Things to do - general

Livingstone was named after the famous Victorian missionary explorer, Dr David Livingstone. He explored this area extensively, Livingstone Town was established in 1905. As a major European settlement, being close to the Zambezi River crossing over to Southern Rhodesia, the town was made the capital of Northern Rhodesia in 1911. As the capital, it enjoyed excellent facilities far superior to anything elsewhere in the country, as can be seen from the surviving Edwardian buildings that line the city’s main road. Livingstone even had the distinction of having the country’s first newspaper. The capital was moved to Lusaka in 1935 and the bustling city has become a quiet town, but still retaining a special charm. A major event in 2011 was the installation of the town’s first set of traffic lights! The proximity to the Zambezi River and the spectacular Victoria Falls has led Livingstone to become a base for travelers from all over the world wanting to explore this Wonder of the World.

Originally known as the Old Drift, Livingstone owes its existence primarily to the Victoria Falls and was established as a staging point across the Zambezi River. The town is named after Dr. David Livingstone, the first European to see, name and publicise the Falls. The Scottish explorer’s journey and first sight of the Falls in 1855 opened up Central Africa to other missionaries, hunters, and traders.

The History of Livingstone in Zambia

Livingstone was founded in 1905 at a safe distance from the then swampy banks of the Zambezi. In 1907 it became the capital of what was known as Northern-Western Rhodesia. In 1911 it became the capital of Northern Rhodesia, what is today called Zambia. In 1935 the capital was moved to Lusaka, but Livingstone retained its “Tourist Capital” status as well as much of its original colonial character.

History lovers will find Livingstone alive. Many buildings from the first decade of the century are still in use. It was one of the first white settlements in Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and for quite a while it was the only urban center in the territory and the gateway to the north. The town has preserved much of its colonial character, but is a typical African town with a busy charm.

Rich in scenery and heritage, Livingstone today has become the tourist heart of Zambia. We welcome you to the city of heritage and culture.

Country Zambia
Languages spokenEnglish and Chi-Nyanja or Chi-Chewa
Currency usedZambian Kwacha

Sports & nature

There is so much to do in both Livingstone and the surrounding areas, that it would be impossible to write it all in one paragraph. Below is a short list of some of the attractions which Livingstone has on offer (for the action packed adrenaline stuff, please refer to the Activities and Tours page). But don't forget that this is also the perfect place to sit back, sip an icy cold beer, read a book and lie by the pool!

Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls is arguably the most beautiful waterfall in the world. Spanning 1.7 kilometers with a 108-meter drop, it is not surprising that people have been drawn to this natural wonder since it was first discovered. It is shared by Zambia and Zimbabwe and, in my expert opinion, is well worth experiencing from both countries. By traveling across the border to Zimbabwe, or Zim as the locals call it, you can see Victoria Falls in all its glory. As a bonus, there are usually multiple rainbows that form due to the heavy mist that comes from the millions of liters of water that flow over the edge every second. If you happen to be at Victoria Falls when the water is high (April to July) and there is a full moon, be sure to check out the lunar rainbow.

Devil’s Pool
Victoria Falls is well known around the world so, of course, it is at the very tippy top of many peoples wishlist. However, seeing as there are so many different ways to experience the beauty and power of the falls, the best way was sitting directly on the edge, in Devil’s Pool. Devil’s Pool is located on the Zambian side of the falls and is truly as must-do activity. If you’re like me and enjoy a good adrenaline rush and some very worthy pictures for friends and family, then this will be perfect for you. After swimming in the pool, an added bonus is the eggs benedict breakfast you’ll get to enjoy afterwards on Livingstone Island, a truly delicious way to top off the adventure.

Walking with Lions
This is one of the most popular tourist attractions. Here you will get spoiled because you got to do try handling the jungle King. As a guest, you’ll spend an hour walking the lions through the African bush, stopping to take pictures with the playful cats while also learning important facts about the species. One of the best parts about this program is that all of the money raised from the walks goes directly towards the care of the lions and ALERT’s research to help repopulate areas of Africa with lions where they traditionally lived. So, not only do you get to hang out with these lions in the wild, but you’ll also help improve the fate of the wild lion prides in Africa.

Lunar Rainbows
You could never tire of seeing this awesome natural phenomenon. When the moon is full, the sky is relatively clear and the Victoria Falls are at their peak flow, huge rainbows appear through the mist at night. The thundering sound of millions of litres of water crashing down into the gorges below is pretty impressive in itself. Jollyboys Backpackers arranges special night trips during the full moon at high water (Jan-May). It's worth arranging a stay in Livingstone for this time.

Rapid #7, atop the Gorge
There are numerous spots to view the dramatic Zambian sunset, but this has to be one of the best. Perched atop the Batoka Gorge, above rapid #7, and with scenes of Zimbabwe, Zambia, the Zambezi and the distant spray of the Victoria Falls… where better to down a few cold ones at the end of a long day!.

Crocodile and Snake Park
This is a must if you are in the Livingstone area, especially for some awesome pictures! The park is stocked with problem crocodiles (ie. have eaten people and/or livestock) and various poisonous and non-poisonous snakes. Saturday and Sunday afternoon is feeding time where it becomes quite obvious why these beasts rule the river!

Mukuni Village
Senior Chief Mukuni is involved with the promotion of tourism in Zambia and his village provides an excellent opportunity to see rural life in action. Located just outside Livingstone, the village is inhabited by about 8000 people of Toka-Leya decent. Life here goes on pretty much as usual, even with a few tourists about; though, curios are for sale. Please do not bring handouts for the children; however donations to the local school are always welcome. If you are lucky, meetings with Chief Mukuni can sometimes be arranged. Remember to dress modestly in any rural setting (especially woman) and ask before taking photos. Refer to the Travel Facts and Info (Local Social Conventions) page for more details.

Maramba Market
Maramba Market incorporates just about every type of business venture imaginable. There are rows and rows of stalls for second hand clothes (some excellent deals!), woman selling fresh vegetables and dried beans, stacks of chitenge and places to fix your bike, sew your backpack, buy a bed or get a toy made from some copper wire and a couple of bottle tops. The people are used to lots of Muzungus being around (quite often this market is the best stocked in town!) so feel free to walk around and soak up the atmosphere but remember to dress modestly and ask before taking photos.

Livingstone Museum
The Livingstone Museum is very well kept and informative and should be part of any visitor's stay. There are large displays about Zambia's independence, early man, witchcraft, local chiefs, crafts and an extensive selection of David Livingstone memorabilia (donated by his family). The museum also has a small gift shop.

Victoria Falls Field Museum
This small museum is based beside the Victoria Falls and is built around an actual excavation site. The museum focuses on the early people inhabiting the area as well as the geology and formation of the Victoria Falls.

Railway Museum
Railway enthusiasts think that this place is great, but others should give it a miss. Rare steam locomotives and various information on the Cape to Cairo route are on display.

Rafting the Zambezi River
Rafting the Zambezi River was one of my favorite activities. There are many rafting places in the world but none come close to the Zambezi. River Zambezi is one of the top 10 places in the world to go rafting. You can choose between a full day and half day trip. The full day is highly recommended as you get to experience more rapids and don’t have to hike out of the canyon at the end. The rapids are big, the largest being a class 5, but if you fall out, which there is a 99.99% chance that you will survive. You don’t have to worry about getting your feet caught or hitting your head on rocks because the river is so deep. It is truly a blast and an awesome bonding experience with your fellow boat mates.

Game Drives
Most people go to Africa because they want to see the amazing wildlife in action. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that while you are visiting Zambia, you take advantage of all the game drives that are offered. Some will be overnight excursions, taking you into Zimbabwe or Botswana, while others are half-day trips. You can enjoy early morning and late evening game drives, as you are more likely to see the animals in action before the afternoon heat hits. Either way, you are bound to see some awesome wildlife and snap the perfect picture to capture that memory.

The White Rhinos
Seeing any wildlife in Africa is a remarkable experience but none was is as special as seeing the rhinos. There are nine white rhinos of Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. These are endangered wildlife and are often under protection. The rhinos here show no fear, and are instead extremely inquisitive. The guards will often help shoo the young adults away when they get too close.

The Market
The market in Livingstone is a vibrant place filled with treasures waiting to be discovered. The key to enjoying yourself here is to be relaxed. Like in many developing countries, you will have people constantly calling after you to buy their items and this can be overwhelming. Instead of getting frustrated, enjoy the cultural immersion and set your inner haggler free. Be sure to never settle for anything until you get it at the “local” price.

Sun-downers at the Royal Livingstone
After a long day of adventures, the best way to relax is with a drink in your hand while watching a gorgeous African sunset. And there is no better place to do this than from the patio at the Royal Livingstone Hotel. Located directly on the Zambezi River just before Victoria Falls, it is the perfect place to “take a load off” and enjoy the scenery. But be warned, the zebras are wild and they will kick you if you get too close.

Nightlife info

Livingstone has a wide array of varied and tasty cuisine. Much of this is meat based (not surprisingly) and depending on which restaurants you may choose, you can be treated to some wonderful and varying game meats such as Kudu, warthog and impala. Crocodile is a specialty of the area and is highly recommended. Mopani worms can be served at certain restaurants and are an "acquired" taste but worth a go if you are game.

The local staple dish is called Nshima and is traditionally beef with corn meal and gravy. Very tasty! There are plenty of places with cold Mosi (the local beer) and you'll find the locals very friendly.

Whether you choose to have your sun-downer beside the river or in town, Africans know how to serve drinks.... COLD!

Ocean Basket
This is situated on the main road out of town towards the falls and is within an easy walk of town. As the name suggests, it specializes in seafood and does an excellent seafood platter if there are a few of you who are keen to share. Service is good and generally quite fast.

Pub Rite
If you are keen on a good meal in the center of town, Pub Rite offers a wonderful meal although service can be slow. It tends to fill up a great deal on Fridays and Saturdays, so if these are your nights in town, we suggest getting in early and enjoying a few cold drinks prior to your meal and excellent steaks.

The Royal Livingstone Golf Club
For a perfect place to kick back and relax, especially if you are a group, the golf course is well set up with a stunning restaurant overlooking the stunning course. It can get busy so we recommend booking ahead. A varied and distinctive menu is on offer and the service is very attentive.

The Zambezi Sun & Royal Livingstone
Situated near to the Falls on the Upper Zambezi, both restaurants offer a wonderful dining experience. The Royal Livingstone offers wonderful A La Carte food whilst the Zambezi Sun offers and excellent buffet. Prices here are generally more than in Livingstone but well worth it as a treat. Try the excellent breakfast at Royal Livingstone Hotel. A collared shirt is required for men at both establishments.

The Waterfront Bar
Possibly the best place in Livingstone to watch the African sunset and enjoy an ice cold beverage. You'll often see and hear hippos in the river directly opposite the bar and on occasion other animals may appear!

Often the most happening bar in town, Jollyboys tends to have a younger backpacker type crowd at the bar. Service is excellent and being centrally located makes it the ideal place for an after dinner drink.

Fez Bar Gourmet Burger Joint
On the main road, just opposite Fawlty Towers and next to Shoprite, the Fezbar has a fantastic atmosphere. Rodney and his team do great Gourmet burgers and it is well worth a visit for one of your nights in Livingstone.

Culture and history info

Livingstone began as a small European settlement at Old Drift, a site on the north bank of the Zambezi River about ten kilometers upriver of the Victoria Falls (now within Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park). The Drift was a crossing place on the Zambezi at its narrowest point, facilitating trade between Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

For centuries, the falls region has been inhabited by the Leya people. Today it is under two traditional rulerships, Chief Mukuni on the eastern side and Chief Sekute on the western side.

Livingstone owes its existence primarily to the Victoria Falls. The town was fittingly named after the first European to visit, name and publicize the Victoria Falls, Dr. David Livingstone. The Scottish missionary and explorer’s journey opened up central Africa to missionaries, hunters, traders and prospectors.

A ferry crossing started business at the Old Drift, nine kilometers above the Victoria Falls. This was soon followed by a fast growing settlement also known as Old Drift. The settlement was badly sited in a low lying and marshy land. Malaria took a heavy toll on the inhabitants. The discovery of coal deposits at Wankie in Southern Rhodesia and copper deposits in the Zambezi/Congo watershed necessitated the building of a railway and prompted the authorities to find a better site for town.

The new town
In 1904, the railway from Bulawayo reached the Victoria Falls and in 1905 the bridge across Batoka Gorge joining Northern and Southern Rhodesia. The completion of the bridge was celebrated with a lot of tourism activity which included the first international regatta. The Old Drift was unhealthy and far from the railway. This led the colonial administration choosing to move to the eastern slope of the sandy ridge, ten kilometers north of the falls, creating a new town. This site, being high and away from the river, was considered healthier. Major Robert Coryndon was the Administrator for North Western Rhodesia at the time, with his capital at Kalomo. By 1904, Old Drift settlement changed its name to Livingstone after David Livingstone. And this was the name chosen for the new town. All that is left of Old drift is the cemetery and a few exotic tress. Livingstone, as we know it, was born.

Livingstone milestones
In 1907 Livingstone became the capital of what was then known as the North Western Rhodesia. By that time the town had grown to include two hotels, a restaurant, two mineral water factories, two butcheries, a barbershop, a chemist and four building contractors. In 1911 Livingstone became the capital of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). But in 1935, the capital was moved to Lusaka. Livingstone retained its tourist capital status though, largely because of its proximity to the Victoria Falls. And it’s because of the falls that Livingstone is now the adventure capital not only of Zambia but of Southern Africa.

It was from Livingstone that Sobek initiated the first ever rafting expedition down the Batoka gorge. Small beginnings for what is becoming one of the world’s biggest white – water attractions. It was from Livingstone that Kiwi Extreme initiated one of the world’s highest commercial bungee jumps off Victoria Falls Bridge. With canoeing, horse riding, game viewing, cultural dancing, Livingstone Island luncheons, and micro-light flights over the falls, the adventure capital crown is well-deserved.

Historical gems
History lovers will find Livingstone historically alive. Many buildings from the first decade of the century are still in use such as the North Western Hotel initially erected in 1907, and upgraded and expanded in 1909. Nanoos, now a supermarket, was built by one of the first settlers at Old Drift, Mopani Clark. Originally the bar was both a bar and a store. St. Andrews church was dedicated in 1911.

The Livingstone museum houses a substantial collection of Doctor Livingstone’s personal effects as well as substantial displays of Zambia’s ethnological and ethnographic heritage. Stone age men frequented the Livingstone area and some of their artifacts are stored in the museum. The railway museum, housed in the old saw mill side buildings, always proves attractive to Steam Train buffs and casual visitors alike. With all the tourism activities outlined, the town was declared the tourism capital of Northern Rhodesia in 1936 and it remains so to this day.

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Unfortunately there are no car rental offers at this location at the moment.