Victoria Falls - Livingstone
Originally known as constitution hill, Livingstone owes its existence primarily to the Victoria Falls and was established as a staging point across the mighty Zambezi River. The town is named after Dr. David Livingstone, the first European to discover, name and publicize the falls. The Scottish explorer's journey and discovery of the falls in 1855 opened up Central Africa to other missionaries, hunters, and traders.
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 historically 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 centre in the territory and the gateway to the north. The town has preserved some of its colonial character, but is a typical African town with an easy-going charm. Unlike other towns in this part of Africa, Livingstone is a storehouse of rich and fascinating cultural heritage. Zambia's very first hotel in operation is found in Livingstone.
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Rich in scenery and heritage, Livingstone today has become the tourist heart of Zambia coupled with an environment that has remained unchanged since the very beginning of time. Follow the footsteps of Dr. Livingstone; get a foretaste of splendour of the Victoria Falls as you see them the way he saw them. We welcome you to the city of heritage and culture.
VICTORIA FALLS - ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ - ‘the Smoke that Thunders’
Situated about 10 kilometres from the city of Livingstone is one of the world’s seven natural wonder and one of the most spectacular natural sites in the world, "The Victoria Falls".
The Falls are 1.7 km wide with a volume of 9 million litres per second tearing down at a vertical drop of 100 metres. The spray of the falls can be clearly seen from a distance of 30km and hence its local name, Mosi-oa-Tunya, "The smoke that thunders".
Columns of spray can be seen from miles away as 546 million cubic meters of water per minute plummet over the edge (at the height of the flood season) over a width of nearly two kilometres into a deep gorge over 100 meters below. The wide basalt cliff, over which the falls thunder, transforms the Zambezi from a wide placid river to a ferocious torrent cutting through a series of dramatic gorges.
Facing the Falls is another sheer wall of basalt, rising to the same height and capped by mist-soaked rain forest. A path along the edge of the forest provides the visitor who is prepared to brave the tremendous spray with an unparalleled series of views of the Falls.
One special vantage point is across the Knife edge bridge, where visitors can have the finest view of the Eastern Cataract and the Main Falls as well as the Boiling Pot where the river turns and heads down the Batoka Gorge. Other vantage points include the Falls Bridge and the Lookout Tree which commands a panoramic view across the Main Falls.
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WHEN TO GO:
Different times of the year will provide completely different experiences of the Falls region. Peak flood season is around March and April and the full power of the falls can be experienced in all its glory. But due to the masses of spray rising from the fallen water the full width of the Falls cannot be seen on foot. The aerial view at this time however is spectacular, with clouds of spray rising high into the sky.
As the floods abate the view of the falls gets better and better through the year, but at its lowest, around November and December the Falls become little rivulets running over the edge and in some places along the 1,7km width no water falls at all. This season’s gift is the view of the impressive cliffs that form the Falls wall and the magnitude of the abyss can be fully appreciated.
The Falls can be approached from the town of Livingstone by travelling south on Mosi O Tunya road for some 11 kilometres. Just before the border, there is a turning to the right which leads to a parking area. Walks all around the Falls are accessible from this point. If approaching from Zimbabwe, cross the border at the town of Victoria Falls and watch for the left turning just after the Zambian customs post.
WHERE TO STAY:
There are several hotels and lodges in the Victoria Falls areas providing a wide range of accommodation to suit every need, style and budget.
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WHAT TO DO / ACTIVITIES:
The Victoria Falls area is rapidly becoming known as the ‘Adventure Centre’ of Southern Africa, with various adrenaline sports, unmatched scenery of breathtaking proportions, and many other leisure options for outdoor lovers.
- Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park, Game Drives/Safaris
- Cultural History Tours
- White Water Rafting
- White Water Rafting Multi-day Trip
- BUNGI Jumping
- River Boarding/Boogie Boarding
- Tandem Kayaking
- Jet Boating
- Abseiling/Gorge Swing
- River Cruise
- "Flight of Angels" (helicopter)
- Walking Safaris (Mosi-oa-Tunya)
- Fishing on the Upper Zambezi
- Horseback Riding
- Mobile Photographic Safaris
The Victoria Falls Bridge was commissioned by Cecil John Rhodes in 1900, although he never visited the falls and died before construction began, he expressed his wish that the "railway should cross the Zambezi just below the Victoria Falls. I should like to have the spray of the falls over the carriages."
The bridge affords a magnificent view both down the gorge on the one side and through to the falls on the other. The immense depth of the gorge can be fully appreciated from this perspective and combined with the sea green river below, the shiny black rock face and lush green foliage, the 360 degree view from the bridge is breathtaking.
To fully appreciate the incredible size of the Falls, and the awesome power of the water as it carves into the deep zig zagging gorges for eight kilometres, one must see it from the air. Micro-light and fixed wing flights are available. The pilot will take you along the wide tranquil upper Zambezi, and over the huge 2 km rent in the earth. The breathtaking sight of this magnificent natural phenomenon, seen in all its glory from the air, is unforgettable.
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On the opposite cliff, facing the falls, you can take a well marked and paved walk through the rain forests. Every so often the path will open out into a clearing for a view of the falls. Further along this path is the Knife Edge Bridge which affords an impressive panorama depending on the time of year. Although less can be seen of the width of the Falls during the wet season, the intense spray provides welcome relief from the heat.
During the dry season, be sure to take a walk along the lip of the Falls themselves. Sometimes the water is low enough to walk all the way across to Livingstone Island, the place where David Livingstone had his first glimpse of the Falls. This is surely one of the most magnificent views in the area.
Another interesting perspective is deep within the gorge into which the Falls descend. From the parking lot, look for the signs pointing to "The Boiling Pot." It’s quite a steep climb, but well-worn steps make it a fairly easy descent. Coming up is of course a little more strenuous, but the view from below of the wide Zambezi thundering over the cliff, then compressed into the deep thin crevice turning into the Batoka Gorge, crashing and swirling over rapids, is quite spectacular. From this vantage point one can also see up to the impressive Victoria Falls Bridge, spanning the gorge over 100 meters above.
The best place for a wide range of crafts and curios is the Mukuni Victoria Falls Craft Village. From intricate animal carvings in stone, wood, or the beautiful green malachite, masks, drums, marimbas, spoons, book ends, walking sticks, jewellery and much more. The vendors can be really pushy however, yelling for your attention from all sides, so be firm. Look at everything before buying as some offer better quality than others. They are usually happy to trade for things like T shirts, batteries, shoes, or anything else hard to come by in Zambia. You’ll find it in the parking area just above the Falls where most of the walks begin and alongside the Victoria Falls Field Museum. This little museum attempts to explain how the falls were formed over the millennia. It is built over an actual excavation site that has uncovered evidence of early hominids that lived in the area as far back as 2.5 million years ago.
Mosi O Tunya National Park is situated along the upper Zambezi stretching from and including the Falls for about 12kms up river. It is only 66 square kilometres but provides a home for numerous antelope species, zebra, giraffe and the recently acquired white rhinos, one of whom gave birth in the park in 1994. These are the only rhinos to be seen in Zambia as its previously large population has been completely eliminated through poaching. One can take a pleasant drive around the park in a couple of hours and almost all the species there should be seen at close range. Since there are no predators, they are very relaxed and afford some excellent photo opportunities.
Mukuni Village is an authentic tribal village where thousands of people live and work. In July of each year the Leya people partake in the colourful Lwiindi Ceremony. The local people believe the spirits of their ancestors still dwell in the gorges of the Falls and during the Lwiindi, they offer sacrifices to them for rain.
THE HISTORY & CREATION OF VICTORIA FALLS
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CREATION OF THE FALLS:
It is thought that earth movement in an earlier geological period diverted the south-easterly flowing upper Zambezi to a general easterly direction and so initiated the development of a waterfall in an area occupied by a massive bed of basalt which is about 305 m thick.
The basalt, through which the Zambezi runs for 209 km’s in the Livingstone area is characterised by very marked joints or cracks, which may have developed as the molten lava cooled. One dominant series of joints running in an east-west direction is associated with zones of soft material within the basalt.
Since the Zambezi is flowing due south in the Livingstone area, these softer materials are very easily eroded to form the great east-west gorges. Upstream retreat of the Falls is due to a second major series of joints running north-south. Gradual erosion of small joints that run north-south caused the river to be concentrated into a narrow fissure and the broad fall line was abandoned. Once this happened, it was only a question of time before the narrow gorges cut back into another transverse fracture zone of soft material. This gouging out of the soft zone again established a broad fall. This process has been repeated over many years and the zigzag gorges represent seven previous lines of Falls.
The Devil’s Cataract, on the Zimbabwe side, which is 21-37 m lower than the rest of the present falls, shows how the force of water is starting to cut back along such a line of weakness. It will probably erode its way back to another east-west joint where a future line of the falls will eventually become established.
Livingstone’s first sighting
In 1851, Livingstone first heard of the great waterfall, but it was only in 1855 that he set out to visit it. He spent the night on Kalai Island a few kilometres upstream of the Falls, having come down river by foot, and the next morning set off in a small canoe to approach the thundering smoke. He landed on the biggest island on the lip of the falls, now called Livingstone Island and from there obtained his first view of the falls.
"Creeping with awe to the verge, I peered down into a large rent which had been made from bank to bank of the broad Zambezi, and saw that a stream of a thousand yards broad leaped down a hundred feet and then became suddenly compressed into a space of fifteen to twenty yards....the most wonderful sight I had witnessed in Africa."
Of the surrounding area he wrote: "No one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes, but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight" (Livingstone 1857).
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Recent tribal history of the Livingstone area:
When David Livingstone arrived at the Zambezi River he met the Kololo people. The Kololo had run away from the Zulus in South Africa during the wars in the early 1800s. They had arrived in this area and conquered all the tribes in Western and Southern Zambia. It was the Chief of the Kololo, Sekeletu, who brought David Livingstone to the Victoria Falls.
The Kololo did not last much longer as rulers of this area. Chief Sekeletu suffered from leprosy and spent his time trying to find out who had bewitched him - he killed many people. The Kololo also did not have the same resistance to malaria as the local tribes and their numbers were dwindling. The original tribe of Western Zambia, the Lozi, came back into power in the 1860s.
The Lozi took the language of the Kololo which is the reason why the Lozi language which is spoken today is similar to Sotho - Lesotho being the original home of the Kololo people.
The Lozi continued to rule most of Western and Southern Zambia. The king of the Lozi, the Litunga, was a very powerful man. When the first missionaries and settlers came to the region they had to gain permission from the Litunga. And when the British South African Company, Cecil Rhodes’ company, wanted mineral rights for the area, it was the Litunga who agreed.
Over the years, the Litunga’s power has been eroded but he still remains a powerful man in Western Province.
The tribe of Chief Mukuni are called the Leya. They occupy land by the Victoria Falls and along the gorges. The Leya people came from the Rozwi tribe in Zimbabwe. They had been sent to the Falls area by their chief and were conquered by the Mukuni people. The tribe of Chief Mukuni, it is believed, was one of the groups which came down from the Congo in the 17th or 18th century.
It is said that the tribe brought with them a stone - Kechejo - from Kabwe. This stone was put at the site of the Mukuni village. The story of Kechejo is that it will disappear under the ground in times of severe drought; it will also raise itself higher out of the ground in times of good harvest.
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Chief Mukuni chooses one of his female relatives to be the Priestess of the tribe - usually a sister or aunt. The Chief, along with his counsellors, arbitrates cases involving local politics and other problems. The Priestess, called Bedyango, is responsible for religious affairs, and receives reports of births and deaths.
The Leya worship their dead ancestors, Chief Mukuni being their representative on earth. There are several ceremonies which can be performed at the village at certain times of the year and in cases of disease or drought.
The Lwiindi Ceremony is performed every year just before the rains. This ceremony is conducted from a sacred hut about 100 metres from the village by the graveyard. In the hut are kept the sacred drums. Before the ceremony the village people will brew plenty of beer, and visitors from all over the region will visit the village. On the day of the ceremony everyone moves to the graveyard where prayers are said and hymns are sung to the dead chiefs.
After the ceremony is completed the people return to the village to feast, dance and sing.
Chief Sekute rules over another group of Leya but the ruling clan were originally thought to be of Subiya descent. The Leya people of Chief Sekute live to the west of Livingstone towards Kazungula. A story is told that the first Chief Sekute came to the area to hunt hippopotamus and stayed. This group were originally living on the islands in the river. When they wanted to move onto the mainland, Chief Mukuni refused permission. They fought on several occasions but Mukuni won each time. The last time, Chief Mukuni gave one of his sisters to Chief Sekute as a wife, and this settled their quarrel. Interestingly, when David Livingstone arrived at the Falls, he landed on Kalai Island. Here he found the graves of past Chiefs Sekute. These graves were surrounded by elephant tusks - 70 in all. It was the Leya of Chief Sekute who lived near the Old Drift when the first white settlers came to the area.
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The people under Chief Musokotwane are called Toka - this is the name given them by the Kololo, but they were probably Tonga. Their home is Senkobo, north of Livingstone. This is the largest group in the area and they are culturally and linguistically similar to the Leya. The ruling clan, however, is different again from Mukuni and Sekute. They came from Kabanga under their Chief Sianalumba.
LIVINGSTONE TOURISM ASSOCIATION:
P.O. Box 60927
Tel: +260 (3) 322089
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