Iguazu Falls vs. Victoria Falls (with Photos)


This updates an article I posted in 2010, with photos showing different views of mighty Iguazu Falls and Victoria Falls. Click here to read the original article.

I’ve had the rare opportunity to visit two of the world’s great waterfalls, Iguazu (Iguaçu) Falls on the Argentina-Brazil border in South America and Victoria Falls (Mosi-Oa-Tunya) on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border in Africa. Each was just a few hours’ drive from my former homes in Asunción, Paraguay and Lusaka, Zambia, respectively, and I visited them often. As measured by water volume, both are the two largest and arguably most spectacular waterfalls in the world.

It’s easy to conclude when you visit one that it’s more impressive than the other. Some claim that Iguazu Falls is better while others prefer Victoria Falls. Iguazu Falls is one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature and is the wider of the two with cascades that look like bridal veils. Victoria Falls, a World Heritage Site, is higher with a massive curtain of water during the rainy season that disappears in the dry season. Iguazu has the “Devil’s Throat,” a narrow falls where the water crashes into a torrential pool, and Victoria the “Devil’s Pool,” a whirlpool at the edge of the falls where visitors can swim during the dry season. One is in Africa and the other in South America, lending geographical biases in favor of one or the other.

What do you think? Here are photos of each waterfall at different times of the year. Decide for yourself. After browsing through the photos, vote for your favorite waterfall at the bottom of this post.

Iguazu Falls / Iguaçu Falls – Argentina-Brazil

2008_01_19 Brazil Iguazu (1)

2008_01_19 Brazil Iguazu (3)

2008_01_19 Brazil Iguazu (4)

2008_01_19 Brazil Iguazu (5)

2008_01_19 Brazil Iguazu (6)

2008_01_19 Brazil Iguazu (7)

2008_01_19 Brazil Iguazu (8)

2008_01_19 Brazil Iguazu (9)

2008_01_19 Brazil Iguazu (10)

2008_01_19 Brazil Iguazu (12)

2008_01_19 Brazil Iguazu (11)

2008_01_19 Brazil Iguazu (13)

2008_01_19 Brazil Iguazu (14)

2008_01_19 Brazil Iguazu

Victoria Falls / Mosi-Oa-Tunya – Zambia-Zimbabwe

2010_11_05 Zambia Victoria Falls (1)

2010_11_05 Zambia Victoria Falls (4)

2010_11_05 Zambia Victoria Falls (6)

2010_11_05 Zambia Victoria Falls (11)

Vote for your favorite now and post your comments below!

This poll is unscientific and has a margin of error of +/- 100%.

Which waterfall do I think is more impressive? Click here to find out.

2010_11_05 Zambia Victoria Falls

buythumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories and Alexander the Salamander, a children’s story set in the Amazon. His books are available to purchase as an e-book and in print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Top Ten Things to See in Zambia (with Photos)


Update 4/3/12:  Many thanks to WordPress for promoting this post to Freshly Pressed! And thanks to everyone stopping by to visit World Adventurers and say hello. You’re most welcome. There are more than 825 posts on travel and other topics for your reading enjoyment listed in the Category Cloud below. Enjoy!

Here’s a list of the top ten things you should do if you visit Zambia, a country in Southern Africa. Zambia lies southwest of Tanzania, which is featured in my book Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill. The two countries are similar in many ways, with plenty of opportunities to see amazing natural beauty, go on thrilling wildlife safaris, and experience Africa’s unique culture.

This list is based on my own experiences when I lived in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital and largest city. These activities and destinations will give you a taste of what this interesting country has to offer.

1. Victoria Falls/Mosi-oa-Tunya (Zambia/Zimbabwe): Arguably the world’s largest waterfall, Victoria Falls in Southern Province never ceases to amaze visitors. This is Zambia’s — and Zimbabwe’s — biggest tourist attraction. It lives up to its local (Tongan) name, Mosi-oa-Tunya, meaning “The Smoke that Thunders.” Most visitors stay in the nearby towns of Livingstone, Zambia or Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The upper falls is in Zambia, while the lower portion is on the Zimbabwe side. Both offer different and spectacular views of this natural wonder. Of special note are the two statues of the explorer and missionary David Livingstone (1813-73) locate on each side of the falls. Livingstone is still revered by many Zambians, and the City of Livingstone is named after him.

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Victoria Falls (1)

The best time of the year to visit the falls is between July and September, when the Zambezi River is aplomb with water. In November and December, the falls are almost dry and look like a canyon. Heavy rainfall fills the Zambezi between January and May, and it’s difficult to see the falls through a wall of mist created by falling water.

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For a few weeks in November, the water level is so low that visitors can swim in the “Devil’s Pool.” It’s an experience of a lifetime and highly recommended if you visit at that time. The pool lies at the edge of the falls with a 105-meter (350 foot) drop on the other side. Although it looks terrifying, the Devil’s Pool offers brave souls the sensation of swimming in a whirlpool bathtub. If you’re an adventurous sort, there’s also bungee jumping or zip lining from the Victoria Falls Bridge and whitewater rafting in some unruly rapids below the falls. Keep in mind that these activities can be dangerous. In January 2012, an Australian woman nearly died when she bungee jumped off the bridge and the cord snapped, sending her plummeting more than 110 meters (360 feet). Thankfully, she survived both the plunge and the crocodiles below.

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2. South Luangwa National Park: South Luangwa National Park is one of many national parks in Zambia, and the most popular, because it’s filled with abundant wildlife. It’s a short flight or a ten-hour drive from Lusaka via Eastern Province. Flying is more convenient but can be expensive. The daytime and nighttime game drives in South Luangwa are fabulous.

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For high-end lodging, stay at the Chichele Lodge, the presidential retreat of former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda (1964-91), or at Mfuwe Lodge. There are numerous less expensive lodges and bush camps in and around the park.

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3. Lower Zambezi River: The Lower Zambezi River basin in Southern Province is a short drive south from Lusaka and a great place for a long weekend getaway. There are several lodges near the towns of Chirindu and Chiawa not far from the confluence of the Zambezi and Kafue rivers. It’s great for bush camp excursions, hunting, fishing, and boat cruises, and popular with tourists who want to fish for tigerfish or camp “in the bush.”

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4. Northern Circuit: Zambia is keen to promote tourism in Northern Province on the Tanzanian border. Kasaba Bay on Lake Tanganika, one of Africa’s Great Lakes, is currently under development as a major tourist destination. Once it’s completed sometime in the next decade, the area will boast several high-end resorts. Fly to the Mbala airport near Kasaba Bay, or into the regional capital, Kasama. Hire a car and travel the back roads through beautiful country with subtropical forests, colorful villages, and spectacular waterfalls overshadowed by Victoria Falls such as Chishimba Falls.

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5. Saturday Dutch Market: Every last Saturday of the month, Zambia’s largest open-air market sets up shop at the Dutch Reformed Church in the Kabulonga area of Lusaka. Artisans from Zambia and neighboring countries bring their arts and crafts to you. It’s one of the few places where you can find Zimbabwean soap stone sold next to Zambian copper plates. You can also taste a variety of ethnic dishes and buy produce. If you miss this market, try the smaller Sunday Market at the Arcades Shopping Centre in Lusaka that happens every week. Be sure to bargain – the vendors will reduce prices below their original quotes and expect you to barter.

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6. Lake Kariba: Spend a weekend on the world’s largest artificial lake, Lake Kariba, located in Southern Province on the Zimbabwean border. Stay in the town of Siavonga for a relaxing getaway. Take a boat cruise and visit Lake Kariba Dam. Dine on local crayfish. Click here for a detailed account of our trip to Lake Kariba in 2010.

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7. Western Province/Barotseland: Western Province, also called Barotseland, is a large and relatively remote province on the Angolan border. To get there, fly to the capital, Mongu, and hire a car, or self-drive. The province is home to Liuwa Plains National Park, the most isolated and least visited of all national parks in Zambia.

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It’s worth a trip in November at the end of the dry season to see the world’s second largest wildebeest migration, when the herds turn south and head to Namibia. A word of caution — the park is very remote and impassible by land during the rainy season. Even with a 4’x4′ vehicle, the roads are very sandy and difficult to navigate any time of the year. It’s better to visit with an experienced guide.

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Liuwa (2)

Western Province is also worth a visit in April to watch the Kuomboka Traditional Ceremony held each year by the Lozi tribe commemorating the end of the rainy season. The date varies with the end of the season. Held at the Barotse king’s palace in Limilunga, it is arguably the country’s most famous traditional ceremony and a great example of Zambian culture. The gift shop at the Barotse Royal Museum sells local arts and crafts. With recent political unrest in Western Province, ask ahead if you’re thinking about attending a ceremony, and avoid discussing Barotseland with locals.

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8. Kafue National Park: Although not as famous as South Luangwa National Park, Kafue National Park in Central Province is a good weekend getaway from Lusaka. It’s Zambia’s oldest and largest national park. Although it suffered for years from game poaching, the animal population has recently rebounded. It’s an easy three-hour drive west of Lusaka, and after a paved road is built, north from Livingstone. Stay at Mukambi Lodge, which is easily accessible from the highway, or at one of several lodges that follow the Kafue River south to the Itezhi-Tezhi Dam. Go with an experienced guide if you plan to venture off the beaten path.

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9. Visit a compound: Most urban Zambians live in neighborhoods known as “compounds.” Ask a local whom you trust to take you in the daytime to one of the safer compounds. Try drinking Shake-Shake chibuku (fermented corn meal) at a local pub. Two of the largest and safer compounds in Lusaka are the Bauleni and Kalingalinga compounds. Walk around the compound and savor the unique flavor of everyday Zambian life. Meet new friends who will be curious why you’re visiting. Leave your valuables at home to avoid petty theft. Below:  Kipushi, a town on the Zambian-DR Congo border.

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The following photos were taken in compounds around Lusaka and Solwezi, the capital of North-Western Province.

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10. Kasanka Bat Migration: Each October, the world’s largest migration of giant fruit bats happens at Kasanka National Park in Northern Province. You’ll go batty with excitement or fear from the approximately eight million fruit bats that swarm harmlessly above you in a beautifully orchestrated dance.

Kasanka (1)

Kasanka (2)

I couldn’t list everything you can do when you visit Zambia. Some honorable mentions include the Source of the Zambezi River, a place of special significance to the Zambian people, in the remote Mwinilunga district of North-Western Province; Shiwa N’gandu in Northern Province; the mines of Copperbelt Province; Lake Bangweulu in Luapula Province; and the Livingstone Memorial in Itala where David Livingstone’s heart (yes, his heart) was buried under an Mvula tree.

The Zambian climate fluctuates between the dry season (July-November) and the rainy season (December-May). Although the best times to visit are in May and November, Zambia is always beautiful and welcomes you with open arms.

Luangwa (12)

Map picture

Note: This is an updated version of a blog entry originally posted in April 2011.

M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an ebook and in print on Amazon.com. His next book, Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, will be released on March 31, 2012. He lived in Lusaka, Zambia during 2009-11 and now lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Lake Kariba, Zambia with Photos


My wife and I went on a short weekend getaway to Lake Kariba in February 2011. What an amazing not-so-hidden gem. Few people have heard of this body of water that happens to be the world’s largest artificial lake and reservoir. Straddling the Zambian-Zimbabwean border, it was created in 1958 during the construction of the Kariba Dam when it was near completion, and engineers sealed the dam and flooded what had once been a large valley in the Zambezi River Basin.

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Lake Kariba is overshadowed in Zambia and Zimbabwe by nearby Victoria Falls, arguably the world’s largest waterfalls, as well as by game parks and private reserves scattered throughout the region. I think that Lake Kariba holds its own as a tourist destination, and I recommend a visit to anyone planning a trip to see the falls.

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Hippopotamuses, crocodiles, baboons, freshwater fish, and several bird species call the lake home, although they make fewer appearances than one would expect for such a large body of water. The wildlife that attracts gawking tourists is concentrated further east in the game parks of the lower Zambezi River Basin. Nevertheless, the lake does not lack for vegetation and scenic beauty.

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Whenever the lake comes up as a potential travel destination, locals tend to respond “don’t swim in the water!” because it is a breeding ground for bilharzia, or schistosomiasis, a snail-borne parasitic disease, and crocodiles. Avoiding the water notwithstanding, Lake Kariba is well worth a visit, especially if you want to enjoy a quick getaway to a place with scenic views and a relatively safe natural environment. While the area offers few children’s activities, families can still enjoy what it has to offer. Don’t forget to pack some books or games for the kids to alleviate boredom. The weather varies during the rainy season, so it’s important to check the weather conditions before visiting the lake.

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We stayed at the aging Lake Kariba Inns, one of the nicer resorts in the town of Siavonga, Zambia that passed as a three-star hotel. At just over US$100 per night during the off-season in 2011, the price was reasonable compared to some overpriced Zambian safari lodges that charged upwards of $400 per night. The room was clean and comfortable, although like many rural lodges, it was still infested with its fair share of unwanted critters. The ants carried off any food in sight, so we had to keep it sealed. The villas with lakefront verandas had gorgeous views of the lake. I deluded myself into thinking that I was on the Mediterranean when I lounged on the veranda, an illusion that lasted as long as it took for the fishermen plying on crayfish and fish to pass by in their large trawlers.

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The resort’s amenities included a large gym and a poolside bar with a pool table and Ping-Pong table. The waterfront restaurant served decent food with a decidedly Indian flavor; the curry and yogurt dishes were tasty. We were disappointed that the inn had run out of crayfish, a local specialty. Lake Kariba Inns’ Achilles’ heel was its average customer service. Some staff members were helpful; some were not. Whenever the buffet was served in the restaurant, it was virtually impossible to order room service.

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Lake Kariba Inns sits atop one of the promontories overlooking Siavonga with its own harbor with boats ready to take guests on an affordable, two-hour lake cruise to the top of the Kariba Dam and lake islands. The lake cruise was well worth the money. It left in the late afternoon not long before sundown. My wife and I basked in the glow of an African sunset from Sampa Karuma Island, a deserted island on the Zimbabwean side of the lake (no visa needed). Although the weather was calm for most of the cruise, the waves kicked up after sunset, and we held on as the boat rocked its way back to shore.

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Many lodges are located in and around Siavonga. Lake Safari Lodge, Eagle’s Rest, and Sandy Beach are other popular lodging options. Although we did not visit any of them, we were under impression that they were comparable to Lake Kariba Inns. For those who want to experience the lake up close and personal, Protea Hotels launched in 2011 the Southern Belle Hotel, a former steamboat converted into a floating resort. The Southern Belle operated in Lake Kariba for years before Protea refurbished it.

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To view or tour Kariba Dam from Siavonga, drive to the Zambia-Zimbabwe border about eight kilometers (five miles) from town, park at the border post, and ask Zambian Immigration for a gate pass. You can walk from there down to the Zambezi River for good views below the dam; the gate pass will permit you to reenter Zambia. You can also see it from the Zimbabwean side. The dam’s spillway opens fully in early February, allowing water that built up from the rainy season to pass down the Zambezi River. While not as spectacular as Victoria Falls, the dam is still worth a look-see. Constructed between 1955 and 1959 by the Italians, it was being expanded by the Chinese when we visited.

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The town of Siavonga on the shores of Lake Kariba is a mixture of homes, hotels and resorts, and a central district with local businesses. Some wealthier Zambians own second (or third) homes on the lake. The hilly terrain around the town is ideal for walks and hikes. Lake Kariba Inns has a beach walkway that follows the lake and a game walk with great views of the lake. The streets of Siavonga are fun to explore on foot. We were told that the area is relatively safe for tourists; however, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings if you choose to tour the town. Leave valuables at the hotel.

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If you want to enjoy the outdoors in Southern Africa but are not in the mood to go on safari, or you are looking for an extra stop on your visit to Zambia or Zimbabwe, see what Lake Kariba has to offer.

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This is an updated version of a blog entry originally posted in February 2011.

M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thrill and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He recently published a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an ebook and in print on Amazon.com. His upcoming travel novel, Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, will be available in March 2012. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex. For books and stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com.

Top Ten Things to See in Zambia


Click here for an updated version of this post with photos and more details about the Top Ten Things to See in Zambia.

I’ve done this list for Korea.  Almost two years into our tour in Zambia I finally found the inspiration to put together a “top ten” list of things to see in Zambia.  These are by no means a scientifically random sample or a results of a public opinion poll; they are my own choices based on my own biased preferences I think will give you a good taste of Zambia.  Many of them I have visited or done myself; some I included based on their reputation as a tourist destination.  Here they are:

  1. Victoria Falls (Zambia/Zimbabwe):  I’ve been to arguably the world’s largest waterfalls several times, and they never cease to amaze me.   These are by far Zambia’s biggest drawing card.  Many tourists will take a detour from South Africa to do an overnight trip to the Falls and in nearby Livingstone, Zambia or the town of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.  The falls are spectacular from both the Zambian and Zimbabwean sides; more of the upper falls is in Zambia and the lower portion with better views in Zim.  There are several good hotels; the high-end (and expensive) Victoria Falls Hotel on the Zim side and Royal Livingstone Hotel or Zambezi Sun on the Zambia side are your best bets.  The best time to see the falls is between July and September.  In February-March the falls are a wall of mist, and they’re nearly dry in November and December.  I especially enjoyed visiting in November when the falls were at their lowest.  That’s when the catch basin looks like the Grand Canyon.  Swimming in the famous Devil’s Pool next to Livingstone Island beside a 105 meter drop is an experience of a lifetime you can only do in November.  If you’re an adventurous sort, there’s also bungy jumping or zip lining from the Victoria Falls Bridge and whitewater rafting in some unruly rapids.
  2. South Luangwa National Park:  This is one of several national parks in Zambia and by far the most famous.  It features the most wildlife of any game park in the country.  It’s either a short flight or a 10-hour drive from Lusaka; flying is more convenient but expensive.  The game drives are fabulous.  For high-end lodging, stay at the Chichele Lodge, the presidential retreat of former president Kenneth Kaunda (1964-91), or at award-winning Mfuwe Lodge inside the park.  There are numerous less expensive lodges and bush camps in the area.
  3. Lower Zambezi River:  The lower Zambezi River basin is a short drive south of Lusaka and a great place for a long weekend getaway.  There are several lodges in the Chirindu and Chiawa areas near the confluence of the Zambezi and Kafue Rivers.  Great for bush camp excursions, safaris, hunting, fishing and boat cruises.
  4. Lake Tanganika/Kasaba Bay:  Kasaba Bay on Lake Tanganika in Northern Province is currently under development as a major tourist destination.  Once completed in the next decade, it will feature several resorts on the shores of one of Africa’s major Rift lakes.  For now you have to drive through Mporokoso or fly into Kasama and do a car hire, but once completed you’ll be able to fly there directly from Lusaka.  Northern Province is one of Zambia’s most beautiful provinces with several large waterfalls overshadowed by Victoria Falls.
  5. Kuomboka Traditional Ceremony:   Each year the Lozi tribe holds its annual Kuomboka ceremony marking the end of the rainy season.  The date varies with the end of the season (this year it’s scheduled for April 16).  Held in Limilunga, Western Province, at the Barotse king’s palace, it is arguably the country’s most famous traditional ceremony and a great example of traditional culture in Zambia.  The gift shop at the Barotse Royal Museum has some great local crafts for sale.  With recent unrest in Western Province, ask ahead if you’re thinking about attending this year’s ceremony.
  6. Liuwa Plains Wildebeest Migration:  One of the world’s largest animal migrations passes each November through remote Liuwa Plains National Park in Western Province.  Thousands of migrating wildebeest and head back toward Namibia.  A word of caution – the park is remote, and the roads are very sandy and difficult to navigate even with a 4×4.  It’s advisable to visit with an organized tour operator or in a caravan.
  7. Saturday Dutch Market:  Every last Saturday of the month, Zambia’s largest open-air food and crafts market sets up shop at the Dutch Reformed Church in the Kabulonga area of Lusaka.  Artisans from Zambia and neighboring countries bring their crafts to you.  It’s one of the few places where you can find Zimbabwean soap stone sold beside Zambian copper plates.  If you miss this market, try the smaller Sunday market at the Arcades Shopping Centre in Lusaka that happens weekly.  Be sure to bargain – I found that vendors will reduce prices as low as 40 percent of their original quote.
  8. Kasanka Bat Migration:  Each October the world’s largest migration of giant fruit bats occurs at Kasanka National Park in Northern Province.  You’ll go batty with excitement or fear from the approximately eight million bats that swarm harmlessly above you.
  9. Visit a compound:  Most urban Zambians live in poor neighborhoods known as “compounds.”  Ask a local you trust to take you during the day to one of the safer compounds in Lusaka to buy a carton of Shake-Shake chibuku (fermented corn meal) at the local pub.  Two of the largest and safer compounds in Lusaka are the Bauleni Compound on Leopard’s Hill Road and Kalingalinga Compound off Alick Nkhata Road.  Walk around and savor the fascinating flavor of local Zambian life.
  10. Lake Kariba:  Spend a weekend on the world’s largest artificial lake.  Stay in the town of Siavonga for a nice relaxing getaway.  Take a boat cruise and visit the Lake Kariba dam; dine on local crayfish.  I posted an article about our recent trip to Lake Kariba in February.

Weekend at Lake Kariba, Zambia


My wife and I went on a short Valentine’s Day weekend getaway to Lake Kariba.  What an incredible not-so-hidden gem!  Few tourists have ever heard of the world’s largest artificial lake and reservoir straddling the Zambian-Zimbabwean border created in 1958 when the Kariba Dam on the Zambezi River was near completion.  Lake Kariba is usually overshadowed on visitors’ itineraries by Victoria Falls, arguably the world’s largest waterfall, as well as by numerous game parks and private reserves scattered throughout Zambia and Zimbabwe.  We think that Lake Kariba holds its own as a tourist destination.

Hippos, crocodiles, baboons, freshwater fish, and several bird species call the lake home, although they make fewer appearances than one would expect for such a large body of water. The wildlife that attracts gawking tourists to Zambia are concentrated further east in the game parks of the lower Zambezi Basin.  However, the lake does not lack for vegetation and scenic beauty.  Compatriots frequently say “don’t swim in the water!” when lake comes up as a travel destination because it’s a breeding ground for bilharzia (schistosomiasis) and lurking crocodiles.  Avoiding the water notwithstanding, Lake Kariba is well worth a visit, especially if you want to enjoy a quiet or romantic getaway with beautiful scenic lake views and a relatively safe natural environment.  While the lake offers few children’s activities, families can still enjoy all it has to offer.  However, don’t forget to remind the kids to bring some books or games they can enjoy.

We stayed at the aging Lake Kariba Inns, one of the nicer resorts in the town of Siavonga that passes as a three-star hotel.  At just over U.S. $100 per night during the off season, the price was very reasonable compared to some of the overpriced game lodges that charge upwards of $400 per night.  The rooms are clean and comfortable, although like many rural Zambian lodges they are still infested with their fair share of unwanted critters.  The ants will carry off any food in sight, so keep it sealed.  The villas with lakefront verandas are your best bet for gorgeous views of the lake.  You might delude yourself into thinking that you’re in the Mediterranean as you lounge on your veranda; that is, until fishermen pass by in their large trawlers to ply on crayfish and fish.  The resort’s amenities include a large workout gym and a poolside bar with pool table and ping pong.  The waterfront restaurant serves decent food with a decidedly Indian flavor; the Indian yogurt-based dishes are tasty.  We were disappointed that the inn had run out of crayfish, a local specialty.  The inn also has conference facilities that can accommodate groups of 100 or more.  Its Achilles’ heel is its customer service.  Some staff members are helpful while others are not, and when the buffet is being served it’s virtually impossible to get room service.

Lake Kariba Inns sits atop one of the promontories overlooking Siavonga with its own private harbor ringed with boats ready to take you on an affordable two-hour lake cruise to the top of the dam and to some of the manmade islands.  The lake cruise is well worth the money.  Disembark in the late afternoon an hour before sundown so that you can bask in the glow of the sunset on the shore of Sampa Karuma Island or another deserted islet on the Zimbabwe side of the lake (no visa needed).  When cruising the lake, check the weather conditions beforehand for signs of rain or heavy winds.  Although we had calm weather for most of our boat trip, the waves kicked up after sunset, and we held on as the boat rocked its way back to shore.

A number of other lodges are located in and around Siavonga.  Lake Safari Lodge, Eagle’s Rest, and Sandy Beach are also popular lodging options.  We didn’t visit any of them but were under impression that they were comparable to Lake Kariba Inns.  For those who want to see the lake up close and personal, Protea Hotels recently launched (literally) the Southern Belle, a grand-old steamboat that operated in Lake Kariba for years before it was refurbished into a floating resort.

The lake cruise does not include a tour of Kariba Dam; to do that, drive to the Zimbabwean border (about 8 kilometers from Siavonga), park at the border post, and ask Zambian Immigration for a gate pass.  You can walk from there for good views below the dam; the gate pass will let you reenter Zambia.  The dam’s spillway usually opens fully in early February, allowing water building up from the rainy season to pass down the lower Zambezi River.  While not as spectacular as Victoria Falls, the dam is still worth a visit.  Constructed between 1955 and 1959 by an Italian company, the dam is currently being expanded by a Chinese firm.

The town of Siavonga extends for several kilometers in each direction along the lakefront.  The hilly terrain is ideal for short walks and hikes.  Lake Kariba Inns has a beach walk that follows the lake as well as a game walk with few signs of wildlife but great vistas high above the lake.  The streets of Siavonga are a great place to explore on foot.  We were told that the area is very safe; however, it’s important to be cognizant of safety if you choose to walk around town.

If you enjoy the outdoors but aren’t in the mood to head to the bush, or you’re looking for a great affordable weekend getaway, check out what Lake Kariba has to offer.

Harare, Zimbabwe


I arrived in Harare, Zimbabwe by car on the evening of May 2 after a long day on the road.  That morning I left Malawi and drove about 400 miles (700 kilometers) through Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.  Although it was a fascinating trip with incredible sights, I was exhausted.  I didn’t know what to expect in Harare.  I read so many negative news stories about Zimbabwe that my expectations were tempered by preconceived notions.

Once known as Salisbury, the capital of the former British colony and country known and Rhodesia, Harare was at one time of the most prosperous cities in Africa.  Three decades after Zimbabwe’s founding, however, Harare had fallen on hard times.  I’d read many cautionary tales.  Hyperinflation of the Zimbabwean dollar denominated in the trillions before it went out of circulation.  Outbreaks of cholera and other pandemics.  Unavailability of basic goods, including fuel and food.  If one believed the stories told by the international media about Harare, one would think that it had nothing good to offer.

Hence, I was pleasantly surprised to find Harare a relatively modern and livable city.  Perhaps low expectations tempered my outlook, prompting me to set them lower than necessary.  My brief journey through Zimbabwe depicted a country with many challenges but on the whole in better condition than its reputation belied.

After several days of traveling in the African countryside, I stayed in Harare overnight at a very nice 4-star hotel downtown.  The high-rise hotel overlooked a city park that coincidentally hosted the final concert of the weeklong Harare International Music Festival, Zimbabwe’s premier music event.  While concertgoers paid unknown sums to spend a few hours listening to jazz, fusion, reggae — you name it – at ground level, I sat perched 15 stories above looking down on the festival and taking in the musical finale.  It was a rare treat and a melodious ending to a long, eventful trip through southern Africa.  I rested very well that night

I spent the next morning walking around downtown Harare surveying the terrain.  The architecture was eclectic; it was both modern and dated with subtle strongman embellishments.  The cityscape did not feature any quasi-public monoliths, although I sensed broad brush strokes by the hand of public design.  The locals milling about were relatively well dress and moved with purpose on their way to complete all-important tasks.  While not as cosmopolitan as other mid-sized cities, Harare held its own in the annals of urban metropolises.  Even after years of hardship and neglect, it still remains one of the nicest I’ve seen in southern Africa.  Having lived for the past year up the road in Lusaka, Zambia, my view may be a bit colored by urban life in rural Africa.  Harare struck me as more amenable than its northern twin, despite the economic challenges it has experienced during the past three decades.

After a brief tour of Harare’s city center, I departed for Lusaka.  My stay there was short but sweet.  I was impressed enough that I plan to return to Harare in the near future over a long weekend with my family.  I want to show them a place that far exceeds the low expectations set by years of negative public perceptions.

Journey from Malawi to Zimbabwe via Mozambique (Part V)


I entered Zimbabwe in early afternoon.  Malawi, where I had been early in the morning, seemed so far away now.  I drove on through unremarkable countryside until Eastern Mashonaland, an area dotted with weathered mountainscapes rising curiously up over the dry flat land.  More people lived here than in Mozambique.  They lived in what appeared to be slightly better conditions than in Mozambique, although many were quite poor.  Unlike Malawi, I saw few bicycles in Zimbabwe, a sign that most locals had little discretionary income to buy such expensive items.  The Zimbabweans, however, had a better transit system than Mozambicans.  Far more trucks operated in this area transporting locals who hailed them using arm flourishes akin to hitchhiking.

I drove on until I reached Mutoko, a large town an hour inside the border.  I stopped at a filling station with my tank nearly empty.  No diesel.  My heart sank.  What would I do if I ran out of fuel?  This was Zimbabwe after all, a place that faced chronic shortages in virtually all commodities, including fuel, until it replaced the hyperinflationary Zimbabwean dollar with the U.S. dollar as is legal currency a few years ago.  I went to another station across the street and fueled up.  Saved, I thought.  God is my buddy.  Although it was a risk driving alone through this part of the world running on faith that I would pass without incident, it isn’t a cliché to say that God was my co-pilot on this trip.  He assured me in so many ways that I had nothing to fear and that He would keep me safe, including the moment when I was driving on the highway and suddenly confronted a semi-truck hurtling headlong towards me in my own lane.  The driver was trying to pass another truck and ran me off the road.  If not for God’s urging me to pull over and my quick response, I might have died, as so many people have on Africa’s highways.  I recalled an incident just a month before in which a missionary serving in Zambia died in Zimbabwe when his bus was hit head on by a truck.  Can I say I’m lucky to be alive?  No, not really.  I know God willed it.  If He had wanted to call me home at that instance, He would have.

I checked my tire pressure in Mutoko.  Very low.  All the tires had lost one quarter pressure, an unsurprising fact given that I had run my tires over 1,500 kilometers of broken, pothole-marked roads and harsh terrain.  While the man at the tyre (tire) shop filled them with air I surveyed the town.  Across the street was a market and bus station filled with loitering people.  On either side of the tyre shop were other auto repair shops with car parts, burned-out chasses, and tires strewn in front.  I saw the remains of an overturned car beside the road.  Mutoko was not a pretty town but definitely a fascinating glimpse into Zimbabwean culture.  I stopped by a small market to buy a cold drink and chose a non-carbonated faux orange drink from the nearly empty refrigerator.  The store owner said it cost 50 cents and asked if I would like to buy some chips to round the purchase up to one dollar.  I agreed even though I was not hungry for a salty snack.  Business was apparently slow, and she needed the money more than I needed food.

I drove on from Mutoko to Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, content that I had enough fuel and tire pressure to return to civilization.  The journey ended quietly, and I pulled into town at dusk.  I was concerned about arriving after dark in Harare, a large city I did not know with its fair share of crime.  I also vaguely knew the general direction to my hotel but not the exact location.  Once again, God delivered me right to my destination, and I pulled in at nightfall.  I am thankful my buddy kept me safe.