Three hundred miles to the northeast of Victoria Falls lies the fast-developing city of Lusaka. Named after an early 20th century Nyanja chief, Lusaka is both Zambia’s capital, as well as its largest city. Its location at the edge of the bush makes it a start-off point for safari tourism, but holds its own with a traditional culture of markets and bartering.
Soweto Market is the biggest and perhaps most famous of the lot, and hosts everything from grocery stalls to bicycle repairmen. It is an exciting and bustling commercial center designed for locals, but be careful not to get distracted by the goings-on and become a target of pickpockets. A more tourist-friendly set-up is to be found at Kabwata Cultural Village on Burma Road. This market is worth a visit, for not only does it stock traditional wares and tribal crafts, but also provides a taste of Zambia’s oldest culture. And if you happen to be in town on the last Saturday of the month, pop along to the more gently-paced Dutch Reformed Church Market where vendors sell books, art and all sorts of intriguing curios.
If you are using Lusaka as a base, Chaminuka Nature Reserve is an hour’s drive to the northeast, and hosts over 70 different species, including lion, elephant, giraffe and zebra. It is also an official Important Bird Area due to the 300 different species of feathered lodgers contained within the park’s limits. Accommodations are the height of luxury, and the food is some of the best around.
The dry season is between May and September. Animals tend to congregate around waterholes and rivers at this time of year, making it ideal for safaris. The weather is a lot cooler too, with temperatures ranging from 75F to 86F. Another benefit of visiting at this time of year is avoiding the drenching humidity of the wet season.
The city is negotiable by car, but the road culture is vastly different from the experiences of most visitors. Lusaka is served by two bus networks, mini-buses and The Big Bus, but be aware that the bus will not leave until it’s full. Also be mindful that you cannot leave a bus once on board if it is waiting to be filled, and that the conductors known as Call Boys often have an abrupt and discourteous demeanor.