Named after the Zambezi River that rises unassumingly in the northwestern corner of the country, Zambia is famous for its huge, wild national parks, spectacular scenery, and concentrations of animals found nowhere else in Africa. It is bordered by the Congo to the north and northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, Malawi to the east, Mozambique to the southeast, Zimbabwe to the south, Botswana and Namibia to the southwest and Angola to the west.
It is made up of 10 provinces, one of which is the copper-belt, a rich seam that runs along the northwestern side of the country, contributing the majority of the country’s revenue.
In the southern reaches of the country, along the Zimbabwean border, the Zambezi River powers over the towering basalt cliffs of the Victoria Falls. This wonder of the world is one of Zambia’s main tourist attractions and guests are treated to one of nature’s most awe-inspiring spectacles.
Downstream from the Falls, the white frothing waters of the Zambezi rapids flow into Lake Kariba, which, at almost 300km in length, is one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. Here visitors can fish for the fiery tigerfish, or relax on luxury houseboats while watching animals along the shoreline, and enjoy some of nature’s most striking scenery.
To the northwest of the lake, the Lower Zambezi National Park is found on the northern bank of the river. This reserve is an extravagance of all things wild and beautiful.
Herds of elephant play in the cool waters, while antelope come down to drink against a backdrop of mountains. Predators pad silently between the gigantic trees and hippo drift idly past, snorting and grunting at passing canoes and boats.
In the very western part of Zambia, along the border with Angola, and just north of the Barotse Flood Plain, is the Liuwa Plain National Park. This remote reserve is home to the second largest migration of animals in Africa. It is wide and open, and attracts an abundance of life - a wildlife spectacle on an impressive scale. The Zambezi is wide and languid here, a prelude to the power held in its waters as it gathers strength on its journey south.
Travelling east, over the Luena flats, the enormous Kafue National Park spreads over 22 400km2. It is Africa’s second largest game reserve, and boasts one of the highest diversities of animals south of the Congo basin.
Bisected by a number of large rivers that harbour some of the biggest crocodiles ever recorded, it is a patchwork of rolling grasslands, stands of great forests, and tranquil wetlands. It is a birding utopia and a wildlife photographer’s dream.
High up in the north of the country, on the border with the Congo and Tanzania, is the second deepest natural lake in the world – Lake Tanganyika – one of the most biologically unique habitats on earth. Ferocious surface storms can drive waves of up to six metres high, but this fissure in the Great Rift Valley is so deep that no mixing of the lower waters occur. Its bottom layer of ‘fossil’ water is about 1 200m deep, and some estimate it could be as old as 20 million years!
Lake Tanganyika boasts over 350 different species of fish and is an angling paradise. The Sumba National Park on its southern shoreline is where the highest freshwater fish diversity in the world is best explored from, with new endemic fish being discovered regularly.
Lake Tanganyika was once thought to be the source of the Nile (the inspiration for the adventure movie Mountains of the Moon) and its 667km long shoreline laps onto Tanzania, Burundi, Congo DR and Zambia.
Spanning over north and central Zambia, to the east of the rugged Muchinga escarpment, lies a jewel of a game reserve. The South Luangwa National Park is famous for its incredible game viewing, adventurous walking safaris and superb birding opportunities. It has a high diversity of animals, large predator populations and luxurious accommodation.
Zambia is one of those countries where you simply cannot go wrong. When it comes to wildlife in any shape or form, it has so much to offer that it is easy to tailor-make an individual experience for almost anyone. It is a country with romance and allure. It is an icon of African travel and adventure, and it seems to wait - dark and alluring - for visitors to step off the plane, where they will instantly and irreversibly fall in love with its beauty.