48 Hours in Livingstone
Featured destinations: Zambia
Published 31 October 2016
Livingstone is certainly one of the more dramatic places to visit in Southern Africa.
Rich in culture and history with a mix of colonial architecture, museums, markets and traditional village life found naturally alongside budget hostels and five star hotels, it’s easy to see why Livingstone is at the heart of Zambian tourism. The only problem is that most people add it on to the end of their itinerary and don’t allow themselves more than a couple of days here. I’m lucky enough to get there often and can offer these tips on how best to spend 48 hours in Livingstone.
Dawn at Victoria Falls image: Dawn Jorgensen
See the great Victoria Falls
Start with a visit to the iconic Victoria Falls or Mosi-oa-Tunya - the Smoke that Thunders, as it is aptly known. Take in the sheer exhilaration as you walk along the pathway that hugs the crevice, feeling the full force of the spray, soaked and excited as you gaze into the cascading waters below.
Victoria Falls remains the primary draw card to this frontier town and in every sense lives up to its 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 spray visible for miles, reaching up to 400m and higher into the air. Aerial view of Victoria Falls image: Dawn Jorgensen
Aerial view of Victoria Falls image: Dawn Jorgensen
Take the plunge
If adventure is what gets your heart rate up, try a bungee jump from the Victoria Falls Bridge into the gorge below – or the gorge swing, which known as Zero Gravity, suspended across the gorge at a point where the width is 316m and 120m deep. Either way, walk across the bridge to watch those taking the leap.
Inside the Livingstone Museum image: Dawn Jorgensen
Go into the village and visit the Livingstone Museum, established in 1934. It’s 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, both present day and of a bygone era.
African Princess cruising on the Zambezi image: Dawn Jorgensen
Enjoy a sunset cruise on the Zambezi. The African Cruise Company has two vessels for you to choose from, the impressive African Queen, a triple-deck 70 foot catamaran and the slightly smaller African Princess. Both offer the opportunity to sit back and relax as you enjoy the gracious service and some game spotting. Look out for elephants, buffalo, hippo and crocodile as you go.
Rhinos viewed on a game drive image: Dawn Jorgensen
An early start will get you to the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park for a game drive in an open 4x4 safari vehicles. The park stretches about 7.5 miles along the riverbanks of the upper Zambezi River and is home to elephant, white rhino, buffalo, hippo, giraffe, zebra and several antelope species flourish here. It’s almost essential to get out in the bush for a safari while in Livingstone, and this is a lovely place to do it.Dawn canoeing on the Zambezi image: Dawn Jorgensen
Canoe the Zambezi
Book a guided canoe safari that will take you for a tranquil paddle through the narrow channels the mighty Zambezi. The scenery is amazing, and at some points you will have Zambia on the one side and Zimbabwe on the other. There’s a good chance of game coming down to the river, and excellent bird watching.
Dawn cycling around Livingstone image: Dawn Jorgensen
If canoeing is not for you, I highly recommend that you take an insider look at Livingstone with Cowboy Cycle Tours. Their guide will take you on a 15 mile cycle through Linda to Libuyu, Dwamba and Maramba, with a visit to a working quarry, the 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, the tour offers a look at the local way of life, insight into the area, and is offered at a relaxed pace with many stops along the way. This is a very manageable cycle ride so don’t be put off with concerns about fitness.
Dambwa Market, Zambia image: Dawn Jorgensen
Go to the markets
The most special is the Dwamba local market. There is nothing commercial about this place where traders display their fine fare, dried fish, live chickens and mopane worms for sale. There are stands selling irresistibly gorgeous African fabrics and generator-run fridges offering ice-cold sodas. The more tourist-focused Maramba and Salaula markets are also well worth a visit and sell everything from curios and wooden carvings to second-hand clothes and African cloth. Remember to ask for the fabrics produced in Zambia as there are replicas. Also don’t take photographs without asking. Victoria Falls image: Dawn Jorgensen
Victoria Falls image: Dawn Jorgensen
Take to the skies
Seeing the Victoria Falls from above offers an incredible perspective of scale. This can be done by helicopter: you’ll be skimming above the rapids of the Zambezi River with the option of a spin over the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park too. I went up with United Air Charter and loved seeing elephant and giraffe on the way, as well as the magnificent scenery and spray of the water shooting into the air.
Royal Livingstone Hotel, Zambia image: Dawn Jorgensen
High tea at the Royal Livingstone
No matter where you’re staying, allow yourself a treat and head to the Royal Livingstone Victoria Falls Zambia Hotel by Anantara, 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 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.
Crossing Victoria Falls Bridge by train image: Dawn Jorgensen
Royal Livingstone Express
Spend the evening in style with a taste of luxury train living; join the Royal Livingstone Express for a late afternoon escape to the Zambian Bushveld. Departing from the Bushtracks Station, the steam locomotive shunts onto the Cape to Cairo Mainline, towards the Victoria Falls Bridge, where you stop for the sunset. Dinner and drinks are served onboard as you head back to town. Dress up just to make it even more special.
Dawn and friends on Livingstone Island image: Dawn Jorgensen
A wonderful way to spend your last morning is a trip with Tongabezi to Livingstone Island, a dry piece of land right on the edge of the Falls. Head through the fast-moving channels of the Zambezi by boat and once on the island enjoy a guided tour learning about its history, from ancient times when it served as a sacrificial site to present day and its World Heritage status. If you’re looking to flirt with the wild side, take a swim in Devil’s Pool on the very edge of the Victoria Falls. Brave swimmers may even opt to peer over the brim into the large curtain of falling water. (Dry Season only)
Best time to visit
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. By contrast the dry season of October and November is suited to the heat seeker, with viewing still good from the Livingstone side. Between June and August there’s plenty of water and an idyllic climate. Whenever it is, you will be left in awe of nature.
Livingstone can easily be added to any of our holidays to South Africa, and keep an eye out for our new itineraries including Victoria Falls, coming soon. Chat to your Expert for further information and to book.