comscore

Zambia Travel Guide

Been here
Victoria Falls, Zambia
LoadingLoading Thumbnails

Member Reviews (10)Write a review

  • Zambia

    The Dangerous First Descent of the Zambezi
    -Richard Bangs

    It was Valentine’s Day when I first saw the river; it was love at first sight. Along with a party of tour operators, I had been shuttled between game parks and hotel lobbies for days, all leading up to this: Victoria Falls. While the other occupants of the Land Rover pressed for a glimpse of the great falls upstream, I looked the other way, out of habit. Some 350 feet below the bridge we were driving over, a mighty river coiled and cursed through a dark basalt gorge. I could see two rapids interrupting the otherwise peaceful stretch, between the hairpin curves that divide the Third Canyon from its cousins. They were pieces of effervescence, feather-white, inviting. They looked as though they could be run.

    In 1855 David Livingstone was traveling down the upper Zambezi by canoe, hoping to find the African equivalent of the “Northwest Passage,” a water route into the heart of the continent that would allow colonization, the end of Arab slave trading, and Christian conversion of heathens.

    But when he came to the huge falls he named for his queen, Victoria, and peered over the edge, he abandoned his quest, and made his way overland to the coast. The Zambezi below the falls remained navigated ever since. I thought I could correct that.

    A few months later I flew to Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, to meet with the Minister of Tourism to request a permit to make the first descent of the Zambezi. It was going to be a tough sell, as nobody had done anything like this since Livingstone, and it seemed to most a risky endeavor. I flew to London from Los Angeles, and caught the first flight south, spending almost 20 sleepless hours in the transit. When I landed I made my way directly to the Ministry of Tourism, stepped up the steep flight of stairs, and made my way to the Minister’s office. He invited me in, and I sat on the far side of his big desk and explained why I thought running the Zambezi would be a great thing for Zambia’s pallid tourism industry. He listened respectfully, and then got a summons from his assistant, and excused himself from the room. I suddenly felt a wave of wooziness wash over me, extreme jetlag, and I slumped over onto the Minister’s desk, and promptly fell asleep. The next thing I knew he was shaking me awake, saying my snoring could be heard through the building. I blew it, I knew. My dream of pioneering the Zambezi dashed against the rocks. The Minister sat in his high-backed chair and said, “I’ve decided to grant you the permit to run the Zambezi. I’ll have the papers drawn up this afternoon.”

    Embed Code:

    On October 26th my expedition team collected in Livingstone, Zambia: Eight of Sobek’s most experienced guides, along with actor LeVar Burton, an ABC film crew, and two sappers from Zimbabwe who would sweep the beaches for landmines before we camped.
    I squeezed hands with a group of local boys who had scrambled down the steep slope to see us off. Slipping on a pair of studded cotton gloves, I settled in the seat of a five-meter-long inflatable raft. My passengers: photographer Michael Nichols and Joanne Taylor, both somber as the dark canyon walls. Setting the bowline free, I let the boat drift upstream in the eddy to its confrontation with the rapid known as The Boiling Pot.
    Then I dug the oar blades deep, powering out of the eddy and into the main current. The first stroke seemed solid, and I was confidently preparing for the next when the boat canted up a wave. The right oar sliced ineffectually through the air. I grappled with the ill-spent oar and saw, through the heaving water, a black wall looming. With a panicked push on the other oar, I turned the bow toward the wall, which was hurling water from its face.
    Three meters from the wall I dropped the oars and held on. A blast of water pushed the boat up on its side, where it hung for a tense second. Though the wash of white I saw Michael, camera pressed against his eye, still shooting; then I thought I heard Joanne scream. The boat plunged over, upside down, into the rolling mess.

    Photo compliments of MTSobek.
    I had capsized in the first rapid of the Zambezi, minutes after launching our expedition. The president of Zambia watched from the bridge above, turned to a reporter and asked, “Is that how they do it?”
    But we continued, with portages, more capsizes, and mishaps. About half way down the river one of the rafts was attacked. A ridged snout lunged from beneath and, sinking two long rows of teeth into the raft, exploded one of the inflated tubes. The oarsman, John Yost, reacted instinctively and defensively: he lifted an oar out of its oarlock and began slapping the croc over the head with the blade. The croc made a second lunge, then dived and disappeared. Yost frantically rowed the half-deflated raft to shore, and the other boats, including a kayak paddled by LeVar Burton, made a hasty landing on the nearest beach. LeVar Burton called in the helicopter, and flew away, not to be seen again.
    The rest of us continued cautiously downstream. A few days later, late in the afternoon, we came to another spectacular rapid that split the river, one uncharted and unnamed. We scouted, and decided it looked runnable straight down the middle. One of the guides, Neusom Holmes, volunteered to row first. He rode cleanly over the first wave, then rode sideways up the second and flipped. He and his passengers disappeared in the dusk downstream, swimming for shore. Then Jim Slade capsized in the same place. Two flips in one rapid. Now it was my turn.
    I desperately surveyed the rapid for a “cheat” run, but I couldn’t even see 100 meters ahead in the fading light. I had no idea how the others, who had capsized, had fared, whether the water, the rocks, or the crocs, had done any damage. I quickly tightened all the ropes that held the gear in my boat, and took out my waterproof diary and camera box. Then I stepped from the boat, kicked it out into the current, and watched.
    The abandoned board descended into the maelstrom farther to the left than the rafts before me, pirouetted in the first wave, and then rode up over the plume of the second wave, right-side-up. I stumbled down the side of the rapid, and found my boat pitching in an eddy, still upright, with Neusom and Slade inside bailing.
    Finally, in the early afternoon of November 5, the current of the Zambezi died in the waters of Lake Kariba. The first descent was over.
    I wished I could send a report to Livingstone so he might have the final chapter on this river he spent so long exploring, so he might close the book.
    The Zambezi curls through the final gate into this artificial lake, Kariba, sparkling like hammered gold. And like some sort of bottomless adventure treasure, tens of thousands have followed in our oar strokes and rafted the Zambezi, and it is now the top tourism draw in Zambia.

    High Adventure today on the Zambezi:

    Embed code:

    ##

    Comment.
    Was this review helpful?(0)
    Report
  • Zambia

    From Zambia, Ndola, Victoria Falls, Kariba, to Mana Pools, Troutbeck - choose difference between wildlife or fishing! Whatever you want in Africa, you will find! From wonderful game hikes to beautiful walks in wooded areas! Wish I could go back to live once more!

    Comment.
    Was this review helpful?(0)
    Report
  • Zambia

    Kayaking down the Zambezi to Mana Pools on a multi-night tour kipping on islands along the way has to be one of the ultimate African safaris.

    Comment.
    Was this review helpful?(0)
    Report
  • Zambia
    Member of
    Outdoor Enthusiasts
    Budget Travelers
    Foodies
    Adventure Travelers

    Zambia is a great destination for a first-time Africa trip. Wildlife and adventure sports are abundant here and there are plenty of operators to take you to them. South Luangwa, in the northeast, is my all-time favorite African park. There is no shortage of things to do in Livingstone at Victoria falls - from walking with lions to paddling the Zambezi rapids.

    Comment.
    Was this review helpful?(0)
    Report
  • Zambia

    Victoria Falls is ,of course, a must see. the skies of Zambia were the most incredible i've ever seen! we were there from feb 15-mar 15 sunsets, cloud formations any time of day, and clear views of the night sky.
    the most fabulous thing of all were definately the people.

    Comment.
    Was this review helpful?(0)
    Report
  • Zambia
    Member of
    Local Culture
    Outdoor Enthusiasts
    Budget Travelers
    + 4
    • Foodies
    • LGBT
    • Green Travelers
    • Adventure Travelers
    Comment.
    Was this review helpful?(0)
    Report
  • Zambia
    Member of
    Local Culture
    Business Travelers
    Wellness
    + 4
    • Luxury Travelers
    • Adventure Travelers
    • Spiritual Seekers
    • Trendsters
    Comment.
    Was this review helpful?(0)
    Report
  • Zambia
    Comment.
    Was this review helpful?(0)
    Report
  • Zambia
    Comment.
    Was this review helpful?(0)
    Report
  • Zambia
    Comment.
    Was this review helpful?(0)
    Report
Find Hotels in Zambia:

Description

What was formerly called Northern Rhodesia sits equidistant between the rapidly developing world of Southern Africa and the more traditional Africa of the East. Its fortuitous position at this confluence makes it a premier destination. It offers visitors a comprehensive African experience full of national parks, adventure sports, cultural discovery, and a broad range of lodges and hotels that are often an experience in themselves. Sip sundowners on the banks of the Zambezi River, just above Victoria Falls after a day white water rafting below it. Cruise through Lake Kariba on your own private house boat while spying elephants on the shore or angling for tigerfish. The laugh of hyenas or roar of lions will be your wake-up call at your lodge on the banks of the Luangwa River. Whatever you’re seeking in an African vacation, Zambia is a good bet.

OverviewEdit

4.5 out of 5
10 members' reviews
5,932 people visited Zambia

Things To Do in Zambia

Zimbabwe Market
Zimbabwe Market
Avg. rating:
View All Things to do

Top Reviewers

  • 1
    Alena KřivánkováAlena's Zambia Guide
  • 2
    Summer WilmsSummer's Zambia Guide
  • 3
    Celeny Da SilvaCeleny's Zambia Guide
  • 4
    Nomadic by NatureNomadic's Zambia Guide
  • 5
    AvidweisDavid's Zambia Guide

Trips that include Zambia

Going to Zambia

By Hemantee D Sontheimer

Going to Zambia

By Rachel

Going to Zambia

By LJ Sikahema

Recently Reviewed Hotels in Zambia

Report this place

Aliases: Northern Rhodesia, North Rhodesia