Livingstone: more than Victoria Falls
Peering into the deep crevice and cascading waters below, soaked to the core by the spray and silenced by the force of nature, the Mosi-oa-Tunya: Smoke the Thunders, couldn’t be a more aptly named.
Photo Credit: Dawn Jorgensen
I’m at Victoria Falls, in Livingstone, Zambia, looking across the haze towards Zimbabwe, certain that this is one of the more dramatic places to visit whilst touring Southern Africa.
Victoria Falls is a spectacle throughout the year, yet the best time to visit is between February and May when the water levels are highest; although the spray may be kind to your camera. By contrast the dry season of October and November is suited to the heat seeker, with viewing still good from the Livingstone side. June to August is when I’ve found myself there, a time of good compromise, plenty of water and an idyllic climate. Whenever it is, you will be left in awe of nature.
Yet there is much more to Livingstone than the mighty Victoria Falls, some additions to your to-do list below.
If adventure is what gets your heart rate up, try a bungee jump from the Victoria Falls Bridge into the gorge
below – not for everybody! There’s also abseiling above the Batoka Gorge only three kilometres away and some of the best white water rafting on offer which boasts several Class V rapids. See the falls from above to offer a true perspective of scale. Either by helicopter for a short flight over The Falls or the longer flight that will skim above the rapids of the Zambezi River and finish with a flight over the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park. Another option for those somewhat braver, is a microlight flights over the Falls, but keeping a fair distance.
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.
Photo Credit: Dawn Jorgensen
Animal interactions such as the elephant back safaris offer eco friendly game viewing and an opportunity to learn more about these beloved animals. This is more an elephant experience than elephant riding, with only positive training methods used. There is something very special about being this close to an elephant. It tends to bring out the emotions.
The Lion Encounter is an active conservation program that offers the chance to literally walk with the lions. As part of a four-tier program, they are bred in captivity and slowly taught to hunt and be independent, before ultimately being released into the wild. Walking in the bush holding the tail of a lion is certainly surreal.
Important to get a feel of Livingstone itself with a visit to the Livingstone Museum, the Maramba and Salaula markets which offer everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, to colourful fabrics and second hand clothes. Important to walk a town to get a feel for the place.
The local Livingstone chief, Chief Makuni, 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.
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. There are usually vervet monkeys around trying to help themselves to a scone or two. The river runs by and the air of exuberance and colonial living is a fine thing.
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 4x4 open safari vehicles in either the morning or evening. Never think twice abut taking a big game safari. Activities in Livingstone can be booked through SafPar and Wild Horizons.
The most direct way to get to Livingstone is a flight from Johannesburg with either South African Airways (http://www.flysaa.com/za/en/home.action) or British Airways. Zambia currently has no national airline. Another consideration is Airlink between Nelspruit and Livingstone, potentially allowing the combination with a Kruger
National Park visit. Should a flight be above budget, Intercape offers an
affordable bus service between Johannesburg and Livingstone.
However you get to Livingstone, its worthy of the linger, and not only for the natural wonder that is the
UNESCO World Heritage Site and Smoke that Thunders.