Zambia: home to the Victoria Falls, Africa’s largest wonder

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The Victoria Falls at their lowest water levels. / Gashegu Muramira

When Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo recently described Zambia as a country where Kinyarwanda is largely spoken, she was referring to how brotherly African countries are in both language and culture.

I witnessed this first hand on a two hour trip I embarked on to this land aboard Rwandair, an airline that has won itself a name in Africa and beyond for its new fleet of planes and efficient services.

“You are most welcome to Lusaka. We can serve you tea with either sugar or ubuchi (honey),” Joyce Chipulu, a young Zambian lady told me as I entered a restaurant at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka.

Ubuchi, just like it sounds in my language - Kinyarwanda, “ubuki” refers to honey. This reminded me of what exactly Minister Mushikiwabo was saying as she welcomed President Edgar Lungu to the swearing in ceremony of President Paul Kagame at Amahoro stadium last month.   

But Zambia is not just known as a country that is a residence to a big number of Rwandans (who are mostly business people and expatriates), it is also home to the famous legendary Victoria Falls in Livingstone.

According to officials, the Victoria Falls was described by the Kololo tribe living in the area in the 1800’s as ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ – ‘The Smoke that Thunders’.

Victoria Falls presents a remarkable sight of awe-inspiring beauty and splendor of the Zambezi River, forming the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Livingstone is the home of the Victoria Falls, a vast resource shared by both Zambia and Zimbabwe. Site officials say the falls stretch at the length of 1.7 kilometers with Zambia taking 0.5 kilometers while Zimbabwe takes 1.2 km.

“You are quite unfortunate that you have come at a time when the falls are quite and less active. The more water we have here, the more business - It’s usually more fun between the months of December and July where we receive 500 visitors every day,” said a site attendant who only identified herself as Frida, because she isn’t authorized to speak to journalists.

A capped mist-soaked rain forest vegetation leads visitors as they tour the falls while walking on a hilly path along the edge of the forest.  The rain forest vegetation is adapted to both dry and wet conditions over time.

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The Victoria Falls in Zambia at the border with Zimbabwe.

Some common tree species that constitute this forest type are; diospyros mespiliforms, syzygium cordatum, mimisops zeyheri, cyperus papyrus and phoenix reclinata.

In a group of close to twenty journalists from member states of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), we were taken around the Zambia Livingstone border with Zimbabwe that is itself embedded in the Victoria Falls.

“Look across the border into Zimbabwe. That place is called Victoria Falls town,” John Mwesige, a Rwandan and COMESA official told us. Many of the business reporters could not cross the border to have another feel of the other side of the falls because they would be required to pay for Visas.

The Victoria falls resource shared by both countries, reminds African countries of the need to speed up economic integration to be able to reap big from the wonders that define Africa.

Along the remarkable Victoria Falls Bridge, a major border crossing from Zambia to Zimbabwe, one cannot miss seeing Zimbabwean traders mostly women walking with goods carried on their heads crossing from Zambia into their homeland after a long day’s work.

It is a replica of the cross border trade between Rwanda and Uganda at the Gatuna border. The bridge was a crucial link in the route of the railway north, the planning of which the famous Cecil John Rhodes envisioned.

To ensure accuracy in manufacture, the bridge was assembled in sections at the Cleveland bridge company yard in Darlington, England before being shipped to Africa.

It is a bee hive of activity as trucks carrying goods from South Africa through Zimbabwe make long queues to enter Zambia. 

“Many are carrying goods enroute to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),” said Victor Kikonka, a Zambian petty trader whose job is to sell trinkets like bracelets along the Victoria Falls Bridge.

Just like Rwanda, Zambia is blessed with inspiring natural wonders, an abundance of wildlife, huge water bodies and vast open spaces that offer unforgettable holidays for those in love with exploring mother Africa.

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The writer standing at the bridge that connects Zambia to Zimbabwe. / Gashegu Muramira 

Zambia is also the land of the African walking safari, abundant wildlife, and raw wilderness, all in this southern African country.

The spectacular grandeur of the Zambezi River welcomes you as you fly on a one hour journey from Lusaka airport to Livingstone town.

Through my window at the Chrismar Hotel, I could see the finest safari experiences on the planet, including face to face encounters with nature at its most wild.

Sights of baboons, antelopes and zebras grazing gently, welcome guests to compounds of some of Livingstone’s seven star hotels like the Avani, where spectacular daily sunsets are almost guaranteed.

“We have very beautiful parks here that can only be afforded by high end tourists,” said Sampa Chilufya, the Executive Director of Zambia’s Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.  

After my two days expedition in this Southern country, I realise it is more important than ever for Africa to fully exploit intra Africa trade by first and foremost making travel within the continent less cumbersome for fellow Africans.  

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