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Travel Guide Zambia

Fast Facts about the country

Tourism is still a relatively small industry and in turn this means large tracts of wilderness land offering an authentic, traditional feel with few visitors appealing to many safari enthusiasts seeking unspoilt landscapes. The majority will visit the awe-inspiring Victoria Falls (from Livingstone), a natural wonder of the world and known locally as the “Smoke that Thunders” as well as visit some of the 20 national parks found here – the most famous and popular include Lower Zambezi, Kafue and South/North Luangwa National Parks where walking safaris and the chance to view big game whilst on foot, or canoe on the Zambezi River provide thrilling and memorable experiences. Zambian guides are considered some of the best in the world, in particular the walking guides who make the words “all creatures great and small” come to life, many lodges have high standards and its no wonder visitors return.

A land-locked country located on the northern region of southern Africa – the mighty Zambezi River creates the border to the south onto Zimbabwe with Namibia running a few kms to the south west , further west lies Angola, DRC in the north, with Tanzania to the north-east, Malawi to the east and Mozambique south-east. The country is 752,610 sq km and a population of around 13.5m. The capital is Lusaka.

Economy: Mining has increased in recent years and copper generally regarded as the main natural resource with high-quality deposits. Other minerals include cobalt, tin, zinc, gold, lead, and coal along with semi-precious stones such as amethyst, fluorite as well as emeralds. Other sectors include manufacturing, agriculture and an increasing growing industry.

Flora and Fauna

Though Zambia have the Big 5, there are plenty more species to find: During November, Liuwa Plain National Park hosts Africa’s second largest wildebeest migration – a superb spectacle. If you fancy seeing fruit bats then head to Kasanka NP where 10m take flight during the months of October-December. Thanks to its tropical location and greater rainfall (in comparison to many of its southerly neighbours), predators such as crocodiles lurk in lakes and rivers, hippos honk and the mighty and predatory tigerfish are found along the Zambezi.

Large mammals: elephant, hippo, buffalo, rhino (black and white but both are rare – black in Luangwa and white in Mosi-oa-Tunya).

Other mammals: there are plenty of predators from lion, leopard (good sightings often seen at Lower Zambezi, Kafue & South Luangwa), cheetah, as well as hyena and endangered wild dog, wildebeest, along with numerous antelope species with water-loving lechwe. Species such as cheetah, rhino and wild dog are uncommon so spotting these are less likely.

Endangered: rhino (black and white) have been re-introduced as large mammal species, wild dog, as for antelope roan and oribi are threatened. Also add honey badger (outside of parks), pangolin – which is suffering globally, along with aardvark – many of the survival of these species are better inside the parks but outside under more threat due to human conflict.

Endemic: Angolan giraffe; subspecies of Thornicroft’s giraffe, Kafue and black lechwe; Cookson’s wildebeest; Crawshay’s zebra.

Birding: Zambia offers some of the best birding on the continent with around 757 recorded species. The white-winged flufftail and black-cheeked lovebird are listed as endangered with a number of vulnerable and near-threatened species (11) and with a diverse range of habitats numerous species can be found. The national bird is the African fish-eagle and its distinctive cry can be heard close to freshwater sources. Birdlife International has listed 42 sites as important birding areas with Chaplin’s barbet as the only endemic. There are plenty of colourful and unusual species such as the elegant grey-crowned crane, collared barbet, lovebirds, bee-eaters and the shoebill stork as some the more popular sightings and migratory birds visit from October to April – this is also considered the best time to visit if you’re a birder though getting to some locations may be difficult. To see water birds and raptors head for Luangwa (both), Kafue for a full range of species, and perhaps consider Bangweulu Wetlands for wetland species (!) and the shoebill. The wattled crane is considered endangered but numbers in Zambia and in particular Kafue are reasonably good so you stand a good chance to spot them. Keep your eyes open for the African skimmer as well (ironically threatened by speeding boats which flood the nest sites).

Flora: With national parks and game management areas (GMA’s) the most common habitats include woodland ranging from mopane, miombo and munga, to forest (teak, and evergreen), along with various grassland regions made up of savannah, dambo, pans, and floodplains – each of the regions support a wealth of further plant and animal life.

Conservation & Conservancies:

As with all conservation, the protection of wildlife needs more than just groups and government – the local people must buy into protecting a species, and generally that involves understanding the benefit of having animals in a location – if locals directly benefit (education, schools, payment via fees etc), they are more likely to assist in its protection rather than “because someone said it should be protected”. Sustainable tourism is increasing, but outside of parks wildlife is still under threat. Zambia has a number of conservation projects from Game Rangers International, Zambian Carnivore Programme, South Luangwa Conservation Society, Conservation Lower Zambezi, Chimfunshi Chimp Sanctuary, & Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust (among others) with the National Heritage Conservation Commission (NHCC) as the body heading these up along with Department of National Parks & Wildlife. As a visitor just remember to do the right thing and contribute positively by way of donations to local projects, supporting and buying locally crafted goods, visiting local communities etc.

When to travel

As always, it really depends on what you want to see and experience, for game viewing /walking in many of the parks then you should travel in dry season (May-June- November), when there is less vegetation and spotting animals easier. The earlier months May-June often have a mid/low season rate so less visitors and good value for money, July-September are the cooler (getting warmer September) with larger herds congregating, leopards a little easier to spot, and lions hanging out around water aras. These are the busiest months but thanks to still relatively few visitors its never THAT busy. Note during wet season, some routes are unpassable so you seriously need to consider which parks to visit if you come during rain months. Birding is often best in wet season, with vibrant breeding season plumage, migrants and plenty of insect life. From a photo point of view then super storm clouds can make for incredible pictures.

Weather

Summer: Often late afternoon showers with storms and max temps around 32c . The main rainy season is January to March when there can be widespread and heavy rainfall along with storms. With weather such as this, roads in the parks are often impassable and those that are open requires clients with an open-mind and prepared to work for their game viewing – grass is longer and game widespread. Nights can still be quite chilly.

Winter: Dry & sunny but can be chilly at night and early morning. During the day, temperatures may rise to around 25c and short pants and short-sleeved shirts can be worn. Early, dry season is good for temperatures and especially for birding.

When to visit: If your main interest is game viewing the best months are late winter/dry season (May – October), otherwise it can be a little disappointing and many areas of game parks/camps are only open during the dry season and many scheduled group departures focusing on game will run during winter months or restricted months. Mfuwe section in South Luangwa remains open year-round and overland tours that combine Zambia and adjoining countries will utilize open routes and destinations.

Travel Documents and information

Money & FX:

Credit Cards: There is limited use for credit cards in Zambia and will often attract a 5% charge. There are ATM’s in larger towns/cities and larger banks often have ATM’s.

Cash: Bring US$, (no notes prior to 2006) and avoid lower/higher (US$1/5 &100) notes as they can be hard to change. Kwatcha is obtained in country only but do not change too much at a time as changing back to US$ can be difficult – your guide will often be able to give info.

Do not use the black market for exchanging money.

Security: Whenever withdrawing cash at ATM’s or at a bank or using a credit card for payments in a shop/restaurant etc, please ensure you use normal security precautions, do not let your card out of your sight and with ATM’s ideally use one that has a security guard or is within its own enclosed room rather an ATM on the street.

Travel Insurance: As part of the Terms and Conditions to Chameleon Holidays and Travel, it is essential that all clients purchase comprehensive travel insurance. Your insurance should be inclusive of full medical cover including costs of emergency repatriation to your home country, and cancellation and strongly recommend covering for loss, damage, theft of personal luggage and belongings, personal injury, accident or illness. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate insurance and have read and understood the full terms and conditions of this policy to ensure you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on your trip. Please carry your insurance details with you at all times and that you have given your details to us before arrival – you may be requested to show your insurance on the morning of safari departure or to complete indemnity so please ensure it is in hand luggage. We will also require a copy of this insurance or details for your insurance, in the very unlikely event that you are involved in an accident or require health care whilst you are on holiday we MAY need to be able to act on your behalf and instruct medical evacuation – please note that much of Africa is not like many first world countries where there is a good local emergency and health service that will automatically assist – here, they don’t! If for any reason you are unconscious we need to be able to act on your behalf and get assistance to you as quickly as possible. If you do not have suitable cover then please provide your credit card details for authorization ONLY IN AN EMERGENCY.

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Passport & Visa Information

Visas: visas are required by most countries including EU, Canada, USA, Australia & New Zealand. Prices vary depending on the type of visa but approx. US$30 for single entry. Some passport holders are able to obtain on entry to Zambia but please check with your nearest Embassy. Holders of passports other than those nationalities mentioned should check with their travel agent/government travel advisory regarding visa requirements as each client is held responsible to ensure that they have the appropriate documentation for entering the country. Your passport must have sufficient empty pages and have at least 6months validity before returning to your home country. You may be refused entry to the country if you need a visa issued prior to arrival. This information is given in good faith but recommend you check in advance.

Please ensure you provide Chameleon with the correct passport information prior to arrival – passport number, full name as per passport, date of birth and passport expiry date.

The government of Zambia requires that certain nationalities obtain a visa for entry into Zambia. Here, you will find out of you need a Zambia visa, how to get one, how much it will cost, and the types of visas there are.

Visa Categories: There are 3 categories which we will list here for people who want to visit Zambia as tourist.

First Category: No visa required to enter Zambia. No action or fee, except for you to produce your valid passport.

Second Category: Visa on arrival at the airport or border post, or issued at missions abroad (see table at bottom of page). Visa fees applicable.

If you are intending to visit Zimbabwe as well then the KAZA UniVisa is your most economical choice.

Third Category: Referred visa required before travelling to Zambia. Issued at missions abroad in home country or in a neighbouring country. An easier way is to apply through Zambia’s eVisa website. Payment is made online during the application process. An email confirmation letter will be sent if the application is approved, and this is used to obtain a visa in the passport on arrival at the port of entry.

Passport Requirement:

  • Passport valid for a least 6 months from your date of entry
  • Return ticket to your country if flying into Zambia.
  • At least two blank pages in your passport to fit the required entry visa.
  • Sufficient funds to cover your stay.

Visa Types

Single Entry visa allows you to enter Zambia one time. Valid for up to 90 days from date of issue. Once you have used it for an entry and exit, you cannot use it again.

Double Entry visa allows you to enter Zambia twice. Valid for up to 90 days from date of issue. Once you have used it for the two entries and two exits, the visa cannot be used again.

Multiple Entry visa allows for more than two entries into Zambia. Valid for 90 days, except for United States nationals for whom it is valid for up to 3 years.

Day Tripper visa allows single entry for under 24 hours. Valid only at the Kazungula Border (with Botswana) and the Victoria Falls Border (with Zimbabwe). The same port of entry must be used for entry and exit.

Transit visa is for those who are transiting through Zambia using land transport.

Zambia Visa Fees

Visitors coming from countries which need a visa to Zambia will need to pay a fee for their visa when they arrive at the port of entry, whether it is at the land border or at the airport. There are credit card facilities at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (Lusaka), Harry Mwanga International Airport / Livingstone Airport (Livingstone), and at Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport (Ndola), so that you can use MasterCard, Visa, Maestro and American Express cards to pay for your Zambia visa.

Zambia Visa Fees

Single Entry

US $50

Double Entry

US $80

Multiple Entry

US $80

Transit

US $50

Day Tripper

US $20

KAZA Univisa

US$ 50

Health Precautions:

We recommend that you consult your physician or a travel centre prior to your safari departure, as there are a few health matters that require attention and recommend visiting around 8 weeks prior to travel. Here are some guidelines but please remember we are not medical practitioners and recommend you contact your Governments Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and discuss with your doctor about the current situation – as a guideline only and general recommendation. Please do not underestimate heat exhaustion.

  • Hepatitis A & B – Vaccines give good protection; initially two weeks from first dose and then second dose within 6-12months gives long term protection
  • Polio – Within 10years
  • Typhoid - Recommended
  • TB – recommended and covers long term.
  • Tetanus – Yes
  • Diphtheria: Yes – note there is a all-in-one vaccine that covers tetanus, polio and diphtheria.
  • Malaria - Protection against malaria is required as malaria occurs in many areas and higher risk in rainy season
  • Yellow Fever – not required in Zambia, however, if you are travelling from countries with yellow fever you may be asked to produce the certificate of vaccination – regulations for this are changing on a regular basis and we advise you check in plenty of time before your trip. Legislation may be checked or changed at any point

Packing Checklist

Safari: Neutral coloured casual clothing (shorts/long trousers, shirts/t-shirts) for everyday wear, bright colours or white are not suitable for game viewing in game walks or open vehicles; stout shoes (with soles thick enough to protect against thorns and for walking) or robust trainers with good traction soles, light jacket or jumper (summer time), warm jumper and jacket (winter time), light spray jacket during rainy season.

In towns/cities : normal clothing attire

Other clothing: sunhat; nightwear; underwear; socks; sandals; swimwear; scarf/gloves; beanie/warm hat for winter months; thermals useful in winter;

Transport: Getting around

There are a selection of overland tours which are generally regarded as the most affordable way to travel, depending on the destination/route and operator some may only run during the dry season as wet season could make routes impassable. Some of the more luxury trips will offer fly in tours which are by far the best way to get to multiple parks with the minimum of hassle and the most comfort. We recommend either of these options.

For the very adventurous tourist, self-drive will offer a more daunting experience, though possible it is not as straightforward as many southern Africa countries and should only be considered by very experienced 4x4 drivers as conditions can be challenging and need patience as routes can be very slow-going, and in particular can only considered in dry season. Whilst there is public transport between major cities, it is also unreliable and slow so not something we would recommend to those on limited time.

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