Things You Must see and Do In Zambia
So, you have landed at the Kenneth Kaunda International airport in Lusaka, which often referred to as the Lusaka International airport. Like most travellers, you wonder what you must see and do in Zambia? I will get you to the right places to do the right activities so you can make the most of your time in this country. I will start by giving you some knowledge on the place which you are about to visit. There are few things more hated than a clueless tourist. If you don’t know enough about a country, you can never fully grasp, and let alone appreciate your experiences there.
Lusaka is the capital city of Zambia, which is in the Southern part of the country. The must-see attractions are in very few areas, so you will not have to do too much travel. Lusaka is the most densely populated city in Zambia. Individuals from all parts of the nation travel here in search for opportunity and better lives, just as is the case in all capital cities across the world. It was after all named by the World Bank as one of the fastest growing economically reformed countries in 2010.
Zambia became independent in 1964, with Kenneth Kaunda becoming the first president. The airport and other things in the nation have been named in his honour. A lot can be said of the role that he played in bringing liberation for this nation, from British rule.
Zambia’s official language is English, as it is for most other former British colonies. Other languages spoken in Zambia include, Bemba, Nyanja, Tonga, Lozi, Chewa, Nsenga, Tumbuka, Lunda, Kaonde and so on. I have placed these in order of their prevalence. As you will find when you travel through Southern Africa, some of the languages spun across the borders. You will note that Chewa/Chichewa is also spoken in Malawi.
The Zambian people are a friendly and jolly bunch. You will have absolutely no problem getting around, and finding new friends or asking for directions. No resort or tourist attraction is worth anything without the people you meet there. You travel for people, for their culture, their cuisine and so on.
The local currency is called the Kwacha. At the time of writing this, US$1 gets you ZK5194. The price of food is pretty cheap once you have converted your foreign currency into the local currency.
What is the best time of the year to visit Zambia?
Most travellers venture into Africa for its preferred weather, to avoid harsh Western winters. Zambia has a rainy and a dry season. The dry season can be divided into cold/winter and hot/summer.
- Cool/Winter – May to August
- Hot/Summer – September to November.
The winter temperature can drop to as low as 6°C, which is pretty warm if you are from Calgary or Moscow, lol. The summer months range between 28-35°C.
How Much is food is Zambia?
Now that we know that you are highly unlikely to starve, we can move on. If you have read any of my previous guides, you will know that I always recommend, well I say recommend, more like, I prescribe getting a rental vehicle for the time that you are travelling. This gives you a greater control of your journey. You will not have to spend time waiting on buses or trains or whatever else. You go when you think it is time to go.
A quick search on Google maps yields the results shown. I tend to go with the highest rated ones if I can. It is always worth shopping around before you pick one. My usual concern with the companies that I am not familiar with is that I do not know how it would turn out in the event of mishaps. A few things to consider:
- You need a 4×4 (Car availability and range)
- Breakdown Cover
- Multiple car drop-off centres.
- Does it come with a full fuel tank?
The more of these things you can tick off on the list, the better you will fare. Now that you have your car ready, and it is a 4×4, you are ready to go and enjoy Zambia.
Travel Checklist for Zambia
- Sun cream
- Travel Insurance
- Travel Vaccinations (Speak to your doctor at least two months in advance)
- Insect repellent
- Driver’s license
- Hand Sanitiser and Wet wipes
- Hand Cream
- Emergency Contact
- Personal Hygiene Items (toothbrush, toothpaste, shower gel, sanitary pads.) They may not have your preferred brands
- Hair products
- Printed Booking confirmations (Hotels, activities, airport shuttle etc)
- Unlocked mobile phone to use a local sim card. Gives you access to the internet and better coverage than most phones on roaming.
- Medication, if you are on any.
- Camera (Your phone will run out of battery at crucial times).
- Handy Cash (10 000 Kwacha would go a long way).
- Hiking/Walking Boots.
Since we are already in Lusaka, let us start by exploring the city.
Lusaka National Museum
I make it a point to visit museums in any country that I travel to. As I always say, you have no business visiting a nation, if you are not willing to learn about the people. The people’s history, gives you perspective into how they behave and relate to others. Besides, who doesn’t like to have those, “Hmm… I didn’t know that moment?” Travelling has also made me the go to guy for international pub quiz questions, that always surprise my friends each time, no matter how many times it occurs.
There are two floors in the Lusaka National Museum. The first floor is used mainly for short term displays and exhibitions, which means that the things I saw may not be there when you visit the museum. I think this is a great approach for a country which such a rich history. It allows artists and other interested parties to contribute into this space. For the locals, this also means you will never see too much of the museum, there is always something fresh to see.
It won’t take too much of your time to view all the artefacts in the museum, an hour or so at the most. Lusaka National Museum is a great way to ease yourself into your trip. The entrance fee was about US$5.80, if I am not mistaken.
Once you have seen the exhibitions, you can head up to the second floor and get acquainted with the history of the nation. It covers the precolonial era, the colonial era as well as some of the post-colonial era. I found the witchcraft display to be quite intriguing, and cracked up great, insightful conversations with the staff about it. Apparently, it is all legit! The tour guide was brilliant; you could tell he had been doing this for quite a while. He filled the blanks with anecdotes and stories of other visitors.
I found the political history bit to be quite tedious and hard to follow. It could do with some revamping, perhaps reimagining, to thrust it into this part of the century. People have much shorter concentration spans, which make such lengths very forbidden.
Munda Wanga Environmental Park
Travelling should always incorporate leisurely, relaxing experiences. This is what we found at Munda Wanga Environmental Park. The word Munda Wanga loosely translates to “My Garden.” Munda being garden, and Wanga being my. Amusingly this is relatively close to the Shona language that is spoken in Zimbabwe. The only difference is they would use “wangu” to mean my, instead of wanga. I find these thinks to be tremendously fascinating.
There are two aspects to this park, the mini-zoo bit and the botanical gardens. I don’t know who manages them or if they are even managed separately, but there is quite a gulf between the two. If it’s the same person, that guy must hate the zoo side of things. As with other things in Africa, it could be a funding issue for one side of the park. The zoo is not very well maintained. This is very sad, as it is quite a great facility to take a break in from the hassles of day to day city life.
On a normal day, you will find picnickers, and other park lovers. It gets pretty loud and hectic during feeding hours. Watching the animals feed is always soul feeding. I believe they only do the feeding experience on weekend, between 2pm and 3pm. You’ve got zebras, lions, monkeys, hyenas, warthogs, tortoise, owls and so on.
The botanical garden was well manicured. The flowers were magical and full of life. Most of the plants are not marked, so unless you are an expert in the field you will probably not know what you are looking at. This is also the case with a lot of the animal enclosures. Come on guys, it really wouldn’t be cost heavy to put up a few signs. I believe it would bring much needed enhancement to the experience. That being said, it is a great place to pass your time while in Lusaka.
Kalimba Reptile Park
We are only doing short drives today. Kalimba Reptile park is under an hour’s drive from Lusaka National Museum.
Distance from Lusaka National Museum: 23km
Travel time: 50-56 minutes
Look out for: Vendors and sculptures. Buy what you like. Find a bargain.
I love travelling through Africa, the amount of free enterprise on display is phenomenon. It is testament of the human spirit, to be able to adapt in the midst of some of the toughest conditions and adversity. I digress.
This is the best place for the adventurous foodie. Most reptiles here can be found as part of a dish served at this facility. I believe it is also a place that can be therapeutic to individuals who are afraid of reptiles. You get to hold massive reptiles such as mamba, as well as the small baby crocodiles as well. There is hardly ever a better moment for taking pictures. One of my travel companions, whom I have been forbidden to name is petrified of reptiles. We had a ball just pushing her to her absolute limits. She was in tears at some points, but all in good fun. We all had to be on our toes for the rest of trip. What’s travelling if we cannot have fun with our friends while we are at it.
The restaurant offer great crocodile based cuisine. I had previously tried crocodile meat while travelling in neighbouring Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls, so I didn’t have unreasonable expectations. With pleasure, I announce that they met all preconceptions that I had.
One of the reptiles I have always been interested in is the Egyptian spitting cobra. As a child, I read about how it used its spitting venom to blind any aggressors before it would go in for the kill. That is truly fascinating. The reptile park gave me the opportunity to meet this reptile. The staff was very knowledgeable and friendly. The experience is never the same when you run into moody Marjories.
Lusaka National Park: Must see and do in Zambia
The Lusaka National Park is a very recent development. It has only been open since 2015. At the time of writing this, it is the closest national park to the city of Lusaka; a breath of fresh air from city life.
The animal population is still being brought in from other parts of the nation, do not go here expecting to see what you would find at the large, more established game reserves. We encountered zebras, impalas, antelopes and giraffes. Oh, there were also two white rhinos that were held in the enclosure. The poaching of endangered species is an issue that is very close to my heart, and that of every single one of our travel companions. We want to see animals preserved for future generations to see.
We were advised that the best times to come and see the most animals possible would be between 6-9am and 3-6pm. No one bothered to question the reasons behind that, the man works there everyday, he knows what he was talking about.
My favourite parts of our trip was the chance we got to touch the rhinos as well as the time we spent in the lovely picnicking area. We came prepared for once, hahaha. We always are. There is a perfect serenity about this picnic area, and we are honoured to have had the opportunity to indulge. The driving time from Lusaka city centre is quite minimal. I’d advise that you go picnic shopping and come prepared to lounge in the Zambian sunshine.
Chaminuka Game Reserve
Chaminuka is a folk legend in both Zambia and Zimbabwe. Legend has it that he was a war general who had black magic in his locker. It is said that he would vanish from right in front of assassins. His enemies feared him more than they dreaded his existence. Some factions believe him to have also been a spirit that was sought during ancestral mediums’ pursuit of a higher power. During the first Chimurenga in Zimbabwe, he would be widely sought after by spirit medium such as Mbuya Nehanda, for direction. Chaminuka is also credited for having prophesied the colonisation of Africa. He foresaw the defeat of King Lobengula of Matebeleland among other things.
Lobengula is known to have frequently made the journey to Chaminuka’s home in Chitungwiza to consult him. His power went beyond merely foretelling events, he also kept various animals in his care. These are believed to have included pythons, bulls, antelopes and others. They are all said to do his bidding on command. His affiliation to Zambia and other African countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo were there have been music made in his honour is unknown to me and all that we asked. We can only assume that there were representatives sent from other countries to inquire of him.
His relationship with king Lobengula came to an end when Chaminuka was accused of witchcraft. In those days, witches and wizards would be sentenced to death. Lobengula sent a messenger to invite Chaminuka to Matebeleland. As cunning as he was, he is said to have made it clear that he would not make it back from Matebeleland alive, but went there anyway. His travel party included his two sons and wife. His wife had been a gift from king Lobengula. His last prophecy was that the European settlers would arrive within 8 years, which is what happened.
Lobengula ambused Chaminuka and his party. They killed everyone except for Chaminuka and one of his sons. He is said to have sat on a rock and played his mbira. An instrument that he would often play before giving a prophecy. His attackers attempted to stab him, all to no avail. He finally gave himself away by saying that only an innocent boy, one who had yet to taste the breast of a woman could kill him. One was fetched, and thus ended Chaminuka’s life. One of his sons escaped and warned his clan to do the same.
Distance from Kalimba Reptile Park: 25.0km
Travel Time: 44 minutes
On to the game reserve. There are various things that have been named in Chaminuka’s honour, with this game reserve being one of them. It is located in Lusaka’s central province. The drive is great, through some very quiet road (by most standards).
This is a massive step up from the smaller park that we previously visited. They have facilities for team building activities as well as other business trips. I personally keep business quite separate from pleasure, but do your thing. The management was excellent. It wasn’t very busy when we arrived, so we got to meet the manager, who offered us a few options to make our trip as pleasurable as possible. My female travel companion took credit for that, as she makes good conversation and connects with people. We all could learn a thing or two from her. Every sojourner should not that a little courtesy goes a long way.
It will take you about an hour to drive here from Lusaka city centre. There is a host of activities that one can take part in at Chaminuka Game Reserve. I would recommend taking the day pass option if you want to take part in everything for a great price. The day pass gives you access to most of the activities, except for the cheetah walk, which is separate. You can of course pay for each activity that you take part in once you arrive.
We went straight onto the cheetah walk to start with. Until then, I had been in lion enclosure which is a different cat altogether. One gets nervous for these things. Let’s be fair, I am no coward, but I read. How many times have you encountered articles about someone being mauled by one of these cats. As much as we adore them, and even train them, they are still wild animals. The walk was about 20 minutes or so. The guide comes with you, armed. Something about that makes me both comfortable and nervous at the same time. The comfort comes from the fact that there is someone with a gun ready to save you if something was to go wrong. On the other hand, there’s a guy casually strolling next to you with a gun. Perhaps in this case, you have the cheetah there to protect you, in case something went wrong. Our walk went without incident. The cheetahs were good spots. There is something very flattering about strolling with something that could easily kill you.
Boat Game Drive
After the cheetah walk, we took to the water. I wasn’t aware that there was a manmade lake before visiting this place. The boat took us along the lake. As you travel, you get to see animals coming onto the river banks to have a drink. I expected more animals than we saw, to be honest. We all had our fingers crossed for some crazy National Geographic moment. You know those moments where the crocodile pounces on the impala having a drink on the bank. Sadly, nothing of that nature occurred. The animals chose to be peaceful in the presence of their guests, which is admirable. We couldn’t agree on how long the boat ride took, so I’m going with my own figure here. I’d say, it took about 20 minutes as well.
Jeep Game Drive
We got off the boat just in time to catch a ride on a jeep that was about to head out deep into the wild. This time, the animals came to play. The lions were lying close to what our guide said was their den. We have no reason to doubt him.
We also saw a lone elephant, some impalas, giraffes, zebras and hares. If we saw anything else, it isn’t coming to mind or in my notes at the moment.
Once you come out there is a lunch buffet not to be missed. Needless to say, we did not miss it. There are all sort of souvenirs that one can buy. We didn’t buy, we all believe in buying directly from the craftsmen. Overall, this place makes for an amazing experience. Soak it all in. Please, I beg you, don’t rob yourself of these moments by spending time trying to pose for and take the perfect photos.
Lower Zambezi National Park
Lying adjacent to the Mana Pools Reserve in Zimbabwe is this little gem. There is still much work that can be put into it to get it to the level that other game reserves are. However, its uniqueness and underdevelopment provides opportunities that wouldn’t be available in bigger reserves. You get to get up and close with most of the animals.
We enjoyed the canoeing more than everything else. There were elephants on the river bank as we rowed past. I was somewhat apprehensive about the hippos that we saw in the water before we started canoeing. Turns out, they are quite shy beasts. The canoeing allows you to venture onto the islands that are scattered on various parts of the water. Didn’t know that there were crocodiles in the water before we went out. We saw some lying, sun lounging on the bank while we rowed past. That being said, if you are canoeing on the Zambezi, that is to be expected.
Sunday Crafts Market
The Sunday Crafts Market is any traveller’s dream. A past to encounter real people in real life situations. No matter where it is that you encounter one of these markets, you will meet other travels. Those of the touristy persuasion. These are the ones that want to buy some things to send to their who extended family to make sure everyone knows that they were in Africa. I know I sound sour, which I am in this case. These are the guys who make the stall owners inflate the prices when the rest of us get there.
My game plan here is always to act local. The Sunday Crafts Market is an outdoor market that is set up on Sundays close to the Arcades Mall. They are locally known as flea markets. The people are very hospitable, making all of us feel welcome. In general, everyone is just left to do as they please. The stall owners give you time to look at the items and then ask for the price if you are interested.
I will reiterate that the local angle is the best play if you want fair pricing. There is however, a way that the foreign side of things works for you. The locals tend to treat tourists pretty well. That may be due to the notion that tourists will spend more money on stalls, which tends to be the case.
There is all sort of art and craft on sale here. The amount of creativity here is unbelievable. Take this nice and slow, do not rush through it, as may be the temptation. This is a generally safe environment, but as with all outdoor places that may be crowded, you are liable to get some bad apples. Keep your valuables out of reach. Watch out for pickpockets. We would love to know what you find in this place, do send some pictures.
The great Zambezi River is shared by Zambia and Zimbabwe on either side of it. This makes it easy to get activities on the river from either country. There is so much that one can do and so many companies that offer activities.
We went on the white water rafting. We were offered all sort of packages. Some which included spending four nights and camping on various spots of the Zambezi. This is an amazing opportunity. We had to pass this one, as we had already planned our next destination and the time we would spend there. If you have the time, take the offer. I am told, Water By Nature runs some great packages in this space. Do tell them you read about them here. We have no stake or benefit from you buying from them, so this is impartial.
Kabwata Cultural Village
You may remember our post about Namibia’s Craft Market. This is quite similar to that. If you loved the Sunday Crafts Market, you should love this as well. These are some of the stall owners you would have met at the Crafts Market. This time it is all indoors. This place has over 72 craftsmen to choose from. If we loved it, we have no doubt that you will too. Don’t be afraid to haggle, just don’t rob these people of a living while you are at it.
Distance from Lusaka: 484km
Travel time: 6 hours and 5 minutes
You may pass: Monze, Mazabuka, Kalomo and Kafue (not in that order)
Once you have seen everything in the Lusaka region, you will not want to miss out on the ones in Livingstone. This is arguably the most tourist frequented place in Zambia. Did I say, arguably? Well, I am quite sure that this is the case beyond a shadow of doubt. Will Smith was one of the more recent of a host of stars that have come to this region. Let’s enjoy this. The journey can be completed in an hour and ten minutes if you fly from Lusaka. We do prefer the drive, flights tend to steal some of the experience. There is obviously a case to be made for the extended period that you could spend at the waterfalls if you fly.
Most travellers will debate whether it is better to experience the Victoria Falls from the Zambian or the Zimbabwean side. We have previously tackled this is a previous post, but I will give it another go. If you want to experience the falls, swim in the water that ends up falling, the Zambian side is for you. If you are into it for the wow factor, the eye candy, the Zimbabwean side is the way to go.
Now that we have gotten that elephant out of the way, we would recommend doing both the Zimbabwean and Zambian side as we have. You will need to get a Khaza visa to be able to do this freely.
The waterfalls are located within the park. There is a small entry fee to be paid before one can enter the park. There were several self-styled travel guides offering their services to help you enjoy the park. We chose to go without these guys. There is a lot to be seen, so allow yourself time to walk. Hiking boots will come handy for this part of our journey. Just enjoy it. There is a great trail that leads to the boiling point, try that as well.
Let’s talk about the national park as a whole.
Victoria Falls (Mosi-oa-Tunya) National Park
Mosi-oa-Tunya is a descriptive term that the locals used to refer to these falls long before Rhodes would come and name it after Queen Victoria. Mosi-oa-Tunya translates to “The Smoke That Thunders.” This is the feeling that you will get as you walk through the trails on either side of the waterfalls. The mist that the water creates when it splashes with the bottom of the falls gives a smoke like look. The sound that it makes can be said to be somewhat thunderous.
There is a lot of game to be seen here. You will see the entire Big Five. Hippos and elephants are the most commonly encountered animals here. The elephants wander in heads in all parts of the national park. There are para glider flights on offer for the adrenaline junkies. This allows you to see the falls from the vantage aerial position. Most people do not take this reason, for obvious reasons.
There are 13 vantage viewpoints that one can take pictures from as well as just see the falls from. It can be very wet, so be prepared. Have a coat, a poncho or something. It is usually very warm, so you will be dry quite quickly after leaving the rainforest. There are several rainbows that you will see. It’s spectacular.
If you book a ranger, there are a few more activities that you will be able to take part in, we got to do the rhino walking. To be honest, I preferred the cheetah walking we had done before. The rhinos don’t draw the same level of anxiety and adrenaline.
There are several players in this market, which can make it very difficult for the traveller to choose which one to go with. Based on pricing I believe; Livingstone Safaris have a fantastic deal going. You get about 3 hours out of them, which includes walking, a drive in the safari for about 30 minutes and some food.
The guide told us about the rhino conservation projects that were being carried out to save these endangered animals. We were also educated on the history of the region as well as the flora and fauna that we encountered. This guy knew it all. I guess it is to be expected. He said he had been doing these tours for eight years.
Here’s another activity you can take part in at the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. I almost collapsed at the cost of the lion walk. You could fly from London to Paris twice for that money. It’s walking with lions though, what price can you put on that. I opted to give this one a miss. Decided that I’d spend some of the money of the curios that the sellers had been hounding us to buy since we arrived. Their relentlessness was about to pay off.
Our two representatives on this walk said it was bucket list worthy. The entire walk lasts about 3 hours. We were waiting patiently hoping the lions would devour one of our annoying friends. Hahaha. Jokes aside, we should have all gone on the tour. It always sucks when someone comes back and starts going on about an experience that you could have easily been a part of. All we had to show for our absence was some curios. In our defence, we still have the curios today, they don’t have lions to show for their experience.
We found out that lion populations had become depleted in recent year due to poaching and hunting parties within the region. It brings the recent case of Cecil the lion. You know, the famous lion that was shot down in his prime by an American dentist. The bastard is a trophy hunter.
Livingstone Reptile Park
You’ve already been to the Kalimba Reptile Park so you will know what you are getting into with this one. It’s more reptiles and crocodiles. While you are still recovering from the cost of the lion walk, this will keep your wallet happier.
This place is a recipient of a certificate of excellence from Trip Advisor. They have it there for all to see. The range of reptiles is impressive. We got to hold pythons and baby crocs. The pythons are the scarier of the two. A baby croc looks like an overgrown lizard. If you’ve watched movies like snake on a plane or anaconda, this will be a very interesting experience for you.
You will see albino crocodiles, which I never knew was a thing, the gaboon viper, cobras, black mambas as well as puff adders. There is not much else that I can add to this, unless of course you would like me to go into the snakes in detail? The gaboon viper is feared for its ability to position itself in trees and strike humans on the top of the head. This makes it very difficult to isolate the venom while seeking help.
If you are on the Zambian side of the Victoria falls this is the one thing that you cannot afford to miss. It is almost criminal to miss an experience of the devil’s pool. I will start by saying just how close to death one is when they get into the devil’s pool. The name is definitely fitting. You must make sure that you go out there with an experienced guide. That may be the difference between a beautiful experience and a near death experience. You are swimming right on top of the waterfalls. I need not say how far of a drop it is.
Now that you have been warned, we can move on. The devil’s pool is usually the highlight of most people’s visit to Zambia. This is an experience that is hard to replicate in any other place. There is a bit of a hike to get to the pool. It is not for everyone. There was a couple with a kid, who was about 7 years old in our group. It’s not to be done with a child.
Our guide offered to grab our ankles so we can hang over the edge. It takes a lot of trust to let someone hold your life in their hands in this way. One of my colleagues did it, against my better judgement and advice not to. He lives to tell the story. I managed to venture to the edge on my own. It’s a great view from up there. There was quite a limited view from the mist that rises from the falls. We tried to look across to Zimbabwe, with very limited success.
The swim to the edge of the falls offers incomparable exhilaration.
This is where Mr Will Smith was swinging recently. The gorge is the ultimate adrenaline junkie experience. The gorge that the Victoria Falls fall into, is where you are swinging into off a bungee. The experience can be purchased from the Zambian as well as the Zimbabwean side. It can be experienced from the Victoria Falls bridge.
We were assured and fully believe that the harnesses used here are safe. The result of them not being safe would be quite catastrophic to the individual. The gorge is quite deep, so that goes without saying. The providers take pictures and videos which can be purchased at the end of the experience.
The jump goes all the way down before you start to swing across the gorge. Depending on what you experience is with these sort of jump you may start off a little disorientated, but begin to make sense of things as you start to swing across the gorge. The view is amazing while you hang upside down. We all agreed that the climb back up was the least pleasant part of the entire experience. We also agreed that we would each do it over and over again if given the opportunity. Even the ones who start off scared, end up quite jubilant at the end. It can be a very transformational experience.
We watched as couples were in tears before the jump, and as they shared a snog after it. I cannot commend the staff enough for the part that they play. They level of professionalism put your fears at bay. Any safety doubts that you may have before starting are cast away as they go through all the checks and explain to you what each thing attached to you does.
In case you haven’t already bought enough souvenirs and other personal curios and ornaments at the Sunday Crafts Market, the curio sellers who hound you close to Victoria Fall and at the Kabatwa cultural village. If all those places didn’t suffice, here is another chance. Mukuni Park and Curios of Livingstone is massive. As you can imagine, the prices here are higher than those that you will find at the Sunday Crafts Market. Why not? These guys are in the tourists’ hotbed. Do not be ashamed to haggle. It’s an integral part of the shopping experience.
We didn’t spend a lot of time here, it was quite busy and the weather was great. We chose to see more of Livingstone instead. I think we bought some necklaces made of wood from here. We had it on good authority that the park was built in 1905. That is quite a long time. They are open between 7am till 6pm every day of the week.
I really do not know why the Zambian tourism authority do not bang on about this jam. It seems unknown to the masses. Most tourists will miss out on this opportunity entirely. There is just not enough information pointing to this place. There is nothing like it in the rest of the country.
The great thing about the poor advertising is that it is seldom packed. This means that we got to have the guide between us and another couple. We went through the locomotives at a very comfortable pace. The guide took time to explain everything. I had zero interest in trains until we went to this place. There is something nostalgic about these things. They bring back memories that you never actually had.
Images courtesy of
The guide told us of the immense contribution made by the Zambia Jewish community into the construction of this place, as well as that of various other building across Livingstone. Today, the community has been depleted over the last decade or so. Their contribution remains there as testament of their love for this beautiful land. There is a Jewish museum here as well.
You will learn about the history of the Zambian railway system, as well as Cecil John Rhodes’ Cape-to-Cairo plan. This gives you a view of how it potentially fits into the bigger picture, beyond the Zambian borders. I could certainly sit and have a decent conversation about system engine trains and how they function. In case I ever come across someone like Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory, we may actually hit it off. The guide was fabulous, couldn’t have asked for more. The visit would have been quite lifeless without him. He is a great addition to it all.
Zambezi Eco Adventures
The Zambezi Eco Adventure is certainly not for everyone. It is great if you are a group of lads looking for some adrenaline filled activities. It is not for the faint hearted, believe me. We saw some faint hearted people at it. It just didn’t look pretty. The pricing is quite fair for the level of activities and training that the staff would need to be able to manage something of this nature. There are several packages on offer, my advice is always to try everything. You will hate some of it, but also find things that you will love. You will need to make sure that your mosquito repellent is on hand for this one.
We started off with abseiling with our whole crew signed up this time around. If you are into filming, attaching one of those portable cameras would get some great footage here. The staff was on hand to give advice on safety as well as reassurance to those in need of it.
We also did the gorge swing. My advice for this one is to keep your feet slightly in front of your body at all times. You will never know when that comes handy. This also goes without saying for the zipwire. Having your legs in front makes for a more comfortable stop.
There is also a package that comes with a free helicopter ride over the gorge. I believe this was offered at about $180, which we didn’t take. None of us were keen on spending time in a helicopter at this point.
Royal Livingstone Express
The Royal Livingstone Express is such a great way to bring your fun-filled day to an end. A place where you can just lay back, have some food, while taking in the view. I think the visit to the museum made this experience impossible to turn down.
You get to travel from the Zambia border and over the Victoria fall riding on a train. The whole journey must have taken about an hour or so. By this point we were quite wrecked from the rest of the day’s activities. There were several photo opportunities throughout the trip, which we didn’t pay much mind to. The train was relatively quiet on the day. The drinks were widely available for consumption without moderation.
The train stopped at a vantage point to allow for passengers to dine. We were all very excited and quite hungry, if I may add. The food was much appreciated, and might I add, quite delicious. The staff on board were lovely, and let the passengers be.
The one things that we didn’t like was the way we were hounded by sellers again. There was a lot of haggling between the sellers and other passengers on board. It’s safe to say that, at this point, our crew was quite fed up with the seller. We paid them no mind at all.
The Royal Livingstone Express would make for such an amazing romantic trip, perhaps even the sort of trip on which one would propose. The hassle and bassle of the day’s activities will make it a surprise for your intended. We would love to see some photos or footage if someone does this.
South Luangwa National Park
Distance from Livingstone: 1124km
Travel Time: 13 hours and 39 minutes
You will pass through: Kalomo, Choma, Mazabuka and Lusaka.
The drive from Livingstone to Mpika is about 1124km, which would take about 13 hours and 39 minutes per Google Maps. Take this journey in moderation. We had 5 drivers in the car, so we could take turns and get someone else to drive while the others got some rest. There are some charming lodges in Kalomo, this is where we spent the night. Livingstone is quite touristy and expensive.
We bought a lot of fruit and local snacks as we drove. The journey is a very important part of the trip. You meet so many people along the way, from gas station, other travellers on the road, locals trying to sell something to you and so on. The people in the country are amazing. Zambians, I salute you. They are very helpful.
Forget all the parks and reserves that we have already been to. Few compare to this one. I figured, the inconvenience of the drive keeps a lot of people away which in turn amplifies the experience of those who get there.
Unfortunately, the damned poachers have robbed us of rhinos in this park. The animals that are there don’t get too crowded around so you get a chance to get up close with. We saw a lot of lions, leopards, zebras, giraffes, hyenas and so on. We were able to drive quite close to the animals and enjoy a proper safari experience.
I guarantee that it is highly unlikely that you will find a similar experience in any other game park anywhere else in the world. Most of them get overpopulated by tourists. The animals dash off when there are too many people around, robbing the rest of us of the experience that we pay for. Well worth the drive in my book.
Of all the surprises that Zambia had hidden in her bosom for us, this was the most bewildering one. Let’s get the storyline right for you to have some context to this. The native people who settled in this area moved from Congo. Legend has it that they came across a dead crocodile in this land, which in their traditional belief was good omen. Ngandu is crocodile in their native language, so they came to be known as Bena Ngandu “The people of Royal crocodile.” The lake that they settled next to was known as Ishiba Ngandu “The Lake of Royal Crocodile.”
A former British officer, Stewart Gore-Brown decided to settle in this land while on assignment to create a border between Zambia (Northern Rhodesia at the time) and Belgian Congo. He came back three years later, upon retirement in 1914. The lake and surrounding land sold him to the idea of moving so far out of the city and all things modern and city-like.
2 Shillings bought him the 10000 acres on which the estate would be built on. Between the world war and other logistical issues in between, the estate would not be completed until 1932. He named it Shiva Ngandu. The estate includes cottages for workers, a school, hospital, post office and an airstrip. The dream was to make the place as self-contained and self-sufficient as possible.
The hosts who maintain the property took us through the house and told us most of the things that we know are part of the history of Shiva Ngandu. A lot of very important guests from all corners of the world have graced this place with their presence. There was a lot of food to be eaten throughout our trip. These guys know how to treat their guests.
You will also have time to wander to all corners of the estate on your own if you are interested in that. We ran into a group of bird watchers who told us that this was a great spot for their hobby. Many thanks to the Harveys for making our experience what it was.
Kapishya Hot Springs
After seeing such a lovely estate, it is fitting that you end the day with much earned rest. Kapishya Hot Springs are the place to do it. It is a short drive from Shiva Ngandu, just about 20 minutes. There are signs along the way, so it isn’t very hard to locate.
We got exactly what we came for. A time of peace and tranquillity. We cooked ourselves in the hot springs, had a great meal. The menu is inexhaustible. We loved it so much that we decided to take them up on their camping offer. The campsite is secluded and right next to a water body. You have access to the hot springs and pool at your leisure. We made use of these.
Later in the day we took to the trails and ended up in an area quite close to the Shiva Ngandu estate. Great way to cap our travel to the area. Again, the staff here were wonderful.
We ended our trip here. There are other places that we have visited on other trips to Zambia. They will mean quite a long drive across the country if you are to make them happen on this trip. We had 5 drivers in our car so we can easily do it in 2 hour driving shifts which allow everyone to get some sleep.
Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage
We visited what is the home of over 120 chimpanzees. It is said to be one of the largest reserves of its kind in the whole world. It was founded in 1983 as a drive to nurse wounded or orphaned chimpanzees. You do learn a lot about human nature by just watching these chimps go about their business. They cunning yet simplistic ways are uncandidly humanlike.
The place runs entirely off gifts and donations from well-wishers, so please dig deep and help. You can visit for the day or spend the night, if you would like.
If you would like to go into detail about the dam, please refer to this post that we did about it during our trip to Zimbabwe. Kariba is the largest manmade lake in the world. That alone, is reason enough for anyone to visit. You can walk across the dam and into Zimbabwe, well, not all the way in. You can make about 400-500 metres in. Our passports remained at the security point while we went to the dam. I guess if we chose to do a runner into Zimbabwe, they would hold the passports as ransom? All things being equal, you can see and walk the dam in under an hour.
Kafue National Park
This is another quiet park, which we loved. There is decent lodging and camping on site, for those who would like to stay. There are also plenty of animals to be seen. Again, the animals don’t get too crowded around by tourists and their jeeps, so they are quite calm. You get to go up close and personal to them. It is possible to track some animals across the national park, if you have the time.
There is a concession area in which hunting in permitted. I don’t know how to feel about this. The ranger assured us that, this was done only for population management purposes. Whether I buy into that story or not is another issue. A park should be a haven for animals. Is it not enough that we get to follow them around and take pictures of them? Do we have to kill some off?
Apparently, Kafue is the 5th largest park in the world. There can be long drives in between common attractions, so please allow a few hours for your visit here. Just the drive in the wild is an honour.
Dag Hammarskjoeld Memorial
Pay a visit to this memorial as well. We missed out on it due to flight times. It is not unique, but every memorial has its own merit by which it earns our visits. Our previous post on Places to see in Zambia left a lot to be desired, please consider this one as an apology.
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