Livingstone is the tourist capital of Zambia and as such it is a lively and prosperous little town. The recent expansion of the local international airport has made Livingstone even more accessible, and as the traditional convergence point for all tourists traveling from north to south and vice-versa, the town is always buzzing, no matter the season (although June to August is the most popular time, which happily coincides with the rafting season!!). Livingstone is home to one of Africa’s greatest and most inspiring tourist attractions, Victoria Falls, a fact that was recognised on the global stage when Livingstone co-hosted (along with its near neighbor, Victoria Falls Town across the river in Zimbabwe) the 2013 UNWTO.
Volunteering in a comparatively well-developed town will always be a different experience than living in a rural area, but Livingstone, while it has all the facilities of a bigger city (banks, well stoked shops, good transport, an active night life scene and the best pizza restaurant in Eastern and Southern Africa!!!) it is still very small, and the “bush-proper” begins within walking distance from the town. So spending a few months in Livingstone means you can get to experience both town and village life. And get to see Victoria Falls as many times as you like, which will always remain pretty awesome!
Officially the falls are the largest in the world (though, apparently, neither the highest nor the widest) and they are thoroughly impressive, whether seen when water levels are low, allowing for a full view of the massive expanse of the falls, or in high water, allowing for a full face of spray and a good soaking. The gorge itself is sheer and breathtaking and while it is well worth the cost of entry to gain access the falls themselves a couple of times, there’s nothing stopping you visiting the gorge itself whenever you want to, cycling along the stretches of river above and below the falls, taking in the valley, the cliffs and the many crocs along the way. No swimming unfortunately. However, not to worry, as there are plenty of activities to keep you busy at the weekend. Victoria Falls is the adventure capital of Southern Africa with activities on offer including white water rafting (or even kayaking for those of you, like me, looking for that extra risk of drowning yourself), micro-lite flying, helicopter rides and bungee jumping. Just be prepared to get your wallet out.
Apart from the falls there are also a number of other activities around Livingstone. The border to Zimbabwe is 1km beyond the entrance to the Falls, while national parks lie a few hours’ drive east of the town or south across the border into Zimbabwe. However, there are two very cool options that we recommend.
- A 4 day rafting trip down the Zambezi with camping overnight by the riverside. Simply an amazing a unique way to see the country. We recommend booking once you have set yourself up in Livingstone – you will get a cheaper deal if you tag along on a trip rather than organise your own.
- There are a few parks within a few hours’ drive of Livingstone and plenty of options for 2,3 and 4 day safaris – these are all relatively straight forward to organise once in Livingstone. However, for a more immersive bush experience we would definitely recommend booking a few days with IAPF. These guys are located just across the border in Zimbabwe. You can cross the border within half an hour of leaving Livingstone and have a pick up waiting to take you the rest of the way (another half hour) to the Stanely and Livingstone Game Reserve. You will have to pay for a visa into Zimbabwe but a night with IAPF is cheaper a than a conventional safari and how many people can say they have tracked Rhino on foot with Zimbabwean rangers or woken at night to the sound of lions calling to each other just outside their tent?
Accommodation: Volunteers stay at Jolly Boys Backpackers and Campsite
Flying International: Many international flights will now include a stop in Livingstone. The airport is 15 minutes from the town and Jollyboys can arrange a taxi pick-up.
Flying internally: For those coming from areas such as Mfuwe, Chipata or the Copperbelt it may be worth your while looking into a flying with Pro-Flight. If you have a lot of baggage this might not be an option as you are allowed 15 kg max, but if you can travel light and are willing to take your chances and show up at the airport, you can pick up last minute deal on internal flights.
Bus: Livingstone is a major stop along the way for buses travelling from South Africa northwards and visa versa. Buses leave every morning for the major cities in and around Zambia and it is advisable to book your tickets the night before and turn up 30moins before the bus is scheduled to leave.
If you are travelling northwards, wherever you are going you will be passing through Lusaka. The 7 hour bus ride costs roughly 20 usd and is pleasant enough, as long as the bus doesn’t break down. Mazhandu and Johane are your best bet.