The international airport is small but has excellent connectivity with international flights to and from Lusaka, Johannesburg and Nairobi and easy access to Botswana and Zimbabwe by road as well. Visiting the Falls on this side of the border is very different, particularly as the water levels drop towards the end of the high season, but offers an incredible opportunity to see the geology of the landscape. Other highlights in the Livingstone area include both wilderness – time on the river or in Mosi oa Tunya National Park as well as culture – village and school visits, local artisans, historical sites and the Livingstone Museum.
We enjoyed a full day exploring the town with our private vehicle and guide, part of Chundukwa’s full day experience allowing for flexible touring.
Our visit to the national park began with a descent down the boiling point – a 1.5m hike down a clear but uneven pathway where we enjoyed views of the Falls, the Victoria Falls Bridge (completed in 1905) and the Victoria Falls Hotel beyond. We even spotted some daredevils zip lining from the bridge (no bungee jumpers on that day – but if you are an adrenaline junkie, this is the spot to be!) After the climb back out of the gorge, we enjoyed views of the river from along the bank before gaping at the stunning Falls along the 13 viewpoints, including the Knife Edge Bridge. This is a shorter stretch of the Falls, but from Livingstone a visit to the Zimbabwe side of the Falls is an easy day trip.
Whilst we didn’t visit Zimbabwe, we next enjoyed a walk across the iconic bridge and the views down the gorges – a fun way to stretch our legs after the hike as the bridge is busy with foot and vehicle traffic.
Our afternoon began with a tour of the Livingstone Museum – it is small and quaint with a quirky variety of exhibits. The $5 per person entrance fee was well spent as we learnt the history of the local tribes and how the town came into being and grew up to become a tourism destination. There was also a “natural history” section (it was a bit odd to see animals on display after seeing them in wild), an exhibit about David Livingstone and his contributions to the region, as well as a display on the political history of the country.
The town also offers some wonderful options for some retail therapy from buying chitenga fabric and nut butter at the local market to some wonderful local artisans. Our favourites included Wayi Wayi Art Gallery, Waya Waya leather goods and Sishemo Studio.
Of course, no stay in Livingstone would be complete without time on the river, which we happily enjoyed for sunset every evening (and even a full moon rise). In fact for guests staying on the Livingstone side of the Falls, we would recommend staying in one of the lodges along the Zambezi river – most are 15-40 minutes upstream from town and a perfect spot to relax after busy days. Most of the lodges include the sunset cruise and tour of the Falls, with other optional activities on offer. We opted to book a “Walk with Rhino” experience during our stay at Tongabezi. This is an incredible way to see the endangered white rhino in Zambia, as well as enjoying a walking tour in Mosi oa Tunya park with a guide and ranger.
Where we stayed:
We began our time at the charming Chundukwa River Lodge, a small family run property owned by a Zambian couple who initially ran the property as a small base to welcome guests ahead of a horse safari, which they operate in western Zambia. They have a stable, which guests are welcome to visit – and can book a horse ride on property as well. The 6 rooms are currently being refurbished – with many of the design elements created at the workshop on property (and guests purchasing some right from the team). This is a wonderful option for clients on a more conservative budget, who are keen to experience a river lodge.
We continued our stay at Tongabezi Lodge where the 11 rooms are spread out over a gorgeous and green property, with well lit pathways. The “entry level” garden cottages all offer stunning views of the river, and the houses add an extra level of luxury. We were in the Garden House, a 2 bedroom unit with a small pool, that is great for families (note it does not face the river) as it is also adjacent to the gorgeous main pool area, which kids will love. All the rooms are very different, but gorgeous. It is also fantastic for couples or groups of friends as there are a variety of dining areas, offering a sense of privacy. In-room dining is also available. The lodge has a bit of a resort feel with lots of different public areas which is nice. The River Cottages are the entry level rooms, which are still quite spacious with space on your deck for private dining. We also took a quick boat ride over to the sister property, Sindabezi Island Lodge – this intimate eco-lodge is a glorious spot on a small island with views right over to Zimbabwe’s Zambezi National Park, so the wildlife is easy to spot. The rooms are well situated in a half moon around the edge of the island with the main area in the center as well as some lovely nooks facing the water.
While all the properties have wonderful relationships with the local communities and support a variety of project, Tongabezi’s guests have the additional opportunity of visiting and spending time with students at the Tongabezi Trust’s school, adjacent to the lodge.
Our final night in beautiful Zambia was spent at the new kid on the block, Mukwa River Lodge – part of the Residence portfolio; it is truly a beautiful property with a lovely and open main area. There are some quiet spots for private dining as well. The rooms are very spacious but note they are quite close together (though we did not hear any of our neighbours) and two of the rooms face the gardens and a small pond. Two of the rooms make a family unit and for another family option, there is a wonderful 2-bedroom family unit set on the grounds a short distance from the main area.
The property is also in the process of growing their own produce, have a very friendly bunch chickens producing eggs and are about to expand their spa offering as well!
If time permits, I would allow 3 nights for a stay in Livingstone, to provide enough time to enjoy all the area has to offer, in addition to relaxing on property.
Give us a call to discuss adding Livingstone to your itinerary – it combines well with Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa too! (800) 700-3677