THE SMOKE THAT THUNDERS

Zambia 2015 | TOURISM | FOCUS: KAZA CONSERVATION AREA

The Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) is one of the largest conservation areas in the world, spanning Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, and Angola.

This area of more than 520,000sqkm is home to some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the world, namely Caprivi, Chobe, and Victoria Falls—and no fewer than 36 officially designated national parks, forest and game reserves, and game and wildlife management areas.

Caprivi, also called the Caprivi Strip or Okavango Panhandle, is situated between Botswana to the south and Angola and Zambia to the north bordered by the Zambezi, Kwando, Chobe, and Okavango rivers; in the north-west side of the magnificent Okavango Delta. In the Caprivi area, you can also visit the Tsodilo Hills, a rocky outcrop with mesmerizing cave paintings and walking trails. The area is rich in wildlife, habitat for the critically endangered African wild dog, and plentiful mineral resources. There are three National Parks in the Caprivi Strip, namely Mudumu National Park, Bwabwata National Park and Nkasa Rupara National Park.

The Chobe National Park, in the north of Botswana, is the third-largest park in a country with the largest game reserves in Africa. Besides being Botswana's first national park it is as well the most biologically diverse and it can be divided up to four areas each of one with a different ecosystem: the Chobe riverfront with lush floodplains for the large breeding herds of elephants, giraffes, sables, buffalos as well as the puku antelope and a rich birdlife; the Savuti Marsh area, more than 10,000sqkm of savannah and rolling grasslands, zebras, warthdos, kudus and impalas; the Linyanti Marsh in the north-west corner of the park with large concentrations of elephants, lions, leopards, antelopes, wild dogs, crocodiles, and hippopotamuses; and the Hinterland, the hot and dry area.

The fourth largest river in Africa, the Zambezi River has one of the greatest attractions in Africa: the spectacular Victoria Falls. These are the only waterfalls in the world more than a kilometer wide, and at a height of more than 100m. This vast cascade can be heard more than 40km away, the mist it creates visible for 50km. Local tribes call these vapour clouds Mosi-o-Tunya, or “The smoke that thunders." These falls, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, were named by the Scottish explorer David Livingstone after Queen Victoria. According to the Zambia National Tourism Board Zambia received 915,000 tourists in 2014, most of them always visiting the Victoria Falls, and as The Hon. Jean Kapata, Minister of Tourism and Arts told TBY, they expect to cross the 1 million barrier this year.

To improve the experience of these tourists, Zambia and Zimbabwe have been piloting a project since November 2014. This initiative called UNIVISA entails a common tourist visa for both countries intended to be rolled out, if successful, to three other countries in the KAZA region, namely Angola, Botswana, and Namibia. Currently this visa costs $50 and it lasts up to 30 days where you can stay in Zambia and Zimbabwe as well as use it for day trips to the Kazungula border in Botswana. Citizens of 40 countries are eligible to buy the visa at the four points where it is available: the airports of Livingston or Lusaka, the Victoria Falls Land Border, or the Kazungula Land Border. This project has been so well received by tourists and hospitality professionals that Zambia is already in the process of signing an MoU with Malawi so that tourists can also come from Zambia to Malawi using just one visa.