Apart from Victoria Falls — the world’s largest waterfall — Zambia remains a mostly unknown entity even to more intrepid travelers. The natural beauty and wild landscapes of Zambia, combined with excellent big game viewing, luxurious accommodation and plenty of activities, make it one of Go Volunteer Africa’s top destinations.
When it comes to visiting Africa, Zambia is often overlooked for the well-trodden tourist trail of places such as South Africa and Kenya. Yet, for those who want to get off the beaten track, this landlocked country has much to offer. But, if you want to explore one of Africa’s best kept secrets, you need to be fast.
Zambia has a lot going for it. Apart from being voted as the safest country on the continent to visit, it boasts some of the most unspoilt and wild landscapes in Africa. This remote wilderness provides the opportunity for game rich safaris without the crowds that so many other destinations have.
The only bustling area is the country’s most popular attraction; Victoria Falls. But the mighty waters of the Zambezi provide visitors with ample activities, so you can be as active as you want to be. In short, Zambia is the ideal safari destination.
Zambia has big plans to increase tourism. Act now, before the rest of the world cottons on to this overlooked gem. So the best time to explore Zambia is right now, before everyone else cottons on.
Here are our top 7 reasons to visit Zambia.
- The Valley of the Leopard
Zambia is one of the few African countries that can pretty much guarantee the full pantheon of Africa’s wildlife without having to be inside a fenced area.
All of Zambia’s national parks and almost all of its accommodations are unfenced, and elephants, hippos, giraffes, buffaloes, hyenas and even lions are regular visitors to many towns, villages, lodges and camps even outside of national parks.
But to see Zambia at its absolute wildest, nothing beats South Luangwa National Park. This park has one of the highest densities of big game anywhere in Africa, but vast swathes remain largely unexplored.
Even in the “busier” sections along the Luangwa River visitors are unlikely to be jostling with an army of other game vehicles to get the best view of the action. Above all else, South Luangwa has become feted for its leopard sightings — anyone who comes here and doesn’t see any leopards needs their eyes tested.
- Zambia’s French Riviera
The fashionable Lake Kariba is the largest man-made body of water in Africa, a veritable inland ocean. Visitors could be forgiven for thinking they’re in Mediterranean Europe at times here, but when the sun sets there’s no doubt they’re in Africa.
Aside from the stellar African sunsets, the order of the day at Lake Kariba tends to be as follows: sunbathing, watersports, fishing, fresh crayfish, ice-cold sundowners and general relaxation.
- A walk on the wild side
Among safari aficionados, Zambia is feted for its guided bush walks and walking safaris. Though these activities aren’t unique to Zambia, the level of knowledge of the guides generally is.
With the density of wildlife, dearth of fences and continued prevalence of traditional rural living, one of the arguments is that Zambia’s guides grow up in closer proximity to the wonders of the African bush than most.
Whatever the case, there’s probably nothing more exhilarating than tracking lions through the bush on foot, and Lower Zambezi National Park has to be the best place in Zambia to do this.
Just a few hours’ drive from Lusaka or a 30-minute chartered flight, the park is astonishingly remote and the landscapes are striking. The green banks and elephant-filled islands of the mighty Zambezi flank the park on one side and a high and densely forested escarpment on the other.
A morning bush walk can be coupled with an afternoon or even overnight canoe safari down the Zambezi for a truly special Zambian combination.
- Visit Zambia for A fascinating colonial heritage
For those with a soft spot for colonial nostalgia or in need of a quick cultural fix, a visit to the picturesque and spectacularly incongruous Shiwa Ng’andu manor house should do the trick. This was the former home of a young British colonial officer by the name of Stewart Gore-Browne who came to the area in 1911 to determine the border between Northern Rhodesia and the Belgian Congo.
Gore-Browne developed a deep affinity for the area and determined that when his work was finished he would return and settle in this part of Africa.
He came back in 1914 looking for a piece of land to buy. The huge and elaborate manor house that he built, overlooking a lake and surrounded by pristine gardens, gives a number of fascinating insights into both the eccentricity and determination of its creator and the colonial heritage of Zambia in general.
- The mighty Zambezi in full force
While we’ve aimed here to shine a spotlight on some of Zambia’s lesser-known highlights, it’s impossible to leave Victoria Falls off this list altogether.
Over the years this incredible natural wonder has exhausted all the superlatives in the dictionary in attempts to describe it, but none manage to do it justice.
Known to locals as “Mosi-oa-Tunya” (“The Smoke that Thunders”), spray from the falls can be seen rising high above the deep Batoka Gorge from literally kilometers away.
Once jaws have returned to their usual positions and eyes have stopped popping out of heads, there are an unprecedented number of adrenaline activities on offer in and around the falls.
These can all be washed down with a stiff drink on the banks of the Zambezi at the decadent colonial-themed Royal Livingstone, while zebra and giraffe graze on the perfectly manicured lawns nearby.
- Snorkeling in one of the deepest lakes in the world
Lake Tanganyika in northern Zambia is the world’s second deepest lake. With over 350 different species of fish and clear waters, it is the perfect place to snorkel and scuba dive. You’d easily get a spot or two for snorkeling there, if you book it in advance over at wahine private charters. In addition to fish, divers can also see a World War I wreck on the southern tip of the lake.
- Visit Zambia for Eco-tourism
The Lower Zambezi National Park was recently listed as the world’s first carbon neutral park, which means that it completely offsets its greenhouse gas emissions generated from tourism activities. The park offers exceptional birdlife, as well as mammal sightings of lion, buffalo, hippo, and monkeys among others. Luambe National Park also received the same status in December 2017. While it is much smaller than Lower Zambezi and has fewer species of animals, the park is perfect for those who prefer a much quieter national park experience. It is not uncommon to see no other guests while staying at the park, as it is still relatively unexplored. Luambe is in the eastern province of Zambia, while Lower Zambezi is only about a three-hour drive from Lusaka.
Bonus: Visit Zambia for a Meaningful Volunteering Experience
Go Volunteer Africa is providing adventure combined with unique volunteering in Zambia work for people taking a gap year, career break, retirement or time out from education or just a mini-holiday throughout the year. Go Volunteer Africa offers many exciting volunteering in Zambia experiences, mini-escapes and summer vacations, rural community insights and cultural immersion programs. Fill Volunteer Application Form here
From the beaches, rural and city attractions to superb game viewing in the many national parks and private reserves, Zambia is a country of great diversity, adventure and beauty. It is also a welcoming place drenched with fascinating culture and history. The land of the legendary African walking safari, Victoria Falls, the wild Zambezi River, abundant wildlife, and raw wilderness, all in one. Visit Zambia!