The mention of Victoria Falls is often met with animated dialogue as to where and when it is best to view it; in the Summer or Winter, in Zimbabwe or Zambia.
For me personally though, despite my Zim roots, I like to walk the long path that hugs the cliff on the Livingstone side. Home to a larger albeit less dramatic stretch of the falls, peering into the depth of the crevice, soaked to the core by the spray, always leaves me in awe of the Mosi-oa-Tunya, or the Smoke that Thunders. Also, I’ve grown truly attached to this unique frontier town.
Deservedly one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, this famed wall of water with a width of 1688m and height of 108m is said to send more than five hundred million cubic meters of water plummeting over the edge each minute. Something that is almost impossible to imagine, especially as a Capetonian suffering strict water restrictions.
I’ve spent a lot of time in Livingstone and surrounds, staying for as long as ten days at a time, and I’m very familiar with it. I have a favourite cell phone network, there’s a coffee shop with great Wi-Fi that serves a perfect Greek salad and if you’re looking to meet some locals, I know where they frequent for a delicious pizza and cold Mosi lager.
I’ve camped in the dusty sand that left my feet cracked and stained for weeks, and stayed in one of the most luxurious resorts in the country, The Royal Livingstone Victoria Falls Zambia Hotel by Anantara, cherishing all memories equally. I regard the walk at sunset to pay homage to an ancient and mystical baobab tree in the bush equal to an evening spent on the wooden deck overlooking the mighty Zambezi River, sipping on a glass of crisply chilled Method Cap Classique.
One of my visits was with Greenpop, a social enterprise on a mission to reconnect people to the planet through the tangible act of tree planting. I joined a collection of excitable volunteers in planting thousands of trees and in the vital conversation around deforestation. I probably only planted about 50 trees myself, yet it was such soul food I may just have planted some of myself with those baby saplings I tenderly placed with such hope in the hard soil.
Something else that cemented my connection with the town was a 25km cycle with the Local Cowboy Cycle Tours through the suburbs of Linda, Libuyu, Dwamba and Maramba, with a visit to the wonderful Cowboy pre-school the tours support.
There is no doubt that Livingstone is at the heart of Zambian tourism. Rich in culture and history with a fusion of colonial architecture, museums, markets and traditional village life mixing naturally alongside the hotels and national park. There is a lot to do here, including a Game Drive in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park where I was lucky enough to do rhino trekking on foot with the rangers.
The romantic sunset cruise on the African Queen personifies tranquillity and you may hear the call of the fish eagle if you’re lucky. The adventurous seek out White Water Rafting in the Batoka Gorge or Bungee Jumping off the bridge, but I marked as favourite kayaking upstream on the Zambezi River with crocs and hippos for company. The town deserves to be explored, there is good shopping and a modest yet well-curated Livingstone Museum I like to visit. To step back into a bygone era, the Royal Livingstone Express train trip takes you into the Zambian Bushveld, the steam locomotive shunting onto the Cape to Cairo Mainline, towards the Victoria Falls Bridge, where you stop for dinner and a drink.
For me, Livingstone is a place of calm where zebras graze on hotel lawns and wild elephants can be seen nonchalantly crossing the road. Where consummate traders sell their crafts late into the night, yet never stop smiling and where the unrivalled force of nature reminds me who is boss.
** This first appeared in the Fastjet Places magazine. I loved writing it as there’s so much to see and do in this iconic frontier town.