Perched near the lip of the mighty Victoria Falls, Zambia’s The Royal Livingstone is blessed with location, location, location.
Yet the swish five-star hotel is more than a convenient gateway to one of the world’s greatest natural wonders – it’s also part safari experience. The hotel’s lush grounds located in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park and adjoining the Zambezi River, are home to zebras, giraffes, impalas, baboons and cheeky vervet monkeys.
One YouTube video shows the monkeys pressing their faces up against a glass door watching guests inside pack their things, prompting the humans to declare they feel like zoo exhibits.
Guests are urged not to feed the animals, to keep doors and windows closed each time they leave their room and not to leave children unsupervised. Discreet electric fences along the waterline prevent hippos and crocodiles from venturing on to the grounds.
It’s this (very) fine line between the tamed and untamed that makes the hotel so intriguing, along with its blend of colonial and contemporary touches. Porters dressed in pith helmets and white tunics whiz luggage around in golf buggies. The staff have more than a touch of the British monarchy about them. I’m checked in by a chap called Charles, snap a photo of Edward the traditionally garbed doorman, and have amusing chats with Betty my housekeeper.
The 173 rooms are laid out in double-storey blocks. My upstairs room features a lazily revolving ceiling fan, a mosquito net draped over the king bed’s high headboard, and a black-and-white tiled bathroom with mint-green walls. As alluring as my room is, I’m itching to see the falls – particularly when its rising spray is visible from the hotel. After a cup of tea, I stroll along the riverbank and out through the guarded gate.
Vendors are doing a roaring trade in rain ponchos for those wanting to get close to the falls. With my camera around my neck, I forgo saturation to explore other trails. My favourite is Boiling Pot Trail. I’m mesmerised by a giant whirlpool and by the bungee jumpers who drop from the arch of the 1905 Victoria Falls Bridge.
I check out a statue of David Livingstone, the first Westerner to see the Zambezi tumbling 108 metres into the chasm below. Back at The Royal Livingstone, it seems fitting to salute his efforts with a sundowner while gazing over the Zambezi’s swift waters.
A post-safari stay at The Royal Livingstone on the outskirts of Livingstone, Zambia, and transfers can be booked through your Africa travel specialist or andBeyond.com.
A single-entry visa for Zambia costs US$50. If travelling from Zambia into South Africa, a yellow-fever certificate is mandatory.
The hotel’s buffet breakfast spread is a sight to behold.
Date: 22 September 2013