Travel to Livingstone
Described by the Kololo tribe living in the area in the 1800’s as ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ - ‘the Smoke that Thunders’ and in more modern terms as ‘the greatest known curtain of falling water’, Victoria Falls are a spectacular sight of awe-inspiring beauty and grandeur on the Zambezi River, bordering Zambia and Zimbabwe.
On the opposite cliff, facing the falls, you can take a well marked and paved walk through the rain forests. Every so often the path will open out into a clearing for a view of the falls. Further along this path is the Knife Edge Bridge which affords an impressive panorama depending on the time of year. Although less can be seen of the width of the Falls during the wet season, the intense spray provides welcome relief from the heat, but don’t carry anything you don’t want to get wet!
During the dry season, be sure to take a walk along the lip of the Falls themselves. Sometimes the water is low enough to walk all the way across to Livingstone Island, the place where David Livingstone had his first glimpse of the Falls. This is surely one of the most magnificent views in the area.
The best place for a wide range of crafts and curios is the Mukuni Victoria Falls Craft Village. From intricate animal carvings in stone, wood, or the beautiful green malachite, masks, drums, marimbas, spoons, book ends, walking sticks, jewelry and much more.
Mosi O Tunya National Park is situated along the upper Zambezi stretching from and including the Falls for about 7.5 miles up river. It is only 41 square miles but provides a home for numerous antelope species, zebra, giraffe and the recently acquired white rhinos, one of whom gave birth in the park in 1994. These are the only rhinos to be seen in Zambia as its previously large population has been completely eliminated through poaching. One can take a pleasant drive around the park in a couple of hours and almost all the species there should be seen at close range. Since there are no predators, they are very relaxed and afford some excellent photo opportunities.
Mukuni Village is an authentic tribal village where thousands of people live and work. In July of each year the Leya people partake in the colorful Lwiindi Ceremony. The local people believe the spirits of their ancestors still dwell in the gorges of the Falls and during the Lwiindi, they offer sacrifices to them for rain.
Zambia is situated mainly on a vast plateau 1.8 miles above sea level, and boasts the Zambezi, Kafue and Luangwa rivers - as well as one of the largest waterfalls in the world, the Victoria Falls, which it shares with neighboring Zimbabwe. Most of the country has a mild, pleasant climate, while the river valleys are hotter and more humid; the extreme north becomes tropical on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, one of Zambia’s ten large lakes. While Lusaka is the country’s capital, Livingstone, just 6 miles from the Falls, is more well known to travelers as the ‘adventure capital’ offering adrenalin-packed activities on and around the Falls and the Zambezi River.
Zambia’s contemporary culture is a blend of values, norms, material and spiritual traditions of more than 70 ethnically diverse people. Most of the tribes of Zambia moved into the area in a series of migratory waves a few centuries ago. They grew in numbers and many travelled in search of establishing new kingdoms, farming land and pastures.
Before the colonial period, the region now known as Zambia was the home of a number of free states. Each having comprehensive economic links with each other and the outside world along trade routes to the east and west coast of Africa. The main exports were copper, ivory and slaves in exchange for textiles, jewelry, salt and hardware.
There are over 73 dialects spoken in Zambia, but the official language is English. All media and business is in English and most Zambians speak it fairly well. Bemba is the next most commonly understood language, followed by Nyanja Tonga, Luvale, Lozi, Mambwe and Tumbuka.
The major waves of Bantu-speaking immigrants began in the 15th century, with the greatest influx between the late 17th and early 19th centuries. They came primarily from the Luba and Lunda tribes of southern Democratic Republic of Congo and northern Angola but were joined in the 19th century by Ngoni peoples from the south. By the latter part of that century, the various peoples of Zambia were largely established in the areas they currently occupy.
Except for an occasional Portuguese explorer, the area lay untouched by Europeans for centuries. After the mid-19th century, it was penetrated by Western explorers, missionaries, and traders. David Livingstone, in 1855, was the first European to see the magnificent waterfalls on the Zambezi River. He named the falls after Queen Victoria, and the Zambian town near the falls is named after him.
In 1888, Cecil Rhodes, spearheading British commercial and political interests in Central Africa, obtained a mineral rights concession from local chiefs. In the same year, Northern and Southern Rhodesia (now Zambia and Zimbabwe, respectively) were proclaimed a British sphere of influence. Southern Rhodesia was annexed formally and granted self-government in 1923, and the administration of Northern Rhodesia was transferred to the British colonial office in 1924 as a protectorate. On December 31, 1963, the federation was dissolved, and Northern Rhodesia became the Republic of Zambia on October 24, 1964.
In response to growing popular demand, and after lengthy, difficult negotiations between the Kaunda government and opposition groups, Zambia enacted a new constitution in 1991 and shortly thereafter became a multi-party democracy. Kaunda’s successor, Frederick Chiluba, made efforts to liberalize the economy and privatize industry, but allegations of massive corruption characterized the latter part of his administration. By the mid-1990s, despite limited debt relief, Zambia’s per capita foreign debt remained among the highest in the world.
Although poverty continues to be a significant problem in Zambia, its economy has stabilized, attaining single-digit inflation in 2006-2007, real GDP growth, decreasing interest rates, and increasing levels of trade. Much of its growth is due to foreign investment in Zambia’s mining sector and higher copper prices on the world market. In 2005, Zambia qualified for debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, consisting of approximately U.S. $6 billion in debt relief.
The currency in Zambia is the Kwacha, which is not available for purchase outside the country. Tourist activities are quoted and paid for in US dollars. US dollars and UK pounds are easily changed into Kwacha locally at any of the Bureaux de Change offices in the main towns. If you are offered an exchange on the black market at the borders, exercise extreme caution.
Best Time to Travel
Zambia’s three distinctive seasons provide visitors with different perspectives depending on the time of year.
The Luangwa Valley for example is best for game viewing during the dry season from June to October, but the rainy season, with its spectacular profusion of greens and reds changes the landscape dramatically and the bird population’s increase with the arrival of migrants from the north.
The Victoria Falls are at their most spectacular between April and May after the rainy season but often the spray is so thick it is difficult to see the full width of the falls. To appreciate the magnificent rock formations and gorges, it is just as interesting to come when the water is low at the end of the dry season from October to December.
Kafue National Park is best from June to October as is the Lower Zambezi.
Zambia has three distinct seasons. December to April: warm and wet, May to August: cool and dry. September to November: hot and dry. Average temperatures in Summer range from 77° F to 95° F and in winter from 43° F to 75° F.
A yellow fever certificate is mandatory if you are traveling from an infected area. Vaccinations for cholera, tetanus and yellow fever are advised. Malaria is virulent in the low lying areas of the country which include most of the good wildlife destinations. Your pharmacist or doctor can advise you of the most suitable drug available as certain drugs lose their effectiveness.
A passport and visa are required. The passport must be valid for at least six months after the intended date of departure from Zambia. A single-entry visa only may be obtained at the port of entry for $50. Travelers must apply in advance at a Zambian Embassy or consulate for a multiple-entry visa. The fee for a three-year multiple-entry visa is $80. Tourists visiting for the day from a neighboring country (such as those visiting Victoria Falls from Zimbabwe) can get a $20 day-trip visa at the border. Tour organizers may arrange multiple-entry visas in advance for their clients. Try to bring exact change whenever practical. U.S. citizens occasionally have reported being overcharged for visas at the port of entry.
Tipping & Porterage
Tipping is not compulsory but highly recommended if you believe the service you received warrants a show of your appreciation.
Camp, Game Lodge and Specialist Safari / Tour Guides:
We recommend US$5 - $10 per person per day. You may tip half the recommended amount for a half day safari or tour activity.
General Safari Camp / Lodge Staff:
We recommend US$3 - $5 per person per day for safari camps and lodges. This should be placed in the communal staff tipping box to be distributed equally amongst all the staff i.e. porters, meal servers, room cleaners and other service personnel working behind the scenes.
US$1 per person.
We recommend between US$1 - $2 per person per day for hotel staff i.e. housekeeping etc.
Porterage at hotels or airports:
We recommend about US$1 - $2 per porter movement.
10% is customary on meal bills if you are satisfied with the service.
Most hotels/lodges, restaurants, travel agencies and the bigger shops will take credit cards. Most of the bigger banks will advance local currency against a credit card. Standard Chartered, Stanbic and Barclays Banks have ATM’s which accept Visa cards for cash.
Local current is 220v, 50 cycle AC
Tap water in the major towns is purified and perfectly safe to drink. In the more remote areas always boil it first, except if you’re staying at a lodge or hotel where drinking water is boiled already. Bottled water is readily available in the bigger towns.
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