Category Archives: Zambia

Victoria Falls: The Smoke That Thunders


From the mighty Zambezi River thundering down to form the famous Victoria Falls to heritage trains, petting lions and helicopter rides above the falls, Livingstone in Southern Zambia is a traveller’s paradise, discover ANURAG MALLICK & PRIYA GANAPATHY

Livingstone-Vic Falls IMG_3599

As our 30-seater Mahogany Air twin-turboprop approached Harry Nkambule International Airport at Livingstone, we could see a giant mist hanging in the air over the lush green landscape. “That’s Victoria Falls,” smiled the amiable steward, quite used to seeing passengers agape. The gush of water is so much, the rising mist can be seen from miles, hence its local name ‘Mosi-oa-tunya’ or The Smoke that Thunders. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Vic Falls as it’s popularly known, ranks among the seven natural wonders of the world – and the only one in Africa.

Incidentally, the first European to stumble upon the Zambezi river in January 1498 was Vasco da Gama, who disembarked at a point he named Rio dos Bons Sinais (River of Good Omens). Centuries later explorer David Livingstone became the first westerner to see the Mosi-oa-Tunya. He first heard of the great waterfall in 1851 and finally visited it in 1855.


He came down the Zambezi in a canoe, camped on Kalai Island a few kilometers upstream and set off in a small dugout to approach the thunderous smoke. He landed on the biggest island on the lip of the waterfall (named Livingstone Island after him) from where he got the first view of the fall.

He later wrote, “It was the most wonderful sight I had witnessed in Africa. It had never been seen before by European eyes, but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.” Our first glimpse of the hanging mist from the air did seem a lot like that.


It was a short drive from the airport to Avani Victoria Falls Resort, located just a 5-minute walk from the cataract. The sprawling resort came within the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, which ensured chance encounters with wildlife like giraffes, antelopes and the odd zebra crossing!

Decked up in contemporary Zambian designs, the adobe-style rooms overlooked a lawn strewn with contemporary metal figurines of rhinos and ostriches. One could pre-book an African open-air Boma dinner with traditional dances, though we happily devoured a mixed meat Zambezi Platter by the pool.

Livingstone-Avani Resort Zambezi Platter IMG_3698

Hotel guests of Avani have the unique privilege of unlimited complimentary access to the waterfall and we decided to make the most of it. Following the crashing sound of water, we exited from the back gate and stopped for souvenirs at the small market right opposite the waterfall entrance.

Local artists carved exquisite sculptures from locally available verdite, better known as ‘mosi oa tunya’ stone. Some were carving soap dishes with half submerged hippos; others family of giraffes. Another popular pick-me-up, the Nyami Nyami pendant, made of soapstone, wood or bone, has a fascinating legend.

Livingstone-wood carver IMG_3709

The indigenous Tonga tribesmen believe that the Zambezi is home to a fierce river god called Nyami Nyami. The mythical creature is believed to live under a large rock near Kariba gorge, near Victoria Falls. Ever since the dam was built, he was separated from his wife and unleashed his fury through floods, thunder and rain.

The locals tried to calm the spirit through sacrifice and continue to craft the pendant as a good luck charm for visitors. “This is the face of the creature – half snake, half fish, these notches resemble the waterfall and this hole is the eye of the fall,” explained a sculptor. We picked up a few and walked through the gate along a stone pathway.

Livingstone-traditional welcome IMG_3578

There were several trails branching out and we took the rightmost one for a walk upstream, which led to the top of the waterfall. The river flowed gently, nonchalantly disappearing from view over the cliff offering no clue about the drama below. We retraced our steps and paid tribute at the War Memorial in memory of Northern Rhodesians who lost their lives during the First World War.

Nearby stood a large statue of Dr David Livingstone, erected in 2005 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the first European sighting of Victoria Falls on 16 November 1855 and to commemorate the centenary of the founding of the town of Livingstone. On his 1852-56 exploration of the African hinterland, Dr Livingstone mapped out almost the entire course of the river.


We walked down the stone path and with each step the crash grew louder. And then through a clearing we saw it for the first time – the mighty Zambezi river thundering 360ft down the 1,708 m wide gorge. The volume of water was so much that the famous Devil’s Pool on the edge of the waterfall was out of bounds. Yet, there were other trails to Boiling Pot (615m) and the scenic Photographic Trail (788m) that were accessible.

As we approached the Knife Edge Bridge, the gentle spray turned into a full downpour. Our rain jackets were modest protection from the torrential splash. Built in 1968 by PWD, the 40m long 1.3m wide bridge connects the mainland to the headland. We continued to Danger Point for a view of Victoria Falls Bridge. The bridge was a crucial link in the route of the railway, as envisioned by Cecil John Rhodes. The bridge was assembled in sections at the Cleveland Bridge Company factory yard in Darlington before being shipped to Africa.

Livingstone-Vic Falls Bridge IMG_3443

The steam engine ‘Princess of Mulobezi’ originally hauled timber for Zambezi Sawmills nearly a century ago. Today, it chugged along the scenic tracks with passengers. We had a brief peek into the plush Royal Livingstone Express in town and continued to the Victoria Falls Bridge. Rhodes had wished “I should like to have the spray of the water of the Victoria Falls over the carriages,” and boy did his dream come true.

We felt the spray as soon we got off the tour bus and walked towards the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The waterfalls were a shared legacy between the two countries and we watched the Zambezi river down below flow towards Zimbabwe. Bang in the middle of the bridge adventure seekers could try the bungee jump over the Zambezi gorge.


Livingstone has no dearth of adventure. Batoka Sky offer helicopter and microlight rides above the falls. At Mukuni Big 5 you can experience elephant feeding, a walk with cheetahs and lion petting. At the Cultural Centre, there’s vigorous Zambian dances in traditional costumes. The Livingstone Museum, the oldest and largest museum in Zambia, showcases the history of early man, the country and its traditions besides a gallery dedicated to explorer Dr David Livingstone.

Back at our hotel, we dropped by at the adjacent Royal Livingstone Hotel By Anantara. A heady mix of Victorian elegance and old world colonial ambience, the classy resort was filled with paintings and antiques. Wooden decks amid sprawling gardens and towering trees offered sweeping views of the Zambezi, with signature therapies like Zambezi Massage in riverside gazebos.


It was evening and we headed to Aha The David Livingstone Safari Lodge & Spa, a plush resort made of stone, thatch and wood. The high-roofed foyer was decorated with granaries, drums, cane lamps and African portraits on adobe walls with luxurious spa treatments and Afro-Arabian fusion cuisine at Kalai restaurant. At the pier, we boarded the Lady Livingstone for a magical 2-hr sundowner cruise on the Zambezi river.

A band playing on the silimba (Zambian xylophone using resonating gourds) and we sipped sundowners while training our binocs to the riverbank to spot crocs, hippos and other wildlife. The steward presented us a chilled pint of the local Mosi lager. The label called it ‘thunderous refreshment as mighty as the Mosi-oa-Tunya’. The rising mist from Vic Falls danced like a fairy and we watched the sun slowly sink into the Zambezi, as if it was swallowed whole by Nyami Nyami…



Getting there
Fly to Lusaka on Ethiopian Airlines via Addis Ababa, Kenyan Airlines via Nairobi, Oman Air via Muscat or Emirates via Dubai. Mahogany Air (Ph +26 097 786 5838 flies from Lusaka to Harry Nkambule International Airport at Livingstone.

What to Do

Royal Livingtone Express
Shearwater Victoria Falls Bungee
Mukuni Big 5 Ph +260 213 322286
Livingstone Museum (Mon-Sun 9am-4:30pm Entry $5)
Batoka Sky Microlight & Helicopter Flights

Livingstone-David Livingstone Resort & Spa IMG_3843

Where to Stay

Avani Victoria Falls Resort
Ph +260 978 777044

Royal Livingstone Hotel by Anantara
Ph +260 21 332 1122
Tariff $414 upwards

Aha The David Livingstone Safari Lodge & Spa
Ph +260 21 332 4601
Tariff $370

For more info, visit

Livingstone-Vic Falls Bridge IMG_3640

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared on 20 Oct 2018 in the HT City supplement of Hindustan Times newspaper.

Lusaka: The heart of Zambia


Known as Africa’s City of Peace, Lusaka is fast emerging as a tourism hub. Interesting cultural experiences, wild encounters and a vibrant nightlife can be found in the Zambian capital, write ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY

Chaminuka-Wine & cheese tasting IMG_4409

Sitting around a stone table in a dim-lit grotto with the soft gurgle of an indoor waterfall, we sipped white wine and nibbled on an assorted cheese platter. We were at Kaposhi Dairy in the 10,000-acre Chaminuka Farm on the outskirts of Zambia’s capital Lusaka, where an hour earlier we had petted cheetahs and admired the Chaminuka art collection.

Another night we moved from live jazz at Misty’s to bar-hopping at Chicago and Kegs & Lions, ending at Kalahari where a local band and dancers rocked late into the night and random strangers got on stage to bump and grind for dangerously close face-offs.

Lusaka nightlife-Kalahari IMG_4487

Lusaka is one of the fastest developing cities in southern Africa and one can see why. Named after the headman of an erstwhile Lenje village on Manda Hill (manda means graveyard), Lusaka is perched atop a 4,198 feet high limestone plateau that blesses it with great weather.

Its strategic location at the junction of the Great North Road to Tanzania and the Great East Road to Malawi made it the natural choice as capital of the British colony of Northern Rhodesia. A section of the Great North Road was named Cairo Road in memory of British mining magnate and politician Cecil Rhodes’ vision of a road from Cape to Cairo through British colonies in Africa.

Lusaka-Mulungushi Convention Centre IMG_4264

In 1950, Ralph Sanders, a colonial civil servant working for the department of Game and Tsetse Control founded a Botanical Garden. He called it Munda Wanga or ‘My Garden’ in the local Nyanja dialect. As a botanist he was responsible for the establishment of many parks, gardens and the beautiful tree-lined avenues in Lusaka. Yet, wherever we drove around, we spotted painted signs of boring and drilling companies from China and India.

For years, European powers vied for control over the mineral-rich Copper Belt to the north. Dubbed as ‘red gold’, copper shaped the country’s infrastructural development, spurred trade unions and birthed Zambian nationalism. They say Zambia was born with a ‘copper spoon in its mouth’. Thanks to the freedom struggle spearheaded by Dr Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia gained independence on 24 December 1964. The international airport named after the first President Kaunda is currently undergoing a major expansion with Chinese collaboration.

Lusaka-Kenneth Kaunda statue at Chilenje IMG_4524

We visited Chilenje House No. 394 where Dr Kenneth Kaunda lived between January 1960 and December 1962. From this humble house, he directed Zambia’s freedom struggle, triggering independence movements in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and Nyasaland (Malawi). House No. 395 contains simple relics and chronicles the history and growth of Lusaka and Zambia’s political development. For more on the country’s history, the National Museum is the perfect resource. As the venue for several historic conventions, Lusaka is often hailed as Africa’s ‘City of Peace’.

The next stop Embassy Park Presidential Memorial is a mausoleum where late Zambian presidents Levy Patrick Mwanawasa (1948–2008), Frederick Chiluba (1943–2011) and Michael Sata (1937–2014) are buried. The US$15 entry fee is steep but includes a guided tour that describes its architectural highlights. Photography of the building across the main road, a former parliament building and now used by the Ministry of Defence, is prohibited. Interestingly, while these gentlemen had died in office, Zambia’s first President is still alive and well.

Lusaka-President's Memorial IMG_4583

Lusaka has a vibrant nightlife with several places to wine and dine. The historic Lusaka Golf Club serves excellent steak. Musuku restaurant at Southern Sun Ridgeway dishes out terrific Zambian fare including wild game meat like kudu, croc and impala, as does Chuma Grill at Radisson Blu.

Rembrandt at the Great Best Western offers the local staple nshima (finely ground maize flour porridge) and Zambezi bream, fresh from the river. Taj Pamodzi, where the Indian President Shri Ramnath Kovind had stayed during his recent visit, has a lovely bar called Marula and a rustic open-air restaurant Steaks and Grills rustling up Indian and Zambian grills.

Lusaka-Nshima with fried fish IMG_2887

For shopping, head straight to Kabwata Cultural Village, an amorphous open-air market of thatch-roofed huts and makeshift stalls where you can buy stone and wood carvings, baskets, antique masks, drums, colorful clothes and more, directly from the artisans. Also worth a look is the Sunday Craft Market, a weekly affair in the car park of Arcades Shopping Centre on Great East Road.

It’s a great place to strike a bargain with a wide range of colourful handicrafts, wooden bowls, malachite figurines, African prints and masks. For a shopping mall experience, try the massive Manda Hill, East Park or Levy Junction.

Lusaka-Sunday market IMG_4684

Yet, many of Lusaka’s top tourist hotspots are located not within the city but on the outskirts. Set in Lilayi Lodge’s 650-hectare game farm, the Lilayi Elephant Nursery is where orphaned elephants and abandoned calves are nursed before being rehabilitated to a Release Facility at Kafue National Park, 4 hours away. The project manager gave us an overview and showed us the backroom facility where formula milk was prepared for the young pachyderms.

Many calves like Nkala, Rufunsa, Maramba, Zambezi, Mosi-oa-Tunya and Kavalamanja were named after their place of discovery and had been released at Kafue. Each one had a heart-rending story. Musolele was named after the wildlife police officer who died defending his mother from poachers.

Lilaayi Lodge IMG_4208

Mulisani, literally ‘shepherd’, was named in honour of wildlife conservationist and artist David Shepherd. Njanji means ‘train tracks’ as this elephant was found on the railway line after being darted. In what’s a daily ritual, at 11.30am, we were ushered to a high viewing deck to watch them feed and play.

Soon, it was time for us to forage as well and Lilayi Lodge gave us our best meal in Lusaka – char-grilled rump steak, grilled Zambian crayfish and East African seafood curry. We shuffled heavily back to our vehicle for the hour’s ride to Lusaka. Bent over our padded waistlines, we laboriously packed our souvenirs, noticing how it wasn’t the only excess baggage we carried…

Lilaayi Lodge food-cray fish IMG_4253


Getting there
Fly to Lusaka’s Kenneth Kaunda International Airport on Ethiopian Airlines via Addis Ababa, Kenyan Airlines via Nairobi, Oman Air via Muscat or Emirates via Dubai. Lilayi and Chaminuka are on the outskirts of Lusaka, 45 min drive away.

Southern Sun Ridgeway
Ph +260 211 251 666

Best Western Plus Lusaka Grand Hotel
Ph +260 21 1239666

Protea Hotels by Marriott
Ph +260 21 1254664

Radisson Blu Hotel
Ph +260 960 280900

Taj Pamodzi
Ph +260 21 1254455

Lusaka-Southern Sun Ridgeway IMG_4571

Ph +260 211 254146, 840884

Lilayi Elephant Nursery & Lodge
Ph +260 211 840435/6, 971 00 2010

Must Eat
Steaks at Lusaka Golf Club
Zambian cuisine at Musuku, Chuma Grill & Steaks and Grills
Nshima & Zambezi bream at Rembrandt
Fried Chicken at Hungry Lion
Pizza at Debonnairs
Indian food at Bombay Lounge

Masks, wood & stone carvings Kabwata Cultural Centre
Local crafts at Sunday Market, Arcades car park
Malls like Manda Hill, East Park, Arcades & Levy Junction

Live jazz at Misty
Local Zambian music at Kalahari
Bars like Chicago’s, Keg & Lion and Alpha
Late night at Kabwata

Lusaka nightlife-Chicago IMG_4463

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared on 20 Oct 2018 in the Travel supplement of Deccan Herald newspaper.

Zambia: On the wild side


From escaping ravenous lion prides to being charged by African elephants and encountering packs of wild dogs, ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY live on the wild side in Zambia

kafue sunrise with baobab silhouette img_3035

We were barely meters away from a pair of mating lions in an open safari vehicle, the tyres were horribly stuck in mud and daylight was fading faster than our false bravado. The more our Zambian driver-and-guide Powell Nchimunya revved the jeep, the deeper it sank. The cloud of grey fumes we blew towards the lions wasn’t exactly the post-coital smoke they would have enjoyed, so we begged Powell to ease off.

“During mating, lions prefer to stay in one area and they’re at it 60-70 times in the space of 2-3 days”, we were informed. “Just once makes people so ravenous,” we chuckled. And here was a lovely international spread for the lions’ delight if they so chose. “English, Swiss, French, Indian, what would you like to have tonight dear?”, we joked. (Nervous laughter)

kafue safari img_2973

It was a strange predicament, thanks to unseasonal heavy rains, which had made the loop roads and tracks of Kafue National Park slushy. There was nothing we could do but radio for help and wait for the second safari vehicle from Mukambi Safari Lodge trailing behind to pull us out. “Shall we have the sundowners now?” Powell tried to sound cheerful. Considering our situation, it wasn’t a bad idea.

Out came sausage rolls and white wine. He carefully kept one spotlight trained on the tawny mane in the bush. “Ummm…. Can’t spot the lioness,” we observed warily. “Actually there were two lionesses…’ Powell corrected. “I don’t see the other one either!” We nearly choked on our wine, imagining two hungry lionesses slowly stalking us in darkness.

kafue-elephant 22.01.22

This wild tract was once inhabited by the ferocious Ila tribe, who wore elaborate tasseled headdresses with kudu bone woven into their hair to follow each other in the tall grass. Finding plenty of fish in the river, they were always well fed. It was a cruel twist of irony that ‘Kafue’ literally meant ‘belly full’. Just when we thought we’d be part of the ‘lion’s share,’ we spotted a pair of headlights in the distance. Our joy was shortlived. The second vehicle that swooped to our rescue was stranded deeper in the slush! The leonine buffet spread was getting larger.

The spotlight was frozen on a pair of eyes shining like stars in the bush, in anticipation for any move. Minutes felt like hours as we radioed for help. Finally, a tractor from Ila Safari Lodge nearby towed us out. “Ah don’t worry, it’s quite common to get stuck when it rains.” Getting back on the gravel path, we hazarded a closer look at the mating lions, before returning to the safety of our lodge. Or so we thought…

kafue-mukambi safari lodge img_2967

In the wilds of Kafue, it is not uncommon for stray wildlife to walk through resorts. Mukambi Safari Lodge, located on the banks of the Kafue river and named after the mukambi (water buck) has a clear policy on guests being accompanied to their rooms at night with a minder. “Once after dropping a guest, I saw an entire pride of lions walk by,” said my night guide.

Robyn van der Heide, who runs the place with husband Edjan and her daughters, fondly remembers Basil the semi-resident hippo who used the resort as his hangout for 14 years, often plopping himself at the reception. We locked our rondavels (traditional circular African dwelling with conical thatched roof); thankfully the night was uneventful.

kafue-mukambi safari lodge boat safari img_2964

The next day, we took a boat across the river and set off on our safari. Kafue is the biggest and oldest national park in Zambia and the second largest in all of Africa. At 22,480 sq km, it is roughly the size of Wales. We were mock charged twice by African elephants and sneakily drove past some male Cape buffalos, called ‘widow makers,’ due to their aggressive nature. These lone stragglers inhabit slushy mud pools and cake themselves with mud, hence the nickname ‘dagga boys’ – after construction workers who have dried cement on them due to mixing dagga or sand, cement and water.

Kafue boasts the highest population of wild dogs in Africa and the greatest diversity of antelope in the world – semi-endemic puku, the endemic Kafue lechwe, sable, kudu, waterbuck, impala and many more. Guides jokingly call impala ‘McDonald’s’ after the M-shaped mark on their rump – “it’s fast food for predators”. Statistics reveal that it takes an average of 18 game drives to spot wild dogs; we were indeed lucky to see a pack of over a dozen Cape Wild Dogs on our second safari. First, tearing into a carcass and later crossing the main road.

kafue-wild dogs at a kill 11.22.42

Nearly 500 of Zambia’s 750 odd bird species can be spotted at Kafue. The metallic glossy blue of the Greater Blue-eared Starling, the brilliance of the Malachite kingfisher, Namaqua doves flying off from their perch as we approached, gigantic Ground Hornbills preening furiously, Red-naped spurfowls calling out in warning on spotting the Western Banded Snake Eagle, the Grey Crowned Crane bobbing its head in the reeds like a powder puff flower; every moment in the bush was a head turner.

Zambia’s national bird the African fish eagle surveyed the stream. Hadada Ibis, named after their distinct ‘hadada’ call while in flight, were silhouetted on a tree. The Grey Go-away Bird, with its peculiar call that sounds like ‘go away,’ infamously featured in the film ‘Gods Must Be Crazy’. Technically a species of turaco, royalty and chiefs all over Africa have treasured its crimson flight feathers as status symbols. The hammerkopf with its hammer-shaped head kept flitting about ahead like an usher.

kafue-grey crowned crane 13.48.06

Spotting a herd of Boehm’s zebra in the distance, we decided to stop for a coffee break. Only when we stood still did we notice the smaller creatures, like the pesky tsetse flies. “We burn elephant dung in a can at the back of the vehicle to ward them off,” said Powell. Though prevalent in Kafue, tsetse flies provided a natural barrier against encroachment in the park.

A train of Matabele ants scurried about busily. Named after the fierce Matabele tribe in Zimbabwe who raided other tribes in the 1800s, the ants raid termite mounds to grab eggs and hatchlings. Worker ants set out as scouts and leave a scented trail of pheromones for the whole colony to follow.

ila safari lodge img_3184

Kafue does not have many lodges, which means you don’t encounter too many vehicles while on safari. The landing strip at Chunga is open for chartered flights all year round. Between our game drives, we dropped by at Ila Safari Lodge, run by Jacques and Linda van Heerden. They are the proud owners of Zambia’s first eLandy or Electronic Landrover.

The eco-friendly resort has absolutely no limitations while staying in the bush – a solar panel electric boat, luxury tents with a wooden deck and outdoor showers equipped with solar geysers. Their 3-day packages include pick up/drop from Lusaka, full day game drives with lunch in the bush, dining on the boat, fishing trips and seamless inter camp transfers.

kafue-mukambi or water buck 13.15.21-1

Undoubtedly, the best place to spot large herds of herbivores and their predators are the Zambezian flooded grasslands in the north – the Busanga Swamp and plains. A 6 hr drive away, this absolutely prime tract is the undoubted Jewel of Zambia. “It’s like Masai Mara without all the people. So wild, you are on your own,” said Linda.

We took the Great West Road straight as an arrow back to Lusaka. At Southern Sun Ridgeway, it was with a twinge of guilt we tried Zambian game meat like kudu, croc and impala. Musuku restaurant overlooked a pond-courtyard where resident weavers nested in the reeds and baby crocodiles sunned themselves on the central islet.

lilaayi lodge img_4208

For a closer brush with wildlife, opportunities are immense. Set in Lilayi Lodge’s 650-hectare game farm on the outskirts of Lusaka is Lilayi Elephant Nursery, an elephant orphanage where abandoned calves are nursed before being rehabilitated to Kafue Release Facility. At 11.30am every day, project staff give a brief talk about the project, explaining elephant behaviour and usher visitors to the viewing deck which provides the perfect vantage point to watch baby elephants feed and play.

Chaminuka, literally ‘village on a hill’ is 10,000 acres of pristine Miombo woodland and savanna overlooking Lake Chitoka, beyond Lusaka Airport. The home of Andrew and Danae Sardanis since 1978, it houses a huge private collection of contemporary African paintings, sculpture, masks and traditional artefacts – over a thousand pieces acquired from all around Africa over 50 years! Besides a tour of the Chaminuka Art Collection and game drives, you can pet cheetahs and enjoy wine and cheese tastings.

livingstone-mukuni big 5 img_4007

The Kafue and the Luangwa are the two largest left-hand tributaries of the Zambezi, the fourth-longest river in Africa. South Luangwa National Park stretches around the Luangwa River and its oxbow lagoons possess excellent concentration of animals with great leopard sightings. The famous ‘walking safari’ originated here. The Lower Zambezi National Park promises canoeing trips down the Zambezi river – though you must watch out for hippos that sometimes topple boats! At Kenneth Kaunda airport in Lusaka, we marveled at Coert Steynberg’s bronze antelope sculpture ‘Lechwe of the Kafue Flats’, before boarding our Mahogany Air flight to Livingstone.

One place where the roar of the lion is drowned out by the roar of nature’s spectacle is Victoria Falls. Counted among the seven natural wonders of the world and the only one in Africa, it’s a dramatic 1,708 m wide and 108 m drop of the Zambezi river. If Vasco da Gama was the first European to come across the Zambezi river in January 1498 (at a point he called ‘Rio dos Bons Sinais’ or River of Good Omens), centuries later explorer David Livingstone was the first European to see the Mosi-oa-Tunya (literally, the smoke that thunders) waterfall in 1855. He called it Victoria Falls after the Queen. On his 1852-56 exploration of the African interior he mapped out almost the entire course of the river.

livingstone-mukuni big 5 img_3932

Mosi-oa-Tunya is also a National Park with a decent population of antelope, elephants, giraffe and rhino, but thankfully no predators. Our resort Avani Victoria Falls Resort was a mere 5-minute walk from the cataract whose deafening roar hummed through the forest. Located within a nature reserve, Avani allows unlimited access to the waterfall and chance encounters with wildlife. We saw zebras grazing in the lawns and giraffes nibbling leaves off the trees! After devouring a mixed meat Zambezi Platter, we were off to Mukuni Big 5 to experience elephant feeding, a walk with cheetahs and petting lions.

From the plush David Livingstone Safari Lodge we embarked on a magical river cruise on the Zambezi aboard the Lady Livingstone. Sipping sundowners with a band playing on the silimba (Zambian xylophone using resonating gourds), we trained our binocs to the riverbank to spot wildlife. In the distance, the misty spray of the gushing waterfall rose like a wraith… David Livingstone’s words rang true, “Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”

livingstone-zambezi river cruise img_3359


Getting there
Fly to Lusaka on Ethiopian Airlines via Addis Ababa, Kenyan Airlines via Nairobi, Oman Air via Muscat or Emirates via Dubai. Lilayi and Chaminuka are on the outskirts of Lusaka, 45 min drive away. From Lusaka, Lower Zambezi National Park is 153km/2 hr 45 min drive while Kafue is 260km/4 hr drive via the M9. Mahagony Air flies to Harry Nkambule International Airport at Livingstone and Proflight to Mfuwe, the nearest airport to South Luangwa.
Mahogany Air Ph +26 097 786 5838
Proflight Zambia Ph +260 (0) 211 252452/476

When to Go
The low season is from December to April, the wet months, when the grass is high and visibility is less. The dry season lasts from May to October when animals congregate around the river. Peak season rates apply from from July to Oct. Walking safaris start in August when the grass is short.

Tsetse flies are attracted to dark objects so wear light colours and avoid blue and black while in the jungle.

kafue-mukambi safari lodge img_3038

Where to Stay

Mukambi Safari Lodge
Ph +260 (0)97 44 24 013
Tariff $395/person, all-inclusive
(Peak season July-Oct $480)

Ila Safari Lodge
Ph +260 978 294 956, 976 366 054
Tariff $375/person low season
High season July-Nov$675

Avani Victoria Falls Resort
Ph +260 978 777044

Royal Livingstone Hotel by Anantara
Ph +260 21 332 1122
Tariff $414 upwards

Aha The David Livingstone Safari Lodge & Spa
Ph +260 21 332 4601
Tariff $370

Southern Sun Ridgeway
Ph +260 211 251 666
Tariff $184

The Best Western Plus Lusaka Grand Hotel
Ph +260 21 1239666
Tariff $135

Protea Hotels by Marriott
Ph +260 21 1254664
Tariff $124

lilayi elephant nursery-feeding time 15.38.57

Wildlife Experiences
Chaminuka, Lusaka
Ph +260 211 254146, 840884

Lilayi Elephant Nursery & Lodge, Lusaka
Ph +260 211 840435/6, 971 00 2010

Mukuni Big 5, Livingstone
Ph +260 213 322286

For more info, visit

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This is the unedited version of the article that appeared in the August 2018 issue of Travel + Leisure India magazine.