A brief history of Victoria Falls

Ancient years
There is a record of over 2000 years of man’s evolution that has been found in the Victoria Falls region, from the early Stone Age through to the Iron Age to present day.
The Bushman were undoubtedly the earliest settlers in the region, followed by the Tonga-Ila people from the South in 1500AD. These peaceful pasturalists were soon defeated by the Makokolo, who remained in the area and were amongst Dr Livingstone’s party that first “discovered” the Falls.


David Livingstone 'discovers' Victoria Falls
The Zambezi has been known outside of Africa for thousands of years. Certainly the Zambezi was a highway for Arab trade during the first millennium AD. Dr David Livingstone was the first European to view the Falls on the 16 November 1855, who described it as “Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by Angels in Their Flight". He named the Falls after his monarch, Queen Victoria.

The Victoria Falls Bridge
Forty years after David Livingstone made his discovery, coal deposits were found at Hwange (Zimbabwe) and copper in Zambia. Cecil John Rhodes was looking to expand the British colonies and envisioned a railway line that ran from from the Cape at the southern tip of Africa to Cairo in the north.  In order to make this dream a reality a reliable fuel source was needed. Originally it intended to construct a bridge higher up the Zambezi River, but it was these coal deposits at Hwange that changed the course of history and the bridge was constructed across the gorge at Victoria Falls.

The first hotel in Victoria Falls

The Victoria Falls Hotel was opened in 1904. Originally it was a a humble wooden structure but the demand from early tourists and then railway workers and engineers made a series of expansions necessary. There have been additional changes over the years but the Victoria Falls Hotel retains the charm of her colonial glory years.

The Royals in Victoria Falls
Queen Elizabeth - or Princess Elizabeth as she was then, visited Victoria Falls in 1947 along with her parents and her sister Princess Margaret. The Queen Mum returned with Princess Margaret in 1953. The Royal suite at The Victoria Falls is still available to guests who wish to re-live abit of history.
Princess Anne has visted the area twice. Once in 1982 and again (this time on the Zambian side) in 2012.

Victoria falls hotel 

Our personal history with Vic Falls
Growing up in Zambia during  the 70's , holidays were often spent in Livingstone at the then Mosi oa Tunya Hotel.
The Rhodesian bush war was in full in swing in those days so crossing the bridge to Zimbabwe was a dream that only got fulfilled in 1994 when South Africa was once again welcomed back into the African community.

mukumbi_01 visting_the_falls_1974
 Further reading:  These photos are from our family album
*For extracts from Dr Livingstone’s journals visit http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/livingstone.htm

If you enjoy history then we recommend that you visit the museum in Livingstone to view a comprehensive collection of memorabilia relating to Dr Livingstone plus a permanent interpretive exhibition on ethnology, natural history of the area and Zambia’s history.

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