Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in Zambia
Mosi-oa-Tunya, or 'the Smoke Which Thunders,' refers to the iconic Victoria Falls that give this national park in Zambia its native name. Located along the upper Zambezi River, Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park houses half of the waterfall, as well as 41 square miles (66 square kilometers) of protected land rich with biodiversity.
Most visitors come to see the falls, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the world’s largest curtain of falling water. There are a host of clearly marked and well-kept paths that wind through towering forests, and from the Zambian side of the falls, visitors can cross Knife-edge Bridge for spectacular views of the main falls. Outdoor adventurists can make the steep descent into the Boiling Pot and watch whitewater rafters board for a wild ride on the Zambezi River.
While the waterfalls are certainly a highlight of the national park, there’s also an entire section dedicated to wildlife-spotting, where travelers can book a game drive. Depending on the time of year, it’s possible to spot zebras, giraffes, antelope, warthogs, many species of birds and rare rhinos. The national park also serves as an important point for elephants to cross the Zambezi River, so they’re often sighted as well.
Experience a natural infinity pool with a dip in Devil’s Pool. Perched on the edge of Victoria Falls, the rock-lined pool lets you swim to the rim of one of the world’s largest waterfalls and watch the cascade thundering below. Accessible on seasonal guided tours, the cliff-side pool is recommended for adrenaline junkies.
While it may not be the largest river in Africa, the Zambezi, which carves through six countries including Zambia, is one of the continent’s most powerful and most scenic. As a result, this rushing river attracts visitors from across the globe—including travelers with a love of extreme water sports looking for adventure. The fourth-largest river in Africa is divided into three main parts, and Victoria Falls is typically considered the boundary between the upper and middle Zambezi. Here, the thundering river flows over falls, into the Boiling Point and through the narrow Batoka Gorge, where it provides some of the most exhilarating white water rafting, kayaking and river boating on earth. Non-adrenaline junkies can still enjoy the beauty of the Zambezi by floating along on a sunset river cruise.
Formerly known as the David Livingstone Memorial Museum, this historic building is the oldest and the largest museum in the country. Exhibits include photos, instruments and possessions of David Livingstone, but the museum explores more of the nation’s history than a single man. Model villages of five different ethnic groups give visitors a chance to examine Zambian culture, and the ethnography and art wing of the museum showcases traditional crafts and handiwork from local tribes.
Few places in Zambia offer birders the diversity and excitement of South Luangwa National Park. More than 400 avian species call this vast reserve home. Red-faced yellow billed storks, pelicans and great white egrets wading through muddy waters are easy to spot at the end of the dry season. By November, species from Northern Europe have flocked to the park to enjoy the warmth of rainy season. This makes it an ideal time to find hundreds of carmine bee-eaters gathering along riverbanks.
Lake Kariba is the largest artificial lake in the world. This massive reservoir was created in 1958, when the Kariba Dam was built to provide power and electricity to the surrounding areas. Today, a variety of fresh water fish, Nile crocodiles and even hippopotamuses live in the lake. Huge numbers of tiger fish make it an ideal spot for a weekend fishing trip, and a variety of unique birds attract avian lovers, too. Visitors can catch spectacular sunsets from lodges nestled along the lake’s edge, and houseboat holidays offer a quiet escape from the hustle of Victoria Falls.
In 1855, David Livingstone pulled his tiny canoe ashore, stepped through a small rainforest, and gazed upon the thundering froth of Victoria Falls for the very first time. Today—a century and a half later—visitors can have that same sense of excitement and wonder by visiting Livingstone Island. Travelers retrace the explorer’s approach to the island in motorized boats, and at the same time experience some of the most spectacular views of the natural wonder. Stay ashore for breakfast, lunch or high tea at one of the island’s camps, or visit Devil’s Pool for an exhilarating dip on the edge of the falls.
Named after the Kafue River, this reserve is the largest national park in Zambia and the second largest in all of Africa. While its size is impressive, the diversity of species in this park is what draws wildlife tourists to Kafue. Sure, it’s possible to spot the Big Five in the plains of this massive reserve, but the more unique sitatunga, lechwe, and yellow-backed duiker—all members of the antelope family—graze in nearby swamplands. Evening game drives and afternoon river cruises offer visitors a rare opportunity to see elusive leopards descend from treetops. And travelers here are even likely to spot a pack of the highly sought after wild dogs.
This quiet town stationed along the floodplains of the Zambezi River is the capital of Western Province and known for its expert basket and carpet weaving. Visitors can tour local craft markets, where these unique wares are made and put up for purchase, then sample some of the best mangoes and freshest tiger fish in the nation. Mongu is also home to the Nayuma Museum, which showcases handiwork and explores the traditions of the Lozi people.
Lower Zambezi National Park may not boast the same high number of animals or vast diversity of species as other parks in Zambia, but its untouched wilderness provides visitors with a chance to experience real African bush. While the park is geographically large, most animals gather in an area concentrated along the lower valley. Lions and leopards populate the land, but perhaps most impressive are the herds of elephants—some numbering close to 100—that congregate along the river’s edge. Traveler can paddle the Chongwe River in canoes, take game rides through the valley floor or even cast their lines into the Kafue River in search of the night’s big catch.
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