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History of David Livingstone

A Scottish explorer by the name of David Livingstone was the first European explorer to see the Falls in 1855.

David Livingstone exploratory objective was to explore the Zambezi River from coast to coast and set up trade and commerce stations throughout the interior of central Africa. During his arduous and perilous trek, Livingstone and his party, including Lazarus Ra-Ikane, experienced great challenges and obstacles but were highly rewarded when they came upon the magnificent sight of the awesome chasm and its falls. He decided to name the falls ‘Victoria Falls’ as a gift to the British Monarch, Queen Victoria.

After the news about the discovery of the Falls reached the far corners of the globe, it soon became a busy trading hub. The first trading town in Victoria Falls history was developed on the Zambian side of the river and was called Old Drift. As more and more tourists and visitors arrived to see the magnificent Falls, so did the number of cases of malaria. The disease took such a toll on the town, that at the end of the century, Old Drift was moved to where it still stands today, as the town of Livingstone in Zambia.


David Livingstone also suffered from such diseases on numerous occasions in the decade or so following his discovery of the Falls. His lack of contact with the outside world, as well as his general state of health, became such a great concern that, in 1869, The New York Herald newspaper sent Henry Morton Stanley to Africa to find David Livingstone. In November 1871, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, in a small town of Ujiji, Stanley finally met with David Livingstone and greeted him with the famous words, ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume?’

After failing to convince Livingstone to return to England, Henry Morton Stanley returned on his own in 1872. It was not long after this, on the May 1st, 1873, that Dr David Livingstone died from malaria and irreparable damage from dysentery at the age of 60. He died at Chief Chitambo’s village at Ilala, 100 km southeast of the Lake Bangweulu. His loyal attendants, Susi and Chuma, buried his heart in the village and embalmed his body in salt. After a five-month trek in untenable conditions, the dedicated party was able to return his preserved body to England. Livingstone’s body is now buried in Westminster Abbey.

For more information about David Livingstone’s life and explorations, visit our Ra-Ikane website at, and to find out more about Victoria Falls history, keep an our regularly-updated blog.