Zambezi River

Zambezi River  : The Tonga people gave the Zambezi River its name, which means “Big River.” The Zambezi ranks fourth in length in Africa, after the Nile, the Congo, and the Niger. It’s Africa’s longest river that flows eastward.

From its beginnings in northern Zambia to the Indian Ocean is an incredible 2,700 kilometers of river flow across six different countries.

Given that so few of the world’s rivers are as unspoiled and uncharted as this one, it’s easy to see why it conjures such feelings of mystery and adventure.


Victoria Falls and the Zambezi River at Zimbabwe’s Zambezi National Park

The Zimbabwean Zambezi National Park and the river that runs through it.

The Mwinilunga District, near to the intersection of the borders of Zambia, Angola, and the Congo, is where the mighty Zambezi River begins its journey downstream. This area is roughly 1,500 meters (4,900 feet) above sea level.

From there, it travels through Zambia, Angola, Namibia, and Botswana before looping back along the frontier between Zambia and Zimbabwe and emptying into the Indian Ocean at the delta in Mozambique. A catchment area of 1,390,000 square kilometers, or almost half the size of the Nile’s, feeds the river.

Distance from its beginning to its end in the Zambezi delta

How far the Zambezi flows

Kariba Dam in Zimbabwe and Cahora Bassa Dam in Mozambique are two of the dams along the Zambezi River that have been built to harness the river’s power. The hydroelectric electricity generated by these dams is crucial to the economies of Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.

Recent press articles have raised concerns that the Zambezi Seaway Project, a plan to widen the river so that products and minerals may be shipped from the interior, will once again move forward. Learn more and share your thoughts by clicking here.

Another major cause for concern is the revival of long-dormant plans to construct a hydroelectric dam in the Batoka gorge just beneath Victoria Falls. We’re still keeping an eye on and fighting this dangerous project, and you can read more about it by clicking on “Batoka Gorge Dam Project.”

Beautiful scenery and excellent opportunity to observe wildlife draw visitors from all over the world to the river. Along the banks of the Zambezi River, you may come across hippopotamuses, crocodiles, elephants, and lions, among other species.

To better appreciate this incredible river, I propose we divide it into three parts:

zambezi upper
Starting in Zambia, the 240-kilometer-long river then flows south-west into Angola (150miles). During the wet season, the river is around 400 meters (1,300 feet) wide and rushes swiftly over the Cholwezi rapids and the Chavuma Falls before entering Zambia again.

About 800 kilometers (500 miles) to the south, the river has a relatively modest plunge of 180 meters (590ft). Once the river enters the Barotse Floodplain, an area where its breadth can increase to 25 kilometers (16 miles) during the rainy season, its current becomes extremely slow.

Pastoralists, farmers, and fishermen make up the small population in the Zambezi River’s higher reaches. During the rainy season, when the plain is inundated, the locals hold a ceremony called the Ku-omboka Ceremony before fleeing to higher land.

According to local legend, the Zambezi River is inhabited by a spirit named Nyami Nyami, who provides the locals with water for agriculture and food in the form of fish.

Turning east at the Katima Mulilo rapids, it divides Zambia from Namibia.

Trip on the upper Zambezi River, close to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls and the Zambezi River upstream

A short section of the border between Botswana and Zimbabwe follows, after which it becomes the boundary between Zambia and Zimbabwe along the Chobe River. These four countries—Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe—join together at this point. From there, it’s another 80 kilometers or so down to Victoria Falls.

zambezi river

Tour companies in Zimbabwe and Zambia provide kayaking, canoeing, river cruises, and daily floats in this section of the Zambezi River upstream of the falls. Spectacular islands and canals, gin-clear waters, and sandy beaches make this stretch of river unforgettable. Birds and other creatures abound there.

Approximately 20 kilometers of the river’s shoreline are located within the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park in Zambia, while on the Zimbabwean side you’ll find the Zambezi National Park and a number of modest lodges that merge into the banks of the river.

Middle Zambezi
Victoria Falls mark the transition between the upper and middle Zambezi. The river then forms the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe for the subsequent 500 kilometers. After plunging over the Falls, the river proceeds eastward for another 120 miles (200 kilometers), carving deep gorges through basalt rock that are between 200 and 250 meters (660 and 820 feet) in height. These canyons are now home to organized white water rafting tours. When it comes to river quality, the Zambezi is ranked as a level five river. This is the highest grade that a river can be graded for white water rafting, indicating this is as wet and wild as it gets. Several extreme sports take place at the Victoria Falls, with the world-famous bungee jump from the Victoria Falls Bridge being one of the most well-known.

There is a chasm in Victoria Falls called the Gorge.

The Zambezi River as it plunges into the valley below the Falls.

Before reaching Lake Kariba, the river descends another 250 meters over the course of 200 kilometers. One of the largest artificial lakes in the world is contained within the Kariba Dam, which was finished in 1959. To a large extent, Zambia and Zimbabwe now have access to reliable, affordable electricity thanks to the dam’s hydroelectric power.

With a total length of 226 kilometers and a maximum width of 40 kilometers in some spots, Lake Kariba is home to a robust commercial fishing industry and a popular tourist destination.

One of the best places to take a vacation on Earth, because to its breathtaking landscapes, beautiful sunsets, and abundance of fishing and boating activities. Even in the middle of winter, the days are warm and the nights are lovely, with plenty of sunshine and a low chance of precipitation.

The river turns east from the Kariba dam wall and flows back towards Chirundu. As the river continues through Chirundu, it is bounded on either side by two national parks: Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park and Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park. The world-famous canoe safaris operate along this section of the river.

When the sun sets over Kariba

Travelers can either paddle down the river and camp out on the banks for the night, or they can stay in one of the safari lodges that dot the riverbanks. Amazing wildlife encounters, including those with Hippopotamuses, are had as the boats glide gently past.

kariba dam

Kariba Dam.

One of Africa’s most significant unspoiled landscapes can be found in the middle section of the Zambezi. As the river reaches the man-made Cahora Bassa Lake, it no longer counts as part of the middle Zambezi.

Historically, this area was home to a section of the Zambezi River known as Kebrabassa Rapids, which made it impossible for early explorers to bring huge ships up the river.

Rivers of the Lower Zambezi
Large ships may make their way down the river from Cahora Bassa all the way to the Indian Ocean. At this 650 km (400 mi) stretch, the river enters a big valley and expands out across a large area, making it shallow in many places, especially during the dry season. The river does not become a gorge until it flows between steep hills at the Lupata Gorge, 320 kilometers (200 miles) from the mouth.

Elsewhere, the water is calm, and there are numerous side channels to investigate. During the wetter months, the river’s sandy bottom and low, reed-lined banks merge into a single, swiftly moving body of water.

Lower Zambezi River at the Mozambican Cahora Bassa Dam

An Image of Mozambique’s Cahora Bassa Dam

The Delta of the Zambezi
The Shire River brings water to the Zambezi from Lake Malawi, approximately 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the mouth. As the river reaches the Indian Ocean, it divides into several channels, giving rise to the Zambezi Delta.

The Indian Ocean can be reached from the Zambezi Delta in Mozambique.

Indian Ocean and the Zambezi Delta

The mouths of the Milambe, Kongone, Luabo, and Timbwe rivers are all blocked by sand. A northern fork, called Chinde, is used for navigation; its minimum depth is 2 meters at the mouth and 4 meters inside. The delta is now about half as wide as it was before the Kariba and Cahora Bassa dams were constructed, which is a direct result of their construction.

Victoria falls

Zambia has surpassed Zimbabwe as the most popular destination for tourists seeking to see Victoria Falls since Zimbabwe’s economic and political problems began in the 2000s. The relaxed town of Livingstone is only 11 kilometers from the falls, and it offers a fantastic setup for tourists, with accommodations to fit every budget, superb restaurants, and a wide variety of adventure and cultural activities.

When at South Luanga National Park, it is not uncommon to see a herd of elephants making their way over a river.
There are more vantage spots in Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls, but in Zambia, you can go right into the midst of the spray as you cross the Knife-Edge Bridge and reach tantalizingly near to the Eastern Cataract. You can also swim under the spray of the falling waterfalls at Boiling Pot, which is located at the base of the falls, or in the Devil’s Pool, a natural rock pool located just at the brink of the waterfall and one of the world’s finest infinity pools.

Being one of the most breathtaking infinity pools in the world, Devils Pool is a sight to behold.
Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, located on Zambian territory, is a wildlife hotspot with easy game viewing thanks to its tiny size. The park’s reintroduced white rhinos are the only ones in the country, and they may be tracked on foot for an exciting wildlife encounter while you see elephants and zebras against the picturesque backdrop of the Zambezi River.

Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park

rhinos in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park

It is the purpose of a trip to Livingstone to experience the majesty of Victoria Falls up up and personal. Paths along the valley wall within Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park provide breathtaking views of the Eastern Cataract, one of Victoria Falls’ five cascades. After getting your feet wet on the Knife-Edge Bridge just feet from the waterfall, you have two options for getting a bird’s-eye view of the falls: either do a helicopter flip for breathtaking views, or, for the truly daring, hop on the back of a piloted microlight, which is essentially a paraglider with an engine. Don’t miss the lunar rainbow over the falls if you visit during a full moon. The lunar rainbow of Victoria Falls is a show of refracted light from the moon in the spray of the falls, and visitors are allowed in on the nights before, on, and after each full moon to witness this phenomenon. There is a lunar rainbow from February to May, when the spray from the waterfall is at its strongest, and while you can see it from both sides of the border, the view is better from Zambia than from Zimbabwe. Besides providing the most spectacular swim you’ll ever experience, Devil’s Pool also offers the most exciting perspective of the falls. You may go as close to Victoria Falls as you like in this natural rock pool located on the edge of the cascade. You may get there by taking a boat to Livingstone Island and then swimming across the Zambezi River. It’s not as scary as it sounds thanks to a natural ledge that prevents you from falling in, but the swim is dangerous and can only be attempted when the river is low, which is often between the months of August and January. In addition, there is a view of the falls from below, accessible by a steep 20-minute climb to the Boiling Pot, a churning whirlpool at the foot of the cascade (note that this hike can only be done in the low-water season of August to December). Paddle through the Boiling Pot to get drenched by the world’s largest sheet of cascading water, and you won’t get much closer to Victoria Falls than this!

victoria falls zambia
Most visitors to Livingstone are looking to get their adrenaline pumping, and the Victoria Falls Bridge bungee leap into Batoka Gorge between Zimbabwe and Zambia is the most extreme option. This bungee jump, often regarded as among the best in the world, promises breathtaking scenery and a hefty dose of adrenaline. The bridge swing and the Flying Fox, which involve jumping across the canyon on a cable slide, are slightly less dangerous because participants plunge feet first into an 80-meter freefall rather than diving upside down. Alternatively, you can walk across the walkways under the bridge while wearing a safety harness to get the same breathtaking views without the adrenaline rush. While abseiling more over 50 meters down a rope, you need to be able to slide down the gorge without swinging back and forth like a human pendulum. A horseback ride down the Zambezi River is a fantastic chance to see the local wildlife and birds up close and take in the breathtaking surroundings. Whether you’ve got a few hours or a full day, you may ride through teak forests and camp by the river. White-water rafting the Zambezi’s massive rapids on an adrenaline-pumping experience and jet boating are two of the more extreme river sports, while others include canoe safaris, tranquil sunset river cruises, and the Livingstone Float. Anybody interested in catching the world’s most thrilling freshwater fighting fish—the toothy tiger fish—should sign up for a fishing tour around the islands upstream from the falls.

Anyone with a weak heart should avoid the Batoka Gorge swings.
The five-course supper on a 1920s steam train is a beautiful and unforgettable experience, following the train as it slowly travels along the Zambezi River through Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park as the sun sets. Before the train stops for dinner and makes its way back to Livingstone, you’ll have time to go on a wildlife safari and enjoy a glass of wine. The sights of the stunning valley from the Victoria Falls Bridge are beyond picturesque, and you can get there by taking a steam train ride from Livingstone.

livingstone town

About three kilometers outside of Livingstone is Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, which is divided into two parts: the Victoria Falls sector and the wildlife area. Despite its tiny size and lack of large predators, the park provides a wonderful introduction to Zambia’s wildlife, including elephant, buffalo, Burchell’s zebra, wildebeest, and giraffe, as well as lovely birds like the Livingstone’s turaco and the Livingstone’s flycatcher. The park’s small size makes it simple to see the animals within; visitors can arrange for a guided game drive through their hotel, or they can rent a car and drive themselves throughout the park in a few of hours. Mosi-oa-reintroduced Tunya’s (and well-protected) white rhinos are the park’s main draws, and they may be tracked on foot, providing a unique opportunity to get close to these critically endangered animals.

The Burchell’s zebra is a variety of the plains zebra found in southern Africa.
Mukuni Village, founded in the 13th century and currently home to approximately 7,000 Leya people, is a great place to gain insight into Zambia’s past, culture, and rural life. During your guided tour of the working village, you’ll get the chance to chat with locals in their huts, sample some local fare and beer, observe artisans at work, and peruse the market for unique souvenirs.

Directions for the Region in Practice
Two hotels are within walking distance to Victoria Falls, while the town of Livingstone is only a short drive away. You can take a private taxi or take use of the complimentary shuttle service provided by some hotels to reach the falls. A tour guide is unnecessary for seeing the falls. The park is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and the entrance charge to view the falls is $20 (USD). Visit the falls at dawn or dusk for gentle illumination. Bring waterproof attire, or buy a poncho at the entrance gate, and make careful to protect your devices from getting soaked if you plan on visiting the falls between February and May, when the water levels are at their highest. Walk only on designated paths, always keep behind barriers, and always wear shoes with adequate traction. In spots where there are no guardrails, exercise extra caution when getting to the edge of the trails, as you might easily lose your footing on the wet, slick rocks below. Don’t give the monkeys or baboons any food!

Mist and spray from the Zambezi River at its highest (February–May) can hamper views on the Zimbabwean side of the falls, making Zambia a preferable choice for viewing. Nevertheless, the falls on the Zambian side dry up after the dry winter season, around October or November. Staying on the Zimbabwean side of the falls is the best bet for tourists visiting Victoria Falls right now.

Vic Falls – the smoke that thunders
If you’re travelling with children, be careful to verify the minimum age requirement before you book any activities. For example, youngsters need to be at least 12 years old to track white rhino, 15 for white-water rafting and 14 for bungee-jumping and bridge swinging.

On the edge of town, Harry Mwaanga International Airport Flights has flights from Lusaka, Johannesburg and Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport, which serves Kruger National Park in South Africa — a very convenient route if you’re combining a safari in South Africa with a visit to Victoria Falls.

If you stay in Zambia, it absolutely makes sense to visit the Zimbabwean side of the falls to obtain the more panoramic views. A KAZA Uni-Visa can be purchased for US$50 upon arrival in Zambia at the Victoria Falls border, the Harry Mwaanga International Airport in Livingstone, the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka, or the Kazungula frontier. If you want to visit Chobe National Park in Botswana for the day and then head back to Livingstone that evening, you may do so with this 30-day visa, which also permits you to move freely between Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Who Shouldn’t Visit the Zimbabwean Side of Victoria Falls and Why?
On the Zambian side of Victoria Falls, there is a mind-boggling variety of experiences available, ensuring that every style of traveler will find something that is right up their alley. Bungee jumping, white water rafting, gorge swinging, and abseiling will keep the adventurers happy, while gorge hiking, game drives in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, horseback rides, and canoe safaris will satisfy the nature lovers. Spa treatments and sunset river cruises are just two examples of the calming activities available to honeymooners and couples on romantic getaways at the many five-star hotels and lodges that provide honeymoon suites and other romantic perks. Travellers visiting the area alone will have lots of opportunities to mingle at bars, restaurants, and organized activities, but they may also enjoy some quiet time on nature trails or a horseback ride. Hotels and lodges often accommodate families by providing family accommodations, kids’ activity programs, and kid-friendly meal options. All ages, from newborns to teenagers, may enjoy the many attractions and events in and around Livingstone.

8 Things to do in Zambia on safari

8 Things to do in Zambia on safari

8 Things to do in Zambia on safari  : Zambia, a landlocked country in Southern Africa, takes its name from the Zambezi River. The country’s 73 recognized ethnic groups give rise to a rich variety of cultural celebrations held all through the year.

Spend your days in Zambia’s 20 national parks searching for “the Big Five” on safari. Zambia’s parks are still the continent’s best secret, affording relative isolation, so you’ll never have to wait in a large line to take a photo of a lion as you would at other African parks.

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You can go swimming in the pool of one of the world’s deepest lakes or snorkeling at the base of the world’s tallest waterfall. Spend a night out on the town in Zambia’s capital, or check out an art gallery in search of the country’s next Picasso. If you want to learn more about Southern Africa, these are the top eight activities to do in Zambia.

The Devil’s Pool, as it was named by locals in Zambia after it emerged naturally
Swim in the Devil’s Pool, so named for its sinister appearance. Picture by StanislavBeloglazov /

1. Indulge Your Swimming Needs at the Magnificent Victoria Falls

The Victoria Falls, or Mosi-o-Tunya as it is known locally, is a massive waterfall in Livingstone, Zambia’s tourist hub. Swim at the Devil’s Pool, a natural infinity pool that forms at the edge of the falls during the dry months of July and August.

Other adrenaline-inducing activities include white-water rafting on the Zambezi River, taking a 30-minute micro-flight over the falls, bungee jumping or walking the knife edge bridge to see the permanent rainbow.

For a luxury experience, enjoy a five-course meal aboard the Royal Livingstone express train which passes through the Mosi-o-Tunya National Park with a pit stop at the Victoria Falls bridge.

Local tip: While in Livingstone, book a workshop in painting, drawing or ceramics with locally based artists Agness and Lawrence Yombwe who run Wayi Wayi gallery. Also pop into the Livingstone Art Gallery for an exhibition or shop for leather Made in Zambia goods such as bags at Wayawaya.

2. Snorkel in Lake Tanganyika
Located in northern Zambia, Lake Tanganyika is the world’s largest freshwater lake and home to over 350 species of fish. Angling is a popular activity, with a dedicated festival – the Tanganyika Angling Challenge – that takes place every March.

The warm temperature of the water, and its crystal-clear waters make the lake a great spot for snorkeling and scuba diving. Both activities take place through bookings with Ndole Bay Lodge, the only fully registered dive facility in Zambia.

Planning tip: While in the area, take the Nsumbu island sunset dhow cruise, which passes through the Nsumbu National Park: expect sightings of elephants, zebra and antelopes.

Traditional Annual festival in Barotseland Western Zambia
Time your visit for the traditional annual Kuomboka ceremony of the Lozi people .

3. Attend a traditional festival

Zambia has a population of about 18 million people, who belong to one or more of the 73 ethnic groups in the country. Each has a unique annual traditional festival.

Some of the most vibrant include the Kuomboka of the Lozi people, which involves their traditional leader traveling over the Zambezi River on an intricately decorated boat, the Lukumbi Lya Mize of the Luvale, which features masked dancers or the Kulamba festival of the Chewa, which features dancers defying gravity.

Planning tip: Most traditional festivals in Zambia take place from July to October, with the exception of Kuomboka which is at the end of the rainy season in March or April.

Kamwala outdoor market, Lusaka
Don’t skip the vibrant city of Lusaka with its markets, galleries and nightlife © iStockphoto / Getty Images

4. Revel in city life in Lusaka

Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia is usually overlooked and used mainly as a transit hub for visitors en route to Victoria Falls or going on a safari, but the town has lots of activities to offer.

Art lovers can support local artists by visiting galleries such as Chena, The Start Foundation and Lechwe Trust. For an in depth view of Zambian history and politics, visit The Lusaka National Museum and Chilenje House 394 – the former home of the country’s first president.


The Lusaka National Park is home to an elephant orphanage where guests can drop in during feeding time. Live music is also a popular pastime in the city’s nightlife scene, hosted on weekend evenings at venues including Latitude 15 Hotel and the Alliance Francaise. This includes performances by local artists of Zambian songs and covers of popular American music.

5. Eat your way through the country.

Discover Zambia’s delicious cuisine by visiting local restaurants or markets. Expect to eat nshima, the staple meal made from corn which can be described as a thicker version of grits. It’s traditionally served with a protein stew and vegetables.

Other must-try items include goat meat stew, ifisashi (green vegetables cooked with a peanut sauce), ifinkubala (deep fried caterpillars) and chikanda (a vegetarian meal made from tubers). Wash it all down with munkoyo, a fermented beverage made from roots and corn.

For the best foodie experience in Lusaka, head to a spot known as Matebeto in the Thornpark area, which is a street lined with outdoor restaurants serving Zambian cuisine. There are also sit-down restaurants such as Twapandula and Mpoto Yatu.

Wildebeest with calf (Connochaetes) in the grassy savannah, Liuwa Plain National Park, Zambia
Spy wildebeest in the grassy savannah of Liuwa Plain National Park © Martina Katz / Getty Images.

6. Witness one of the world’s largest mammal migrations

Every year, two of Zambia’s national parks host some of the largest mammal migrations in Africa. In late November, thousands of wildebeests appear in the Liuwa Plain National Park in western Zambia as they adapt to the changing seasons by migrating.

This is the second-largest wildebeest migration in Africa, after Kenya’s great migration. The remote park is never crowded, making this a great alternative to the East African experience.

Between October and December, about 10 million fruit bats turn the skies of Kasanka National Park black as they take part in the largest mammal migration in the world.

Planning tip: Combine a safari to Kasanka with other attractions in the area such as the Kundalila Falls and the Nsalu Cave, which features rock paintings dating back 20,000 years. Both sights afford expansive views of the Muchinga escarpment.

7. Spot “the Big Five” on safari

When it comes to wildlife, visitors to Zambia are spoilt for choice, with 20 national parks and 34 game management areas in the country. You’ll most likely knock off “the Big Five” during a safari in South Luangwa National Park in eastern Zambia.

Must do activities include a walking safari, which has its origins in the park, as founded by conservationist Sir Norman Carr in the 1960s. Spot species unique to the park, such as the thornicroft giraffe and the blue wildebeest.

See elephants and buffalo on the Zambezi River on a canoe safari in Lower Zambezi, which is also known as the world’s first carbon-neutral park.

Make your safari sustainable and “silent” by visiting Kafue National Park’s Green safari’s lodges (Chisa Busanga and Ila) where the vehicles run on solar power. Hot air balloon safaris can also be arranged in the park though Wilderness.

While South Luangwa, Kasanka, Kafue and Liuwa parks are the most well-known, there are smaller and less popular parks that deserve a visit.

These include Lavushi Manda which although not rich in “the Big Five” is a hikers paradise due to its high elevation, Luambe in the Northern region of Zambia whose elephant population is rising steadily, and North Luangwa where wild dogs, black rhinos and elephants can be seen.

Planning tip: The most popular time to go on safari in Zambia is July to October which makes for easier sightings of wildlife due to the dry season forcing animals to congregate around water sources.

Birdlife enthusiasts should visit during the emerald season (November to March), which is also an opportune time to see newborn mammals. It is also the most affordable time to go on safari, although accommodation options are limited because a few areas of parks close due to the rains that make some roads inaccessible.

8. Visit an over 100-year-old British Manor House.

The result of a long-held dream and ambition by its founder, English-born Sir Stuart Gore Browne, Shiwa House is an English manor estate in Muchinga province. Built on a large estate that features a natural hot spring Kapishya, as well as an old post office, the house itself which has an impressive library, is still occupied by Browne’s descendants and is available for tours.