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The Zambezi River – Zambia’s Finest Safari Feature
The Zambezi is the fourth largest river in Africa; Flowing about 3000 km in Central Africa. The river originates from a small tributary in the upper northwest corner of Zambia and then flows through Angola and borders Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe before finally cutting through Mozambique where its waters flow through a delta into the Indian Ocean.
The Zambezi River ebbs and flows seasonally. In case of prolonged rains, the river swells and bursts its banks in certain areas, displacing thousands of people. On the other hand, if there is no rain, the water dries up. The river is divided into three sections; Upper Zambezi, Middle Zambezi and Lower Zambezi.
Although the river offers a lot to wade through every square kilometre, Zambia and Zimbabwe have its best features. Perhaps the most spectacular feature along the Zambezi is the magnificent Victoria Falls. Known locally as “Mosi-oa-tunya” (thundering smoke), Victoria Falls is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The deafening roar of the waterfall can be heard from meters away as millions of liters of water rush down its rocky ledge. A shimmering sheet of mist rises from the falling water, making the scene even more spectacular.
The best time to visit the falls is during the dry winter season which is between July and August. Around monsoons, the fog becomes so thick that it becomes impossible to catch a glimpse of the falls. The dry season peak is also not the best as the falls are at their dullest at this time. If you wish, you can take a helicopter ride and get a panoramic view of the falls. However, most people prefer the experience on land where they can feel the spray of falls on their face. If you plan to view the falls from the ground, bring a raincoat because you will get wet, although most people get out of it.
At a distance from the falls stands the magnificent Victoria Falls Bridge. The bridge is a treasured piece of fine architecture connecting Zambia and Zimbabwe and also offers sweeping views of the Zambezi and the adjacent rain forests. The most popular activity on the bridge is bungee jumping. The fall is 111 meters 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.
Kariba Dam in Zambia is 300 km long. Cahora Bassa Dam is located in Mozambique and is 20 km shorter than Kariba and has a width of 280 km. Both dams are deep and popular for their sport fishing. You can choose to fish from the shore or take to the water in a canoe. The most common fish in the area are tiger fish which can grow up to 10 kg, yellow-bellied bream and red-breasted bream among others.
Apart from fishing, the dams also provide enough water for irrigation to the local community who farm along the river. Dams are also a source of hydroelectricity. Kariba Dam supplies electricity to Zambia and Zimbabwe while Cahora Bassa Dam supplies electricity to Mozambique and South Africa.
There are many game parks and reserves along the Zambezi and offer some of the best Africa safaris. The most popular of these include Zambezi National Park, Victoria Falls National Park, Mana Pools Park and Wide Horizons Elephant Camp. Here, visitors can see a wide range of wildlife along game drives or in fenced and controlled reserves. The activity for which the Zambezi is world famous is the white water rafting expedition. The Zambezi’s rocky river valleys and rocky, rocky terrain as well as pressure pools provide excellent drainage for exciting rapids.
Zambezi rapids are classified as class five, meaning they are very difficult to negotiate, very fast, violent and unpredictable because they have no clear pattern that a negotiator can get used to making each trip different from the next. Rapids are also popular because they have little exposed rock that minimizes the risk of injury, allowing kayakers to experience more.
There is a wide range 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 will make your stay memorable. Some of the most popular hotels and lodges include; Royal Livingstone Hotel, Tongabezi Lodge and Thorn Tree Lodge at Victoria Falls. Mwambashi River Lodge, Kasaka River Lodge and Matondo River Camp are good options for those who want to stay close to the river and around wild game. And for those who want to spend the day fishing in Lake Kariba, Chete Island Deluxe Tented Safari Lodge and Chikanka Island Hotel will be good options for you.
There are many towns and settlements along the Zambezi River. Majors 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, people along the Zambezi speak more than 70 different languages. Most of these indigenous people depend on the Zambezi for their livelihoods and have fascinating cultures as well as unique practices. For example, the Bandu people of Zambia believe that the river has a living spirit called Nyaminyami. They believe that the spirit protects them and therefore regularly perform rituals by the river to appease the spirit.
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