Zambia: Say it with a Smile
Africa Consists of 54 Countries. One of its Gems is Safe and Friendly Zambia.
Africa is wonderful. Africa is dangerous. Africa is safe. Africa is the next Asia. Africa is increasingly controlled by the Chinese. Africa is wild with opportunity. Can it really be all these things? Well, yes and no. Keep in mind that Africa consists of an astounding 54 countries, each one unique from the next. But definitely, one of its gems is Zambia.
Say it again….Zambia. You can’t say the word without smiling, and with good reason. Zambia is one of the friendliest and safest countries in all of Africa in which to travel or do business. It is also one of the most politically stable. Zambians just seem to get along with each other. Perhaps one reason for this is that Zambia has declared itself to be a Christian nation and genuinely tries to walk the talk. There is an ever-increasing Muslim population in Zambia, but thus far the two religions have been able to peacefully coexist in this land-locked nation that shares a border with eight other countries.
If you’re traveling on business in Zambia, you will most likely be staying in the nation’s capital, Lusaka, which has a population of 1.7 million. How would one describe Lusaka? If you’ve been to Mexico, I would tell you that it’s not as cosmopolitan as Mexico City, but it’s a step up from Tijuana. There are really only a handful of hotels you would want to consider, which are the Intercontinental, the Taj Pamadzi and the Southern Sun Ridgeway. Expedia has them listed as five-stars, but I think I would give each a solid four.
Like most of Africa, there has been very little new construction in Zambia since the British pulled out in the 1960s. As a result, basic infrastructure like sidewalks are in disrepair and most buildings could use a landscaping makeover. Still, the city is clean if not a bit dowdy due to its obsolescence.
Another of Zambia’s larger cities is Ndola, home to Northrise University, which is building a new campus just a few minutes from downtown. Northrise is bright spot in this bustling city and has developed a solid reputation for well-educated and responsible graduates trained in Western business culture. In Ndola, the choices for hotels fall off dramatically from Lusaka. There is the Savoy, which bears little resemblance to its namesake in London. The rooms are clean and that’s about all you can really say for it. Let’s just say it’s ripe for a major makeover, and whoever steps up to make the investment should do quite well as it has a great location.
Here are some quick facts about doing business in Zambia:
- Don’t show up to an appointment in jeans. Wear nice slacks and clean, pressed shirts. Bring along a suit if you have a formal dinner to attend.
- Foreigners are expected to be on time for appointments, but if you ask someone to meet you, he or she could be up to an hour or two late.
- Zambians don’t like to say no, so if you ask them a direct question, their “no” may come across as a maybe, even though it is a “no” in reality.
- Zambians will generally use indirect eye contact, especially between a man and woman in a business situation.
- Decisions come from the top down. Bargaining on deal points is the norm, and the first offered price is likely to be twice what they really expect to get.
(Read More: An American Business Traveler’s Advice on Where to Stay, What to See and How to Act When Doing Business in Jolly Ol’ London)
Lions And Tigers And Butlers, Oh My!
If you’re going to travel all the way to Zambia, by all means take an extra day and fly to Livingstone to take in the incredible, mile-wide Victoria Falls. You quickly run out of adjectives trying to describe it. And while you are there, treat yourself to an overnight stay at the Royal Livingstone Hotel. Never mind the price, just do it. This hotel is one of the nicest in all of Africa, complete with a butler assigned to your room. Afternoon tea on the outdoor veranda—which literally sits at the top of Victoria Falls—is an experience you will always remember, as you watch elephants and hippos cross the river above the great falls.
If you’re feeling adventurous, book the one day white water raft trip down the mighty Zambezi River that puts in just below the falls. This is an e-coupon ride complete with class 3+ rapids and stunning scenery. I found the outfitter quite good, which means we didn’t flip—a good thing considering there was the occasional alligator on the side of the river banks. Actually, the river lulls you into a false sense of safety and I even found myself taking a quick dip over the side of the raft to cool off in the calm parts, which of course is where the alligators are most likely to strike. But hey, as they say, TIS….This is Africa.
As the evening rolls along, you will want to relax in the Royal Livingstone Hotel’s exquisite ivory bar with its handsome dark woods and fine furnishing, and perhaps light up a cigar while you contemplate the fact that you are overlooking one of the seven natural wonders of the world and feeling, well, quite marvelous.
In The Jungle, The Mighty Jungle
If you’re going to Zambia—and it can easily turn into 24 hours of travel time to get there—by all means take a few extra days for some awe-inspiring side trips. Here are three that I recommend.
Lion Camp: This five-star resort is what you’ve always imagined “roughing it” on safari would be. We arrived in the evening in the back of an open-air jeep that bounced along in the dark down a dusty dirt road in the South Luangwa National Park. We were two hours into the ride and still not at our destination when the driver came to a sudden stop, cut the engine and turned around to whisper, “Don’t move. Be very, very still.” Next he turned the jeep spotlight on a male lion who was lounging along the roadside not six feet from where I sat. And mind you, there was no roof and no doors on this jeep. Suddenly, the lion turned his head, looked right into my eyes and gave out an MGM lion roar that seemed to say, “Hey bub….if I wanted to I could take my paw and detach your face from your skull in a split second.”
I didn’t dare to so much as blink, but I was suddenly aware of what felt like a vicious bite on my left arm and for a moment wondered if I had been attacked by another lion. Then I slowly realized that it was my wife’s fingernails digging into my forearm. Needless to say, it was an exciting encounter with the king of the jungle. We arrived at Lion Camp shortly thereafter and were greeted by two Zambians in khakis who met the jeep with steaming hot towels served from a silver tray. I knew at a moment I was going to like this resort, which consisted of about a dozen tent cabins, each constructed about 10 feet off the ground and interconnected by an elevated, wood boardwalk.
The cabins themselves offered beautiful wood floors, with heavy canvas roof and sides, each with your own private balcony with chaise lounges and private bath complete with tub. The bedding was imperial, with luxurious Egyptian cotton sheets, white down comforters and extra goose-down pillows. The staff even has a hot water bottle inserted into the bed as it can get pretty chilly at night.
Mornings come early, with a soft knock on the door signaling its time to get up and have a light breakfast before going on safari. The common area of Lion Camp is spectacular, with beautiful polished wood furnishings and all open air. You have your choice each morning of a walking safari or open jeep safari. Each morning safari was a visual delight of playful monkeys, beautiful zebra, peaceful giraffes and noisy hippos that sound more like motorcycles than mammals. Occasionally, we would come across an elephant, and if you were lucky he might give you a mock charge for a little added adrenalin rush.
After the morning safari, brunch is served and consists of just about anything you can possibly imagine or want, all very gourmet and followed by a mid-day nap poolside or back on your private balcony, where you can watch herds of zebras grazing across the plain. Dinners were by candlelight, complete with hurricane lanterns, fine china, silver and white-linen tableclothes. And in the evenings, you do safari all over again and see a host of nocturnal animals, including scores of lions, all under the immense African sky sparkling with thousands of stars and constellations. The Southern Cross can only be seen from the southern hemisphere of Africa.
Yes, if you go to Zambia, you must experience Lion Camp. It’s much more than you ever imagined it could be and will stay with you for the rest of your life. Visit them at www.lioncamp.com.
How Suite It Is