Imagine staying in a luxurious suite on a boat in the heart of southern Africa. Wildlife abounds everywhere you look along the banks of one of the continent’s greatest rivers. Those were some of the images that flashed through my mind when I received an invitation for a cruise on board the Zambezi Queen. I wasn’t disappointed. The cruise was simply magical.
The Zambezi Queen is a luxury safari cruise boat that has its base on the Chobe River, a tributary of the mighty Zambezi River, on the border between Namibia and Botswana. With its 14 luxurious cabins, it’s one of the biggest and most luxurious leisure vessels in this region. Getting there was an adventure in itself. We flew from Johannesburg, South Africa, into Livingstone, Zambia, where we were met by a driver who took us to the banks of the Zambezi River.
The borders of four countries – Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia – meet at this point. From here, a boat took us across the river to Botswana, where another driver met us. We then drove a short distance to the banks of the Chobe River where we boarded another boat which took us into Namibia. In little more than two hours, we had gone through immigrations five times and I had five new stamps in my passport. After clearing Namibian immigrations, we boarded the boat for the final stretch to the Zambezi Queen. The scenery along the Chobe River was simply breathtaking. The dark blue colour of the river formed a sharp contrast to the ochre-coloured grasslands and the cloudless sky. Birds swooped past us as we sped along. We spotted several hippo’s along the banks of the river whilst in the distance, herds of elephants and impalas roamed, partially hidden by the tall grass. There’s something absolutely bewitching about Africa and right there, at that moment, I felt its spell cast on me.
On board the Zambezi Queen
The Zambezi Queen was moored in the middle of the Chobe River. The boat looked regal, even from a distance. As we boarded, we were greeted with refreshing towels, big smiles and a welcome dance.
We were then ushered to the top deck, a grand, columnless space, which housed a bar, lounge, terraces and a dining area. Large windows provided uninterrupted views of the river and the savannah.
I plonked myself into a comfortable chair by the window and my new friend, Brenda, brought me a glass of bubbly and a bowl of nibbles. I took a sip of the champagne and looked outside. There was a hippo in the water, a herd of buffaloes nearby and several elephants near the riverbank. The tall grasses swayed in the afternoon breeze, revealing glimpses of perfectly-camouflaged impalas. The beauty of this place left me speechless.
Brenda came by to ask if I’d like to see my cabin. She escorted me one floor down and showed me my cabin. I gasped as I entered the suite. It was simply gorgeous. First of all, it was the most spacious cabin I’ve ever been in. There was a large double bed, sufficient space for my bags and cupboards for my clothes. Sliding glass doors opened out onto a terrace. Shutters and mosquito nets ensured a cool temperature and no mosquitoes in the room. There was also a fan for warm nights. I was very impressed.
During the next few days, a variety of activities were organised for the guests, including boat and jeep safaris around the Chobe National Park in Botswana. The Zambezi Queen cruised along the Chobe River in the mornings and stayed anchored in one spot during the afternoons and evenings whilst smaller boats took us on longer river safaris. The staff did an amazing job of making us feel very much at home. Every little detail was taken care of, from filling out our immigration cards to ensuring everyone was sufficiently warm during the river safaris. Knowledgeable guides showed us the huge variety of wildlife in the area and entertained us with anecdotes and personal stories.
The grunts of hippos and birds chirping outside my window woke me up every morning. In the early evening, I would sit back with a glass of wine and simply marvel at the scenery and the spectacular sunsets.
The dinners were a lavish affair – the chef did an excellent job in cooking up delicious meals with an African flair. After dinner, the staff would gather and entertain the guests with song and dance. My friend Brenda turned out to be a wonderful singer and a passionate dancer. The enthusiasm of the staff was certainly infectious – you could tell by the happy looks on the guests’ faces.
My three-day stay on the Zambezi Queen was simply unforgettable. I left with a tinge of sadness – I wished I could’ve stayed longer – but I promised myself that I would one day return.
Note: a big thank you goes to the staff of the Zambezi Queen for your wonderful hospitality. All views expressed above are, as always, mine.