50 Days in Zambia

A 50-day backpacking honeymoon through Zambia, Africa.


50 Days in Zambia

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Jason Elite on November 12, 2006

We travelled to Zambia for a two month backpacking excursion for our honeymoon. Yes, our friends thought we were nuts, but we knew better! Zambia will always hold a special place in our hearts - it is here that one day we would like to retire, perhaps in a small stone bungalow along the banks of the Zambezi River. Read on and you'll see why!

Zambia is a wonderful introduction to sub-Saharan Africa for the uninitiated - it's beautiful, very safe and easy going. Major highlights include the stunning Victoria Falls and going on safari in Zambia's best game parks: South Luangwa National Park, Lower Zambezi National Park and Kafue National Park.

Animal lovers will be thrilled by Zambia's wildlife. Safari options range from down-to-Earth budget camping safaris all the way up to full-on luxury safaris that offer decadence beyond your wildest imagination. Your chances of seeing the "big five" here are quite good: leopards, lions, buffalo, and elephants abound in Zambia's finer parks; rhinos are, unfortunately, harder to see due to poaching in the 80s, but there are still a few around for viewing in Mosi-au-Tunya National Park near Victoria Falls.

Adrenaline junkies will find their fix in Livingstone/Victoria Falls; you can do everything here including bungee jumping, abseiling, quad biking, white water rafting, jet boarding, microlighting, and more.

Why not go for it? Discover one of the friendliest, safest, and most beautiful countries in all of Africa. If you're careful about where you spend your tourist dollars, you can make a real difference in the lives of many Zambians and help support the economy of one of the world's poorest countries (in addition, Zambia is at the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic).

One word of warning - once you've visited Zambia, you'll find it very hard to leave!${QuickSuggestions} Accommodations in Zambia generally come in two varieties - budget camps and hostels (US $3-$10 per person, per day) and luxury safari camps (US $300-500 per person, per day and up); there really aren't too many options in between.

Markets are an excellent place to get a feel for local culture; they are the hive of activity in any village or city. In most markets you can buy anything from basic staples, street food and wooden carvings to toilet seats, inflatable globes of the world and many other random items of great curiosity.

When purchasing items (or services such as buses and taxis) in Zambia, be sure to find out the appropriate price well before bargaining begins; ask a local or friend for advice. When bargaining, it is always best to be friendly but firm within reason - otherwise you'll wind up paying the "mzungu price" (white person price) and eventually this will put the cost of goods and services out of the reach of the local people.

Please don't give out candies or pens to the children of Zambia - this simply creates a beggars' society. If you want to help out, there are much better ways of doing this. For example, spend your money in places where other travellers may not, especially in the rural areas. If you really want to get involved, you could volunteer at a local school and see some up-close traditional African life while making a real difference. Unfortunately, due to the devastation of the AIDS epidemic, the opportunities to help really are endless.${BestWay} In general, getting around Zambia is extremely easy because of the very limited number of roads; hence the route to where you are going is always obvious. Public transportation is an excellent option for budget travellers; more upscale travellers will prefer renting a vehicle upon arrival in Lusaka (approx. US $100/day and up). A sedan is fine in the dry season, although a 4WD becomes essential in the rainy season (November through April).

The public transit system in Zambia is, well, very Zambian. As with everything else in Zambia, don't expect anything relating to transportation to happen at the advertised time. "When will the bus go?" "It will go."

You know those pictures and movies you see with 20 Africans crammed into a tiny bus? That's how they really do it in Zambia. Local minibuses that connect small towns and ply the streets of the larger cities are invariably crammed full of people and massive amounts of luggage. Don't be afraid - eveyone's really nice and one day it will make for a great story!

The larger buses that travel between Lusaka and the other major cities (Kitwe, Ndola, Livingstone, Chipata, etc.) are hit-and-miss affairs; some are in excellent condition and very comfortable, others are in absolute shambles. Invariably, the minibuses that ply the streets of Lusaka and connect the smaller towns together are in poor shape.

It is possible to travel by train within Zambia, although this is seldom recommended; the bus is usually faster and more comfortable. The possible exception to this is the trans-continental Tazara railroad that links Kapiri Mposhi, Zambia to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; the total journey takes approximately 50 hours, so a first class ticket with a sleeper may be worth it (about US $50 total vs US $20 for third class). Tickets are available in Lusaka or Kapiri Mposhi at the station; book in advance to avoid disappointment. It is important to note that the buffet car only accepts the currency of the country in which the train is currently moving; it is therefore necessary to buy some foreign currency (i.e. Tanzanian Shillings) at the border stop - be careful, the moneychangers are really slippery!

Jungle Junction

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Jason Elite on November 12, 2006

After travelling for two months in Zambia you may be ready for a vacation from your vacation like we were - Jungle Junction's Bovu Island is the ideal place to kick back for a few days and recharge. The crew will pick you up in Livingstone and drive you out to the Zambezi riverbank about half an hour west of Livingstone from where you take a short Mokoro (dug-out canoe) ride out to Bovu Island.

Accommodation on the island is quite basic with two distinct choices - you can pitch your tent and camp or you can sleep in one of the riverside open-air bamboo huts. Both options are attractive and recommended.

There isn't much to do on Bovu Island; that is part of its appeal. Hammocks surround the honour bar, from which you can purchase small snacks and drinks at very reasonable prices; grab a book from the excellent library and lose yourself in it for a few days. Take some walks on the tiny island and explore the "far side;" Godfrey will try to teach you how to drum African style, no matter how uncoordinated you are.

Audrey's cooking is quite good and hearty - you certainly won't go hungry. If you don't want to partake in the offered food, you can always bring your own and cook it there.

In the evenings, the bar is the centre of activity. Choose from one of the many zany hats on the wall and join in the fun. If you're so inclined, you can participate actively in the drinking and other fun that goes on here.

The cost of staying on Bovu Island is very low overall. You pay a few dollars for your transfer and camping fees/sleeping plus whatever food and drinks you consume in the kitchen and honour bar; settle up in the office when you return to Livingstone.

One small word of common sense advice that I normally heed - don't leave your pants lying around at night or you may wake up to a rude surprise in the morning like I did! Susie the Scorpion decided that my pants were the nicest cave she had seen in a long time; when I put them on in the morning she let me have it really good about 8 times before I managed to get them off again! With pain shooting up my leg, I put her in a film canister to show one of the locals and he said "Ooohhh. Very bad. You will have a very bad day. But you cannot die." Phew.
Jungle Junction
21 Obote Avenue
Victoria Falls, Zambia
(260) 3 324-127

Bridge Camp

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Jason Elite on December 4, 2006

Bridge Camp is an ideal place to break the long and dusty journey between Lusaka and Chipata. A somewhat cheaper-looking version of your traditional African lodge, Bridge Camp is situated along a quiet dirt road near the Luangwa River; it offers peace and tranquility in a very beautiful setting. You can choose to pitch your tent and camp for a few dollars or you can rent one of the small rustic chalets for US $25-50. A variety of outdoor activities and longer excursions can be arranged on short notice.

Guests staying at Bridge Camp have the option of camping or renting a chalet; everybody can make use of the reliable and very hot showers and clean but basic flush toilet bathrooms. The campground is a bit dusty (as is everything in Zambia!); the chalets are quite attractive and quaint wooden thatch-roofed huts that are kept very clean. The interiors of the chalets are very simple and not overly decorated; the queen bed we had was reasonable but a bit saggy and lumpy, although there were ample blankets and pillows. You're protected from mosquitos by a wire screen that covers the open areas; expect to see some small lizards as usual. Electricity is only available during the early evening when the generator is running.

While you can bring and cook your own food if you're on a budget, the imaginative meals offered by the owner are of a high quality. Overall the meals are a bit pricey for budget travellers; if you're on a budget you may wish to consider bringing your own breakfast and lunch and then splash out for the highly recommended 3-course dinner! Meal options are varied and flexible - just ask if you have a special request. Cold beer and drinks are available at the bar at reasonable prices.

Available activities include going for a very informative guided nature walk through the surrounding scenic hillsides and learning about the various trees and their medicinal uses; we ate marula fruit (ala Amarula) right off the tree - yummy! If you're more adventurous, you can organize a multi-day excursion hiking and canoeing down the Luangwa River to Luangwa Boma, or even all the way up to the spectacular Lumsemfwa Gorge! You'll camp on the riverbanks and eat hearty food prepared by your guide; all of this is available for about US $100/per day per group plus food.

To get to Bridge Camp, just hop off any Lusaka-Chipata bus along the Great East Road at the small town of Luangwa Bridge, just west of the Luangwa River suspension bridge. From here it is a fifteen minute walk south along the road towards Luangwa Boma.

When we stayed here in July 2004, they were in the process of building a second floor addition to the dining and bar area and were building a swimming pool. Be alert when walking around Bridge Camp - huge crocodiles inhabit the Luangwa River and we often heard the saw-like growl of the leopard at night!
Bridge Camp
Post Net 143
Luangwa, Zambia
+260 97 197456

Cha Cha Cha Backpackers

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Jason Elite on December 7, 2006

Cha Cha Cha Backpackers is the budget travel hub of Zambia; located close to downtown Lusaka, Cha Cha Cha offers by far the best-value accommodation available in the Zambian capital. Owner Wade and right-hand-woman Brigette have a strong pulse on everything Zambian; if it has to do with Zambia, they'll know all about it!

Guests can choose between staying in a dorm room in the main building ($5 per night), camping ($3 per person, per night) or renting a private hut ($15-20 per hut, per night). Don't worry about reservations if you don't know when you're going to arrive - even if the dorms are all full, Wade will make arrangements for you to have some floor space in the bar for your sleeping bag if all else fails!

All guests have full access to Cha Cha Cha's wide variety of traveller's amenities - these include self-serve or full-serve laundry service, a well-equipped self-catering kitchen, fridge, bathrooms, clean and hot showers, lock boxes for valuables, pool, etc. One of the most useful services offered is free luggage storage - we brought a few empty suitcases in addition to our backpacks and stored them in the luggage hut. Whenever we passed through Lusaka (which you need to do to get anywhere in Zambia), we just dropped off all the souvenirs we had acquired on that leg of the trip and made room for more in our packs!

Cheap ($1-2) and filling breakfasts of all descriptions can be conveniently ordered from the in-house restaurant/kitchen, along with dinner - don't miss out of the tasty braai (barbecue) meals that are offered up in the evening! At night, the warm and welcoming bar becomes the main centre of attention. Bartender Nick serves up ice-cold Castle and Mosi beer along with a wide selection of harder poisons and wine, all at cheap prices. This is a great place to relax and meet some new friends - fellow travellers, expats and well-to-do Zambians all gather at this popular watering hole for refreshment. In addition, you'll be able to hear the latest tunes offered up on the Zambian music scene - some of the new Zambeat music is quite good - we bought several CDs worth to bring home and listen to them on a regular basis!

Many activities (and almost anything you can imagine) can be arranged through Cha Cha Cha, not the least of which are wonderful budget camping safaris to stunning South Luangwa, Lower Zambezi and Kafue National Parks (see my other reviews)! In addition, you can also arrange for a city/township tour of Lusaka for a very reasonable rate (see my other review for details).

All-in-all, Cha Cha Cha Backpackers in Lusaka is everything an African backpackers should be - cheap, warm, friendly, fun and useful, all in one! Even if you decide to stay elsewhere for some reason, be sure to stop in for a few beers and to garner some useful tips for travel in Zambia!
Cha Cha Cha Backpackers
161 Mulombwa Close
Lusaka, Zambia
+260 1 222257

Kayila Lodge

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Jason Elite on December 7, 2006

Part of the burgeoning SafPar (Safari Par Excellence) empire in Zambia, Kayila Lodge is situated in a game reserve on the banks of the Zambezi River just outside Lower Zambezi National Park. We stayed here on the last night of our 14-day Sunway Safari Zambia & Botswana: Untamed Rivers expedition; to be honest, they must have gotten a really, really great group rate as this was high luxury compared to the camping places we normally stayed at! The going rate for independent travellers at Kayila Lodge is between $200-300 per person, per night all-inclusive, depending on the season.

Accommodation is in beautiful thatch-roofed huts on the banks of the river; there is one hut that is situated in a huge sausage tree, about 30 feet off the ground. Much to our delight, our group voted that my wife and I should stay in the treehouse as it was our honeymoon! Yay!

Our treehouse was absolutely amazing. At the base of the tree we had a full, beautiful stone-work bathroom with a breezy shower overlooking the river. The climb up to the treehouse itself was a bit of a challenge due to the rather precarious steepness of the steps (and we're big-time hikers!), but it was all worth it. The bed inside the room was the best bed we had in all of Zambia (although that's not saying much) and the tree branches were integrated into the room itself, making it a very organic experience. From the balcony of our treehouse we could look out over the river; elephants were milling about at the foot of our tree in the morning! Wow!

Food was included in our tour and we were served an excellent-quality buffet dinner and breakfast at the lodge; drinks were extra and overpriced by Zambian standards, but not expensive by western standards.

One of the most interesting features of Kayila lodge is the large baobab tree beside the common area. If you look at it carefully, you'll discover there's a door in the tree. If you go inside the door, you'll be in for a funny surprise - a bathroom! Yes, a full bathroom inside the tree trunk itself. How's that for unique!?

The usual menu of Lower Zam safari activities are on tap at Kayila Lodge: game drives, night drives, walking safaris, and canoe safaris can all be arranged here.

Although they do employ local people and seem to treat them very well, it is questionable as to how much of the money spent at Kayila Lodge actually gets pumped into Zambia's economy. This for us is a bit of a sticking point; you'll need to make your own decisions as to where to spend your money.
Kayila Lodge
Zambian bank of lower Zambezi River
Zambia
(0)12 23 641

Marlin's

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Jason Elite on November 14, 2006

Attention carnivores of the world - if you ever find yourself spending a night or nights in Lusaka, Zambia, you must ensure that you pay a visit to Marlin's for dinner. As soon as you walk in and meet the friendly security guard and owner, you'll know you're in for a great evening. Marlin's can get quite busy, so consider calling ahead on busy nights.

Marlin's draws a diverse clientele including tourists, expats, well-to-do Zambians and businessmen. Situated inside the Lusaka Club, it is a great place to socialize with your friends (or make some new ones) over a few drinks in the bar area.

Without a doubt, Marlin's fillet steak in either the peppercorn or the garlic butter sauce is the restaurant's tour-de-force and is not to be missed by any serious meat-lover. I can honestly say that the many steaks I've had at Marlin's rank amongst the very best I've ever had anywhere in the world. Menu options range well beyond the much touted steak and most people will find something very enjoyable to tempt their palate. All meals also entitle you to access the food bar where you will find many vegetables, rice dishes, salads, potatoes, etc. To round out your meal, be sure not to miss the dreamy Amarula Don Pedro which consists of Amarula cream smothered over ice cream; it is simply delectable.

While travellers on a budget may be tempted to pass over Marlin's because it is more expensive than other options, it is worth noting that it costs considerably less than an equivalent restaurant in the western world and is definitely worth splashing out for. Budget travellers need not concern themselves with their dress - as long as your clothes and boots are clean and presentable you will have no problems at all.
Marlin Restaurant at the Lusaka Club
Los Angeles Blvd.
Lusaka, Zambia
260 (0) 211 252 206

The Zambezi Swing

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Jason Elite on November 13, 2006

The Zambezi Swing offers a full day of awesome adrenaline-pumped action which takes place in a scenic gorge off of the main Batoka Gorge near Livingstone, Zambia. Participants fly through the air, free fall and rappel down high cliffs to their hearts' content.

The crew will pick you up outside your Livingstone accommodations in the morning and drive you out to the site. You'll be fully briefed on all safety issues and given some light refreshments before you launch into the real fun.

There are three main activities - rappelling, the zip line and the mighty Zambezi Swing itself. In the first activity, you can rappel down a cliff while facing in the normal backwards position, or you can go forwards for an entirely new experience! The operators do most of the hard work for you, so you don't have to worry about falling to your death or working overly hard to get down to the bottom. The zip line is a lot of fun - you take a good run and then fly out into the air Superman-style while sailing over the beautiful gorge down below. Once you're ready for the big-time action, make your way over to the Zambezi Swing; this is essentially a giant tree swing out over the gorge. When you jump off, you free-fall for about 50 m before swinging in a giant arc. Once you've stopped swinging back and forth, you'll be lowered onto the solid ground at the bottom of the gorge.

You need to have only a modest degree of physical conditioning in order to participate in all of the fun. The hardest part is that you need to walk up out of the gorge once you've rappelled down or finished your swing. The walk up to the top takes about 15 minutes and is fairly tiring in the heat of the gorge; luckily there is a shady hut where you can drink some cold water on your way up in order to beat the heat.

After you've had enough of the high-energy action, you can chill out and watch your friends plunge off the cliffs while enjoying a few ice-cold beers (all included). There are also a few local people who sell wooden carvings (what else!) of varying quality; we found some nice items for a reasonable price.

The Zambezi Swing offers great value - you can do any of the activities as many times as you like; transportation there and back, refreshments, lunch and drinks at the end of the day are all included in the price. All of this will cost you about the same as one bungi jump, but you get a lot more bang for your buck. The day we were there, there were only about half a dozen other people, making for a nice intimate group where you can make some new friends.
Zambezi Swing

Livingstone, Zambia
+260 3 321188

Victoria Falls Bungee Jump

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Jason Elite on November 28, 2006

The first time I saw the Victoria Falls was hanging upside down on the bungee jump! I'll never forget the sight of the falls peeking through the magnificent Batoka Gorge as I bobbed up and down after my thrilling jump (my first and only bungee jump).

The famous bungee jump at Victoria Falls is probably the most scenic in the world and, standing at 111m, is also amongst the highest. If you're going to bungee jump anywhere in the world, this is the place to do it. Operated by Africa Extreme, this bungee jump has a perfect safety record and is run in a very professional manner - no chances are taken and you will be very well looked-after.

The cost of the jump is approximately US$80, although it does fluctuate. You get to jump for free if you're "crew" (i.e. a tour leader) and bring any paying customers with you. Additional possibilities beyond the basic jump include doing a tandem jump tied to another brave soul and buying a video (a whopping US$40) or digital pictures of your exploits (US$10). I'm fairly certain that if you buy the video you get to jump for free again sometime during the next year - just ask and they will explain.

Getting to the jump site is easy - just take any minibus or taxi towards the falls; the jump centre is a short walk past the entrance to the Victoria Falls National Park. Since you are technically leaving Zambia and entering no-man's land between Zambia and Zimbabwe, you'll need to talk briefly with the Zambian immigration officials; just explain that you're there for the bungee jump and you'll have no problem. Just don't forget to have somebody else hold on to your passport while you jump!

Once you've paid for your jump you'll be weighed and measured and make your way toward the jump site on the bridge. While the crew is securing you to the rope and back-up line, you'll be briefed on any relevant safety issues. After that, it's a matter of moments before they send you on your merry way.

It really is a long, long, long way down; when you wiggle over to the edge and look down before you jump, you may get a little freaked out - hang in there (pun intended) and wait for the countdown. 5-4-3-2-1-Bungee! Throw yourself into the void and this once-in-a-lifetime ride.

If you've come all the way to Zambia to see the Victoria Falls, why not join in the fun and throw yourself off of a perfectly good bridge? Let's be honest - if you don't do the jump you may well regret it for the rest of your life. And what would you tell your friends back home? That you travelled all that way just to watch everyone else jump? Happy jumping!
Victoria Falls (Mosi-O-Tunya)
Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Lower Zambezi National Park

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Jason Elite on December 1, 2006

Can you resist the lure of Earth's greatest wildlife spectacle? We certainly couldn't! Lower Zambezi National Park is one of Zambia's premiere game parks. Situated along the banks of the majestic Zambezi River, it offers not only traditional game drives and walking safaris, but also the possibility of exotic canoe safaris while slowly drifting down the river. Here you will have the opportunity to observe African nature in its purest form. Watch in awe as myriad leopards, elephants, hippos, hyenas, antelope, crocks and lions roam around in their natural environment, seemingly oblivious to your presence. In addition, Zambia is one of the few countries in the world that allow night drives inside their national parks; you'll never forget the first time you see and hear, or rather feel, a lion roaring while hunting at night - the sound and vibrations are indescribable.

Most people stay just outside the gates of the park as accommodations within the park itself are strictly of the highest luxury and are intended for high rollers only: expect to pay between US$300-500 per person per day all inclusive. Choose between the Chiawa Camp, Sausage Tree Camp and Royal Zambezi Lodge - all have full amenities and an excellent reputation. Normal travellers will undoubtedly opt for more realistic options.

Self drivers can stay at Chongwe Camp or Mvuu Lodge just outside the park (both options offer camping for US$15 or chalets for about US$50 per person per day), or camp at the lovely community campsite (US$5 per person per day, directly supporting the local community!).

Budget travellers will find it easiest to visit Lower Zam by joining a budget camping safari like we did. For US$400 per person, we had a five day package including transportation to/from Lusaka, park entry fees, food, camping accommodations and, of course, game drives, night drives, walking safaris and canoe safaris. These excellent value packages can be arranged through Wade at Cha Cha Cha Backpackers in Lusaka - this is an opportunity not to be missed!

While on safari in Lower Zambezi, we were lucky enough to see many lions, elephants, hyenas and antelopes. Often we were able to get extremely close to the animals without disturbing them - you'll be surprised how disinterested they are in you! The highlight of our trip came when we entered the park at the break of dawn and encountered a leopard still sleeping in the middle of the path - wow, what a rare find! Walking safaris (with an armed guard) will enable you to explore the park on foot and appreciate some of its finer details such as termite mounds, ant lions and others that are missed while driving.

Our guide Levi and our cook Charles took excellent care of us - the food, guiding and accommodations were all superb and enjoyable; oh, there were also a few animals to look at here and there... enjoy!
Lower Zambezi National Park
North Bank of the Zambezi River
South Eastern Zambia

Lochinvar National Park

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Jason Elite on December 3, 2006

Lochinvar National Park occupies a tiny area just off the main road between Lusaka and Livingstone (Victoria Falls), Zambia. The action revolves around the Chunga Lagoon, a flood plain of the Kafue River. The water attracts many antelope and bird species to the area for wildlife viewing.

Don't come to Lochinvar expecting to see big game or predators - they don't live here. The main purpose of visiting Lochinvar is to go birding: the park is home to some 400 species of birds! Despite this large variety of bird species, we were unable to spot many birds during our visit, making it a bit of a disappointment. Of course, we were there during the dry season; peak time for birding is during the rainy season. We did see some antelope, but nothing out of the ordinary (zebra, lechwe, impala, waterbuck, etc). I spent some of our rather boring time chasing monitor lizards around the lunch area at the lodge, trying to get a good photo of the 4-foot-long skittish creatures.

There are few accommodation options available within or near the park. As per usual for Zambia, you have a choice between two extremes: very basic camping or ultra-luxury lodging. The campground is a small, dusty affair (US $5 per night - see photos) with minimal facilities (a clean but smelly pit toilet, little else). There are no supplies available at the campground - make sure that you are self-sufficient before you arrive.

The luxury lodge sits along the edge of the lagoon, offering a wonderful view of the expansive wetlands. We had a chance to squat down here for lunch and inspect the facilities since no one was staying there at the time! Accommodations are in a large, spacious tented room with beautiful decorations and attention to detail and top quality furnishings. Prices vary depending on the season, but count on about US $200 - US $400 per person per night, all inclusive.

Lochinvar is a tiny park with a lot of potential but little to offer at this time, at least during the dry season. Perhaps if you visit during the rainy season you will have better luck with the birds than we did! Be sure to bring a book detailing the birds of Africa so that you can identify the various species you will (hopefully) see. If you do decide to visit, one of the nicest things you can do is spend a little money in the tiny village shops near the park - few people come this way and your spending can make a real difference in the lives of some very poor Zambians. We also stopped to play soccer with some of the local kids on our way through; if you want to get in touch with rural Zambian life, this is a great place to do it.
Lochinvar National Park
Southern Edge of Kafue Flats floodplain of Kafue River
Lusaka, Zambia, Africa

South Luangwa National Park

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Jason Elite on December 4, 2006

Wildlife lovers of the world unite! South Luangwa National Park in Zambia is one of the most respected game parks in Africa. The birthplace of photographic safaris (as opposed to shooting the animals) and walking safaris, South Luangwa has always been on the cutting edge of the African safari scene. Guides must pass extensive tests before they are allowed to take guests into the park; as a result, the guiding is always of a very high calibre - their knowledge of the park and animals runs very deep. They are also trained in the use of the firearms which they carry in order to protect guests from any potential problems with predators (this is exceedingly rare).

Your visit to the park will revolve around game drives through the wilderness area. Wildlife viewing is of course best during the dry season (May through September) when the vegetation becomes sparse and the animals are driven close to the river. The park is home to a plethora of antelope species, leopards, lions, elephants and more.

Zambia is one of the few countries that allows night drives within its national parks. This is a rare and very special opportunity not to be missed - the thrill of stalking the predators at night cannot be understated; you'll know what I mean when you see your first lion or leopard on the prowl looking for its next meal - searching for the animals with the spotlight in the chilly African night is positively thrilling.

The most affordable and realistic way for most people to visit the park will be by joining a budget camping safari; Wade at Cha Cha Cha Backpackers in Lusaka can arrange this for you for about $400 for five days, all inclusive - our guide and cook were both excellent. Safaris depart from Chipata, near the border with Malawi; getting to Chipata is very easy with several good buses making the Lusaka-Chipata run each day.

Self drivers can stay just outside the gates at Wildlife Camp or Flat Dogs - both offer excellent budget camping accommodations ($5-15 per person per day), a bar and food on-site, all at reasonable prices. You can arrange game drives for about $30. Those with money to burn can fly directly into the town of Mfuwe just outside the park and stay inside the gates of the park at the decadent Mfuwe Lodge ($200-400 per person per day, depending on the season).

One non-wildlife attraction not to be missed is Tribal Textiles near Mfuwe; they offer absolutely stunning hand-painted wall hangings at good prices. Here is a great opportunity to directly support the local economy! Ask your guide for details.

If you want to spend every waking moment looking for animals, then this is the park that you want to visit. If you want some more variety in your safari diet, you should consider Lower Zambezi National Park (see my other reviews); to be honest, you really should do both if you can!
South Luangwa National Park
Eastern Zambia
Zambia

Kafue National Park

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Jason Elite on December 4, 2006

Kafue National Park is the third gemstone in Zambia's triple-crown of wilderness reserves. Distinctly different from both South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi National Parks, it is the one place in Zambia where you may be able to see the elusive cheetah! As with all of Zambia's major parks, the best time to visit is during the dry season (May through September) when the animals are forced closer to the water supplies and the vegetation is sparse. If you've got a lot of time to spend in Zambia like we did, Kafue is a must see. If you're tight on time, you'll probably want to focus on Lower Zambezi and South Luangwa instead.

Kafue offers a wide variety of habitats, leading to a diverse wildlife viewing experience. The woodlands in the southern half of the park are home to a great selection of antelope species (kudu, puku, waterbuck, impala, the endemic red lechwe and even the ultra-hard-to-spot roan!); due to the excellent food supply, leopards are often seen lurking in the thickets and are particularly easy to find on night drives (be sure to bring blankets - Kafue is quite cold at night). The oversize but tranquil Kafue River offers one of Zambia's finer spots for viewing multitudes of huge crocs and hippos - be careful if you're near the water's edge! Finally, in the northernmost reaches of the park lie the expansive Busanga Plains - a huge open savanna area reminiscent of the legendary Serengeti; it is here that the cheetah makes its home.

There are a variety of accommodation options in and around the park to suit all tastes and budgets. We stayed at Lufupa Lodge which is situated in a beautiful riverside location deep within the park. They offer camping for US $15 per night; there are attendants who can help out with camp chores - please consider giving them at least a small tip to help out with their families. Also available are chalets for US $100 per person including all meals. Arranging reasonably-priced (US $20-35) game drives, night drives, walking safaris and boat rides is a snap at Lufupa! Let them know what you want to do and you'll be on your way as soon as possible.

If you can afford it, for a more exotic experience, consider spending a night at Lufupa Lodge's Shumba Bush Camp. Your transfer to and from Lufupa, full board and all game drives are included for the price of US $200 per person per night. The view from the elevated observation platform is stunning - the plains continue on and on until they meet the horizon. Being budget travellers, we couldn't afford to stay, but it sure looked nice!

A more recent option is to arrange a budget camping safari through Wade at Cha Cha Cha Backpackers in Lusaka; he wasn't running them when we were there, but I understand he has operations up and running. If they're anything like his other safaris, everything will be enjoyable and top notch!
Kafue National Park
Main Access at Great West Road from Lusaka to Mongu
Zambia

Lusaka Downtown/Township Walking Tour

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Jason Elite on December 7, 2006

Many first-time visitors to Africa step off the plane, get to their hostel, sleep for a few hours, and then wonder, "Now what?" Finding your way around as a visible minority in a strange city in a culture that is very different from home, while exciting, can be a bit harrowing for some travellers at the same time. An excellent option available to visitors to Zambia is to take a short guided walking tour of Lusaka to become familiar with African sights and customs.

We arranged our tour through Benson at our hostel, Cha Cha Cha Backpackers in Lusaka. Benson is a very nice, young Zambian university student who hangs out around the backpackers in his spare time and conducts walking tours for a few dollars in order to support his tuition fees - what a wonderful way to give back to the community!

Firstly, Benson showed us the way to the downtown area from the hostel, pointing out useful places such as snack stands, the police station, an Internet cafe and small shops along the way. Once downtown, he took us to a currency exchange house, helped us change some money and gave us an idea of the prices of local goods and services in order to help us avoid overcharging before we visited a local market to learn the ropes of shopping and bargaining. Since we planned to taking a bus to Chipata the next day, he then took us to the bus station (a very, very hectic place) and showed us where to get our tickets, find our bus, etc. This saved us a lot of hassle the next day, to be sure!

One of the highlights of our walk was visiting with two local families in one of the poor townships in Lusaka. Benson took us to two homes - one belonging to a very, very poor family, another belonging to a somewhat better-off family in order to give us an idea of the range of living conditions. We were able to buy some produce from the women in order to help them out a bit - directly supporting the local economy. The children in the township were amazing - few visitors come this way and they were thrilled to be included in our pictures!

Benson also told us about the whole mzungu thing. If you're white, everywhere you go in Southern Africa you will hear an endless chorus of "Mzungu! Mzungu!" cascading upon your ears as you walk about. "Mzungu," Benson explained, "just means white person. It is usually friendly and not an insult, unless they are sticking out their finger at you. Then it is not so friendly... but this is very rare, my friend." Luckily, he was right!

Benson can pretty much arrange whatever type of tour you want. Should you so desire, you can even try the barbecued mice in the market! I almost did, but must admit that I chickened out in the end. Squeak squeak!
Cha Cha Cha Backpackers
161 Mulombwa Close
Lusaka, Zambia
+260 1 222257

Victoria Falls

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Jason Elite on December 7, 2006

There really is very little in the natural world that compares with the spectacle that is Victoria Falls in Zambia! There is a good reason why they are considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world - they truly are Mosi-Oa-Tunya: The Smoke that Thunders.

Standing at about twice the height of Canada's famous Niagara Falls, the height of Victoria Falls is simply staggering. Add to that the fact that they are about 2km wide and you begin to understand the magnitude of the situation. The Zambezi river hurls itself downwards for over 100m before crashing to the floor of the spectacular Batoka Gorge that forms the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The falls are bursting with water during the rainy season (December through April) - sometimes the spray is so intense that you can't even see the falls during this time! We went during the dry season - even then the sheer volume of watering plummeting over the falls was unbelievable. Rainbows abound and make for wonderful photographs for those with an artistic eye.

Be careful around the edge of the falls - this is Africa, after all! There are few safety structures in place - you are responsible for your own safety (as you should be). If you so desire, you can walk through the river right up to the edge of the falls and sit in the water in the "Devil's Armchair", a small stone structure right against the edge - only six inches of rock separate you from oblivion!

One of the most amazing things you can do at Victoria Falls is actually hardly ever advertised - if you time your visit to the full moon, you can enter the park at night and see a lunar rainbow! Hardly anyone seems to know about this - just take a taxi to the park gate and it should be open. However, getting back to town can be a real problem - the road is not really safe to walk at night (one of the few such places in Zambia) and there usually aren't any taxis hanging around at that hour. We managed to hitch a ride with some very friendly locals and had a great time trying to speak Nyanja with them!

There's lots to see at the falls - spend some good time walking around the various trails and viewing the falls from different angles - every viewpoint brings new delights to your eager eyes. If you're in good shape, you can even hike all the way down to the river's level and see the Boiling Pot rapids - just don't fall in! After you're done viewing the falls, you can check out the many craft vendors just outside the park; there's some excellent wares available here at great prices. Adrenaline activities abound in the Victoria Falls area - the legendary bungee jump, killer whitewater rafting, the gorge swing and more await you: see my other reviews for more details. Enjoy!
Victoria Falls (Mosi-O-Tunya)
Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Immigration and Visa Waiver for Zambia

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Jason Elite on November 14, 2006

There is no need to arrange for a visa before you arrive in Zambia whether you enter by land or air; it costs considerably more than obtaining the visa upon entry and is highly inconvenient.

Nationals of most countries will pay at least US$25 for a single entry visa, US$40 for a double entry visa and US$80 for a multiple entry visa (expensive but often necessary for overland routes).

Due to the rather high cost of the visas, it is useful to know about a little-publicized fact - that it is possible to get into Zambia for FREE if you are "introduced" to Zambia by an establishment on the inside; any hotel, hostel or such outfit can arrange this for you. Usually it is a simple matter of notifying the hostel of your wishes and providing them with your passport information, arrival date, etc; they will then contact the border post or airport ahead of time and you will be entered into the immigration register. When you arrive at the immigration desk, just mention that a waiver has been arranged for you and all should be fine when they find it in their register. Cha-ching - free stuff! We took advantage of this when arriving at the Lusaka airport and also when crossing back into Zambia from Botswana and had no problems in either case.

It is also useful to note that different immigration officials at different border posts will grant you different visas for no apparent reason; therefore it is always prudent to ask for the best possible visa (longer, multiple, etc). We often found that the immigration officials would be willing to give us better visas if we could explain what we were going to use them for.

Helping Out a Tiny Bit - Kanakantapa, Zambia

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Jason Elite on December 10, 2006

Kanakantapa is a small rural village located in a very poor area about an hour's drive outside of Lusaka, Zambia. We only knew it existed because a good friend we made at Cha Cha Cha Backpackers in Lusaka was the organizer of a charitable effort in the village. She had started up a program whereby young medical students from the UK volunteer to come down to Zambia for a few weeks to help rural kids learn about how to take care of basic medical needs for themselves and their families.

We decided to join the regular volunteers for a day to see what their program was like. Our trip started outside Cha Cha Cha when the truck came to pick us up in the morning. As the truck slowly made its way along the dirt roads towards the town, we picked up many kids and bystanders on the way through. It took a little over an hour to reach our destination; it sure was a bouncy and dusty ride!

The program takes place inside the open-air neighbourhood school in the Kanakantapa area. My wife (a teacher) had the opportunity to teach a lesson about astronomy to the kids with the help of a translator - what fun! At lunch time we ate with the teachers at the school and talked about teaching and the differences in our cultures. They taught us how to eat Zambia's traditional meal, nshima, which most Zambians eat 3 times a day (if they're lucky), 365 days a year. Nshima is basically a maize porridge - it is popular throughout sub-Saharan Africa, although it may go by different names in different countries. You should definitely try it at least once sometime when you're in Zambia. It's rather bland, but a bit of salt and garnish can go a long way in making it at least semi-tasty!

Interacting with Zambian kids is always a rewarding experience - they're genuinely thrilled to see you and love to share their stories and play with you! Soccer, dancing and playing games are just some of the ways African kids like to have fun. The more excited you become, the more excited they will become, of course!

Many people are apprehensive about getting involved while in Africa because they believe they'll have to give up huge amounts of time from their already short trip, but this is not necessarily the case - it is possible to make a difference - even just for a day! The Kanakantapa project is just one example of the many simple ways you can get involved and make a small difference in the lives of some wonderful people. Not only will you help out the community, but you'll have the chance to observe African life in an authentic setting.

http://www.igougo.com/journal-j62470-Zambia-50_Days_in_Zambia.html

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