Mary’s Top Five Off-The-Beaten Track Places in Zambia

Zambia is well-known as the home of Victoria Falls and spectacular game parks, but there are many small gems scattered across the country that are special in their own way. In each of these places I saw no other visitors. From waterfalls to protected national parks to moving memorials, Zambia has a number of lesser-known but amazing places. These are my top five (in no particular order):

1.       Kundalila Falls, Serenje District, Central Province 

This wonderful waterfall is located in a secluded spot and makes a great getaway spot for overnight or even just the day. Kundalila roughly translates as “cooing dove,” which is an illusion to the sound that the falls make as they cascade over the rocks. The falls themselves are a somewhat narrow plunge of 67 meters. You can swim in the Kaombe River, and in the dry season you can get right under the waterfall.

The campsite has long-drop toilets, shower facilities and a large insaka. There is also a smaller insaka with a fire pit, including a grill. Near the camping area, there is a rock precipice that can be climbed. On the top, you can see the top of the falls, and it also offers a spectacular view of the valley. Since Kundalila is on the edge of the Muchinga Escarpment, this view is expansive and truly amazing.


2.      Dag Hammarskjöld Memorial, Ndola District, Copperbelt Province

Hammarskjöld was a Swedish diplomat and economist who served as the United Nation Secretary General from 1953 until his death in 1961. The memorial marks the site of the plane crash in which Hammarskjöld and fifteen others were killed just after midnight on September 18th, 1961. After his death, he was awarded the 1961 Nobel Peace Prize (he had been nominated before his death). At the time of the crash, he was on his way to the Congo Republic to negotiate a cease-fire. 

The memorial itself consists of a memorial garden with a cairn at the center with shrubs and trees on the outer circle. A museum was constructed and opened in 1981. The museum exhibits some remains of the crash, as well as materials on the life of Hammarskjöld and the United Nations.The site is on the tentative list for being declared an UNESCO World Heritage site. The memorial site has a braii area, perfect for a picnic, as well as toilets.


 3.      Liuwa Plain National Park, Kalabo District, Western Province

Liuwa Plain National Park is 3,660 km2 of extensive grasslands and a few wooded islands, dotted with the occasional termite mound. The area is a huge floodplain – so it is extremely flat, and during the rainy season most of it is under water. This park is one of the more challenging spots in Zambia to get to but with its vast and largely unvisited spaces and the impressive yearly migration of nearly 50,000 blue wildebeest, visiting the park is worth it for those up to the adventure.

The area is considered one of the oldest protected areas in Africa. In the 1880s Litunga Lubosi Lewnika declared the area his royal hunting grounds. To protect the area, he placed people there to serve as the royal gamekeepers – to this day, the descendants of these gamekeepers still live within the boundaries of the park. Approximately 20,000 people live here and share the same resources with few problems due to a continued adherence to traditional practices and regulations.


 4.      Kapishya Hot Springs, Chinsali District, Muchinga Province

Located on the famed Shiwa Ng’andu estate, Kapishya Hot Springs is located about 30 kilometers from the main house. These are naturally occurring and sulfur-free. During Sir Stewart Gore-Browne’s time at Shiwa, they were one of his favorite places. It is now run as a separate lodge, but visitors can go between both the main house and the hot springs. The springs are located in a somewhat secluded area and surrounded by lush vegetation and it is one of the most relaxing places in all of Zambia.


5.      Ntumbachushi Falls, Kazembe District, Luapula Province 

Ntumbachushi Falls is a series of pools and rapids on the Ng’ona River. The main falls, two parallel waterfalls each about 10 m wide, cascade down about 30 meters, and there are other small falls scattered across the kilometers directly above the main falls. Traditionally, this waterfall was believed to be a sanctuary of spirits while the waters of the Ng’ona River are used for bathing to cleanse people of bad luck and misfortune. There are two shrines close to the main falls where local traditional leaders and healers still perform rituals. The water in the river is exceptionally clean and great for swimming. Camping is available for ZMW25 a night, with cold showers and long drop toilets available. Image

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Return to Zambia

I recently returned from three weeks of vacation in Zambia and Zimbabwe. This was the first time I have been back to Zambia since I COSed in June last year. It was a bit weird at times, stuck in between feeling like a local and feeling like a tourist. Adding to this feeling was the fact that I travelled mostly to new places – Mongu, Liuwa Plain National Park and Ndola. I was on the move almost the whole time – lots of time in buses, cars and walking around trying to learn as much about these places as possible. All in all, I spent about 24 hours in Lusaka – about 18 of which I spent sleeping. According to Google Maps, I travelled nearly 2500 kilometers. I have pages and pages of notes and scribbles that will be turned into helpful tips and information for my book.

I was amazed at the changes since I left – starting with the airport. The name change is official: Lusaka International Airport is now Kenneth Kaunda International Airport. (For those of you unfamiliar with Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda served as the first president of Zambia from 1964 – 1991.) The biggest change was in the money. In January, Zambia knocked three zeroes off the kwacha and re-introduced the ngwee. The money looks mostly the same, but now the one kwacha and ngwee are coins. They also introduced a two kwacha and a hundred kwacha bill.

I started my journey around Zambia by travelling west to Mongu, the provincial capital of Western Province. I took the bus and was able to catch up on some sleep along the way. I had heard that Western Province was flat, sandy and very poor, but I was blown away by actually experiencing the area. September and October are the driest months of the year, so the sand was very deep and made traveling (even walking) difficult at times. The majority of Western Province was very thinly populated, and the infrastructure was in pretty poor shape. I stayed in Mongu one night before heading up to Kalabo to Liuwa Plain National Park.

Liuwa Plain National Park is one of Zambia’s lesser-known gems, due mostly to its hard-to-reach location. From Mongu to Kalabo, it took about two hours to drive about 60 kilometers through deep sand and bumpy roads. During the rainy season, the entire area is flooded and you have to take a boat to be able to reach the park. They are currently working on a raised road that will improve transport between Mongu and Kalabo, thus making Liuwa Plain more accessible.

I was able to get a ride with one of African Parks’ vehicles. African Parks manages the park, and has done some amazing work in the past ten years. Liuwa Plain has been a national park since 1972 – but for about a hundred years before that it was protected as the royal hunting grounds for the Lozi king. Liuwa Plain is very unique in that about 20000 people actually live in the park – mostly the descendants of the original royal gamekeepers.

Thanks to African Parks, I was able to tag along as they pulled game scouts and put new ones on duty and I was able to see a good chunk of the park. During the few hours I spent with the scout crew, we saw tons of zebra and blue wildebeest, a couple of eland and some oribi. Liuwa Plain is home to the second largest wildebeest migration in Africa in November – but even during the dry season, I saw plenty of wildebeest!

Leaving Mongu at 3:00 am the next day, we passed through Kafue National Park about 6:30 am on the way back to Lusaka. This is prime wildlife viewing hours, so we were able to see quite a few animals just driving through the park, including buffalo, hartebeest, impala, elephant and even a lion! The lion crossed the road right after we passed – an interesting sight to see a huge male lion crossing a highway. After a very brief stop in Lusaka, I continued on to Ndola.

Ndola is the commercial capital of Zambia. I never visited there during my time in Zambia because there is not much to see there. Ndola has the marks of what was once a very prosperous town – large hotels and myriad businesses, but everything looks a little run down now. I did visit the Slave Tree and the Copperbelt Museum, neither of which were particularly exciting.

The best part of visiting Ndola was going to the Dag Hammarskjöld Memorial Crash Site just outside of Ndola. Hammarskjöld was a Swedish diplomat and economist who served as the United Nation Secretary General from 1953 until his death in 1961. The memorial marks the site of the plane crash in which Hammarskjöld and fifteen others were killed just after midnight on September 18th, 1961. After his death, he was awarded the 1961 Nobel Peace Prize (he had been nominated before his death). At the time of the crash, he was on his way to the Congo Republic to negotiate a cease-fire.

The circumstances around Hammarskjöld’s death are still somewhat mysterious. Investigations by the colonial government immediately after the crash blamed pilot error for the accident. The memorial itself consists of a memorial garden with a cairn at the center with shrubs and trees on the outer circle. There is also a small shelter on top of anthill marking where Hammarskjöld’s body was found.

In Lusaka, I was able to watch the Chipolopolo World Cup qualifying match against Ghana. Unfortunately, Chipolopolo lost to the home-team Black Stars and will not qualify for the 2016 World Cup.

I headed to Livingstone and had a chance to get reacquainted with Livingstone, and try a few new things as well. I did the helicopter tour of Victoria Falls – which was awesome. The other people I was slated to go on the helicopter tour with cancelled at the last minute, but luckily I was able to get on with a couple about an hour later. And even luckier, they were doing the 30 minute tour, so I got to do the whole tour for the price of the 15 minute tour. On the tour, you pass over Victoria Falls a few times, then head down into the gorge and then pass over part of Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. It was amazing to see the whole scale of the falls – even in dry season!

While getting ready to cross the border from Zambia into Zimbabwe, I was robbed. I wasn’t paying attention and one of the famously cheeky baboons ripped the plastic bag I was holding from my hand – taking with him my crackers and some bracelets that I had purchased as souvenirs for people back home. This actually happens a lot – so if you visit Victoria Falls be sure to look out for the baboons.

In Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe I met up with my dad for two weeks on a hunting safari – come back for a recap of the second half of my trip!


Zebras at Liuwa Plain National Park

Hammerskjold Memorial

Dag Hammerskjold Memorial

Victoria Falls

Aerial shot of Victoria Falls

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<a href="

” title=”Zambia Map”>Zambia Map

Oh, the kilometers I traveled while in Zambia (post coming soon!)

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So I’m Writing This Book…

In case you didn’t know, I am writing a book.

Now that I have made that announcement, let me explain a bit more:

I am writing a travel guide to Zambia with a fellow Zam-RPCV and my good friend Jen Casto. Jen and I are working on this project under the Other Places Travel Guides series. Other Places was started by Kit Beale, an RPCV who served in Antigua and Barbuda. He realized that RPCVs are able to gain a unique perspective on the counties where they serve – and one that should be shared with as many people as possible.

Here’s a great explanation description from their website:

“Other Places Publishing is a start-up publisher focused on a new series of travel guides that bring local insight, culture and adventure to the intrepid traveler. What makes our series of travel guides so unique is that each book is written and researched by long-time residents of each country. Not only do our writers live in-country, they are all former Peace Corps Volunteers having experienced a culture and people like few outsiders can.”

So a few months ago, I contacted him about writing a Zambia guide. Currently, there are guides for fourteen counties – from Paraguay to Ghana to Mongolia and around the world again. Jen and I are about a quarter of the way through the process (at least this is my admittedly optimistic estimation). We’ve split the work down the middle and have been busily writing about Zambia – about the culture, food, and people, and about our recommendations for the best places to stay and eat and the best attractions to make sure to visit. The guides are primarily aimed at backpackers and PCVs/RPCVs – aka, people who love a good bargain.

I started with central Zambia, including Central Province and Copperbelt. Next up is Livingstone/Victoria Falls and Northern Zambia (Luapula and Kasama). I’m also working on a variety of sections with basic info about Zambia – the food, sports, history/government and demographics, just to name a few.

I thought I had travelled a lot throughout Zambia, but as I research places, I realize there is still so much cool stuff I haven’t seen. I am planning to be back in Zambia for a week in September to do some more research and hopefully attend a wedding (also, if anyone wants to join me, the invitation is open). Then the final draft will go through a ton of revisions and design – and hopefully be published early next year. It will able online, in print and ebook versions.

So far it has been an adventure. Whenever people ask me my plans for the weekend, I usually say “working on my book.” It makes me feel pretty cool. And someday, I’ll be a published author!

If you have any tips or recommendations that should be included, feel free to email me at You can also “like” the Facebook page at for continuing updates.

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Spring in DC

Looking at the calendar today, I realized it has been one year since I officially closed my service as a Peace Corps volunteer in Zambia. Sometimes it seems like it was just a few weeks ago I was in Zambia; while sometimes it feels like it has been years. It’s been a crazy year – over the course of twelve months, I’ve had malaria, moved back to Iowa, traveled to Jamaica, got a new job, moved to DC, moved to a new house, went to my first NBA and NHL games, and met a ton of new people. It’s been a great ride!

I am really starting to feel settled in D.C. I have been playing softball on my office’s team, which has been a lot of fun. We play right on the National Mall – it’s crazy to look up and see the Washington Monument right there as you are running the bases. I have also started volunteering at Common Good City Farm. Common Good City Farm is an urban farm and education center growing food with and for low-income residents in Washington, DC and providing educational opportunities for all people. I am supposed to be helping with their after-school program, but in the two weeks I have attended no kids have shown up. So I have just been volunteering around the farm – harvesting veggies and herbs that are sold to support their educational programs. So between volunteering and softball, I have been keeping busy.

I moved the first week of March. Moving is never fun, but I am really enjoying my new house. I found this house on Craigslist, and so far it has been great. I have three housemates (one girl, two guys), and we all get along well. We have a great deck, so it has been awesome to be able to sit outside and eat dinner or have a few people over on the weekends.

In April, I went down to see the famous cherry blossoms. It really was a cool sight – so many trees all in full blossom. It was also a sneak peek into tourist season – so many people! I have come to the conclusion that if you are on the Mall in the summer, you need to be wearing a shirt that matches at least one other person, because you are either in tour group or on a softball team.

I have remained active in the Iowa State Alumni Club of DC. I have met some incredible people and I am glad that the club is taking off. We had a picnic to celebrate VEISHEA – it wasn’t as awesome as actually being at VEISHEA – but there were cherry pies. We also participated in University Row at the Gold Cup. The Gold Cup is a big race that is held out in rural Virginia each year, and the University Row is a big tent with about a hundred university alumni clubs, eating and drinking. It was a great excuse to stand outside (it was a beautiful day!) in a slightly ridiculous hat.

Work has been busy – Peace Corps announced this week that they would begin accepting applications for same-sex couples to serve together, so we have been in the news a lot. The announcement was mostly received positively – I hope that we will be able to keep this momentum going. We also just got a new press director (my direct supervisor) so it has been an adventure teaching her about Peace Corps and the work we do to promote the work of volunteers around the world. We have added two new people to our office in the past month – so I am no longer the new kid! I was really hoping to get some new RPCV blood in our office, but it wasn’t to be.

Summer is kicking off in DC – lots of outdoor parties and events. It hasn’t gotten unbearably hot yet, so people are still willing to be outside. I plan on keeping busy and continuing to explore DC. If you are planning to be in DC this summer, just let me know – I would love to have some visitors!

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Mary E. Fuller:

If anyone in the US has been watching Africa (on Discovery Channel) here is a little more info about the shoebills in Zambia. Here’s a link to the part about shoebills:


Originally posted on BangweuluFish:

shoebill eye

I didn’t have a photo of a shoebill’s eye so I’ve used one of a Tyrranosaurus instead

With BBC Africa’s recent footage of a shoebill nest in Bangweulu making headlines I’ve realised its high time I put some photos and facts up here about the Bangweulu swamp’s flagship species.

shoebill Bangweulu

Kapotwe, the tame shoebill that lived at the research station.

Shoebill (Baleaniceps rex- meaning ‘whale-head king’) occur only in the Africa’s most vast swamps and wetlands. Here they mostly just stand around, their giant feet supporting their weight on the floating grass. They are fairly lazy, so instead of enthusiastically going for tiny fish like all the other thousands of birds in the swamp, they just hang out waiting for a BIG fish to come past. The trick with big fish though (especially catfish, their favourite!) is that they have mighty hard skulls. Not a problem…

shoebill stork closeup “…I’ll just smash that fish…

View original 898 more words

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DC Update

It’s long overdue, but here is an update on life in DC:

I was offered a new contract at the end of my three months with Peace Corps. I accepted, and now have a job here for the next two and a half years. Peace Corps is unique (at least in the Federal Government) in that you can only work for Peace Corps for five years at a time. Apparently this policy dates back to the early days – Sargent Shriver (the first PC Director) said that if Peace Corps was going to be a federal agency, it wasn’t going to be one of those agencies with career bureaucrats that don’t do anything. And so, the five year rule was born.  

So, since I will be staying in DC for a while longer, the next step was to find a more permanent living arrangement. I was incredibly lucky when I moved out here that my friend Amy had an extra bedroom that she was willing to rent out to me. I didn’t really realize how lucky until I started looking for a new place. I seriously underestimated how much of an ordeal finding a new house would be. I started with Craigslist – trying to find the right mix of location, price and roommates. I went to numerous open houses of all types. I had group interviews, individual interviews, looked at bedrooms and bathrooms and tried to find something that I liked – with people that liked me.

I finally found a new place, not too far from my current place. The neighborhood is called Bloomingdale, in the eastern half of the northwestern quadrant of DC.  I will be living with three other people, two guys and one girl. It’s a great house, in an area of DC that has been gentrified fairly recently. It’s a little further from the office – but still within walking distance and close to a couple of bus lines.

Overall, I have found life in DC is pretty great. Sometimes it is a bit overwhelming being around so many people all of the time – but there are advantages to life in the city.

Here are my top three pet peeves:

  1. Bicyclists on the sidewalk.  I was almost hit by one the other day. The road is for wheels, the sidewalk is for heels.
  2. People stopped in the crosswalk. I hate having to walk around cars to cross the street.
  3. Cars that do not yield to pedestrians, even though it is DC law (and well marked). Florida Avenue is the worst place to try and cross – without stoplights, cars never stop for you.

I have been trying my best to keep meeting new people and trying new things.  I have been active in the Iowa State Alumni Club of DC and I have enjoyed spending time with some fellow Cyclones. The club is really just getting started, so it has been fun to be in on the planning stages of everything. So far it has mostly been gamewatches and happy hours – but what else do you really need? Also, there are a few other Zambia RPCVs in DC (DC is a haven for RPCVs!) so we have something of an informal group and get together for dinner or happy hour every once in a while. It’s great to meet people with similar backgrounds and experiences.

So that’s the update from DC! Winter here has been pretty mild – a few snowy days, but nothing unmanageable. Hopefully spring is just around the corner. 

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