Anyone who travels extensively has been asked the question “What is your favorite place?”
The first response out of my mouth is normally “ah fuck.” How am I supposed to answer that?
When people ask me this question, I fear they are implying “What is the best destination in the world?” and who the fuck am I to dole that label out?
I have been trying to work through to a final answer. This much I know:
I do have a preference for naturally beautiful landscapes like Iceland, Norway, Namibia, Bolivia, and Jordan.
I also am drawn to politically and/or socially complex places like South Africa, Egypt, Colombia, and North Korea.
I love food so I’m always trying to house it down in Mexico, Spain, Myanmar and Mozambique.
Oh, and I love skydiving and bungee jumping so Australia, Macao, Dubai...you get the picture.
But deeper than all of this, I only enjoy a country as much as the people I am around. All I really need to fall in love with a place is to meet kind, interesting locals and humble, adventurous travelers.
So my favorite place? Livingstone, Zambia.
Why? Two part answer.
Part I: Adventure
Livingstone has a ton of shit to do. Not boring museum shit (although there is a boring museum there), but straight up DOPE ASS SHIT.
Only open from late August to early January, this “calm” pool right at the edge of the falls is probably the most terrifying experience I have ever voluntarily had. After signing a form stating you understand you could easily die during this experience, you take a boat to a small island. From there, you swim against a current for about 15 minutes until you get to another island where you will jump into the water. There is a guide along the edge there to catch you, if that makes you feel any safer (it didn’t for me). When I went, Devil’s Pool had only been open for two weeks and someone had fallen over the edge just a few days earlier, so the current was a bitch. It was worth every second of fear.
While you certainly can take a whitewater rafting excursion from the Zimbabwean side, I highly highly recommend you go from the Zambian side. If you start from the Zambian side, you will encounter all 24 rapids, whereas when you go from the Zimbabwean side you only begin at rapid 12, missing the more exciting grade 4 and 5 rapids. If you’re going to participate in the most dangerous whitewater rafting in the world, do it right.
The easiest way to describe this is a flying bicycle. It’s definitely a bit scary as you have no door or protection, and if there are winds you may teeter a bit, but it’s a fantastic way to see the falls from above.
While you can pay to do just one of these, you will receive a discount if you take a package that includes all three. The ziplining is incredibly tame, over the gorge from Zimbabwe to Zambia. The bungee is fantastic - this was my first bungee ever so it was particularly special. Okay sure, one Aussie girl’s cord broke in 2011 and she plunged into the croc infested waters but SHE WAS FINE, RELAX. If you love adventure, I highly recommend the gorge swing.
It’s basically your worst freefall nightmare as a kid times ten. And it’s fucking awesome (warning, the harness bruised my area something HECTIC, so be prepared)
Enjoy the beautiful Zambian landscape while on an elephant! I really appreciated the work this company does in Livingstone to protect the well being of African animals. Safari Par Excellence is a company that is fighting to protect endangered species and ensure proper animal treatment. They train their elephants based on the positive reinforcement method and NOT on the discipline and submission method commonly used with Asian elephants. As well, their elephants are free to roam and go out to the bush - they are not tied down or forced to stay.
Sunset Booze Cruise
I never turn down a drink, and to enjoy some beers while watching one of the most exquisite sunsets on earth is incredibly special.
Part II: People.
The people I met, both locals and travelers, were amongst the kindest, most outgoing, generous people I have ever encountered in my entire life.
There was Jenny, the Californian dentist who sat gossiping with me in the bathroom of a local nightclub because we were trying to ditch some creepy guys with transition lenses who couldn’t take a hint.
Matt, the cute British lawyer who rescued us from the creepy guys with transition lenses.
Tristan, the Malaysian-German doctor who fetched my breakfast for me the next day because I was too drunk to make it under my mosquito net the night before and therefore looked too destroyed to let the cute British lawyer see me.
Ronny, the wrestler who tried to get me to buy his drinks all night long. #nope
Leslie, the white American girl with long ass dreads who was teaching in Namibia and to this day is one of the most intelligent, supportive, and no-bullshit women I have ever met.
Gavin, who wore a kilt because his balls needed to breathe and he didn’t give a fuck who knew it.
Or, who literally got in a fight with a dude who stole my seat when I went to the bathroom (thanks babes)
The Aussie doctors, Nathan and Aaron, who always brought the party and gave my potty mouth a run for its money.
Tyler, the sweet southern boy and his friend Kate, who shocked me shitless when dry one liners came out of her angelic face.
Laura, Laura, and Sinetta, my hilarious dorm mates from Birmingham who welcomed me into their group immediately.
And the countless Zambians I met while adventuring, who were always down for storytelling and drinking.
I slept very little during those 9 days. And when I did sleep, I’m pretty sure it was with a smile on my face.