Marvelled upon by Dr Livingstone and now a 21st-century hub for adventure tourism, Zambia offers the wonders of Victoria Falls, majestic wildlife and a fascinating historical legacy
When hearing that a friend or colleague is heading off for an unforgettable adventure holiday, one day people around the world will utter the words “Zambia, I presume”.
This is the will of Zambia’s tourism authorities, who see enormous potential for growth without any need to compromise the country’s outstanding natural attributes. Chief among these are the Victoria Falls themselves, with the lion’s share of the 1.7-kilometre span falling on the Zambian side of the border with Zimbabwe.
David Livingstone, the Scottish explorer who, in 1855, became the first white man to see the falls, said that “scenes so lovely must have been gazed on by angels in their flight”. Now modern-day travellers can base themselves in the charming colonial city of Livingstone and view the Victoria Falls from a helicopter. “These rides have been nicknamed ‘flights of the angels’,” says Felix Chaila, CEO of Zambia Tourism Agency (ZTA).
Zambia still offers the traveller wondrous, timeless sights, but is now considerably easier to access than in Livingstone’s day thanks to its user-friendly e-Visa system and a major upgrade to the country’s main airports
Photos: Francoise D’Elbee, Mukambi
Safaris, Zambia Tourism Agency (ZTA)
Zambia, Tourism Minister Charles Banda explains, is a safe and welcoming country where visitors can have the adventure of a lifetime, whether it be spotting elephants and lions on a safari, bungee jumping or white-water rafting on the Zambezi. There are several other spectacular waterfalls in Zambia, including Lumangwe and Kundalila, the latter near the place in which Dr Livingstone eventually died.
Devils pool – Victoria Falls
Another demonstration of the historical links between Zambia and Europe is the surprising fact that World War One ended in Mbala, Zambia, on the shores of Lake Chila. “News of the Armistice did not reach the African front until November 14, when the Germans laid down their arms,” explains Peter Jones, ZTA’s chairman. Visitors can learn more about this history at Chambeshi Monument in northern Zambia, with 2018 marking exactly 100 years since the hostilities finally came to an end.
History, wildlife and adventure are complemented by a growing specialisation in business tourism, according to Banda. “Zambia has the potential to become one of the five top destinations in the world,” he concludes.
Zambia is an incredible amalgam of 72 ethnic tribes, coexisting peacefully and each celebrating their individual cultures through over a hundred traditional ceremonies, marking natural cycles, glorious warriors of the past and other ancient traditions
The dance of the Nyau brotherhood sees initiated men wear an incredible array of masks and costumes representing wild animals and spirits in a tradition known as Gule Wamkulu, dating back to the 17th century and now protected by UNESCO as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The Nyau secret society’s origins lie in the matrilineal culture of the Chewa people, leading somewhat marginalised men to group together in solidarity.
Also recognised by UNESCO is the Makishi masquerade, an initiation ritual for boys celebrated by the Vaka Chiyama Cha Mukwamayi communities in the northwestern and western provinces of Zambia. The celebration is sparked by the return of the boys from several weeks in a bush camp, a separation from their families that marks the symbolic death of childhood.
Equally spectacular is the Kuomboka ceremony at the end of the rainy season, celebrating the transfer of the Lozi people’s king from his compound in the Zambezi floodplain onto higher ground using vividly painted and decorated barges.
As a member of the Commonwealth, Zambia celebrates its British legacy and continuing human connections between the nations
The relationship between Zambia and Britain starts with explorer David Livingstone – perhaps best known for the “Dr Livingstone, I presume” greeting with which fellow explorer Henry Morton Stanley is said to have proffered when the two men met before the latter made his name on a mission to explore the Congo, partly funded by The Daily Telegraph.
Following Livingstone’s explorations came colonists, and the future Zambia first took shape as Northern Rhodesia in 1911 before independence in 1964. The links remain strong. “Every Zambian speaks English because the education system was set up by the British. Our dress, our food, our houses and our traditions share similarities, and our political and legal systems maintain the British structure,” explains Felix Chaila, CEO of Zambia Tourism Agency. Around 60,000 UK tourists visit each year, some staying at safari lodges still run by British families.
The memorial to David Livingstone at the place of his death: Chief Chitambo’s Village, Zambia.