Zambia plans big splash for Victoria Falls

Zambia is preparing to mark the 150th anniversary of the discovery of Victoria Falls by Scottish missionary David Livingstone with a big splash that it hopes will draw a record number of tourists.

Victoria Falls lies on the border with Zimbabwe but instability there has brought tourists over to the Zambian side to admire one of the world’s largest curtains of falling water.

The government has launched its Visit Zambia in 2005 campaign to encourage tourists to join in the festivities next year marking Livingstone’s discovery in 1885 of the falls, as well as the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the town of Livingstone.

“We want to use these special events to relaunch our tourism industry,” said Tourism Minister Patrick Kalifungwa.

“Zambia is one of the most peaceful and stable countries in Africa and has a superb range of national parks with spectacular game viewing,” said Herror Hickey, chairperson of the Zambia National Tourist Board (ZNTB).

“We want to use this campaign to record the highest number of tourists and also to market the country as a best tourist destination in Africa,” Hickey said.

One of the leading natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls is 1 708m wide, drops 108m and spills 550 000 cubic litres of water per minute.

Zambia expects to welcome more than 400 000 tourists next year, building on a tourism industry that has created 16 000 jobs over the past two years and injected $150-million into the poor Southern African country’s economy.

Part of the draw to Zambia’s Victoria Falls, however, lies in the fact that the Zimbabwe side is fast becoming a no-go zone for tourists.

“Even tour operators from Zimbabwe are now moving into Livingstone because that’s where business is now. There are few tourists visiting Zimbabwe at the moment,” said Machova Musanshi, editor of Zambia’s Tourism News.

Also known as “Mosi-oa-tunya” in local language, which means “the smoke that thunders”, the falls were named Victoria after the queen of England by Livingstone who first “discovered” them on November 16 1855.

But some Zambians have urged the government to use the occasion to honour the local people who lived near the falls and later showed it to Livingstone when he visited the area.

“Livingstone was a liar, he never discovered the falls ... what about the people who were living there?” goes the lyrics in a recently released song by Zambia’s reggae star Saint Michael.

The tourist town of Livingstone, where Victoria Falls is situated, will also be turning 100 years next year, and it has its own unique history as Zambia’s capital under British colonial rule.

“Livingstone today has become the focal point of any tourist to Southern Africa,” said Tamara Gondwe-Scot of the ZNTB.

Established in February 1905, Livingstone has a variety of attractions and tourist adventures, including bungee jumping down a drop of 111m.

The town also has a railway museum that houses a collection of steam locomotives.

The Livingstone museum displays a collection of Livingstone memorabilia, including his jacket and braided cap, notebooks, personal letters and diaries.—Sapa-AFP

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