By Enestle Zimba
Livingstone town is the home of the mighty Victoria Falls… and this is our destination that Molly and I embarked on this trip that morning. A ‘short’ drive of one thousand odd kilometers that started with a ‘drama’ in another town on the other side of Zambia. Why this trip?
…Because of the allure of the Victoria Falls. Locally it’s known as Mosi-Oa-Tunya, literally translates to “the smoke that thunders!” But then that is the end of this story. First things first! We were happy to arrive by car. This meant a stretch of our crumpled limps and a good night’s rest.
Fairmount Hotel, one of Zambia’s earliest establishments is just on the throughway as you enter Livingstone. We didn’t need any persuasion so I slowed down and took the right turn into the hotel’s parking lot near the reception. Fairmount Hotel was where we spent a night.
The following morning after a good night sleep and a hearty good breakfast we were ready to leave. It was the day and the time to meet with our destiny. We had planned this back home, on the other side of this amazing country. So we drove a couple of kilometers and we were in Livingstone central business district.
As we drove past I pointed out to Molly the country’s oldest and major museum in Zambia. It stands on the town’s main throughway but on the right. The Livingstone Museum has an interesting history but that is another story!
We continue driving past the town’s central business district, and the main buildings and…Voila! There it is… southern Africa’s house of adventure. This is the Adventure Centre on the right side of the road just outside the town. The building’s choice of colours is rather unique and makes it stand out. Pinks, whites and yellows…and the writing too!
The Adventure Centre houses various adventure companies… companies that provide various safari adventures of your lifetime. Just think of the;
• bungi jump, a 111 metre free fall off the Victoria Falls Bridge (the highest in the world),
• Abseiling the Batoka Gorge (122m deep),
• Micro light flights over the awe-inspiring Victoria Falls and the gorge,
• White-water rafting over the 23 raging rapids down the Zambezi River (considered world’s best white water rafting),
• River boarding and surfing,
• Exquisite sunsets and stargazing on the boat the African Queen above the Zambezi River, etc.
Driving on I made a mental note about our next adventure… but that will be yet another story. Eight kilometers out of town and still driving southwards, just where there is a right curve in the road …and what do we see! A not too observant driver could easily miss it. Rising to the treetops is the latest luxury at Victoria Falls. A ‘combo’ of two brand new hotels, the Sun International’s own resorts. One is the Zambezi Sun, a three star hotel and the other the Royal Livingstone, a five star luxury. These two hotels share the same entrance off the Livingstone-Victoria Falls Bridge road.
The Zambezi Sun is the closest hotel to the Victoria Falls, only minutes away! The Royal Livingstone’s special theme design on the banks of the Zambezi enables all rooms to overlook the falls. But the luxury at this hotel is a must visit you cannot afford to miss. An experience for a lifetime…!
Our destination is further. So we continue past the entrance. After a short drive we take another of the many right turns. Have you noticed it? Right turns all the time! This last right turn takes us into the Victoria Falls visitor’s car park. I park the car and we get out. As we leave the car… right in front of us, across the car parking lot, is the artisans’ showpiece paradise. It is called the Victoria Falls Craft Shop.
Victoria Falls Craft Village
Here you meet face to face with all manner of visual arts and crafts as well as performing arts. Someone was busy beating the African xylophone and another a talking drum.
This is the best place for a wide range of crafts and curios. There are intricate animal woodcarvings, sculpture in stone, and all sorts of creations in beautiful green malachite. I contemplated picking an African mask with a unique and unusual design, really African concept.
On the other side were drums, marimbas, spoons, walking sticks, jewelry and much more. The venders were displaying all sorts of wares of all incredible size, shape and of course African beauty. All of these were for sale. The venders eager to ‘force’ a sale might make you feel ‘mobbed’, you know. Those who enjoy negotiating for bounty will have their field day here.
The Victoria Falls
The excitement is mounting, the impatience is rising! You know, the pressure builds up when you’re about to get your goal. Can you imagine the feeling? You sure can!
“Finally we’re here” I whispered to my lovely wife Molly. We had arrived at the Victoria Falls. First I wanted to capture the essence, you know visualize it in my mind’s eye. As I got more excited I remembered this…
The Falls are a spectacular 1,708 metre span with 1,200 metres of it in Zambia. The top where the greatest curtain of water starts to plunge is 111 meters (300 feet) high. During the height of the floods (March to May) the Victoria Falls has the largest sheet of falling water in the world with over 545 million cubic metres a minute (9 million liters /sec) cascading over the rocky cliffs. The sound is exhilarating, the sight is astounding and the experience is breathtakingly spectacular in the extreme. The mist is seen 30 kilometres away. No wonder the great Dr David Livingstone wrote,” …but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight”
Where to go!
First the tickets of course! The National Heritage Conservation Commission wants their “cut.” They need it. That’s what keeps the heritage site so natural. They collect through the ticket you buy. It’s a minimal fee really. As a conservationist I wish they could charge more considering the value of the work they do!
We ventured to where the guides directed us. We followed a path along the edge of the forest. As we walked along it I looked at my dear wife and saw discomfort in her posture and worry written all of her face. I didn’t blame her because most visitors to the falls feel like that. You see, a visitor must be prepared to brave the tremendous spray and the unparalleled series of views of the falls. The spray soaks you to the bone. So take heed of the guide’s advice. Hire a raincoat. Molly did and saved herself from the drenching spray.
There is one special vantage point and here I couldn’t miss this for anything. Going across the Knife Edge Bridge, where you get the finest view of the Eastern Cataract. I thought I had seen it all. Facing the falls is a sheer drop of basalt, (a basalt is a rock you know…geology!). There is a mist-soaked rain forest above it. This is the only place known on earth where it rains 24 hours a day, seven days a week (24/7)?
No I am wrong. There is one other and in Zambia too. It’s called Lumangwe Falls on Kalungwishi River near Mporokoso in Northern Zambia. It is a grandeur thirty metres height and one hundred metres wide with a pleasant sandy beach below the falls. It also has the smoke, the thunder, and the rain that nourish a small rain forest. It looks like a miniature Victoria Falls. I am famous for digressing…sorry!
For those who like the adrenaline-pumping stuff the Boiling Point is a great sight and you have to walk down to the slope to bottom of the Batoka Gorge. You see the river running along the Batoka Gorge downstream of the river. No sight can prepare you for this. Experience it at least once in your lifetime. I did that but will do it again soon. That’s how great it is.
After that you’ll have graduated to take in the stride the Bungi jump. This is considered to be the second highest bunji jump in the world at 111 metres. The Falls Bridge is where these exhilarating unaided flights by man occur. That’s the Bungi Jump. I was scared to try but to my embarrassment others took it easily. While nicely and safely secured they jumped off the Victoria Railway Bridge. And they would be away, in flight like a bird swooping down to catch fish in the water. The African fish eagle’s flight to catch fish pales compared to this.
Leisure with Serenity
The excitement and tiredness took its toll. We turned to the idea of leisure with serenity. Visiting museums! Did you know that a small town, which Livingstone is, actually has three, YES, three museums? I have heard the description “a town of museums” and Livingstone is it.
Town of Museums
The Livingstone Railway Museum is home to the 19th century rail locomotives and coaches in prime condition. They’re refurbished to their original décor in every minute detail. The ideal was to capture the luxury of those bygone times. I was impressed with this sight.
Located at the former Zambezi Sawmills Railway Locomotive shed, the Railway Museum exhibits rare steam locomotive engines and rolling stock. These exhibits date back to the earliest days of Zambian history and include the complete Zambezi Sawmills Railway line, once reputed to have been the longest private railway line in the world. Railway Museum is now home to scores of derelicts of the early railway transport in Zambia. They’re the real centenarians emanating from the turn of the previous century.
Another is the Victoria Falls Field Museum at the heritage site near the Victoria Falls. It hosts records of the geological explanation for formation of the falls. It also keeps records of early human habitation at the site. Archeologist would have a field day here. You see, the museum is right on site of an archeological dig. It is proof that human’s interest in the falls is from time immemorial. But geology beat them to it, that’s what formed the Falls, you know, long before human habitation.
The Livingstone Museum is the country’s prime museum with records of both natural and human history. It hosts all kinds archeological finds and relicts from earlier human habitats. If you want to understand Zambian history you should venture here. We were so intrigued with the wealth of historical information. It’s unfortunate my interest in history is geological…where we pride ourselves with long periods. When they’re in conservation don’t be surprised to over hear geologists casually mentioning “millions or even billions of years” as if they’re talking about minutes!
There are also many articles, clothes and notebooks, etc that Dr David Livingstone that missionary medical doctor and explorer left in Zambia. He single handedly opened up central Africa and Zambia in particular. The history is amazing…how explorers could travel such long distances crossing the breadth of the “dark continent” Africa.
Molly and I were now knackered and by then only looking forward to a dinner at sunset. They organized a musician who strummed enthusiastically at a guitar humming an incredible melody while sitting on the African Queen. That’s what the riverboat is called. You see exquisite sunsets and gaze at stars! Romantic, isn’t it? Try it! All this in Amazing Zambia… the African Safari.
Enestle Zimba is geologist of over twenty years and manages Zambia African Safari (ZAS) part time. Enestle is dedicated to the promotion of safaris and tourism in Zambia and the conservation of wildlife and the environment.