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36 Travel Zambia May 2007 Zambia has a bewildering variety of attractions. Sometimes it can be hard to decide exactly where and when to go, especially as every season offers something different. The map below locates a few highlights, covering each month of the year. Some are well known, others more offbeat. March: Victoria Falls in full spate The Victoria Falls are at their most spectacular in March and April, at the end of the rainy season. This is the time of peak flow, when the upper Zambezi’s huge river catchment has finally worked its way downriver to the Falls. The river thunders over the lip at a rate of up to 750 million litres a minute, creating a cloud of spray visible from kilometres away and nourishing a small rainforest on either bank. From up close the power of the water is awe-inspiring. Bring a raincoat. June/July: looking for leopards, Kafue June and July are the coolest months of the year in Zambia. Leopard sightings are more frequent during this time, since the cats are more active by day – often hunting in the twilight hours of dawn and dusk. Later in the year, when the days are much hotter, they tend only to be up and about after dark. Leopards are widespread across Zambia, with both Kafue and South Luangwa National Parks offering among the best and most reliable sightings anywhere in Africa. November: wildebeest migration, Liuwa Plain The remote Liuwa Plain National Park lies along the upper Zambezi floodplain in far western Zambia. November rains transform its flat grasslands into lush grazing that draws a huge gathering of herbivores, including zebra, tsessebe and up to 30,000 blue wildebeest. Few visitors witness this spectacular phenomenon, partly because getting to Liuwa remains a serious expedition. The park is accessible from June to November. Now under the management of African Parks (www.africanparks-conservation.com), its visitor profile looks set to increase. Vakacha Around Zambia · itineraries · safari news · travel tips · a helping hand April: Ku-omboka festival, Western Province The Ku-omboka is the best known of Zambia’s cultural festivals. It usually takes place around Easter, as long as water levels are high enough. This colourful ceremony celebrates the annual ‘moving home’ of the Lozi people, away from the flooded Zambezi floodplain eastwards onto higher ground. The King retreats with his court on a royal barge to his high-water residence at Limulunga, followed by a retinue of smaller craft bearing other dignitaries. When the fleet reaches its destination, the feasting and celebrations begin. KAFUNTA SAFARIS DAVID ROGERS ZNTB TONGABEZI Around Zambia Mwinilunga Solwezi Limulunga Mongu Kaoma Livingstone Kazungula Victoria Falls Zambezi River Kafue River Liuwa Plain NP Sioma Ngwezi NP West Lunga NP Kafue NP

May 2007 Travel Zambia 37 January/February: orchids, Nyika Plateau The rainy season is the best time to enjoy the floral splendours of the Nyika Plateau. Over 200 different species of orchid, together with irises, gladioli and proteas, make the rolling grasslands of this high-altitude reserve a botanist’s paradise. Other highlights include a dense population of roan antelope, and many rare and localised birds, including blue swallow and bar-tailed trogon. Much of Nyika National Park lies in neighbouring Malawi, where Chelinda Camp (www.nyika.com) offers access, activities and accommodation. May: shoebills, Bangweulu May is the best month to see Zambia’s most enigmatic bird. At this time the floodwaters of the Bangweulu wetland have receded a little, making access easier, and shoebills are often seen in the vicinity of Shoebill Camp. These large birds feed mostly on lungfish, which they catch with a lightning-fast strike of their capacious, hook-tipped bill. By July, as the wetlands dry out, the shoebills retreat towards the permanent water of Lake Bangweulu and become harder to find. July: Umutomboko festival, Luapula province This annual festival celebrates the victories of Chief Mwata Kazembe, whose Luunda people migrated en masse into Luapula from the neighbouring Congo. It is held in a specially prepared arena, close to the N’gona river. The grand, two-day ceremony includes ritual, semi-mystic performance, pounding drums and long speeches. Women bring tributes of beer and food to the chief who, smeared with white powder, pays homage to his ancestral spirits and is carried back to his palace to the beating of drums. September/October: game viewing, Lower Zambezi The end of the dry season is peak game viewing time in the Zambezi Valley. As the heat and drought intensify, animals descend from the escarpment to the better grazing and water of the riverine floodplain. Small groups of buffalo coalesce into large herds, and other grazers such as impala, zebra and eland steadily increase in number. Predators follow the herds and become much easier to see, while elephants are everywhere. When the rains finally come, usually in November, the game begins to disperse. SAUSAGE TREE CAMP JULIET SHENTON, SHENTON SAFARIS August/September: carmine bee-eaters, Luangwa Valley Carmine bee-eaters arrive in the Luangwa Valley in August, having migrated from their wintering quarters in central Africa. They quickly resume occupancy of their crowded riverbank nesting colonies, creating a dazzling blur of colour and motion that is one of Africa’s most impressive avian spectacles. By the end of the rainy season the birds have headed north again, leaving the riverbank to the resident species. December: emerald season, Luangwa Valley Much of the Luangwa Valley becomes inaccessible during the rainy season. However, some operators (including Remote Africa: www.remoteafrica.com) now offer ‘emerald season’ safaris, which include boat trips up the flooded channels and tributaries of the Luangwa. Game is less concentrated at this time of year, but the bush is teeming with birdlife in its breeding finery and most animals have new-born young. The lush landscapes and dynamic skies make a refreshing contrast to the burnt-out dry season, and tourists are thin on the ground. LUSAKA Kitwe Ndola Chipata Isoka Kasama Mpulungu Chirundu Kapiri Mposhi Mkushi Mfuwe Mpika L. Tanganyika L. Bangweulu L. Mweru Wantipa L. Mweru L. Kariba Zambezi River Luangwa River Lower Zambezi NP Kasanka NP South Luangwa NP North Luangwa NP Luambe NP Sumbu NP Lusenga NP Lukusuzi NP Blue Lagoon NP Lochinvar NP