We Are Victoria Falls
History and People
Victoria Falls

The Area

Our History and People

The first archaeological signs of human activity in Victoria Falls date back three million years. Stone artefacts from the Early, Mid and Late Stone Age have been found in the area. The Stone Age inhabitants were subsequently displaced by Batoka, Matabele and Makolo tribes who, over time, dominated the area.

The first European to see Victoria Falls was Dr David Livingstone, a Scottish missionary and explorer who wanted to find a way to the east coast of Africa.

It was the Makolo tribe, whose descendants still live in the area today, that escorted Dr Livingstone in dug-out canoes to see the falls in 1855. Livingstone named the falls after the reigning British monarch of the time, Queen Victoria.

But European settlement at the falls didn’t start developing until 1900, when imperialist Cecil Rhodes, with ambitions to build a railway from the Cape to Cairo, commissioned a bridge to be built across the mighty Zambezi River. Rhodes died before the Victoria Falls Bridge was completed in 1905.

Trading Post

Trading Post

Although David Livingstone was the first white man to see Victoria Falls on the 17th November 1855. Various local tribes had been living here for years. The town of Victoria Falls originally became established as a trading post called Old Drift on the Zambian side of the river where they used to cross the Zambezi it was moved to the current day location of Livingstone in around 1900

Railway  Town

Railway Town

By 1903 the famed Cape to Cairo Railway was nearing Victoria Falls as part of the extension into central Africa but crossing the Zambezi River posed a major stumbling block. Two crossing points were identified, one up-river near the Old Drift settlement and one over the Batoka Gorge. The latter option was selected by Cecil John Rhodes by famously saying “Build the bridge across the Zambezi where the trains, as they pass, will catch the spray of the Falls.”

The                         Victoria Falls Bridge

The Victoria Falls Bridge

The entire 198m long bridge was prefabricated in England by the Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company, before being shipped to the Mozambique port of Beira and then transported on the newly constructed railway to the Victoria Falls. It took just 14 months to construct and was completed in 1905. e Zambezi it was moved to the current day location of Livingstone in around 1900

Victoria                         Falls Hotel

Victoria Falls Hotel

Once the first steam train arrived in Victoria Falls, plans for the construction of the bridge turned into reality, all of which meant accommodation was needed. The hotel first opened its doors in June 1904 as a simple building of wood with a corrugated iron roof, well raised from the ground to afford ventilation and freedom from damp and pests. It consisted of 12 single rooms and four doubles, a dining room, a bar and offices.

The 1930’s

The 1930’s

While the rest of the world reeled from the post-war Great Depression, domestic and regional travel to the Falls was encouraged by the Railway Company with the offer of inclusive travel and accommodation fares, with passengers staying at the Hotel. The special offer was so successful that the company often had a long waiting list.

First                         Scenic Flights

First Scenic Flights

Towards the end of the 1940’s Spencer’s Airways, using a fleet of one Avro Anson, one de Havilland Fox Moth, a Tiger Moth and one Fairchild UC.61A began offering short pleasure trips over the Falls and safari flights along the Zambezi River.

1980’s                         Tourism Boom

1980’s Tourism Boom

The birth of the adventure sport industry in the early ’80s sent the tourist industry into orbit. By the 1990s Victoria Falls was a boom town, fizzing with new hotels and tour companies. White-water rafting was raging, punters queued up for what was then the world’s highest bungee jump and new ideas for action-packed activities bounced from the drawing board into reality.

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