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 Ecology & Wildlife
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.
Quick Zambia Facts
Population: 11 million
Area: total: 752,614 sq km (slightly larger Texas)
Geographic coordinates: 15 00 S, 30 00 E
CurrencyThe 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.
LanguageOver 73 African dialects are spoken in Zambia; however the official language is English.
TimeZambia is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
ClimateZambia 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 the cities in summer range from 25° C to 35° C and in winter from 6° C to 24° C.
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