Zambia - Africa’s Hidden Gem
Updated: Oct 5, 2021
Guest post written by Uditi Singh
You can find Uditi's blog here: thisisuditi.blogspot.com
Uditi's poetry instagram is @musinghsbyudi
When you dream of the stereotypical ‘African Experience’, Zambia would not be the first destination you’d think of. You would not be alone. Zambia sees around a million tourists every year, compared to South Africa’s 17 million. More than half of those visitors have but a single objective in mind - to witness the great Victoria Falls. However, the gorgeous Falls are not all that Zambia has to offer. If you were to take the time to stray off the beaten track, you would soon discover that there is something to appeal to every kind of traveller. Adrenaline junkies, history buffs, wildlife lovers, and even those who seek the best nightlife wherever they go.
But don’t just take myword for it - let me show you.
Let's start with the reason why more than 50% of tourists choose to visit Zambia: the mighty Victoria Falls. Named one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Victoria Falls are fed by the Zambezi river, and are split between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Locals call the Falls ‘Mosi-oa-Tuniya’ - the ‘smoke that thunders’. And it's not very hard to see why. While in Livingstone, the home of the Falls, you may see the mist of the Falls flying upwards, even from a distance. And in the background, you may hear a low, continuous rumble - like thunder from a great storm cloud.Visiting the Falls themselves, especially during the peak season (February to May), is an experience unlike any other. The third largest waterfall (by volume) in the world will immediately captivate you as you don protective coats and walk straight into the mist. It's a short hike through what feels like a rainforest, because of the falling droplets - and then you see them.
Rainbows dancing in your peripheral vision, the intoxicating smell of the earth after rain, the tiny drops of water on your skin and on your tongue, the deafening roar of the falling water… It's a magnificent feast for all the senses. You may come across people meditating, eyes closed, while getting drenched by the spray. The Victoria Falls offer you a sense of calm unlike any other. You stand in front of a body of water so forceful and yet so beautiful, and you can't help but be reminded of how small you are, and how much wonder there is to seek. You look around and you thank your stars that you’re there.
But maybe calm isn't what you're after. Maybe you seek the rush of adrenaline. For that, there’s bungee jumping off the Victoria Falls Bridge connecting Zambia and Zimbabwe. There’s hiking down to the ‘Devil’s Pool’- named so for the fast, scary looking current of water. While you're in Livingstone, why not book a helicopter ride with one of the many aerial tour companies based there? You get to see the Falls from a bird’s eye view. There’s even Microlight flights on offer- a kind of motorised glider where your pilot takes you high up in the open air. Talk about being a bird!
As stated earlier, however, there is so much more to discover in Zambia other than the Victoria Falls. For example, just 15 minutes outside the centre of Zambia’s capital city, Lusaka, you get to see giraffes, zebras and many kinds of deer grazing on the side of the road.
For more serious wildlife enthusiasts, 30% of the entire country is made up of wildlife reserves. Zambia is credited with inventing the walking safari - so this is the best place to embark on a forest walk, and get up close to wildlife in a way that you never could by car. The many national parks, such as Kafue, South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi National Parks are spread across the country and will give you ample opportunities to witness the Big Five- lions, rhinos, buffalos, leopards and elephants.
Speaking of elephants, one of my favourite spots to visit is the Lilayi Elephant Nursery. Located in the village of Lilayi, in the outskirts of the capital, the nursery is a shelter for baby elephants who are left orphaned due to illegal poaching activities. The nursery cares for the elephants with the hope of reintroducing them into the wild once they have grown up. You can go visit the elephants while they are being fed and there are also opportunities to volunteer at the shelter.
The elephant is my favourite animal, so being able to see these majestic creatures so closely and hearing about their stories is amazing. There are also wildlife themed plushies and other craft items on sale, handmade by local Zambian women. There’s even plush likenesses of the residents of the shelter! (psst- the organisation that makes these toys is called LITTLE NDABA!)
Every weekend, in Lusaka, and probably throughout the rest of the country as well, there are various handicraft markets set up in mall parking lots. Full of beautiful handmade knickknacks, paintings, clothes, jewellry, and even furniture, these markets are a culture lover’s paradise.
Zambia has always been rich in copper (malachite) and gemstones, and these are also available for sale in raw or polished form. The Kabwata Cultural Village is open every day, too. You are greeted with warm smiles and beautiful stories of how various handicrafts are made. For more cultural history, the Lusaka National History is the place to visit.
There are plenty of well-established malls and shopping centres, too. There are top-notch banquets and hotels that offer cuisines from around the world, as well as local Zambian food, consisting of things like nshima (maize porridge) and a variety of vegetable and meat dishes. You can immerse yourself in a barbecue in the evening, and head out on the town right after that. The nightlife scene is fantastic, if you really want to experience all of what Zambia has to offer.
So, no matter what kind of traveller you are, no matter how fast or how slow you like to take things, I am sure that in Zambia, you will find something that suits your every need.
But don't just take myword for it- come see for yourself.