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Introduction

As one of southeast Africa's lesser-known gems, Zambia offers some of the continent's finest and most hands-on tourism opportunities. Zambia is most famous for its less ?zoo-like' national parks that offer walking safaris and more spontaneity in viewing wildlife; the most famous park is South Luangwa. Although travel in Zambia can be difficult due to long distances and lack of infrastructure, outstanding national parks and an abundance of outdoor activities make Zambia an ideal destination for the adventure-minded traveler. Zambia also provides spectacular views of the world-famous Victoria Falls - one of the seven wonders of the natural world, canoeing on the Zambezi River, and a handful of urban tourism opportunities, such as the Livingstone Railway Museum and the homestead of the country's liberation leader and first president, Kenneth Kaunda in Lusaka.


Zambia's history can help to illustrate, to some extent, its current socio-political conditions. The major waves of Bantu-speaking immigrants began in the 15th century with the greatest influx between the late 17th and early 19th centuries. They came primarily from the Luba and Lunda of southern Zaire and northern Angola but were joined in the 19th century by Ngoni peoples from the south. By the 19th century Europeans penetrated the mineral-rich area under the auspices of religious missions and scientific exploration.


David Livingstone in 1855 was the first European to see the magnificent falls on the Zambezi River and the Zambian town nearby is named after him. He named the falls after Queen Victoria, although the traditional African name "Mosi-oa-tunya" (the smoke that thunders) offers a much more vivid description.


Like many contemporary African states, Zambia's borders do not reflect any historical cultural or political groupings. Rather, the state, formerly known as Northern Rhodesia, was simply an annex to Cecil Rhodes' Rhodesia under the British South African Company and was added on both for its mineral resources and for its potential role in Rhodes' dream of a British empire extending from ?Cape to Cairo'. In 1953 both Northern and Southern Rhodesia were joined with Nyasaland to form the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Soon after federation came insistent African demands for greater participation in government and resource control. Zambia gained independence in 1964. At independence despite its considerable mineral wealth Zambia faced major challenges. During the next decade it actively supported movements such as the Union for the Total Liberation of Angola (UNITA) the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) the African National Congress of South Africa (ANC) and the South-West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO).


A railroad to the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam built with Chinese assistance reduced Zambian dependence on railroad lines south to South Africa and west through an increasingly troubled Angola. In the mid-1970s the price of copper, Zambia's principal export, suffered a severe decline worldwide. Zambia turned to foreign and international lenders for relief; but as copper prices remained depressed it became increasingly difficult to service its growing debt. By the mid-1990s Zambia's per capita foreign debt remained amongst the highest in the world.


Despite its poverty, Zambia is home to a wealth of arts and cultures. Zambia has at least 35 ethnic groups and a population of some 11 million. Contemporary religious belief is about 75% Christian. Local arts include sculpture and adaptations of Congolese dance music. English is the official language and it is widely spoken. Bebma is the second most widely spoken language, followed by Lozi, Lunda, Luvale, Nyanja, Tonga, and about 70 other indigenous languages. Local food includes maize or sorghum porridge with meat stew or freshwater fish such as bream, salmon, or Nile perch.


Travel to Zambia is possible by air into Lusaka or directly to Livingstone, location of the Victoria Falls. Overland travel is also possible by bus or TAZARA train. Road conditions within the country can be unpredictable, but overland travel is the most common way of getting around within the country. Accommodation in Zambia can range from budget hostels to luxury hotels in tourist and urban areas. The best time to travel for wildlife spotting is between August and October. This is the dry season; the wet season in March-June may provide more greenery and water for animals but will often have the adverse affect of lush vegetation which hides the wildlife. The Zambia International Fishing Competition in early March provides a unique opportunity to watch hundreds of fishermen practice long-perfected methods of fishing on Lake Tanganyika. Other festivals occur throughout the year but are not specifically dated.


Zambia stretches from the southern shore of Lake Tanganika to the shores of Lake Kariba. It is bordered by Malawi and Mozambique on the east, Zimbabwe to the south, Namibia and Angola to the west and Congo and Tanzania to the north. A large portion of the country is given over to wildlife with 19 national parks and 31 game management areas. The prime wildlife areas are the Luangwa valley and the South Luangwa National Park, Kafue National Park and the Lower Zambezi National Park. South Luangwa is amongst the most hands-on wildlife experiences that a traveler can currently partake in on the continent. Zambia is more than a stop on the way to somewhere else; it is a destination worth a longer stay.


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