Zambia is situated mainly on a vast plateau 3000m 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 neighbouring 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 ten kilometres from the Falls, is more well known to travellers as the 'adventure capital' offering adrenalin-packed activities on and around the Falls and the Zambezi River.
When it comes to wildlife, Zambia offers impressive diversity as well as large concentrations and numbers, and some of the wildest and most remote game areas on the continent. Endemic subspecies of giraffe and wildebeest are found in the Luangwa, while enormous herds of black lechwe inhabit the floodplains of the Bangweulu. Birdlife is particularly prolific, with 740 bird species found here, including many specials; it is the southernmost extreme of the bizarre-looking African Shoebill's range for example and one of the best places to see this sought-after species.
It was in Zambia that the concept of walking safaris originated as the best way of enjoying the rich flora and fauna of the country's 19 national parks. Add to this numerous adrenalin activities on the Zambezi River, such as river rafting, bungee jumping, abseiling and canoeing, and Zambia qualifies as an all-round excellent travel destination. Here one can catch some of the biggest tiger fish in Africa within sight of a large elephant herd on the Lower Zambezi, fly over the mighty Victoria Falls in spate, or view leopard on a kill at night in the South Luangwa.
Zambia is named after the mighty Zambezi River, which rises in its north-west corner, flows into Angola before re-entering Zambia at the Cholwezi Rapids, and thereafter forms the southern border of the country with neighbouring Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. The Zambezi and its valleys are one defining aspect of this country; another is the southern end of the great African Rift system that cuts through the eastern and southern parts via several deep rifts along the course of the Luangwa River. Incredible natural features also include the breathtaking Victoria Falls, Lake Tanganyika, the second deepest natural lake in the world, and the floodplains of Busanga, Barotseland, the Kafue Flats and the Bangweulu Swamps.
In general, the country is situated on a high plateau and is characterised by immensity of space and gentle horizons, broken by the enormous valleys of the Upper Zambezi and its tributaries - of which the Kafue and Luangwa Rivers are the largest. With an average height of 1200 metres above sea level the climate is comfortable rather than tropical, while the valleys of the middle Zambezi, the Luangwa and its tributaries, all about 300m above sea level, are hotter and more humid. The Kafue Flats form yet another valley trough, although the altitude, about 975m, is only slightly less than the surrounding plateaux.
In the south, the mighty Zambezi hurls itself over the lip of the Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, twists silently through the narrow Batoka Gorges before flowing into Lake Kariba and on through the Lower Zambezi Valley.
The Kafue and Luangwa Rivers both flow into the Zambezi and their fertile banks play host to some of the country's most important conservation areas. In the east the vast floodplains of Barotseland flank the Zambezi with the best known wildlife areas being the Liuwa Plain and Sioma Ngwezi National Parks. Much further along its course, the Lower Zambezi National Park replaces the wide-open nature of Liuwa with a juxtaposition of woodland, escarpment and river.
The 2.25-million-hectare Kafue National Park and surrounding game management areas in central Zambia make up the largest conservation area and are a mix of miombo woodlands and seasonally inundated floodplains. Like Liuwa and Sioma Ngwezi it is under-visited and is enveloped in an atmosphere of solitude, wilderness and timelessness. The North Luangwa and South Luangwa National Parks and associated game management areas in the east of the country make up almost as large an area where they straddle the Luangwa River and provide an exceptional experience in the ancient riverine woodlands adjacent to the river.
Zambia offers impressive diversity as well as large concentrations and numbers of wildlife, including endemic subspecies of giraffe and wildebeest found in the Luangwa River valley, while extensive herds of black lechwe inhabit the floodplains of the Bangweulu. Bird life is particularly prolific, with 740 bird species found here, including many 'specials'; it is the southernmost extreme of the eccentric-looking African shoebill's range for example and one of the best places to see this sought-after species.
The weather in southern Africa is generally pleasant throughout the year – warm to hot days, and cool to warm nights. During our winter months however (May to September), it can get really cold at night and in the early morning, particularly when on safari, so we would like to suggest that you pack accordingly – very warm clothing including an anorak/winter jacket, a beanie, scarf and gloves are recommended.
Summer: October to April – days are hot and generally sunny in the morning with possible afternoon thunderstorms. Day temperatures average 25°C – 35°C and night temperatures drop to 14°C – 20°C. Low-lying areas such as Lake Kariba, Livingstone, Luangwa Valley, Lower Zambezi National Park, Lake Tanganyika, Kafue National Park and the Zambezi Valley can also be considerably warmer all year round with temperatures of 35°C – 50°C. The rainy season is generally from November to March.
Winter: May to September – days are dry, sunny and cool to warm 20°C – 25°C, while evening temperatures drop sharply to 5°C – 10°C. Exceptionally cold spells can occur 0°C – 5°C.
Visas are the responsibility of the traveller. Those nationalities that require visas to enter Zambia may have to apply for these in advance, however, some nationalities are able to obtain these on arrival at the port of entry. Costs also vary depending on the nationality of your passport so please contact your travel consultant for exact details relevant to you.
If visas are required, please ensure you have the correct cash amounts (US Dollars) available as credit cards and Travellers Cheques are not accepted for visa payments. There is a possibility that payment may need to be made in Kwacha, the local currency. Kwacha cannot be obtained outside the country, however, there are ATMs and Bureaux de Change offices at major points of entry.
You must advise the relevant official of the total number of days that you are spending in Zambia otherwise you may be charged to obtain an extension/additional visa later on.
If you arrive in Zambia but continue your safari in another country (such as Botswana, Namibia or Zimbabwe) and then return to Zambia; or are staying in Livingstone, Zambia but doing some touring in Botswana or Zimbabwe, then a double-entry visa must be obtained on arrival from the immigration official.
Multiple entry visas have to be obtained in advance from your nearest Zambian consulate. Be sure to apply as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.
Certain over-the-counter medications contain ingredients that are on Zambia’s list of controlled substances. As a precaution we recommend that you do not take unnecessary non-prescription medication with you when travelling to Zambia. For prescription medication, please carry a medical practitioner’s prescription with you and ensure that the medication is in its original bottle. A list of these controlled substances is available from your travel consultant on request.