If you’re on safari in Botswana or Namibia, a river cruise aboard the extraordinary Zambezi Queen or intimate Chobe Princesses is the perfect accompaniment. Check out comments from Africa Specialist Cheryl, who recently returned from the region, and discover why she thinks a 2 or 3-day river cruise should definitely form part of your itinerary.
‘An unmissable luxury experience! What can I say? From the comfort of your balcony you can expect to see crocodile, elephant, buffalo, zebra and hippo, all meandering undisturbed along the river banks. They have a dedicated tour for bird enthusiasts too’ This 5-star vessel has recently undergone a huge refurbishment and the interior is now chicly contemporary with stunning themed artwork throughout the public and residential areas.
‘Smaller, less formal and more intimate, these delightful boats have just a handful of cabins and a really friendly atmosphere – your viewing will be similar as the Zambezi Queen and the one Penthouse Suite on each vessel is right up there in terms of luxury’
Getting to the embarkation point
Assuming you are approaching from Botswana you will have to follow a few procedures before joining the river cruise. This starts by going through immigration to get a stamp out of Botswana and then proceeding to immigration in Namibia. ‘A short boat trip will then take you across the Chobe River to Namibia where you’ll have to walk uphill around 10 minutes to immigration. The Zambezi staff will then escort you to the boat and I found it all ran pretty smoothly although I was glad I was wearing comfy shoes – but then I hadn’t really packed anything else!’
What to expect on-board
‘Guests will automatically have ‘Full Board Plus’ which gives you all meals, wine & soft drinks. The cabins can accommodate 2/3 people although there are a couple of interconnecting ones and four larger Master Suites; all have balconies which is just fabulous for taking in the riverbank sights’
Early risers may sip coffee and watch the sun rise, ‘this is worth doing at least once, but for me it should be on the first morning, as the chances are you’ll be so awestruck by the magic you’ll want to do it again. Breakfasts are a good time to plan your day ahead, maybe a village tour on the Namibian side of the river or a water-safari or even a fishing adventure; a day of total relaxation and letting the African world pass by is also an option.’ As the day comes to a close you can look forward to a tender-boat sunset cruise, in the hope of spotting big game, for Cheryl this was a thrilling highlight, ‘The golden light descending on the land is unforgettable and quite different to any hue I can describe – just exquisite and perfect for taking great photos.’
Evenings on the Zambezi Queen begin with cocktails with the captain which Cheryl found totally surreal ‘I had barely absorbed the wonder of the animals I’d witnessed in the bush when I was changed and sipping exotic concoctions on the upper deck. A delectable 3-course dinner, pairing wines, espresso and nightcaps followed in gentle succession under African skies with soothing African sounds – life surely could not get better than this?’
Remarkable Elephant Bay
Cheryl is keen to emphasise ‘The water levels vary dramatically with the weather so access will differ between dry and wet seasons. In the dry month, larger boats can’t travel up stream as far as Elephant’s Bay as the waters are too shallow; they do however take you on a tender to see unmissable herds of elephants that travel down from Botswana Chobe National park (generally early morning) and then across the river to Nambia. Before sunset they travel back to take shelter in the bush and it’s spectacular viewing.’
Take your pick and your picture!
‘You really can’t make a wrong decision – both the Zambezi Queen and Chobe Princesses offer amazing viewing; you simply have to decide what style suits you best and remember your camera; my recommendation is just make sure you choose at least one!’