I recently took a short holiday to Victoria Falls, based from Livingstone, Zambia. Other than booking a B&B, I did virtually no research or preparation before arriving in Zambia. Thus, I learned many valuable lessons about what one should and shouldn’t do when visiting Vic Falls.
Here is part one of my list of do’s and don’ts.
DO check the Zambia visa requirements before leaving. DON’T forget your yellow fever vaccination certificate.
I woke up on the morning of my flight to Livingstone and suddenly remembered that I would need to buy a Zambian visa upon arrival. I googled and realized the visa costs US$50. I had no U.S. dollars at home. Fortunately I had just enough time before my flight boarded to exchange some rand for dollars at the Forex desk in the airport.
I also forgot to bring my yellow vaccination certificate to Zambia. I was vaccinated in 2006 but haven’t used the certificate in years because none of the other southern African countries I’ve visited require it. In Zambia, however, you will not be allowed onto your flight back to South Africa without proof of a yellow fever vaccine. This major preparation error caused me quite a bit of angst. I’ll explain how I resolved the problem in my next post.
DO shop around for affordable lodging (unless you’re filthy rich and don’t care).
There tend to be two types of accommodation in big southern African tourist destinations: super-luxury and super-budget. In Livingstone, the fancy resorts along the river cost $500 per person per night and upward. The B&Bs in and around town cost $50 per person or less. I find this annoying. It seems to me that prices are driven up by overseas tourists who are on their “trip of a lifetime” and willing to pay any price to feel pampered and secure while visiting the Dark Continent. But I digress.
The point is you do not have to pay $500 a night to enjoy yourself in Vic Falls. My friends and I stayed at a small guest house just outside Livingstone called the Green Tree Lodge, and found it perfectly adequate and enjoyable.
My chalet, which I shared with my friend Michelle, at the Green Tree Lodge.
The Green Tree is nothing fancy, but the rate is $70 per room per night (double occupancy) including breakfast. The owner, Andrew, picked us up and dropped us off at the airport at no additional charge and acted as a travel agent, booking all our excursions. Green Tree also serves tasty lunches and dinners (Andrew is a former chef) at good prices.
DON’T visit the Livingstone curio market if you’re short on time. DO visit the Livingstone Museum instead.
I know that shopping at curio markets is a good way to support the local community. But I found the curio market in Livingstone depressing.
This guy’s expression sums it up.
I unfortunately didn’t have time to visit the Livingstone Museum but I wish I had. It’s the biggest museum in Zambia and everyone raves about it. Next time.
DO visit Zambia’s Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, and take 1,000 photos of the Falls.
You can catch a taxi to Mosi-oa-Tunya (which means “the smoke that thunders”) from anywhere in town. Taxis are painted bright blue and are completely safe. Don’t pay more than 30-40 kwacha ($6-8) for a ride to the Falls from town.
The view is best early in the morning so don’t dawdle.
Below, find highlights from the 1,000 photos I took of Victoria Falls from the Zambian side. (I also visited the falls from the Zimbabwean side — I’ll show you those pics in my next post.)
One of my first glimpses of the Falls.
While walking above the Falls, we came upon a Zambian church group from Lusaka that was recording a music video. Good timing.
Friends of the Lusaka church ladies take photos above the Falls. The view from the top is incredible and there are very few fences.
Our new friend Edward, living on the edge.
Shot from where Edward was sitting in the photo above. The pic is kind of blurry but I love it anyway.
We visited Vic Falls on Father’s Day. Michelle had the clever idea to make a sign for our dads and pose with it. The sign was a big hit — several other families asked to borrow it.
DO wear a raincoat. The Falls are wet.
This is the Knife-Edge Bridge. It’s very wet there. You can rent a rain poncho at the top of the path.
My favorite “Look at me! I’m at Vic Falls!” pose. (Photo: Michelle Stern)
DO hike down to the “Boiling Pot”.
The Boiling Pot is a raging pool below the Falls, where the Zambezi River passes under the Livingstone Bridge. The hike down the into the gorge and back up is a bit strenuous but worth it.
Water rushes down a small Vic Falls tributary toward the Boiling Pot.
The Boiling Pot and the Livingstone Bridge, which separates Zambia from Zimbabwe. Crazy people like to bungee-jump from this bridge.
We didn’t see any crazy bungee-jumpers while we were down at the Boiling Pot. But I caught some later.
DO take photos of the Vic Falls baboons. DON’T carry food.
Me and an indifferent baboon. (Photo: Michelle Stern)
There’s no avoiding the baboons at Vic Falls. They’re everywhere.
OMG. Cutest baby baboon ever.
The baboons seem quite tame and don’t mind being photographed. However, if you pull food out in front of a baboon it will most likely try to steal it from you. So, just don’t.
DO go for sundowners at the Royal Livingstone Hotel.
The Royal Livingstone is the preeminent lodge on the Zambian side of Vic Falls. It costs about $700 a night to stay there. But anyone can sit on the Royal Livingstone’s riverside deck, right above the Falls, and have drinks. Michelle, Edward and I rocked up in jeans and baseball caps and enjoyed the view alongside the fancy-pants Royal Livingstone guests. It was a major highlight of the trip.
My beverage of choice: Pimms cocktail. See the mist from the falls in the background?
Royal Livingstone monkey. I barely had time to shoot him with my iPhone before he ran away.
DON’T take a sunset booze cruise.
These cruises are popular and not too expensive, so we took one. (I can’t remember which company it was but there are several.) Cruising down the river was nice I guess, but it was a bit too…boozy for me. I would have preferred to go back to the Royal Livingstone again.
Boozy booze cruise (with an admittedly pretty view).
Okay, okay. The booze cruise sunset was pretty. Maybe you should go after all.
Stay tuned for Vic Falls do’s and don’ts: Zimbabwe edition.