays”). If you do, taking note of the shape of the lay may give some indication of which animal slept there.

Another great facet of a walking safari is seeing the more diminutive denizens of the bush. “The famous ‘Little Five’ are the rhino beetle, red-billed buffalo weaver, the ant lion, the elephant shrew, and the leopard tortoise,” says Robson. So named because they mirror (in part) the names of the Big Five, these tiny creatures are a hit on walking safaris—but it’s hard to see them all at once. “The ant lion, elephant shrew, and red-billed buffalo weaver can be seen on a walk throughout the year,” Robson says. “The rhino beetle can only be seen in the wet season, though, and the leopard tortoise can be seen in summer. They hibernate in the cold season.”

The big animals, of course, are still the most memorable. “I remember going on a morning walking safari, and seeing very fresh tracks of elephants,” says Robson. “Within a few seconds, we heard the unmistakable sound of twigs breaking. It was a breeding herd of elephants. We were able to watch it from a distance.”

When you’re out on a walking safari, every new step seems to offer an opportunity for new discoveries like this. And all you have to do is lace up your hiking boots, keep your eyes open, and enjoy the thrill of walking in a wild and wonderful place.

Exploring southern Africa on foot

Behind the Lens: On Safari

3 tips to enhance your wildlife photography

by Amanda Morrison and Greg Palmer

In September of 2014, Photo Editor Greg Palmer set off for Ultimate Africa for a 3-week photo shoot. Below, he shares 3 tips you can’t leave home without if you’re the kind of traveler who always packs your camera.

1. “Don’t even think about going on safari without a 400mm lens”

One of the challenges of wildlife photography is that approaching your subject can be dangerous. But you can maintain a safe distance by simply zooming in with this lens. And don’t worry so much about the body of the camera—it’s all about the glass.

2. “Compose in camera”

The best travel photos capture the essence of a destination, and to achieve that in the wild, it can help to think of this formula: animal + habitat. It’s about giving your subject context. In the photo above, that leopard had been resting in the shade, and here he is emerging, intense and unblinking as sunlight bathes his face. His expression is totally fierce on its own, but you can really feel his ferocity against that backdrop of brambles and shadows.

3. “Apply the rule of thirds”

For the uninitiated, here’s a quick summary: If you were to divide a photograph into boxes, 3x3, like tic-tac-toe, your main focus should fall on one of those points where the lines intersect. It’s more aesthetically pleasing when your subject isn’t centered.

Bonus Tip!

“Learn your camera before you leave—not while you’re on your trip”

Sometimes the simplest advice is the easiest to ignore. But when you’re ten feet away from that leopard, knowing how to adjust your lens can be the difference between a decent photo and a great one.

3 tips to enhance your wildlife photography

Zambia: Month-by-Month

There are pros and cons to visiting a destination during any time of the year. Find out what you can expect during your ideal travel time, from weather and climate, to holidays, festivals, and more.

Zambia in January-March

These are the wettest months in Zambia, and you may experience torrential downpours on many afternoons. Temperatures during the day average in the mid-70s (°F), and the humidity is high. Game parks are less crowded with safari vehicles, and birdwatchers enjoy these months, when Zambia’s more than 750 species of birds sport their fanciest breeding plumage. 

Must See

Victoria Falls is even more spectacular during the rainy months as the falls become increasingly swollen due to surging waters arriving from upstream. 

Zambia in April-June

Zambia’s rains taper off during these months, leaving a landscape that is still lush and green but beginning to dry. Days are warm but nighttime temperatures start to drop, especially in higher locations. With water flowing over Victoria Falls at its greatest volume during these months, the giant spray often gets in the way of ideal viewing, and the cascades are best seen from the air. 

Holidays & Events

  • May (but varies): Kuomboka is a traditional ceremony that marks the end of the rainy season.
  • June: Kazanga Ceremony is Zambia’s oldest traditional ceremony. It has been celebrated by the Nkoya people for over 500 years and takes place the first weekend of June. 

Must See

Kuomboka Festival, Zambia’s biggest festival, takes place each year to mark the end of the summer rains. It dates back some 300 years and takes its name from a Lozi word that means “to get out of the water.” A highlight of Kuomboka is the ceremonial movement of the king from a palace in the flood plains to one on higher land, and he is paddled in two huge canoes by 50 Zambian oarsmen.

Zambia in July-September

This is the peak tourist season in Zambia, but it also arrives with increasing heat. Daytime temperatures in July often hit the high 70s (°F) and can reach the 90s by September. Walking safaris are excellent during these months due to much drier ground in the bush. And with water sources beginning to dry, large quantities of game flock to Zambia’s waterholes and rivers. 

Holidays & Events

  • July: Lwiindi is a festival of the Tonga-speaking people that takes place on the first weekend of July each year to give thanks for the harvest.
  • August: Likumbi Lya Mize is a ceremony held on the last weekend of August that features Makishi dancers who recreate events from Luvale mythology.

Must See

Each September, huge flocks of beautiful Carmine bee-eaters head for the steep banks of Zambia’s Luangwa River and build their nests in a riot of color and sound. For bird lovers, this amazing photographic opportunity is tough to beat. 

Zambia in October

With daytime temperatures in the mid-90s (°F), October is Zambia’s hottest month. Wildlife viewing is still excellent, however, but safari game drives are usually confined to the early morning and evening hours to avoid the heat of day.

Holidays & Events

  • October: Shimunenga is a traditional ceremony of the Ila people held on the Kafue Flats to express devotion to divine ancestors.

Zambia in November-December

November marks the start of Zambia’s “green season,” with light rains beginning in the second half of the month and heavier rains throughout December. Both months are still hot and humid, but they offer prime wildlife viewing, as the rains usually arrive at night or during late afternoon. The landscapes are beginning to become green and lush, and the rolling storm clouds often make for dramatic views of the surrounding scenery. The Zambian side of Victoria Falls is reduced to a trickle during these months.  

Must See

The annual impala calving takes place in Zambia during these months and the wobbly antics of baby impalas are a joy to watch—but they also attract lots of predator activity.

Average Monthly Temperatures

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Our Activity Level rating system ranks adventures on a scale of 1 to 5 to help you determine if a trip is right for you. See the descriptions below for more information about the physical requirements associated with each rating.

Activity Level 1:

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Easy

Travelers should be able to climb 25 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 1-2 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last at least 1-2 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

Activity Level 2:

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Moderately Easy

Travelers should be able to climb 40 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 2-3 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for at least 2-3 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

Activity Level 3:

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Moderate

Travelers should be able to climb 60 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 3 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 3 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 5,000 to 7,000 feet.

Activity Level 4:

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Moderately Strenuous

Travelers should be able to climb 80 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 4 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 7,000 to 9,000 feet.

Activity Level 5:

1 2 3 4 5

Strenuous

Travelers should be able to climb 100 or more stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 8 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 10,000 feet or more.

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