The Zambezi River – Zambia’s Finest Safari Feature

The Zambezi River – Zambia’s Finest Safari Feature

The Zambezi is Africa’s fourth largest river; flowing for about 3000km across central Africa. The river hails from a small brook at the upper Northwest corner of Zambia and it then flows through Angola and borders Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe before finally cutting through Mozambique where it empties its waters into the Indian Ocean through a Delta. 

The Zambezi River ebbs and flows depending on season. If there is prolonged rain, the river swells up and bursts its banks in particular areas displacing thousands of people. On the other hand if there is no rain, the waters recede. The river is divided into three sections; the upper Zambezi, middle Zambezi and lower Zambezi.

Though the river, has a lot to offer with every square kilometer it passes through, it has the best of its features in Zambia and Zimbabwe. Perhaps the most spectacular feature along the Zambezi is the magnificent Victoria Falls. Known locally as “Mosi-oa-Tunya” (the smoke that thunders), the Victoria Falls is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The deafening roar of the falls as millions of liters of water cascade down its rocky cliff can be heard from metres away. From the falling water rises a glistening blanket of mist which makes the sight all the more enchanting.

The best time to tour the falls is during the dry winter season which runs from July to August. Around the rainy season, the blanket of mist gets so thick that it makes it impossible to catch a glimpse of the falls. The peak of the dry season is also not best because the falls are at their dullest during this time. If you wish to, you can catch a helicopter ride and get a bird’s eye view of the falls. However, most people prefer the experience from the ground where they can feel the spray of the falls on their faces. If you plan to view the falls from the ground, carry a raincoat as you are bound to get soaked, most people get a kick out of this though.

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Not far from the falls stands the grand Victoria Falls Bridge. The bridge is a prized piece of fine architecture that joins Zambia and Zimbabwe while also providing an expansive view of the Zambezi and the adjacent rain forests. The most popular activity at the bridge is bungee jumping. The fall is 111 metres long making it the second longest bungee distance in the world. Other notable sights along the Zambezi include the expansive Kariba and Cahora Bassa dams.

The Kariba dam in Zambia, boasts a vast 300km. The Cahora Bassa dam lies in Mozambique and is 20km smaller than the Kariba making it 280km wide. Both dams are deep and quite popular for their sport fishing activities. You can choose whether to fish from the banks or go out into the water in a canoe. The most common fish in these areas are Tiger fish which can grow to as much as 10kg, the yellow-belly bream, and the red-breasted bream among others.

Besides fishing, the dams also provide the local community with enough water for irrigation for those who practice farming along the river. The dams are also a source of hydropower. The Kariba dam supplies power to Zambia and Zimbabwe while the Cahora Bassa dam supplies power to both Mozambique and South Africa.   

There are a number of game parks and reserves dotted all along the Zambezi and offering some of the best Africa safaris. The most popular of these include the Zambezi National Park, the Victoria Falls national park, the Mana pools park, and the Wide horizons elephant camp. Here, visitors can watch a wide array of wild animals along game drives or in fenced and controlled reserves. The activity that the Zambezi is world famous for is its eventful white water rafting expeditions. The rocky riverbeds of the Zambezi and the steep, gorged terrain as well as pressure pools provide an excellent flowing strip for the exciting rapids.

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The Zambezi rapids have been classified as grade five, meaning that they are very difficult to negotiate, very fast, violent and unpredictable as they have no clear pattern that a negotiator can get used to therefore making each trip different from the next. The rapids are also popular because they have little bare rock allaying fears of injury therefore allowing kayakers to make the most of the experience.

There is a wide array of hotels and lodges to choose from along the Zambezi. They range from outdoor tent and mattress camping lodges to luxury five star hotels. Whichever you choose, they all promise different adventures that are bound to make your stay memorable. A couple of the most popular hotel and lodges include; the Royal Livingstone hotel, the Tongabezi lodge and the Thorn tree lodge at Victoria Falls. The Mwambashi river lodge, Kasaka river lodge and Mtondo river camp are good choices for those who want to be close to the river and around wild game. And for those who want to spend their days fishing in Lake Kariba, the Chete Island deluxe tented safari lodge and the Chikanka Island hotel would be good choices for you.

There are a number of towns and settlements along the Zambezi River. The major ones include; Katima Mulilo in Namibia, Mongu, Lukulu and Livingstone in Zambia, Victoria Falls and Kariba in Zimbabwe, and finally Songo and Tete in Mozambique. Interestingly, over 70 different languages spoken by the people along the Zambezi. Most of these natives depend on the Zambezi for their livelihood and have a fascinating culture as well as unique practices. The Bundu people of Zambia, for example, believe that there is a live spirit called Nyaminyami in the river. They believe that the spirit offers them protection and therefore regularly perform rituals at the river bank to appease the spirit.

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