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Zambia - Attractions


Elephants at the water's edge

Lusaka

Lusaka is a sprawling, swollen city that has grown too fast and has little appeal for travellers, though it is the capital and you're likely to spend some time in it. Lusaka didn't even exist before the 20th century, and until the 1930s it was just a small, sleepy agricultural centre. Although it became the capital in 1931, rapid growth didn't occur until the 1960s. Since then, most of Lusaka's middle class have headed for the suburbs, leaving a population consisting mainly of civil servants, diplomats and poor Zambians. Downtown is in the western part of the city; the government district lies a few blocks east.

The city is surprisingly rich in galleries featuring local artists. Among the best are the Henry Tayali Visual Arts Gallery at the Showgrounds a few kilometres east of the centre, the Mpala Gallery about halfway between the two, and the sculpture garden at the Garden House Hotel, a few kilometres west of the centre. Just northwest of the centre is the Zintu Community Museum, which exhibits traditional arts and crafts. The other major attraction in the capital is bustling, open-air Kamwala Market, a few blocks south of the centre.

The capital is in the southern part of the country, about 100km (62mi) from the Zimbabwe border. It's accessible by air, rail and bus.

Livingstone

Livingstone dates from just after the turn of the century, springing up when the Zambezi Gorge was first bridged in 1904. Tourists were among the first to cross the bridge, and Livingstone remained the area's tourism hub for the next 70 years. The town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe eclipsed Livingstone in the 1970s, though Livingstone has been battling back ever since. Still, it's not the tourist trap its southern neighbor is.

Anyone who knows their narrow-gauge from their standard should drop into the Railway Museum - the short name for the Zambezi Sawmills Locomotive Sheds National Monument - which lies a few hundred metres west of Livingstone's train station. The rag-tag collection of old engines and rolling stock will warm a rail buff's heart, but to someone else it might look like a rusty pile of junk.

The National Museum has a slightly broader appeal, featuring a collection of archaeological and anthropological relics. One highlight is a copy of a Neanderthal skull estimated to be over 100,000 years old. There are also examples of ritual artefacts and Tonga crafts, an African village mock-up, a collection of David Livingstone items and a display of Africa maps dating back to 1690. If that all sounds too tame there's a creepy collection of witchcraft paraphernalia, but you have to ask to see it.

Livingstone is located about 300km (185mi) southwest of Lusaka, and is accessible from the capital by bus or train.

South Luangwa National Park

For scenery and wildlife-spotting, South Luangwa is the best national park in Zambia. Vegetation ranges from dense woodland to open grassy plains, and oxbow lagoons act as natural water holes. Mammals you're likely to see include lions, buffalos, zebras and Thornicroft's giraffes. The park is also home to one of Africa's largest elephant populations, and is particularly noted for its leopards and birdlife. In the Luangwa River you'll spot hippos and crocodiles. Day, night and walking safaris are available, as are horseback rides. Accommodation includes rustic camp sites, barebones hostels, comfortable chalets and full-service resorts. The park is located about 250km (155mi) northeast of Lusaka. Most people arrive by air at Mfuwe Airport, 20km (12mi) southeast of the village of Mfuwe and the park's main gate, although you can also arrive by public transport. The park is closed during the rainy season of December to April.

Victoria Falls

The Victoria Falls are one of the world's most spectacular plunges: the 2km (1.2mi) wide Zambezi River drops over 100m (330ft) into a steeply-walled gorge. The Zambian side of Victoria Falls is sometimes forgotten, but it provides an entirely separate experience to its better-known Zimbabwean counterpart. First off, the views are different: you can sidle right up to the falling water by walking down a steep track to the base of the falls and following spindly walkways perched over the abyss. One of the best spots for a close-up is at Knife Edge Point, reached by crossing a hair-raising (but safe) footbridge through swirling clouds of spray to a cliff-girt island in the river. If the water is low and the wind favourable, you'll be treated to a magnificent view of the falls and the yawning abyss below the Zambezi Bridge.

Adrenaline junkies will love Victoria Falls. Here you can indulge in white-water rafting, abseiling, river-boating, jet-boating, bungee jumping and a host of airborne activities. Stories exist of people who become so caught up with activities here that they don't get around to seeing one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world.

Souvenir hunters can raid the line of curio stalls near the falls, where there's an excellent selection of crafts and the sellers are keen to barter - that 'Just Goa' t-shirt might fetch you something really nifty. Nearby are an archaeological site and a small museum with exhibits on the dig showing that humans and their ancestors have inhabited this region for 2.5 million years. The falls are 11km (7mi) southwest of Livingstone, and the best way to reach them is by bus or hired car.



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