Much has been made of the burgeoning popularity of river cruising, with Myanmar repeatedly touted as the must do river cruise itinerary. While Myanmar’s beauty is undisputed, it is something altogether rawer and more majestic that brings people to the Chobe River. Bordering Botswana to the south and Namibia to the north, the Chobe River is a hotbed of activity, thanks to its position on the edge of Chobe National Park. Home to the largest elephant population in Africa (around 120,000 at last count) and brimming with buffalos, leopards, lions, hippos and crocodiles too, there is simply no better place to safari and no better way to do it than aboard the Zambezi Queen.
This three-tiered houseboat-cum-river ship has garnered a reputation as the last word for river cruisers seeking a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Cruise lines including AmaWaterways incorporate a four night stay aboard the Zambezi Queen into longer African river cruises, often bookended with stays in some of the continent’s finest hotels and luxury safari lodges.
We took a closer look to find out just what is so special about the world’s most regal river boat.
Every inch of the Zambezi Queen has been designed with game sightings in mind and its ten staterooms and four suites all feature floor-to-ceiling windows and private balconies. Shutters and air conditioning are greatly appreciated in the sweltering African heat and you will struggle to find more serene surroundings aboard even the most luxurious ship.
Zambezi Queen’s upper deck features a lounge, dining room and bar, all of which have been carefully thought out by Jenni Button, one of South Africa’s most prolific designers. No expense has been spared in adding a touch of the animal kingdom to the Zambezi Queen and rich faux furs, animal prints and wildlife imagery sits perfectly amidst an otherwise muted colour scheme. Floor to ceiling windows run the length of the ship, so you can spot wildebeests at breakfast and leopards at lunch.
Food served aboard the Zambezi Queen is made up of only the freshest ingredients sourced at local markets. Kitchen staff are locally trained Namibians, each of them incredibly proud to dish up local flavours.
A plunge pool sits at the front of the ship, surrounded by loungers on which to soak in the African sun. A welcome break of course, but with wildlife at every turn you won’t want to waste any time with your head buried in a book.
If the game that surrounds you isn’t entertainment enough, there are plenty of opportunities to take your African adventure a step further. Water-based game drives take you even closer to the action at the riverside and visits to local villages in rural Namibia allow you the chance to interact with locals and browse their handmade crafts. In season, fishing for Tiger and Bream is a relaxing way to while away the hours, as is watching the array of bird species that call the river home.
With such majestic scenery surrounding it on the Chobe River, the Zambezi Queen is deserving of its moniker. ‘Once-in-a-lifetime’ is a term banded around often, but a river cruise on this illustrious vessel is a memorable one indeed.
Photo credits: Zambezi Queen