Livingstone & Victoria Falls: in detail
Livingstone trips: the full story
For many years we've recognised Livingstone, Zambia, as 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, Botswana, even north-eastern Namibia.
Take a glance at our Google map of Livingstone. You’ll note that the town of Livingstone is in Zambia, about 10km north of the Victoria Falls – even if the area that we refer to as 'Livingstone' really covers the town and the Zambia side of the Falls, as well as the Zambezi River upstream – to the west.
Places to stay in LivingstoneFor many years, Livingstone was eclipsed by the busier Zimbabwean town of Victoria Falls on the other side of the Zambezi River. In recent times, the Zambian town has risen to the challenge, affording plenty of places to stay both near the Falls and upstream.
Livingstone: Zambia’s hotels near the FallsBeside the Falls stand two large sister hotels: the elegant riverside Royal Livingstone Hotel and its less costly sibling, the Avani Victoria Falls – which have the big advantage of easy walking access to the Falls. A few other good hotels are also scattered around between the Falls and the town. With such quick and easy access, these are a simple option for your visit and are usually booked on a B&B basis, with no activities included.
Livingstone lodges upstream of the FallsThere are several excellent small lodges upstream of the Victoria Falls, all overlooking the Zambezi River. Further away from the Falls, but quieter, peaceful and intimate, these places are more costly than Livingstone’s hotels, though your stay generally includes all your meals and some activities.
Some of the Livingstone lodges are close to or even within the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, and an easy drive of just half an hour or so from the Falls. These include Tongabezi and its island sister Sindabezi, and The River Club, while a little further upstream you’ll find the equally tranquil Islands of Siankaba.
About the Victoria FallsOnce 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.
Visiting the Victoria FallsThe 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.
The reintroduction of the KAZA visa allows visitors to both Zambia and Zimbabwe to obtain one combination visa, making it easier to take advantage of both sides of the Falls without the cost or inconvenience of having to get a second visa (the border crossing is also much more streamlined). 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.
Activities around the FallsAside 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 special occasions, numerous spas offer luxury treatments, or how about a champagne breakfast or afternoon tea on Livingstone Island, literally just above the Falls? 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.
Where to stay in Livingstone
Our suggestions for places to stay in Livingstone & Victoria Falls
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings in Livingstone
This is their success for sightings in Livingstone & Victoria Falls.
Click on a species for more detail. How we work this out.