Livingstone is a large town of 180,000 people. The main centre is shown in the map under town accommodation. The main road from Lusaka to the Victoria Falls runs through the middle of the town with turnings to the airport and Kazungula (for Botswana and Namibia). The main commercial centre of Livingstone is all along the main road with plenty of shops and services.
Because Livingstone is not just a tourist town, there is a lot going on with people working in the many government offices, schools, hospitals, factories and shops.
The town is generally very safe to drive or walk around. If your vehicle is loaded it is best to park with extra security which is available at Spar or Mosi-oa-Tunya Square (at the traffic lights). You are advised not to walk around after dark.
Being a large town, accommodation in Livingstone is spread around the town and in its outskirts. We have shown maps below under their sections.
- In Livingstone
There is plenty of accommodation in town – hotels, lodges, backpackers and campsites. The residential areas are peppered with guesthouses. These facilities are very convenient as visitors can easily get to town to see the sights. Taxis are readily available for quick hops between destinations.
- Around Town
- Livingstone is on a ridge above the Victoria Falls and the Zambezi River. It borders on the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. Quite a few lodges are sited within the park; some in the Mukuni woodlands and one overlooking the gorge.
- Along the Zambezi River
Between Livingstone and Kazungula (the border with Botswana) there are several lodges all facing the Zambezi River opposite the Zambezi National Park in Zimbabwe. Night noises rumble across the river at night – lions, hyena, baboons. A few of the lodges are world renowned for their beauty and for exceptional service. But others are self-catering. There is camping. Some are mid-market. These lodges are just a short drive from Livingstone, so for those visitors who want to enjoy the activities of the area but want to ‘get away from it all’ in the evenings, these lodges are the perfect choice.
Livingstone is in the south of Zambia (it is 1,500 km to the Tanzania border, our neighbour to the north). It is linked by excellent road and air links within Zambia and to other countries.
- By Air
Livingstone has an excellent International Airport which brings in visitors from all over the world. Within Zambia flights run several times a day between Livingstone and Lusaka where connections can be made to Zambia’s other main attractions. Charter flights are also available. Travel time by air from Johannesburg is 1 hr 40 mins; from Lusaka is 1 hour 10 mins.
- By Road from Zim, Bots and Nam
Self-drive will arrive from Zimbabwe over the Victoria Falls Bridge, just 10 km from Livingstone. From Botswana the journey takes visitors across the Zambezi River by pontoon, 70 km from Livingstone. From Namibia, the border is at Katima Mulilo where a bridge crosses the Zambezi River just after entering the country. It is then a 200 km drive to Livingstone. The road has some bad patches so it is likely to take 3 hours.
Buses are available from Sesheke; taxis from Kazungula. Intercape buses travel between Livingstone and Windhoek, Johannesburg, Lusaka, Bulawayo, Harare, Malawi.
- By Road from Lusaka
To Livingstone from the north, the road is generally good tar, with a bad stretch north of Mazabuka to the T-Junction. The map shows the road from Lusaka (470 km). At the T-junction after crossing the Kafue River, straight on is for Chirundu, Lower Zambezi and Siavonga, right is for Livingstone. The road to Livingstone passes through many villages where ladies sell tomatoes, children cross to school and dogs wander here and there; so drive carefully when passing through them.
13 km south of the T-Junction the road passes through the Munali Hills. These are named after David Livingstone, who was called Munali by his fellow travellers. There is a memorial on the top of the rise – it is said that this was the site where David Livingstone first saw the Kafue River.
Buses travel between Lusaka and Livingstone.
Trains also travel between Livingstone and Lusaka but are not recommended at the moment.
A good place to stop en route is the Choma Museum. It is on the north of the main Choma centre, on the western side of the road. The museum displays the story of the Tonga people and has attractive crafts for sale. Next to the museum is a small cafe (with loos).
The Livingstone Art Gallery is along The Royal Mile (Sichango Road). Local artists display their paintings and sculptures.
Take a walk along the underpath of the Victoria Falls bridge and find out about the story of its construction. All ages.
Jump from the Victoria Falls into the chasm below. 111 metres. Age: 15+
Canoe along the Upper Zambezi. Age: 12+
Visit the Crocodile Park to see these prehistoric animals up close. All ages.
Take a ride on an African elephant. Age: 10+
Go out on a boat on the Upper Zambezi to try your luck at catching a tigerfish. All ages.
Take a drive through the Mosi-oa-Tunya Game Park. All ages.
Walking trips are conducted through the park. Age: 12+
Spend a few hours swinging over a gorge or abseiling. Age: 7+
Take a spin over the Victoria Falls in a helicopter. All ages.
Ride in the park on horseback. All ages. Younger children ride around the Avani Resort.
Jet boat at high speed through the gorges. Age 7+
The Jewish Museum is within the Steam Museum along Chishimba Falls Road. It tells the story of some of the many Jewish business people who came to Livingstone in the early 1900s.
Kayak the Zambezi in the gorge – for the experts only at certain times of year.
Visit young lions and meet caracals and cheetah. All ages.
Boat over to Livingstone Island on the lip of the Victoria Falls. Available May-November. All ages.
Take a boat trip up the Zambezi to the elephant cafe to have lunch while the elephants keep you company. Age: 10+
The Livingstone Museum is in the centre of town. It contains lots of interesting artefacts including those from the stone and iron age; David Livingstone memorabilia; the story of Zambia and a Natural History section.
Fly over the Victoria Falls in a microlight. Age: 12+
Fun for all the family, quad bike through the bush. Age: 12+
In the early 1900s a railway line was constructed to Mulobezi and to the forests around the town. At the time steam trains were used to travel the route to bring the logs to the sawmill in Livingstone. Some of the locos and carriages are displayed at the Railway Museum.
Large boats take morning or afternoon tours of the Upper Zambezi to enjoy the wildlife. All ages.
In a small boat, investigate the islands in the Upper Zambezi. All ages.
The Royal Livingstone Express takes visitors on a ride along the tracks into the park or to the Victoria Falls bridge. All ages.
Take a rubber dinghy up the river to the base of the Victoria Falls. Available May-July. Age: 12+.
Raft down the gorges on some of the world’s best rapids. This activity is available when the river is safe to negotiate – usually July-April. Age: 15+
The Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park has a section where the wildlife is viewed. The entrance to this section is found along Sichango Road.
Animals to be found there are: Tree squirrel, African elephant, Burchell’s zebra, White Rhinoceros, Hippopotamus, Warthog, Giraffe, Blue wildebeest, Red hartebeest, Common duiker, Impala, Sable, African buffalo, Kudu, Bushbuck, Waterbuck, Puku, African wild cat, Serval, African civet, Large-spotted genet, Slender mongoose, Lesser bushbaby, Chacma baboon, Vervet monkey, Pangolin, Crocodile, Land monitor, Water monitor.
The Game Park is also the site of the first pioneer village, known as the Old Drift. There are two monuments – one at the site of the cemetery and one at the site of the river crossing before the construction of the bridge.
- History of Livingstone
There is evidence of Stone Age man living around the Victoria Falls for 2 million years. This is known from stone tools which have been found all over the area and have been studied by members of the Livingstone Museum. The tools can be analysed by their degree of sophistication in manufacture, by their probable use and by their place found in the layers of the ground.
Over those 2 million years not only has man evolved but the climate and geography have changed too. Rivers have altered their courses, lakes have appeared and dried up, forests have come and gone. During the Ice Age between 70,000 and 10,000 years ago Europe and Asia were uninhabitable but man continued to evolve in Africa.
The earlier tools found are very basic with just one sharp edge being formed by hammering the stone. Later they became more advanced by chiseling both sides and then being attached to wooden handles. There are also stones which were attached to bark string which would have been thrown at an animal to entangle its legs. Also came the use of fire. By the end of the Stone Age period man was organised into family groups who worked as a team. They had bows and arrows, the arrow heads laced with poison; they ground seeds for flour; they could bring down large animals like elephant for food and they knew how to preserve the meat by drying it. (When walking along the gorges, stone tools can still be found).
Successful as they were as a species, their end came with the advent of the Bantu people from the Congo basin who had developed iron tools, kept domestic animals and planted crops. The immigration of the Bantu people into now-Zambia started around 1300 AD and stone age man gradually disappeared from the scene. They were either killed, dispersed or were assimilated into Bantu groups. The last remaining clans of Stone Age people were in the north and west of now-Zambia as late as the 1800s.
The remaining descendants still live in the Kalahari in Botswana where they are known as the San or Bushmen.
The first Bantu immigrants in our area are the Tonga people in about 1300 AD who settled along the Zambezi River further downstream. Our present Toka-Leya people around Livingstone are cousins of the Tongas.
The first written evidence we have of the people around the falls were of Chief Sekute. His clan lived on the islands and when David Livingstone visited he found the grave of a past Chief Sekute on an island surrounded by elephant tusks. David Livingstone was brought to the falls by the Kololo people from the west and, although the Kololo people were good canoe paddlers they did not have the skill to take their canoes through the rapids near to the falls. They used the expert Toka canoe paddlers. (For more information on the Kololo see the section under history of Liuwa Plain).
David Livingstone was taken to an island on the lip of the falls where he attempted to measure their size. He renamed the island as Garden Island as he planted some seeds there but later the island was to be renamed Livingstone Island in his honour. It was David Livingstone who renamed the falls the Victoria Falls in honour of the Queen of England at the time. The Kololo knew them as Mosi-oa-Tunya and the Toka called them Shungu Namutitima.
The first European residents to come to the area set up their camp upstream of the falls in 1897. The camp developed during the 8 years of its existence to a small hamlet with women and children as well as traders, missionaries and fortune-hunters. It became known as the Old Drift and the site is now within the Game Park. The cemetery is still there, with a National Heritage Monument. Another Monument is at the site of the landing for the ferries which plied the river before the bridge was built.
When British influence increased and the railway was brought up from Bulawayo to the falls, the administration decided to site a new village for the Europeans up on a sand ridge away from the river. The deaths from malaria of so many people at the Old Drift prompted this move as it was now known that it was the marshy lands that were bringing the malaria. (Malaria comes from Mal Air – bad air).
Livingstone town has had its ups and downs. The best time for the development of the town (for Europeans) was when it was the capital of Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) between 1911 and 1935. The main administrative centre was around a central green area known as Barotse Gardens, now called Mukuni Park. Many of the original buildings can still be seen there. Down the hill and by the railway station is a residential area which housed the railway workers. Around the outskirts of the town suburbs were constructed to house staff.
After the capital of Northern Rhodesia was moved to Lusaka, the economy of the town went down but it became an industrial as well as a tourist hub. For more stories on the colonial period of Livingstone, An Historical Guide to Livingstone and Victoria Falls Town is available in shops in town.
After Independence, Zambia was fraught with crises from external and internal problems caused largely due to many civil conflicts going on around its borders. Livingstone suffered along with the rest of the country. The Victoria Falls Bridge was closed to traffic for many years.
It was only in 1991 when a new government was elected that things began to change and tourism started to pick up again. It has been a slow but steady development of Livingstone as a tourism town over the past 25 years with the town now on the map as a must-visit tourist destination. However, because of its history, Livingstone is not just a tourist town, there is lots of other activity from government to industry and commerce.
At Independence the names of many towns were changed from the colonial ones to African names. The town of Livingstone did not change because of the high regard David Livingstone held in the memories of the people. Not only is his heart buried in Zambia but it was through his influence that the slave traded was ended as quickly as it did.