Travel/Experiences  •  Dispatch

Dispatch: The Other Side of Livingstone, Zambia

Olivia Terblanche takes us to Livingstone, Zambia, sharing all it has to offer.

June 01, 2017
Born and bred in Cape Town, South Africa, Olivia Terblanche is an avid globetrotter who has spent most of the past four years traveling. Despite having what she calls “itchy feet”, she keeps finding herself back in Bangkok, where she has settled down for a while and gives us this reflection from a recent trip to Livingstone, Zambia.

Victoria Falls is known to the locals as Mosi-oa-Tunya, which means "the smoke that thunders", and before you even see her, you can hear her and feel her spray. Two kilometers wide and 100 meters long, Victoria Falls is the world’s largest curtain of falling water and one of the biggest tourist attractions in Livingstone, Zambia. While Victoria Falls is the magnet that draws millions to Livingstone, however, there are plenty of lesser-known gems in this historic British colonial city.

What to see & do:
Local Cowboy Cycle Tours was one of the best things I did while in Livingstone—even if my body didn't agree for a few days after. The tours were set up by the late Cliff "Cowboy" Sikatumba because he wanted to start a pre-primary school for vulnerable children in the informal settlement. It is now run by his brother Oliver, and all proceeds go to the school.

The tour is around 35km, but even if you are like me (not used to exercise), don't let that scare you off. It is not very strenuous, and for your hard work you will be rewarded with sights off the beaten track: don't be surprised if you spot a hippo or a crocodile looking suspiciously docile in the river.

Spend some time strolling around Dambwa Market, a genuine Livingstone market, where you will find fresh produce, dried fish, livestock, stall upon stall full of irresistible vibrant Chitenge fabric (African fabric), and piles of cheap Chinese electronics and shoes, which seem oddly out of place.

White River rafting and Bungee Jumping are huge attractions for adrenalin junkies. White River rafting was one activity I wasn't going to leave Zambia without doing. In between some of the most exhilarating rapids there are tranquil waters so you can admire the beauty of the Batoka Gorge. As our guide Doc put it, "This is the Everest of river rafting." It is best to go when the water levels are lower, from August until late December. Between March and June the water levels are too high and the whole river is deemed unsafe. There are also canoe safaris available where the rapids are small and you are able to take in the surrounding beauty and wildlife such as elephants, buffalo and crocodiles.

Royal Livingstone Hotel should be an afternoon treat no matter where you are staying in Livingstone. Just hop in a taxi and soon you will be settled on a deck enjoying high tea or sundowners while overlooking the Zambezi River. There are usually vervet monkeys around trying to help themselves to some scones, and you may be lucky enough to have the surreal sighting of zebra grazing on the lawn.
Where to eat: If you are looking for a place bursting with local flavor, be sure to try Cafe Zambezi. It is a sunny courtyard by day that is lit by candles at night. The broad menu covers local flavors such as goat meat, smokey crocodile tail, and mopane caterpillars. You can also find wood-fired pizzas and impala burgers.

Where to stay: Livingstone has accommodation for all budgets. Jollyboys Backpackers is the original backpackers in Zambia and has been voted the best in Zambia for many consecutive years. Fawlty Towers is a spruced-up guesthouse with all the upmarket touches. If you are looking for something truly special, consider a few nights on the Zambezi Queen. It is a boutique floating hotel where you spend your days cruising down the Zambezi River while watching the wildlife from the comfort of your deck.

Tips: This being a very “natural” destination, it’s best to get hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines before you go, because these viruses could be contracted from contaminated foods or water, especially when in the more rural areas—or if you consider yourself an adventurous eater. Also be sure to have malaria tablets or quality repellant.  

Livingstone is rich in culture and history, which merges with its natural beauty. Take your time to slow down and explore the laid back city where "African time" isn't just a saying painted on a colorful curio clock.