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krisek Livingstone - A travel report by Krys
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Livingstone,  Zambia - flag Zambia -  Southern
4880 readers

krisek's travel reports

Enjoying the boom and the great waterfall.

  16 votes
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Livingstone has enjoyed a boom in tourism following the collapse of the Zimbabwean market, just across the border. People come to Livingstone to see the Victoria Falls, thundering walls of water. And wandering elephants. And hippopotamuses.


Livingstone travelogue picture
Livingstone was an explorer who travelled intensively in Africa, with such enthusiasm, that he failed to report back home after a while. Many expeditions were sent to find him, reportedly. And hence we have the anecdote, that ends with words "Dr Livingstone, I presume?"

The town of Livingstone looked like a one street place, although at night many bars open and both locals and tourists (who abandoned the Zimbabwean side) flocked there, and the former chased the latter. For a small place like that it is not always easy to satisfy expectations of all. Some would look for abundant nightlife, others for abundant wildlife, some others yet for peace, a white spot on a map where civilisation is yet to arrive.

Obviously one comes to Livingstone to see one of the nature's greatest wonders - the Victoria Falls. However, the town has grown into such level of sophistication in providing visitors with things to see and do beyond the falls, that despite the size of the place may actually be worth staying for longer than just couple of days. All hotels in town, from the expensive lodges to the basic but cheerful backpacker places, organised escapades ranging from elephant back riding, to river cruises for hippo watching, gravity defying white water rafting, scenic helicopter flights, and expeditions into the bush for more wildlife watching. In the past, it was Victoria Falls town in Zimbabwe that was the centre of tourism in the area, but now it is clearly Livingstone, as the Zimbabwean economy died.

I took a stroll in Livingstone and I cannot remember anything that stroke me much. The main street was interesting with a few colonial, and real-African looking buildings, but there was nothing exceptional about the town. That was good because I was not expecting much anyway. Is it harsh to say that? But honestly, I did not stay long enough to fully appreciate what the town had to offer. I tried few activities, mainly concentrated on seeing the waterfalls.

Favourite spots:
Livingstone travelogue picture
When the morning came, the sky looked prettier than the day before with frequent sunny spells. I got up and went to the Victoria Falls from the Zambian side to take some pictures. The sights over the falls from there were much better as there was significantly less vegetation obscuring the views. As the entire Eastern Cataract, The Rainbow Fall and The Horseshoe Fall were dry, one could admire the escarpment but at the same time, it was very easy to imagine how superb the falls must look when full with water. And still I was a little disappointed that I did not see the full length and the potential of the waterfalls, to hear their real thunder. I would be more likely to hear the water rather than to see it, in fact. I was told that when the falls were full (between February and April), they gave so much spray that it was hard to see anything. So, I was no longer sure if I should be unhappy or rather happy with the timing I came to see this magnificent place.

What's really great:
Livingstone travelogue picture
Then I went on a helicopter ride over the falls. It was exhilarating! It was my first time in a light helicopter and I loved every rotation of it!

The views over the river and the falls were extraordinary. The flight was a thrilling fifteen minutes but the pilot took some super approaches towards the escarpments and the river that this whole fascinating experience became totally unforgettable.

The pilot flew the machine energetically, like in a racing scene of an action film. The nose of the helicopter dropped down several times showing the river, the hippos, the bush and the falls from an interesting perspective. Obviously, only from the air one could fully appreciate the wonder of the falls. Truly splendid experience.

I was very glad that I decided to do it. It cost USD 85 but it was so worth it! Next time I will be travelling in the vicinity, say Angola, I will make sure it is in January or February when the falls would have gained some power and I will do it again.

Sights:
Livingstone travelogue picture
Then, if it was still possible, I would also visit the Livingstone Island for picnic. The island is located on the river, between two of the falls, directly on the edge of the main escarpment, from which the river plunges down. I think this island is a private property and such picnic has to be arranged with the proprietors at - reservations@tongabezi.com

Livingstone itself is light on sights in terms of architecture. There are a few interesting examples of colonial buildings, like the cinema, the banks and a few places to eat and shop, but also a nice museum. It creates a little provincial charm.

Surely, the Zambezi River itself is a sight, and if one is lucky, entire families of elephants cross it every now and again. And when one comes when the animals have offsprings (usually October - December), one might be able to witness how the parents help the little ones climb the steeper parts of the river banks. Now, that is an unforgettable sight!

Accommodations:
Livingstone travelogue picture
The Jollyboys Backpackers (the gayest name ever, I think), located not far from the main road a few hundreds yards from the museum, was safe and clean. They had a very nice bar and truly lovely common areas for relaxing and socialising. There was also a small swimming pool, of course. The use of the pool was often offered to local guys to practice the skills and technicques of escaping from an overturned canoe. The place offered a pick-up from the Zimbabwean border and free visa service for Zambia (visa was free if sponsored by local hotel).

Backpackers places are usually exceptionally lively, particularly those in Africa. Not this one! It was calm and dead in the evening. It was a shock for me!

They organised a few good escapades in nearby parks and around Zambia, and I started wondering whether I should have stayed longer there and have done some of them. Then again, I saw all the African animals in Namibia before and I was only looking for some spectacular waterfalls scenery.

Nightlife:
Livingstone travelogue picture
I was hoping that the boom in the activities in Livingstone would lead to grater number of options to go out. It was not so. Well, there were a few places to have a good meal and wash it down with some drinks in a civilised way. However, there was only one disco open when I visited and it wasn't considered the safest place to party. It was called Step Rite - a meatmarket where white guys completely unaware exposed themselves to frequent and insistent marriage proposals from the local females. No rings were required though! The awareness came as soon as the proposals kept coming and coming, and it wasn't funny. Before entering the venue, there was no way of telling what was hapenning inside.

Despite the obvious purpose and atmosphere thick of awkwardness, it was a very lively place with a great potential. But there were a few pubs around as well, which stayed opened relatively late and played some music. These were the spots to meet up with fellow travellers from all over the world.

Hangouts:
Livingstone travelogue picture
However, some of the places were opening or gaining the right atmosphere only in late afternoon or in the evening. Then again, one would be busy visiting the area rather than stewing in the heat of the town. And the majority of the hotels, including the basic backpackers had common areas complete with facilities to wind down.

Logically, the best places to hang out in Livingstone are the banks Zambezi, the escarpment creating one of the world's most spectacular waterfalls, and a bridge on the Zimbabwean border from which the chilling bungee jumping is done. But apparently it's the Livingstone Island right at the edge of the waterfall, which was as perfect for contemplating the nature, as it was perfectly inaccessible. One had to approach the island somehow without plunging with the waterfall.

Surely any escapade along the river requires thorough preparation and a guide to avoid incidents with the hippos, which are the second most lethal animal on the continent. Mosquito is the first.

Restaurants:
Livingstone travelogue picture
Livingstone was not brilliant for food. But fortunately there were still a good number of decent eateries. Most of them at the main street in the centre.

I ate at the Rite Pub & Grill, adjacent to the Step Rite disco, which served a wide variety of food in great portions, including peri-peri chicken, steaks, fish & chips, pasta, pizza, and burgers. All very reasonably priced (steak was ZMK 40,000 = USD10, half chicken 31,000). I had the peri-peri chicken on my first visit and a steak on the other. The food was really decent quality. The steak might not have been as good as the Angolan chicken, but the ambiance of this place was great and the bar served drinks from all over the world and the personnel was very friendly. Really, really friendly, perhaps compensating for their 'trainee' skills as a waiting staff. But this worked for me and I was very happy there. Plus, I met many travellers from very remote posts of the globe.

Other recommendations:
Livingstone travelogue picture
When the waterfall is not full at the Zambian side, then the exposed escarpment nicely shows how the waterfall actually works. The picture opposite shows, how just barely a third of the waterfall was full. But at that time, the mist created by the waterfall was thin enough to see how Victoria Falls actually worked. At the beginning of the dry season, when the water is high, it is impossible to approach the waterfall without getting completely drenched (this happens all year round actually wherever the water plunges down the escarpment, usually at Zimbabwean side) as the spray is so violent that it blocks the view. This of course, is the case for the people on the ground. The view of a waterfall, as captured opposite, would be more spectacular if the waterfall was plunging along the entire length of the cliff. Would it not?

Livingstone has an airport, which connects with Lusaka and Johannesburg. There are cheap, regular and comfortable buses to Lusaka operated by private companies.

Published on Saturday June 28th, 2008


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Mon, Jul 07 2008 - 12:44 PM rating by jorgesanchez

Beautiful report about a beautiful place in our beautiful planet.

Mon, Jun 30 2008 - 12:11 PM rating by wojtekd

Great report. I have been there on the Zimbabwean side... Is it possible now to cross the bridge for another view of the fall with/without the visa? Helicopter (how expensive is the ride?) gives new, wonderful perspective - your aerial pictures are great!

Mon, Jun 30 2008 - 08:12 AM rating by marianne

Impressive and a very good read

Sun, Jun 29 2008 - 06:37 PM rating by rangutan

Super new report, somewhat like an "update" of the falls. Interesting changes; poor Zimbabwe, loosing so many tourists and travellers, great for Zambia! I supose pictures from the Zimbabwean side will become a rarity. [4.6]

Sat, Jun 28 2008 - 02:40 PM rating by davidx

Great stuff as always. I suppose Livingstone has also inherited 'sundowner' boat trips on the Zambesi - that used to go from the town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

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