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What a cracking country Zambia has turned out to be! I want to say, right off the bat, everyone should visit Zambia if they get the chance – amazing sights, fascinating culture, warm and open people and scenery to take your breath away

Victoria Falls picture,   vic falls zambia side

I arrived in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, headed to one of the 2 guesthouses and threw of my bags. Standard practice with my lack of planning meant that I had no local currency, no idea what to do or see and no map so I spent the rest of the day rectifying that! Walking around the city, people are so keen to talk to you and with the former British colonization, nearly everyone can speak English.

I often had people walking me around the city, showing me where I needed to go and not once was I asked for any form of payment, a welcome break from my years in Asia and the constant haranguing from touts!

Lusaka Market,   backpacking in Zambia

As far as a city goes, Lusaka is pretty relaxed. There’s not necessarily so much to see or do but simply walking around and soaking up the atmosphere can easily fill a day. There are a couple of local markets that I walked around which were an experience in themselves and I even managed to find a Subway franchise and treat myself to a footlong meatball marinara (easing myself back into my backpacking ways slowly after a year in Australia :P)

Lusaka soon came and went and I was off on a 5 hour bus (that’s an African 5 hours apparently which is somewhere between 7 and 9 hours in reality) to Livingstone, the town closest to one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World – Victoria Falls. Essentially, Vic falls was the reason I had come to Zambia so I was buzzing at the prospect of finally seeing it. The bus journey was fine, if a little overcrowded, but it was broken up sporadically by various breakdowns, overenthusiastic gospel preachers and wildife so it was certainly entertaining. The roads in Africa, so far, have seemed pretty good so it was relatively smooth throughout (*disclaimer – relatively smooth in relation so some less developed countries I’ve been too, relative to the West it’s like a very, very dusty rollercoaster)

Livingstone is awesome. Of course it’s set up for a fair bit of tourism being so close to Vic Falls but it’s laid back, relaxed and affordable. I stayed in a cracking hostel called Livingstone Backpackers for around $8 a night for the dorm. I shared a room with a cool Dutch guy who had driven from Holland in a 80’s military landrover through the centre of Africa to be here, he had some crazy stories about getting put in prison in the Congo for 3 days en route and taking a secret agent across a few countries over 3 weeks – I love the people you meet on the road!

Victoria Falls Bungee jump

On day 2 I got peer pressured into bungee jumping off the bridge which crosses one of the gorges at Vic Falls. 110m freefall for $110 fee, extortionate – yes, but worth every cent! Jumping off the bridge, into a circular rainbow caused by the mist coming off the Falls, white water surging past beneath you and a full view of the Falls behind you as you bob up and down after your jump waiting to be reeled in. Don’t get me wrong, I was terrified but it was definitely something I would recommend.

You can feel the wet mist coming from the falls from nearly 1km away, it truly is something special and you can see the ‘smoke’ (read:mist) from miles and miles away surging up from the falls high into the sky, it’s difficult to describe it so you should come and see for yourself 😛

Victoria Falls Bungee Bridge
The bridge that you jump off for the bungee :S

This day marked a special date too – the start of the world cup!! We watched Bafana Bafana (South Africa) draw with Mexico in the local bar and the atmosphere was great, I really hope an African side goes far in the tournament because the continent will go crazy. After the game we got dragged to another couple of bars and then to a Zambian club and let me tell you, these guys no how to have a good time!! Everyone ear to ear smiles, dancing like crazy, buying me drinks because I was a guest in their country – one of the best nights out I have ever had for sure, I clambered back to my dorm about 4am I think :S

Early start the next day, pretty standard in Africa it seems so everyone is up around 7am. I went with the crazy Dutchman and his car to National Park to see the Falls close up. The water levels at the moment are the highest they’ve been in 40 years so the mist is at an all-time high, which is a sight to behold. I think to get the best experience you would need to come both at the peak of wet season to see this and also at dry season to see the sheer size of the falls, or am I just looking at reasons to come back?! We walked around the park, monkeys running around EVERYWHERE, completely unperturbed by humans. I was walking around in flipflops when some guy tells me to go down a track because it’s beautiful but “watch out because I saw a cobra down there” WTF?! You don’t here too many sentences like that back in Ireland.

monkeys at Vic Falls

It’s almost needless to say but the Falls up close are something else. The noise is deafening and the volume of the water is incomprehensible, my photography does it no justice at all but here are a few snaps regardless:

Victoria Falls

Me at Victoria Falls

vic falls

Victoria Falls Zimbabwe Side

At one point you cross a bridge probably 100 metres from the centre of the falls and as you cross you are entirely engulfed in the spray, literally soaked! Brilliant experience and you can hardly see anything due to the amount of water in the air – crazy.

I’m back in the hostel now, thinking about leaving Livingstone today  I have to be in Johannesburg by in 3 days for my first World Cup match and I have no idea how I am going to get there :S either through Botswana or Zimbabwe by bus I guess…

STOP PRESS:

Luckily I bumped into some guys who are also going to Johannesburg via Botswana although they are aiming to arrive one day later than me, rather than go alone like Steven F*cking Glansberg I thought I’d arrive in South Africa a day later with them. Anyway, that meant I could visit the Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwe side of the border this time so I nipped over to Zimbabwe today and WOW!!! I thought it was amazing yesterday… the Zim side  blows the Zam side out of the water, it was awe inspiringly beautiful today, from the Zim side you get a much better grasp on the sheer size of the falls and they are much better viewpoints so if you make it this far then go that extra step and check it out from Zimbabwe – you won’t regret it!

African man at Victoria Falls

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16 thoughts on “Backpacking In Zambia – Victoria Falls

  1. Hi Jonny
    I’m visting Zambia (hoping to go L/stone, Lusaka, Kitwe, Chimfunshi and Kafue NP and back to L/stone) with my sister in June and we are arranging it all ourselves. We are wanting to get around by public transport but only have 10 days there. What is the public transport like and do you have any advice about where we look for timetables etc.

    Cheers, Kate

    1. Hi Kate i know this is a bit late for your question but for future readers who will read this blog. I hope you managed to travel to Livingstone. There are daily luxury buses that leave lusaka to Livingstone. When you get to Livingstone there are so Victoria Falls Activities you can engage including exploring the Batoka Gorge for Free.

  2. Hey man, i’m planning on backpacking in zambia in a month or two, just came across your blog while doing a bit of research, really informative? Just wanna ask if you came across opportunities for volunteer work while you were there? Would be great to do some volunteer work on the side. I did find some online, but they cost a small fortune!

  3. Hi I just came across your blog. I love that you intend on coming to Namibia, I am from Namibia. Say hi when you come around, I will be glad to show you around. I plan of backpacking to in Zambia in a few weeks and there is no doubt I will have fun. Thank you for sharing your experience 🙂

  4. Hi Jonny, I’ve just come across your blog! I love that you’ve been to Africa and really enjoyed reading this post!

    I’m a massive Africa fan and just started writing about my own adventures there and elsewhere! I’ve spent just under a year travelling in Africa over the last few years, love it there! I look forward to spending more time reading your posts!

    Helen

      1. That’s awesome! I guess you’ll take in some or all of West Africa in that trip? West Africa is on my bucket list. One day! Done almost everything I want to do in East Africa. I see you did Kili! Me too, most painful thing I’ve done but bloody loved it!

        Did you travel alone round Africa? People always think I’m mental when I say I get public transport between countries on my own. I’ve never had a problem! Just had to write a big post on why I do! What has been your experience of doing that?

        1. all of it i traveled independently, it’s the only way i travel unless there is no other option (North Korea, Tibet etc) 🙂 I don’t think it’s a big deal, just like getting a bus in your home country but less comfortable!

  5. Bud, i definitely want to backpack from Vic falls. I want to fly there and return however. I got ten days. So how do you plan something like this. Visas and what not. i got a month to plan and no plan for a plan.

    1. hey mate, backpack from Vic Falls to where? sorry, dont really understand what you’re after :S send me a msg with what you wanna do and i’ll see if i can help out…

      1. Thanks for the reply.

        I am in durban. On 1 April i plan to fly to from Joburg to Tanzania. there i will explore the country but my main aim is to see vic falls. then i want to get back to durban using what ever transport because i don’t want to fly back. I want to do this in 10 days.

        The problem is, this is my first trip out of SA. So what i need from you is to sort of fill in the details. Like do i need a visa or will my passport be enough, what to do when there, what to look out for and where to stay. I just want to explore the place.

        1. to be frank mate, in 10 days that’s almost impossible. To explore Tanzania alone would take well in excess of 10 days but to travel by land from Dar Es Salaam all the way to Durban would take the best part of 4 or 5 days just straight transport – you’d want to spend a few days in Zanzibar, a couple of days at Vic falls, maybe explore Moshi/Arusha, Harare, Lusaka – really mate, im keen to help but it’s gonna be difficult to do in 10 days!

  6. hey ashna! yeah the cargo boat was a bit crazy :s i didnt have too long in Bangladesh unfortunately and I def want to go back, so expect an email asking where to go when i finally make it back 😛

  7. Hey Johnny

    I stumbled across your blog last night when I googled “how to take a boat from China to Thailand” in an attempt to travel cheap, and get our asses to Chiang Mai and came across your post and now am a huge fan of this blog. As we are girls -traveling with Chinese sailors is out of the question, but your adventures on the cargo boat sound hilarious. Also, I’m originally from Bangladesh and have lived in Zim for 5 years, so I’m glad you’ve backpacked through both places! By the way, I was somewhat horrified after reading your Dhaka stories -there are plenty of scenic places and cool spots in the city (NOT in old town) and the rest of the country to discover, so if you ever plan on returning I’ll give you some better tips! Enjoy the world cup, and keep us posted. SA is one of my favorite places in the world!

    xo.

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