European Jews first came to Zambia, then Northern Rhodesia, at the end of the 19th century. Many settled in its then capital Livingstone. Early arrivals were pioneers looking for better economic opportunities; later they came as refugees fleeing Nazi persecution with Zambia was one of the few countries that welcomed them. When the country gained independence in 1964 there was an exodus of white people including the Jewish community.
The Jewish Museum, a national monument, tells the story of the Jewish people who settled in and around Livingstone. Although relatively small, it included significant figures in the country’s economical and political life. Among those who stayed was Simon Zukas who played a key role in Zambia’s struggle for independence.
Peter Jones, co-founder of the luxury lodge, the River Club runs tours of the area’s Jewish heritage. He showed me the local synagogue, now a church, as well as the Jewish cemetery that he helps maintain. During the tour, he pointed out where Jewish families had previously lived and worked.
The River Club faces onto the Zambezi River, and I awoke to a view of glittering water with, in the distance an elephant grazing, hippos snorting in the water, and birds tweeting. Having been warned not to leave my windows open, sure enough I found several monkeys on my patio.
The River Club helps the local village as well as providing work. My guide Bevin showed me the school, recounting proudly that one of the villagers was studying to be a doctor. Alongside was the rail track for the train that passed once a week, and from which the villagers bought groceries, and products that they didn’t grow themselves.
Livingstone is close to the Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, known as The Smoke that Thunders. Straddling both Zimbabwe and Zambia a bridge over the Zambezi separates the two countries.
If visiting Zambia during their dry season, a hydro-electric dam diverts the water so it’s worth investing in a Kaza Univisa which covers both countries to see the Falls in all its glory. A breathtaking sight with numerous gorges so that, with the sun shining, and copious mountains of water, there are also rainbows.
Zambia is one of the best places in Africa for wildlife. Elephants are everywhere, generally standing on the banks of the river, but occasionally crossing, and hippopotamuses popping their heads out of the water, crocodiles bask in the sun on the banks of the river. Those with binoculars were able to identify numerous varieties of birds.
While being by the Zambezi is an experience it isn’t the same as being in the middle of the bush. To do this, I flew to Lusaka the capital, and took a small Cessna plane to the Lower Zambezi.
Here I stayed at two different luxury camps the Anabezi and the Sausage Tree, each offering a different experience.
I was told I was staying in a tent but on seeing the accommodation the only thing tent like was the covering. Inside, was a large double bed, mini splash pool on the veranda, and a fully fitted bathroom, with adjourning outdoor shower. With the temperatures in the 30º taking a shower under the stars was memorable.
Canoeing along the Zambezi was very exciting. With hippos and crocodiles in the water it was an activity that has to be done accompanied by a guide. Kevin rowed allowing me to relax while he circumnavigated the hippos, and pointed out animals, and named birds that I would certainly have missed.
Of the memorable moments, of which there were many, was when he spotted several lions drinking at a water hole, and seeing them again the following morning, sleeping under a tree.
Of the country’s Big Five I saw four – lions, leopards, elephants, and buffalo – as well as so much more. It was the holiday of a lifetime with memories that will stay with me forever.
Zambezi Tours & Safaris zambezi.com from £6865 pp based on 2 sharing for 8 nights. 3 nights at River Club, Vic Falls: 5 nights in Lower Zambezi (3 at Anabezi Lodge, 2 nights Sausage Tree) All meals at lodges, drinks, activities, airport transfers.
Domestic flights to/from Lusaka, flights to/from LHR with Kenya Airways based on lowest available airfares.
Plan a minimum of 6 weeks in advance for health jabs. www.nathnac.org Kaza Univisa US$50.00 – Can be bought on arrival with a credit card. Heathrow Express at HeathrowExpress.com 15 minutes from Paddington to Heathrow non-stop.