Livingstone: The three-minute guide
The awe-inspiring torrent of the Victoria Falls is what makes this Africa's most spectacular waterfall.
To see one of the natural wonders of the world – Victoria Falls. Livingstone once may have been the capital of Zambia, when it was better known as northern Rhodesia, but its sole reason for existence these days is to service the tourism industry surrounding these magnificent waterfalls. Known as the "Smoke that Thunders" by local tribesmen, the planet's largest sheet of falling water measures 1.7 kilometres across and more than 100 metres high. To see the falls in full flow, visit in March or April.
The Livingstone Museum is the country's biggest and oldest, dating to the 1930s. Split into five sections, exhibits include a room dedicated to Dr David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary explorer the city is named after, and one showcasing cultural artefacts and information about Zambia's 73 recognised tribes.
If you visit Livingstone towards the end of the dry season when the river level drops, have a swim in the Devil's Pool at the edge of the waterfall – it's the ultimate selfie. Be sure to avoid the touts promising to guide you out to this limpid natural waterhole beside Livingstone Island, where the explorer first saw Victoria Falls in 1855. Instead, join an official guided tour through your hotel or the national parks office at the park entrance.
An interesting and cheap – it can cost as little as $US5 a person if you arrange it yourself – half-day out is to join a cultural tour through a village. Think thatched roof adobe huts, communal wells and dusty soccer fields, along with painting and wood carving demonstrations. Livingstone was originally beside the river, until malarial mosquitoes forced it to shift to its current location 15 kilometres inland. The region has since been declared malaria-free and a tour will take you to the riverside to see those early remnants and to learn about the town's colonial architecture.
How can you miss the chance to listen to the roar of Victoria Falls from the comfort of your hotel room's balcony? The look and feel of the colonial-style Royal Livingstone Hotel harks back to the days when Cecil Rhodes' British South Africa Company attempted to forge a path across the Dark Continent from Cape Town to Cairo. Next door is the family-friendly Avani Victoria Falls Resort where zebras graze on the expansive lawns skirting a swimming pool that kids won't want to leave. Stays in both hotels include unlimited entry to Victoria Falls, inside the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park – a saving of US$10 per day.
Again, nothing beats dining in a hotel restaurant beside the river. You'll pay extra for the riverside setting and sumptuous surrounds but it's worth it just to order a gin on the sun deck at the Royal Livingstone while hippos, crocs and elephants wallow in the river beyond your feet. In town head to the Ocean Basket for seafood dinners, or to Cafe Zambezi for authentic African dishes. Olga's Italian Corner serves tasty pasta and pizza dishes, with profits going to a youth-focused NGO.
The Zambezi River is one of the world's great white-water rafting destinations. For a full day of rollicking thrills and spills in grade-five rapids, deep inside the Batoka Gorge, book through Bundu Adventures (bunduadventures.com).
The writer visited Livingstone courtesy of South African Airways, Royal Livingstone Hotel and Avani Victoria Falls Resort.