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Adventure & Cultural Experiences in Zambia & Malawi

July 8, 2024  By: Beth

I’ve been fortunate to travel to Africa many times in my life. From the incredible and unexpected wildlife moments to the people I’ve met to the beautiful places I’ve stayed, each trip has held special memories. On my recent trip to Malawi and Zambia, I experienced many cultural and adventurous activities in addition to wildlife viewing. During my short time on safari, we spotted lions, leopards, elephants, giraffes, zebras and many other species. However, some of my fondest memories from this trip are from the cultural and adventure activities I enjoyed. Here are my top 5 experiences. Are any of these on your bucket list?

Beth in Angels Pool with rainbow

1. Angel’s Pool/Devil’s Pool

Victoria Falls is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world and once you’ve seen them for yourself, it’s no surprise why. It’s the largest falling curtain of water in the world and the 300-foot-tall Falls are an impressive sight for sure. The mist and sunshine create spectacular rainbows to round out the breathtaking views and it’s a must visit on each trip to the region.

For adventurous travelers, you can see the view from the top in one of two swimming holes, known as Angel’s Pool and Devil’s Pool. On my recent visit, the water levels were low enough for me to take a dip in the adrenaline-inducing Angel’s Pool. This activity has been on my bucket list for years, but nothing could quite prepare me for the experience. After taking a short boat ride to Livingstone Island, my traveling companions and I walked out to the edge of the Falls. We climbed into the water and had a little time to acclimate to the rushing, cold water before taking our turn at the edge. One by one, we had our chance to peer over the side of the Falls and have our photo snapped. There were multiple guides assisting and ensuring our safety, but it was still one of the most exciting and adventurous experiences of my life. It certainly lived up to the hype! After we all had our chance at the edge, we left the water and enjoyed a lovely hot brunch before returning to the mainland. The water has long since rushed past, but my memories will never be forgotten.

Martin's band on the beach

2. Local Music on the Beach

Another wonderful water experience I had during my trip was on the beach of Lake Malawi during my stay at Kaya Mawa. The boutique lodge has just 11 unique rooms and embodies the laid-back spirit of their name which means “maybe tomorrow” in the native Chichewa/Nyanja language. I love meeting new people at the safari camps and lodges I visit and Kaya Mawa certainly had some wonderful people to meet. Our guide for our stay, Martin, manages a local band. As a special treat, he invited his group to play for us on the beach for our last night there. With a stunning sunset backdrop, the band sang and danced for hours, with my group joining them on the sand. It was the perfect way to close out our time on Lake Malawi and a wonderful way to connect with locals through music and dance.

St Peters Anglican cathedral

3. Attending Church

Another cultural experience that stands out to me from my time on Likoma Island, Malawi is my visit to St. Peter’s Cathedral. This Anglican cathedral was constructed in the early 1900s and is said to be the third largest cathedral in Central Africa and the same size as Winchester Cathedral in the United Kingdom. I was lucky to be on Likoma Island on a Sunday morning and joined the congregation for part of their morning mass. Despite the island’s small population, this large cathedral was full of people who had traveled from villages far and near. Listening to the multiple choirs sing was a touching and memorable part of my trip. It gave me such an insight to local life and customs by being a ‘fly on the wall’ to their Sunday morning. Regardless of religious views, I recommend joining this vibrant congregation if you find yourself on Likoma Island on a Sunday like I did.

boma dinner

4. Boma Dinner

While on safari in Zambia, my group and I were treated to a special dinner to celebrate our final evening in the bush. Upon returning from a spectacular lion pride sighting in the dark, complete with a dozen or so lions casually roaming around our safari vehicle, our group was surprised with a boma dinner, with song, dance and traditional Zambian dishes. The chefs had truly outdone themselves with options. In addition to the maize-based staple nshima, they prepared a variety of foods for us to try, ranging from traditional to more Western-inspired dishes for the less-adventurous eaters. My personal favorites were the ifisashi (green vegetables with ground peanuts), impwa (eggplant) and roasted lamb. Despite their gentle teasing, I did not sample the mopane (worms) or kapenta (crispy sardines). Maybe on my next trip! With a beautiful feast laid out on a table under the stars, we enjoyed the food and swapped our favorite safari stories from our travels.

bubble bath

5. Relaxing on the Zambezi River

To cap off my incredible trip, I spent a couple nights at Tongabezi Lodge, situated just outside of Livingstone on the Zambezi River. This gorgeous property offers all of the adventure activities you expect from the Victoria Falls area, including my visit to Angel’s Pool. While the Falls offer the adventure, the tranquil water in front of the lodge and the amenities available on site are a great way to soak up the relaxed river culture of the area. Each of the waterfront cottages and suites has its own private deck, offering the perfect place to relax and watch the sunset over the water. While I was there, I also took advantage of the lodge’s incredible bubble bath offerings. Featuring different aromatherapies and flower petals, both my bubble baths were relaxing and the perfect way to unwind after safari. As was a theme of my trip, local music was also weaved throughout the itinerary. We were welcomed to Tongabezi by the neighboring school choir and ended our time there with a traditional Zambian song and dance performance. Victoria Falls can hold as much adventure or relaxation as you wish, and I’m so glad I got a dose of both during my time there. What a perfect end to a wonderful trip.

Beth in Angels Pool

What adventurous and cultural experiences do you want to incorporate in your custom African safari?

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Photos courtesy AAC Marketing Director Beth McCabe