The territory of Northern Rhodesia was administered by the South Africa Company from 1891 until it was taken over by the UK in 1923. During the 1920s and 1930s, advances in mining spurred development and immigration. The name was changed to Zambia upon independence in 1964. Kenneth Kaunda was the first President of the Republic of Zambia, which in those days was a single party State.
Even at independence and despite the country’s incredible mineral wealth, Zambia faced major challenges. Domestically, there were few trained and educated Zambians capable of running the government, and the economy was largely dependent on foreign expertise.
Copper, being Zamibia’s main export suffered a severe decline worldwide in the mid-1970’s. Zambia turned to foreign and international lenders for assistance, but as copper prices remained low, it became extremely difficult to service its growing debt. By the mid-1990’s, despite limited debt relief, Zambia’s foreign debt remained among the highest in the world.
In 1992, the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) won the election and their leader Frederick Chiluba became Zambia’s second President. Chiluba attempted to sort out the country’s constitution towards the end of his second term in office in order to gain a third term as President. This was an ill-disguised attempt to hold onto power which was thwarted and his successor Levy Mwanawasa won the General Election and was sworn into office in January 2002. Mwanawasa held onto power until August 2008 when he died in office. Following his death, Zambian vice president Rupiah Banda succeeded him to the Office of the President until emergency elections were held later in the year. Banda won with a narrow margin over opposition leader Michael Sata.
In September 2011, Rupiah Banda lost re-election to Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front, which brought to end 20 years of rule by the MMD. Zambians were proud of the peaceful handover of power to President Sata, which was attended by the remaining living Zambian Presidents; outgoing President Banda and former President Kenneth Kaunda
The safari has come a long way since the days of moustachioed men with big guns and pith helmets; today you’re much more likely to see giant telephoto lenses sticking out of a 4WD. Zambia has many excellent safari opportunities, mainly in its great national parks, with endless opportunities for photos.
Entry requirements for Zambia
All visitors are required to carry a passport that is valid for six months beyond the intended length of stay. There should be sufficient blank pages for entry stamps upon arrival.
Where applicable, visas should be obtained from your nearest Zambia consulate. Certain passport holders can purchase single entry visas at port of entry.
Requirements for obtaining a visa are:
- Photocopy of passport.
- Original application form and two passport photos.
- All visitors may be requested to show proof of sufficient funds and onward travel/return ticket.
This is a guide only – please check with your nearest Zambia Consulate for up-to-date information.
Winter: June – August
Summer: September – March
In summer, days are hot and generally sunny in the morning with possible afternoon thunderstorms. Daytime temperatures can rise to 38ºC(100ºF) and night temperatures drop to around 20-25ºC(68-77ºF). The afternoons can be very humid. The rainy season begins late in October/November and ends in March.
The average annual temperatures in the main areas are as follows:
Minimum Maximum Mombasa (coastal) 22ºC (72ºF) 30ºC (86ºF) Nairobi 13ºC (55ºF) 25ºC (77ºF) North plainlands 23ºC (73ºF) 34ºC (93ºF)
The long rains occur from April to June and short rains from October to December. Rainfall is sometimes heavy and tends to fall in the afternoon and evenings.
Health requirements when travelling to Zambia
Before entering Zambia, you will have to get malaria prophylactics. When buying them, tell your doctor or pharmacist that you intend visiting Zambia, as certain anti-malaria treatments are tailored to particular areas. If you suffer from side effects, try taking your malaria prophylactics at night, after dinner. Take precautionary measures to prevent contact with mosquitoes, for example: sleeping under a bed net or in a room/tent with mosquito proofing (remember to keep the flaps zipped at all times); spraying your accommodation with insecticide; making use of a mosquito-repelling lotion or stick and wearing long-sleeved clothing, long trousers and socks when outside at night.
Any person entering Zambia from or via a yellow fever infected area must be in possession of a valid International Certificate of Vaccination against yellow fever. It is advisable to obtain medical insurance prior to arrival. All main towns have well-stocked pharmacies, but it is recommended that you bring any medicines you may require with you. In October 2011, it was confirmed by the South African Health Department that all persons who have visited Zambia and return to South Africa, will require a yellow fever vaccination. (even if in transit).
For more information, please visit www.doh.gov.za/docs/policy/2011/draft_yellowfever.pdf
We strongly recommend that you take out travel insurance, which includes curtailment and cancellation cover, as well as medical cover, upon confirming your booking.
When to go
Zambia is an all year round wildlife destination. However, there are certain seasons for special interest groups to take note of:
- Best birding months are November to March.
- Best botanical months are December to May, when the vegetation is lush and green, and also when most plants are in flower.
Zambia’s popularity as a destination is gaining in leaps and bounds to the extent that seasonal differences are not as marked as in previous years. Traditionally, however, peak season is from July to October and middle season is from May to June. Book well in advance.
Very important: Packing space is limited on charter flights so you will need to restrict your baggage to 15 – 20kg (packed in a soft bag) including camera equipment.
Attractions and National Parks
Lusaka is a sprawling, swollen city that has grown too fast and has little appeal for travellers, though it is the capital and you’re likely to spend some time in it. Lusaka didn’t even exist before the 20th century, and until the 1930s it was just a small, sleepy agricultural centre. Although it became the capital in 1931, rapid growth didn’t occur until the 1960s. Since then, most of Lusaka’s middle class have headed for the suburbs, leaving a population consisting mainly of civil servants, diplomats and poor Zambians.
Downtown is in the western part of the city; the government district lies a few blocks east. The city is surprisingly rich in galleries featuring local artists. Among the best are the Henry Tayali Visual Arts Gallery at the Showgrounds a few kilometres east of the centre, the Mpala Gallery about halfway between the two, and the sculpture garden at the Garden House Hotel, a few kilometres west of the centre. Just north-west of the centre is the Zintu Community Museum, which exhibits traditional arts and crafts.
The other major attraction in the capital is bustling open-air Kamwala Market, a few blocks south of the centre.
The capital is in the southern part of the country, about 100km (62mi) from the Zimbabwe border. It’s accessible by air, rail and bus.
Livingstone dates from just after the turn of the century, springing up when the Zambezi Gorge was first bridged in 1904. Tourists were among the first to cross the bridge, and Livingstone remained the area’s tourism hub for the next 70 years. The town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe eclipsed Livingstone in the 1970s, though Livingstone has been battling back ever since. Still, it’s not the tourist trap its southern neighbor is.
Anyone who knows their narrow-gauge from their standard should drop into the Railway Museum – the short name for the Zambezi Sawmills Locomotive Sheds National Monument, which lies a few hundred metres west of Livingstone’s train station. The rag-tag collection of old engines and rolling stock will warm a rail buff’s heart, but to someone else it might look like a rusty pile of junk.
The National Museum has a slightly broader appeal, featuring a collection of archaeological and anthropological relics. One highlight is a copy of a Neanderthal skull estimated to be over 100,000 years old. There are also examples of ritual artefacts and Tonga crafts, an African village mock-up, a collection of David Livingstone items and a display of Africa maps dating back to 1690. If that all sounds too tame there’s a creepy collection of witchcraft paraphernalia, but you have to ask to see it.
Livingstone is located about 300km (185mi) south-west of Lusaka, and is accessible from the capital by light aircraft.
The Victoria Falls are one of the world’s most spectacular plunges: the 2km (1.2mi) wide Zambezi River drops over 100m (330ft) into a steeply-walled gorge. The Zambian side of Victoria Falls is sometimes forgotten, but it provides an entirely separate experience to its better-known Zimbabwean counterpart. First off, the views are different: you can sidle right up to the falling water by walking down a steep track to the base of the falls and following spindly walkways perched over the abyss. One of the best spots for a close-up is at Knife Edge Point, reached by crossing a hair-raising (but safe) footbridge through swirling clouds of spray to a cliff-girt island in the river. If the water is low and the wind favourable, you’ll be treated to a magnificent view of the falls and the yawning abyss below the Zambezi Bridge.
Adrenaline junkies will love Victoria Falls. Here you can indulge in white-water rafting, abseiling, river-boating, jet-boating, bungee jumping and a host of airborne activities. Stories exist of people who become so caught up with activities here that they don’t get around to seeing one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world. Souvenir hunters can raid the line of curio stalls near the falls, where there’s an excellent selection of crafts and the sellers are keen to barter – that ‘Just Goa’ t-shirt might fetch you something really nifty.
Nearby are an archaeological site and a small museum with exhibits on the dig showing that humans and their ancestors have inhabited this region for 2.5 million years. The falls are 11km (7mi) southwest of Livingstone, and the best way to reach them is by bus or hired car.
South Luangwa National Park
For scenery and wildlife-spotting, South Luangwa is one of the finest national parks in Zambia. Vegetation ranges from dense woodland to open grassy plains, and oxbow lagoons act as natural water holes. Mammals you’re likely to see include lions, buffalos, zebras and Thornicroft’s giraffes.
In the Luangwa River you’ll spot hippos and crocodiles. Day, night and walking safaris are available, as are horseback rides. Accommodation includes rustic camp sites, barebones hostels, comfortable chalets and full-service resorts. The park is located about 250km (155mi) northeast of Lusaka. Most people arrive by air at Mfuwe Airport, 20km (12mi) southeast of the village of Mfuwe and the park’s main gate, although you can also arrive by public transport. The park is closed during the rainy season of December to April.
Lower Zambezi Valley
The Lower Zambezi National Park is located in the south east of Zambia and declared a national park in 1983. It covers a vast area of 4,092 square kilometers, but most of the game is concentrated along the valley floor. There is also the escarpment along the northern end, which acts as a physical barrier to many of the park’s animals. A true essence of wilderness and a place that does not feel overtaken by humans and provides and outstanding and unpredictable safari. UNESCO declared several areas of the Lower Zambezi World Heritage sites, because it is home to an ‘incredible concentration of wildlife’ making it well known for big game.
Combined with the wildlife, the the huge Zambezi River flows gently because of the subtle gradient which makes it perfect for canoeing. All this with the beautiful Zambezi escarpment that gradually slopes down to meet the river.
Kafue National Park
Kafue National Park is located 360km from Lusaka and was declared a National Park during the 1950’s. The park covers an immense 22 400 square kilometers in Western Zambia. Large areas of the park hold a rich diversity of wildlife and still remain unexplored and untouched.
In the north, you will find the Busanga Plains which is home to lions, zebras, incredible birdlife and the sycamore fig trees of Busanga Swamps. Further down in the south, antelope, elephants and buffalo are home to the Nanzhila Plains with pods of hippos swimming in the waters of Lake Itezhi-Tezhi, a man-made lake which borders the eastern side of Southern Kafue.
Leopards are often spotted in forested areas, especially during night drives, which are only permitted with registered guides through through a camp or lodge you are staying at.