This is a great base from which to enjoy the Zambezi River, and visit the fabulous Victoria Falls. There’s a wide choice of good accommodation and lots of optional activities, and Livingstone can be easily added on before or after any safari trip within Zambia, as well as in Zimbabwe or Botswana
Once known by local people as Mosi-oa-Tunya, ‘the Smoke that Thunders’, Victoria Falls were brought to the attention of the world in 1855 by Dr David Livingstone, who later famously commented: ‘scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight’.
Behind the beauty and grandeur lie some impressive statistics. The Falls are 1,688m wide and average just over 100m in height. Up to 750 million litres of water cascade over the lip every minute, making this one of the world’s greatest waterfalls. Closer inspection shows that this immense curtain of water is interrupted by small islands that sit right on the lip of the Falls, effectively splitting them into smaller waterfalls.
An interesting small rainforest, with plant species (especially ferns) rarely found elsewhere in Zimbabwe or Zambia, is found next to the Falls. These plants are sustained by the clouds of spray which blanket the immediate vicinity of the Falls. You’ll also find various monkeys and baboons here, whilst the lush canopy shelters, amongst other birds, the striking Livingstone’s lourie. Boat trips and game drives in the surrounding areas afford the opportunity to see sightings of most of the common antelope, as well as giraffe, buffalo and elephant.
The Falls never seem the same twice, so try to visit several times, under different light conditions – including by moonlight, when the waters seem to blend into one smooth mass that appears frozen over the rocks.
The flow, and hence the spray, is greatest just after the end of the rainy season – around March or April, depending upon the rains. It then decreases gradually until about December, when the rains in western Zambia will start to replenish the river. During low water, a light raincoat (available for rent on site) is very useful for wandering between the viewpoints on the Zimbabwean side, though it’s not necessary in Zambia. However, in high water a raincoat is largely ineffective as the spray blows all around and soaks you in seconds.
The Zambian and Zimbabwean sides offer very different views of the falls, so if you have time it’s well worth visiting both sides to fully appreciate the whole waterfall.
During the drier season, from September to December, whilst you’ll be able to better appreciate the usually obscured geology of the Falls from Zambia, there’s usually more water flowing over the Zimbabwe side, so a trip across is worthwhile.
Aside from the lure of the Victoria Falls themselves, there are numerous activities in the Livingstone area. Many visitors see little of the Zambian town itself, dividing their time between the Falls, about 20 minutes’ drive to the south, the adrenalin activities below the Falls, and the gentler stretches of the Zambezi River upstream, bordered by the tiny Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. But Livingstone boasts a diverse range of restaurants and a good craft market, while the town’s museum is worth more than a passing glance, especially for those with an interest in the travels of Dr David Livingstone.
Upstream of the Falls, boat trips and canoe excursions offer the opportunity to get close to the wildlife that frequents both sides of the river. Elephant are regularly spotted on the riverbanks and the islands in the centre of the river, and you may well see white rhino here, too, while aerial entertainment comes from all manner of birds, among them swallows, kingfishers and African skimmers. For keen birdwatchers, there’s the chance to see the elusive Taita falcon, a rare species found near the Batoka Gorge.
Adrenalin junkies are lured by the likes of bungee-jumping and white-water rafting, while more leisurely but no-less-thrilling are scenic flights by light aircraft, helicopter or even microlight, which allow spectacular birds-eye views of the Falls.
Back on land, there are also walks and drives into the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, home to giraffe, zebra, buffalo and most of Zambia’s antelope species, as well as elephant and white rhino, and a pack of wild dogs which crossed into the park from Zimbabwe. Guided walks through the national park (included in the price of some of the safari lodges upstream of the Falls) give you a good chance, and a much closer experience than a game drive, of sighting white rhino, successfully introduced to the area from South Africa in 1994.
For those looking for something a bit different, a journey on a restored steam train offers a ride back in time through Zambia’s railway history, complete with sundowners and a five-course dinner.
Some activities can be arranged when you arrive; others are best organised by us before you get there. Call our team to discuss the many options available.