Official name: Republic of Zambia
Area: 752,614 square kilometers (290,586 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Unnamed location in Mafinga Hills (2,301 meters/ 7,549 feet)
Lowest point on land: Zambezi River (329 meters/1,079 feet)
Hemispheres: Southern and Eastern
Time zone: 2 P.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 1,206 kilometers (749 miles) from east to west; 815 kilometers (506 miles) from north to south
Land boundaries: 5,664 kilometers (3,519 miles) total boundary length; Angola 1,110 kilometers (690 miles); Democratic Republic of the Congo 1,930 kilometers (1,199 miles); Malawi 837 kilometers (520 miles); Mozambique 419 kilometers (260 miles); Namibia 233 kilometers (145 miles); Tanzania 338 kilometers (210 miles); Zimbabwe 797 kilometers (495 miles)
Territorial sea limits: None
Zambia, a country slightly larger than the state of Texas, is situated in the tropical south-central portion of Africa.
Zambia has no territories or dependencies.
Because of its high altitude, most of the country enjoys a pleasantly temperate climate. Low-lying areas, such as the valleys of the Zambezi, Luangwa, and Kwafe Rivers and the shores of the country's lakes, have the highest temperatures in the country. The hottest months of the year are August through October, when daily temperatures often reach a high of 30°C to 32°C (86°F to 89°F). The months of May through July are only slightly cooler, with temperatures ranging from 17°C to 26°C (63°F to 79°F). At night, however, temperatures may drop as low as 23°C (41°F).
The rainy season is long, beginning in the middle of November and lasting until April; heavy tropical storms occur often. Rainfall is generally highest in the northern provinces of Zambia, decreasing from north to south. Average annual rainfall is about 125 centimeters (50 inches) in the north and only 75 centimeters (30 inches) in the south. The capital city of Lusaka receives approximately 81 centimeters (32 inches) of rainfall each year.
Highest elevations are found in the northeast region of the country, which is home to the Muchinga Mountains. The mountains and plateaus recede as the land is cut by the Luangwa River in the east and the Kafue River in the west, both of which are tributaries of the Zambezi, which flows to the south of the country through the wondrous Victoria Falls and the artificial Lake Kariba.
Zambia is landlocked, with no direct access to the ocean. Kasaba, Nkamba, and Ndole Bays indent the coast of Lake Tanganyika.
Lakes Bangweulu, Mweru, and Tanganyika all are located in the northern reaches of the country, near its borders with Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Lake Tanganyika is the largest of these three, but only its southern end is situated within Zambia. Lake Mweru is a much smaller and shallower freshwater basin located along the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Lake Bangweulu is the smallest of the three northern lakes, but it is the largest found entirely within Zambia, with a surface area of 9,840 square kilometers (3,000 square miles). The Luapala River drains Lake Bangweulu; the lake, combined with several smaller bodies of water, forms the Bangweulu Swamp complex, which is the largest swamp area in the country.
Most of Zambia's streams ultimately drain into the Indian Ocean via the Zambezi River and its main tributaries. In addition to those streams that enter the Zambezi directly, there are three main tributary systems: the Kafue, Luangwa, and Lunsemfwa Rivers. With a total length of 2,735 kilometers (1,700 miles), the Zambezi River is the longest river in Zambia. The upper Zambezi, running roughly from north to south, passes through floodplains and swamps. After turning eastward, the Zambezi flows over Victoria Falls and through the middle Zambezi Valley. The flow of all watercourses in Zambia is affected by the clear demarcation between rainy and dry seasons.
The world-famous, majestic Victoria Falls, straddling the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, cascade from a height of 106 meters (350 feet) at their maximum and span a width of nearly 1.5 kilometers (1 mile). Two other significant waterfalls are found in Zambia. Just 300 kilometers (185 miles) from Victoria Falls, Ngonye, or Sioma, Falls, features horseshoe-shaped drops that carry over 300 cubic meters (10,000 cubic feet) of water per second. East of the Nsumbu National Park are the Kalambo Falls, which flow from the Kalambo River into Lake Tanganyika. These falls are the second-highest continuous waterfalls on the continent, plunging 221 meters (725 feet).
There are no deserts in Zambia.
The significant areas of lower land are the two rift valleys, one in the east (the Luangwa River Valley) and one in the south (the middle Zambezi River Valley), both of which are bounded by escarpments.
The highest points in Zambia are found in the northeast corner of the country, along the borders with Tanzania and Malawi. Most significant are the Mbala Highlands near Tanzania, the Mafingi Mountains and the Copperbelt Highlands near Malawi, and the Muchinga Mountains. The highest point in Zambia, an unnamed location at an elevation of 2,301 meters (7,549 feet), is located in the Mafinga Hills.
Scenic gorges that are more than 300 meters (984 feet) deep mark the meeting point of the Lunsemfwa and Mkushi Rivers, and a gorge cut by the Kafue River is the site of one of the country's largest hydroelectric plants.
Zambia's rugged terrain also features numerous caves. Some of these contain prehistoric rock paintings, such as the Nachikufu Cave in the northern town of Mpika.
Most of Zambia lies on the great plateau that dominates central and southern Africa's land-mass. Although some parts of this plateau are undulating and some are relatively flat, most sections have elevations that range between 900 and 1,500 meters (2,952 and 4,921 feet). The higher areas in Zambia, namely those above 1,200 meters (3,937 feet), are situated mostly in the north.
Lake Kariba, on Zambia's southern border, is one of the largest artificial lakes in the world. It is shared by Zambia and Zimbabwe. The North Bank power station at the Kariba Dam is one of three major hydroelectric plants in Zambia (the other two are located at Victoria Falls and at Kafue Gorge). The country also has six smaller hydroelectric stations.
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Holmes, Timothy. Zambia . New York: Benchmark Books, 1998.
McIntyre, Chris. Guide to Zambia . Chalfont St. Peter: Bradt, 1999.
Naipal, Shiva. North of South: An African Journey . New York: Penguin Books, 1996.
Lonely Planet: Destination Zambia. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/africa/zambia/ (accessed April 17, 2003).
Zambia National Tourist Board. http://www.zambiatourism.com/ (accessed April 17, 2003).