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Destination Zambia
by Helen C. Broadus

The name "Zambia" is derived from the Zambezi River, and boasts a wealth of natural highlights as well as a tourism industry geared towards exhibiting the country's splendor. The Republic of Zambia is the most centrally located country in the southern region of Africa and is therefore the ideal destination from which to fully explore the region. Zambia shares its borders on the north with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania; on the east with Malawi and Mozambique; on the south with Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana; and on the west with Angola. With a surface area of 750,000 km2 there are nineteen national parks, six major lakes, more than twenty different ethnic groups, several museums, archaeological sites and the incomparable natural wonders of the Victoria Falls and Zambezi River. For those looking for a fantastic African wildlife experience, Zambia has much to offer, including all of the "Big Five" and more than 700 species of birds. The rich wildlife of the country can be easily explored on walking safaris, all terrain (4X4) vehicles and/or canoeing safaris.

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Of course, the most awesome spectacle of Zambia is the Victoria Falls, originally given their English name by the famous missionary and explorer Dr. David Livingstone. The local people refer to the falls, which is southern and central Africa's only natural wonder as "Mosi-oa-Tunya" literally translated to mean "the smoke that thunders". Victoria Falls is the largest curtain of falling water in the world stretching 1,708 meters across and, while not the largest, is definitely the most majestic waterfall in the world! There are micro-light aircraft and ballooning flights over the falls, as well as numerous trails for enjoying the breathtaking scenery to include bird watching, hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. There is even an exhilarating bungi jump off the Victoria Falls Bridge, the second highest jump in the world where a video recording will allow you to relive your experience.

Lake Tanganyika is another place of special interest, although it is seldom associated with Zambia. Lake Tanganyika's waters touch Tanzania, Burundi, the Congo and Zambia. It is the longest freshwater lake in the world and the second deepest after Lake Baikal in Russia. It reaches a depth of 1,433 meters (4,700 feet), which is an astounding 642 meters below sea level. Another special site is Kafue National Park which is the largest game reserve in Africa. Stretching from Lake Itezhi-Texhi in the south to the spacious Busanga Plains in the north, it is home to an abundance of wildlife and lush vegetation, watered by the Kafue and Lunga Rivers.

The lower Zambezi National Park is a peaceful place where the Zambezi River &endash; although one of the largest on the continent &endash; spreads its banks wide to create endless vistas of slowly flowing waters. The subsequent flood plains provide sanctuary for big game and a myriad of species of bird life. Fishing is also an essential pastime for visitors to the area and those who are more adventurous can pit their skills against the fierce tiger fish. The Bangwuelu Flood plains in the north of the country present magnificent displays of migratory wildlife, depending on the season. On the headwaters of the Kafue River, sixty kilometers west of Chingola, lies the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage. Its name is something of a misnomer as Chimfunshi is a chimpanzee rehabilitation center and sanctuary.

FACTS AND FIGURES: The Republic of Zambia, formerly known as Northern Rhodesia, has been independent since October 24, 1964. The current Head of State is President HE Levy P. Mwanawasa. Zambia's population is estimated at 9.7 million with 56% living in rural areas. The Capital City of Zambia is Lusaka with a population of over two million. Other major towns include Maramba (formerly Livingstone), Kitwe, Ndola, Kabwe and Mufulira. English is the official language and there are some seventy-three regional dialects, which fall into the main language groups of Nyanja, Tonga, Bemba, Lozi, Kaonde, Kilunda, Luvale and Lunda.

Approximately twenty percent of the population is Christian with some Hindu and Muslim. The rest of the population practices traditional African beliefs. With such a large variety of ethnic groups, there are vast differences between the local cuisines. However, most of the traditional dishes depend on a staple of vegetables combined with either meat or fish.

Most of the country falls into a plateau region, which has a pleasant climate and is a land of unspoiled forest, lush Savannah's and vast plains. The valley of the Zambezi River is a low-lying area, ranging from marshy coastal areas running the length of the western and southern borders, with a hotter and more humid climate. The extreme northern areas, rising to a plateau and mountain ranges, have a more usual tropical climate as they reach the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Despite the tropical location, the altitude of the Zambian plateau ensures a comfortable climate throughout the year in the river valleys where it is markedly hotter. Zambia has three basic seasons &endash; cool and dry from May to August, hot and dry from September to November and warm and wet from December to April.

The local currency is the Kwacha and Zambia's low cost of living and favorable exchange rate represent excellent value for money for all tourists and foreign visitors. Zambia's time zone is GMT +2. The country code is 260 and the following area codes apply: Lusaka 01, Chipata 062, Chirundu 01, Kapiri Mposhi 05, Kasma 04, Kitwe 02, Livingstone 03, and Ndola 02. There is a workable telephone and postal service throughout the country, as well as cell phone and Internet facilities in the capital. Outside of urban areas and major resorts, drinking water should be boiled and filtered or treated with purification tablets. Electricity, of which 99.5 percent is generated by the Kariba hydroelectric scheme, runs at 220.240V AC, 50Hz.

Zambia is one of the richest regions in the world for metal ores, but is rather under-exploited. The export of copper accounts for approximately seventy percent of Zambia's foreign income. Internally, the country is mainly agriculturally-based with about thirty percent of the GDP in this industry sector. The economy is also reliant on the extensive mineral resources (other than copper) of the country including cobalt and zinc &endash; which account for another twenty percent of the GDP. Agriculture and forestry account for sixteen percent of the GDP with its major cash crops of cotton, coffee, sugar cane and tobacco. In addition, the tourism industry had almost 400,000 tourist and foreign visitors in 1998 representing approximately $90 million in foreign currency.

ACCOMMODATION: Apart from the first-rate facilities available at all of the main tourists destinations, outside of the major cities, commercial accommodations is scarce and, when found, very basic. There are a few backpackers' lodges but few campsites except in the tourist areas. Visitors intending hiking or backpacking excursions are strongly advised to carry their own tent and camping equipment. The National Parks usually offer four types of accommodation: camping (about US$5 per person), self-catering (US$10 to $25), mid-range fully catered lodges (between US$50 to $100) and top-end lodges (US$200 to $250 inclusive).

GETTING THERE: Lusaka International Airport is thirty kilometers from the city. Flights from North America can be arranged with either British Airways or South African Airways. European airlines such as KLM, Air France and Lufthansa also fly to Lusaka. Zambia Airways is the national airline carrier and Southern African air carriers that fly direct to Lusaka include South African Airways, Air Namibia, Air Zimbabwe, Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines. All visitors require valid passports and roundtrip air tickets. United States citizens are required to obtain visas that are valid for up to six months.

Ferry boats exist across the Zambezi River into Botswana and via Lake Tanganyika, to both Tanzania and Burundi. Land transport includes two main rail links from the border of Zambia into Tanzania and onto Dar es Salaam or across the Victoria Falls Bridge to Bulawayo and Harare in Zimbabwe. By road there are coach services available to Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Malawi which run frequently. Internal travel is most conveniently accomplished by using the large number of private air charter companies and, with about 130 airports and landing strips across the country, access can be gained to almost any region of Zambia.

HEALTH: Recommended precautions &endash; especially if you are visiting game reserves &endash; include current or boosted inoculations for hepatitis A and polio as well as an anti-malarial prescription. It is also preferable to use an effective insect repellent as a precaution for malaria and, in the case of remote areas, sleeping sickness.

ITEMS TO BRING: A good pair of binoculars is recommended for all visitors exploring wildlife areas as well as any photographic or video equipment and a good supply of spare batteries. Remember that this is a sunny country so make sure that you have a hat, sunglasses and plenty of sun-block lotion. Clothing for game areas should be neutral or earth colors, sensible walking shoes should also be included and a windbreaker jacket will be useful for the cooler times of the day such as for early morning or late evening game drives.

WHAT TO BUY: Zambia is a good place to buy gemstones, fine basketry and a wide variety of wood and stone carvings. Also look out for the beautiful wall hangings and bed covers from across the Luanwa Valley.

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About the author: Helen C. Broadus is the President of Venue International Professionals, Inc. (VIP) an international travel and tourism consulting firm based in the Washington Metropolitan Area. She is also the Executive Secretary of the Africa Travel Association (ATA) and has conducted escorted tours to twenty African countries over the past ten years. She is a frequent writer of articles for the Africa Travel Magazine about the many African destinations that she has visited. She may be contacted at Telephone Number: (301) 856-9188, Facsimile Number: (301) 868-2218, and E-Mail Address: