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Zebra at the Royal Livingstone

We had read great reviews on TA and we weren’t disappointed ! As we pulled up to be greeted by African singers and with views of the Zambezi to die for we realised this was a pretty special hotel. We were taken to a lounge to complete check in and we were given a welcoming drink and cool towels. We were quickly shown to our rooms via a golf buggy and we were introduced to our fez wearing butler who we never quite worked out what his role was! Because our 3rd daughter was over 12 we needed 3 rooms which was a little excessive as they could easily have accommodated a 3rd bed in the other room. The rooms were really lovely with beautiful views of the river – so beautiful infact that you almost had to pinch yourself. The rooms had colonial overtones even though the hotel itself is only 10 or so years ago. The TV is dated but you hardly go there to watch the box! The floors are polished stone which means you need to wear the slippers they provide. There is a welcoming snack for you which was a nice touch. The bathroom was splendid in a kind of past glories sort of way – although nothing is dated but is certainly not modern. Everything is beautifully clean and faultless. Each evening there is a turndown service which struck me as a bit unnecessary as they cover your room in flower petals and lay out your bathrobes on the bed – my wife thought it was beautiful – I thought it a bit of a mess – all I wanted was chocolates on the pillow but they weren’t there! One thing which was lovely was leaving a floating candle in the bathroom.

The rooms are laid out in two storey blocks of about 8 rooms and our daughters rooms were cleverly connected by a vestibule. Our rooms were on the ground floor (5075, 5076, 5077) and whereas I wouldn’t normally opt for a room on the ground floor it did mean that you felt very close to the river – especially exciting when the zebras walked by – or the monkeys !

The beds are firm but very comfortable and the air con does its job with an almost invisible efficiency. The shower is, once regulated, awesome!

Always remember that you are in Africa and so a call to fix a locking window problem took 4 calls and almost a one hour wait even though the fix took but a few minutes.

Away from the rooms the hotel is quite splendid. The evenings and mornings in July are quite cold and they light frequent log fires to help. Service is typically African – always a real willingness to help but sometimes a spasmodic delivery to say the least. You frequently have to chase up the orders but once you accept that it’s fine. The first evening we ate at the Zambeezi Sun as we were wrongly informed that you could only have a formal dinner at the RL. ( this was not correct and although the bar menu is less comprehensive at the RL and considerably more expensive than the Zambezi Sun ( all on the same site incidentally ) so we ate poolside at the ZS which was really excellent – comprehensive menu, quickly served and excellent value – about $90 for 5 including alcohol for 4 and hot drinks for all.

Breakfast next day was taken at the RL and was, frankly, not as grand as the setting suggested. The cold buffet was good but the hot food was pretty average and took an age to serve! I think the bread for the toast must have been grown that morning given the time it took. Waiting for orange juice was quite relaxing all in all!

Once you got into the African way of life it became a real way of life! You could eat inside ( log fire again) or out on the patio once the sun warmed the place up a bit. The cappuccinos were to die for – as were the hot chocolates at night!

The final food tip would be to try the buffet at the ZS – all you can eat for $23 which was simply incredible given the range and quality of the food – perhaps the best thing was that it was effectively self service which meant you didn’t have to wait. There was plenty for veggies and carnivores alike and even the puddings were worth the calories.

Would I recommend this hotel – absolutely provided you always remember that it is Africa not America and so most things are a little bit slower but it is beautifully clean, the staff are wonderfully obliging and the location must be one of the most amazing in the world.

As for things to do TA, in my opinion , doesn’t do them justice. The trip to Livingstone Island was simply brilliant – you are taken across from the hotel in a fast boat, welcomed to the island with a drink and taken on an adventure to the top of the falls. If that were not enough you were then treated to beautiful food ( much more than just a snack) which is prepared on the island. Drinks are all branded and included. The “loo with a view” is quite literally that and must be unique. All in all simply brilliant – if there was only one trip – this would be it!

Next trip – boat safari – again just brilliant. The 5 of us had the boat to ourselves and the phrase ” the more you drink, the more you see” was diligently followed through with copious amounts of alcohol and branded soft drinks. The wildlife was spectacular with excellent explanations from the 2 guides. The highlight was when the boat pulled up on a remote island and the guys set up a table with food much more similar to an upmarket buffet than a quick snack as we had been led to believe! The first choice island couldn’t be used as there were elephants on it – quite incredible. Superb.

Final trip was the much discussed sunset cruise – a bit twee really but … Well worth it on board a beautifully maintained boat with highly attentive staff. Again drinks and food were excellent.

And finally – on our last day we did a Segway trip which was an absolute hoot.

Can’t wait to return. Must be in everyone’s “to do before you die list”

Stayed July 2011