Victoria Falls, Zambia

It took us about 1 hour by car from the river crossing from Botswana to Zambia. We last went to Vic Falls in the late 1960s, when Zimbabwe was Southern Rhodesia. Returning over 40 years later, we stayed at the Zambian side. In the Royal Livingstone Hotel, from where you can walk to the falls.

David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary and explorer, is believed to have been the first European to view these falls in 1855 from what is now known as Livingstone Island, one of two land masses in the middle of the river, immediately upstream from the falls on the Zambian side. Livingstone named his discovery in honour of Queen Victoria. While it is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, it is classified as the largest, based on its width of 1,708 metres and height of 108 metres, resulting in the world's largest sheet of falling water. Victoria Falls is roughly twice the height of North America's Niagara Falls and well over twice the width of its Horseshoe Falls. In height and width Victoria Falls is rivalled only by South America's Iguazu Falls. For a considerable distance upstream from the falls the Zambezi flows over a level sheet of basalt bounded by low and distant sandstone hills. The falls are formed as the full width of the river plummets over the top in a single vertical drop into a chasm, carved by its waters along a fracture zone in the basalt plateau.

The Royal Livingstone Hotel is also completely over the top. When I say "over the top" that is what I mean, it appears to be an "American's idea of what an African country hotel should be like". The staff wear strange "African" outfits. The porters in pith helmets, the greeter in a bizarre multicoloured outfit with a coloured flat hat, the "butler" in a white suit, with red sash and red Fez hat, and so on. The bar is a re-creation of a colonial bar and has been well done, a pianist plays during afternoon tea, and afternoon tea is a scrumptious pastiche of times gone by. I am not normally happy with over the top service, but here they carried it off well. I found the staff pleasant and charming - they probably realised how ridiculous it all was.

You can walk in 15 minutes through the grounds to Vic Falls (free to enter). We walked there in the evening and in the early morning. The morning visit was better, better light, rainbows in abundance through the spray, and the wind carried the spray away towards Zimbabwe so we could see much more than the night before.

We took their Train Dinner on the steam engine pulled carriages and were lucky enough to get on the footplate while the engine moved from one end to the other of the train to return to base. The meal is not cheap, but given you are on a steam train, well worth it! Come to think of it, even if you are not given to steam engines it is worth it. We were picked up from the hotel and taken the short road trip to the train. The cost of the "experience" of the train and dinner is not cheap at around US$150 a head. That includes pick up from hotel, all you can drink during the evening (they do not stint), a 5 course set meal (good but not gourmet) and a ride out into the game park and back on the old fashioned steam train which offers fully restored and very luxurious original coaches.

You are paying for the experience rather than the meal here. We went out in daylight, and the engine stopped at the end of its outward leg, and then shunted to the other end of the train. We were stopped while dinner was taken, before travelling back on the train in the dark. We saw some game, but I don't think you would chose this train as a platform for serious game viewing. We were invited onto the footplate while the engine was changing ends. I never looked on my wife as an engine driver, but she was really enthralled by the experience of seeing them loading coal into the boiler and driving the train. I can recommend the experience to anyone who wants to stomach the costs. For me it was worth it. I have no idea what I ate for dinner, but I will remember the experience forever.

Click on any of the thumbnails below to get a larger photo

A short interesting journey from the houseboat to Livingstone, and time for a walk down to the Falls, past Livingstone's statue. We also walked there in the morning
The Royal Livingstone made me smile with the version of "colonial Africa" that they presented to the tourist. Maybe some people actually believe that this was Africa.
The steam train dinner was a real experience and the ride on the footplate was an unexpected bonus. Chris rather fancied herself as an engine driver.

Holiday's over, boys. After that it was the long road back to Moraira, via Livingstone Airport, Johannesburg Airport, Heathrow, Gatwick and Alicante.

Namibia Holiday