Rich in culture and history with a fusion of colonial architecture, museums, markets and traditional village life mixing naturally alongside budget hostels and five star hotels, Livingstone is at the heart of Zambian tourism.
Founded in 1905 and named after the renowned Scottish explorer Dr David Livingstone, Livingstone owes its existence primarily to Victoria Falls, or Mosi-oa-Tunya – the Smoke that Thunders, as it is aptly known.
Victoria Falls remains the primary draw card to this frontier town and in every sense lives up to it’s title as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. With a width of 1688m and height of 108m, in season it sends more than five hundred million cubic meters of water plummeting over the edge each minute with sprays visible for miles reaching up to 400m and higher into the air.
Nothing quite prepares you though for the sheer exhilaration of actually being there. Walking along the pathway that hugs the crevice, taking in the full force of the spray, soaked and excited as you gaze into the deep crevice and cascading waters below. The force of nature will astound you and this is certainly one of the more dramatic places to visit in Southern Africa.
Yet this exciting visit will only take a few hours, which will leave you plenty of time to explore the other attractions that this vibrant African town has to offer.
Visit the Livingstone Museum. Established in 1934, its the largest and oldest museum in Zambia and holds a vast archaeological collection depicting the biodiversity of Zambia as well as a rich ethnographic dating back to the early 20th century. But it’s the David Livingstone memorabilia, handwritten letters and personal artifacts that will intrigue; as well as the displays of life in this region, present and of a bygone era.
Take in the magic of game viewing from the water with a sunset cruise on the Zambezi, with elephants, buffalo, hippo and crocodile to be spotted. Canoe Safaris are also on offer in the Upper Zambezi River, a beautiful place rich with vegetation. Here the rapids are small with plenty of opportunity to take in the beauty.
As much as game viewing from the water offers a tranquil experience, a Game Drive in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park connects you with a land richly populated by game. This is offered in 4×4 open safari vehicles in either the morning or evening. Never think twice about taking a big game safari.
For the adventurous, a must is a bungee jump from the Victoria Falls Bridge into the ravine below. There’s abseiling above the Batoka gorge only 3km away and some of the best white water rafting on offer. For those in the know it boasts several Class V rapids.
Seeing the Falls from above offers a good perspective of scale. This can either be done by helicopter that will have you skimming above the rapids of the Zambezi River with the option of a spin over the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park. Otherwise by microlight which keeps more distance.
Highly recommended, take an insider look at Livingstone with Local Cowboy Cycle Tours https://www.facebook.com/LocalCowboyCycleToursBikeHire. Their guide will take you on a 25km cycle through Linda to Libuyu, Dwamba and Maramba, with a visit to a working quarry, that place where the mighty Zambezi River meets the road, the Cowboy pre-school and the Dambwa market.
All part of a community project funding the school, this is a half day out which offers engagement with the way of life, insight into the history and diversity of the area and is offered at a relaxed pace with many stops along the way. It’s very manageable cycle ride so don’t be put off with concerns about fitness.
I thought of this quote by Rudyard Kipling as I cycled – ‘The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.’ Original Cowboy Bicycle Safari Tour gives you the opportunity to really breath in the surrounds and it makes for an informative orientation.
Linger at the Dwamba local market. There is nothing commercial about this place where traders display their fine fare, dried fish, live chickens, recently brought to market meats and mopane worms for sale. There are stands selling irresistible gorgeous African fabrics, generator run fridges offering ice-cold sodas and piles of cheap Chinese shoes and electronics, which seem oddly out of place.
The more tourist focused Maramba and Salaula markets are also well worth a visit and sell everything from curios and wooden carvings to fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as second hand clothes and African cloth. Remember to ask for the fabrics produced in Zambia as there are replicas.
The local Livingstone Chief encourages visitors to his village, where a headman will escort you around; show you how traditional huts are made and touch on the complexities of village politics. I highly recommend this and it can be arranged with your accommodation. It’s wonderful to get out into the more rural areas.
No matter where you’re staying, allow yourself a treat one afternoon. Take a taxi to the Royal Livingstone Hotel and settle on the deck overlooking the Zambezi River for high tea or a sundowner. There are usually vervet monkeys around trying to help themselves to a scone or two and on my visits the surreal sight of numerous zebra on the lawn. The Zambezi river runs by with its high population of rhino and crocodile and there is a rich air of colonial living.
If you’re looking for an extra ordinary experience consider a few nights on the Zambezi Queen, cruising the river in your suite and taking in game drives from the deck. http://zqcollection.com/
When planning your visit Livingstone bear in mind that its worthy of a good few days stay, not only for the natural wonder that is the UNESCO World Heritage Site, but to really get a feel of this place that merges history and natural beauty with an endless array of activities.
The Mythical Nyami Nyami
All around Livingstone you will notice numerous craft stalls showcasing local curios and woodwork, including intricately carved walking sticks. Some of these are carved into a serpentine body with a fish-like head, depict the Zambezi River God – Nyami Nyami. This deity is one of the best known in Zambian folklore and is considered to be the guardian of the Zambezi River and the local Tsonga people.
Mythology states that Nyami Nyami lived under a large rock called Kariwa close to the present day Kariba dam wall. Tribesmen dared not venture close to this site for fear of being sucked into the depths of the river, canoe and all. During construction of Kariba dam, the rock slowly became submerged, and today it lies 30 meters below the surface, but the myth lives on.
A necklace with a Nyami Nyami pendant is considered to bring you luck, and makes a good gift.
- Getting there is easy with daily flights between Johannesburg and Livingstone.
- Taxis are easily booked through your accommodation establishment and you’d do well to take the number of your first driver and work with him for the duration of your stay.
- Victoria Falls is a spectacular throughout the year, yet it’s at its most impressive between February and May when the water levels are highest. By contrast the dry season of October and November is best suited to the heat seeker, with June to August offering a good balance.
- You can pick up a local simcard and load it with airtime and data on arrival, making communication easy.
- There are some good coffee shops with free wi-fi in town, should you wish to catch up on work at any time.
- The mood is casual and Livingstone makes for a safe and lovely walking destination with a main road that runs from top to bottom, taking you all the way to the Falls.
Visit the Livingstone Tourism Association website for more information. http://www.livingstonetourism.com/
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