Educational Trip to Zambia (Victoria Falls)
The trip started on Sunday, 29 May with the stay at The Boardwalk Hotel in Port Elizabeth. This hotel is very hi-tec and a delightful place to stay.
The very smart wall mounted large TV (Computer) has many DSTV channels and all types of movies on demand, the latter at a fee. The TV is also an information source - info on PE, info on hotel, news and even your account details. The lift works with your Digi-key card (Bluetooth) for security reasons going up as does your room door key – just hold the key by the sensor. Two pools – outdoor and indoor heated, gym and Spa but no massages! Kipling Restaurant – very smart – I had breakfast there at R185.00, included in the b n b special agents ED. room rate of R844.00. (The normal rate is about R3000.00 per room per night) Full room service and a choice of pillows (Pillow menu) which I had them confused as all I wanted was a very soft low pillow – most were are about 20cm high…of various types…
Hotel transfer at 05h00 to the Airport – cost R70.00 each way. Check in was very efficiently handled by Michaela (our Rep) from BA who also arranged for us to sit in the SLOW lounge. Very pleasant place to rest and eat! Onto BA flight which was seamless and all on time. Fresh fruit juices, coffee and a hot breakfast were on offer – the food standard was typical economy class standard but very tasty. I found the planes to be rather older in style - Boeing 737 – 400.
Arrival in Johannesburg – transfers again to the SLOW Lounge to rest / chill and eat some more. All check –in’s, customs and passport control all went off fine without a hitch. Flight on BA to Livingstone on BA about 90 minutes. Older plane still the Boeing 737-400 series. Service and food on BA same standard and the local flight.
Arrival at Livingstone – passport control was long and tiring on arrival in Zambia – no concept of time wasted standing in queues. We were met by a team from LIVINGSTONE ADVENTURES, and taken by shuttle bus to the Royal Livingstone Jetty to catch the Water Taxi – see photo. River transfer to the Livingstone Hotel – what fun and really exhilarating – well recommended. What a welcome at the Royal Livingstone Hotel – no longer managed by Sun International but by Minor Hotels from 01 Jun 2016 – WOW probably one of the best in the world! The meeting of staff and they are all so joyful and we were taken to the lounge for some iced tea and check in. This starts with a hot towel face and neck wipe down and a hand massage. We were given a rundown of the hotel key cards and how to access the free Wi-Fi.
The rooms are delightful as can be imagined – 5 star luxury – see the photo below – river facing which makes it really outstanding. The rooms are in individual blocks of about 6 rooms each along a walkway – golf carts on offer. Each block has a luxury corner room where the veranda is enclosed with wire-mesh. DSTV on offer as in South Africa.
The beautiful lawns in front of the hotel are called the Royal Lawns. This area is used for group check in, weddings and other functions as requested. The large trees all have name tags – e.g. Monkey Tree and the Fig Tree. There are two decks right on the river (with bars / snacks) one FIT and one group deck. 173 rooms and 2 junior suites (with bathrooms with river views) and one Presidential suite in a particular block also with other rooms usually used by their security. Music played in the public areas is from a pianist, guitarist, flutist or violinist for example – no disco/loud type music. The main dining room is called the David Livingstone Dining Room – reservations must be made for dinner even if you stay at the hotel. Dress code smart casual – long pants for men. The hotel has its own wine cellar with a huge choice. They do have a small boardroom for 12 people.
Transfer to Avani Hotel (the old Zambesi Sun – sold by Sun International) – 3 star in my opinion – really very suitable for families – large pool but not deep – max 1 meter. Very Moroccan style. Rooms are very small and rather cramped compared to Royal Livingstone but neat and comfortable. Not very nice veranda’s – metal chairs and tables on stones … The sad thing is there are no river facing rooms here – just garden facing …There is ideal conference facilities here – large sub-divisible rooms. In fact this is a Convention Centre – seating up to 450 delegates. Shopping centre and ATM at the hotel. Use your card to withdraw ( New ) Kwatcha – R1.50 = K1.00 – you can buy things in Kwacha, US Dollars or Rands. Taxi trip into town about USD10.
We had a most enjoyable buffet dinner in a delightful restaurant at the Avani Hotel – really a huge spread and variety – outstanding! But be careful – buy local drinks – I bought a Windhoek Lager for R70.00 – crazy. Check-in is done at Reception here. 212 rooms / 4 suites. Lunch is served at the pool area and no Reservations are needed for dinner. There is a Resident Band – International music – disco style…
The beds were turned down with a chocolate and bottled water back at the Royal Livingstone. Small carpet and slippers at the bedside. The floors are all smooth concrete in the bedrooms. Next morning breakfast at the Royal Livingstone and this is where the service levels dropped. It took three people and 30 minutes to get a Cuppachino. Too many waiters seemed to be milling around and not fast enough service for a 5 star hotel. The food was very good though.
The Victoria Falls guided walk was next on the itinerary. Fred who had done the transfers now doubled up as our guide. Ponchos were provided for free by the hotel but raincoats can be hired at the Falls and my word were they needed. A good idea was the zip lock bags for our cell phones and cameras. The Zambians say their side of the Falls is the best and the Zimbabweans say the same – I still have difficulty choosing – actually both sides are excellent! Entry to the Victoria Falls was with our room key cards but without that would cost USD20 pp. The walking tour is about 2 hours. The water level was very full at this time of the year so the falls were very misty in parts. Knife Bridge (a walking bridge) joining two pieces of land was wet! The water was running like a fast stream on the bridge – lots of moss so one must be careful as it can be slippery. During the wet times ( May ) visibility of the actual falls can be limited. Lovely market at the Victoria Falls but one must bata – maybe come down to 2/3’s of the original price. Locally crafted goods. Shopkeepers are very persistent and can be annoying.
Then we were transferred to the David Livingstone Safari Lodge and Spa. A really lovely hotel – fantastic welcome with a hand wash with wooden traditional utensils and the hand massage. Lunch was enjoyed on the river bank. I preferred their pool as it is an infinity pool right on the river. Beautiful thatch main areas for the hotel – not all the bedrooms. The bathroom is behind the double bed so you can actually see the river from the bathroom. At night here you hear the hippos grunting. Female hippos have pink around the ears and eyes (make up!) A group of hippos is called a pod. They are very protective of their area and can walk for 7 minutes under water but they are poor swimmers. Crocodiles lie with their mouths open to digest their food. Plover birds (or now known as Lapwings) clean their teeth. We saw lots of Bee Eater birds in the river banks. Although not on the itinerary, I did see the Waterfront Hotel (sister hotel to the David Livingstone and next door) Much cheaper in costing and geared for the younger market. This hotel is an end point and start point for Gap Adventures (Now G- Adventures)
Transfers to the Zambezi Queen at the Royal Livingstone Jetty for the first sunset river cruise. Really and outstanding trip – complimentary drinks and snacks. The sunsets are the best ever in Zambia and Zimbabwe on the mighty Zambezi. The following evening we experienced a Sunset cruises on the Lady Livingstone Boat – the David Livingstone Lodge’s own river boat. This was more spectacular than the previous night’s cruise as we went around the huge island and saw more game.
The following day was a surprise adventure…4 of us could go on the microlight and 6 in the helicopter. I opted for the latter as it was too chilly for the microlight for me!! There are three types of choppers – a 3 a 4 and a 6 seater plus the pilot. A 15 minute flight which goes over the Falls, Zimbabwe and Zambia and the national park costs USD165 / a 30 minute flight USD310. The Microlight flight costs USD155. They have now introduced a new chopper flight that goes into the gorge – 22 minute flight. I thought the microlights went into the gorge but apparently not. There is a video camera in the front of the chopper so you can pay USD20 for your experience on film.
We also had a presentation by our hosts Livingstone Adventures. This was a company established to market all the adventure tours and offers under one umbrella. They sell predominately:
Batoka Sky ( helicopter and microlight flights )
Do the Victoria Falls walk and other tours and transfers can be offered even to other companies offering tours and excursions like Bush tracks.
River canoeing / Quad Biking Excursions
African Queen River Boat
Some other things of interest in Livingstone.
Blue taxi cabs easily identified
Shoprite /Pep and Ocean Basket – SA influence
Mosi Au Tanya Road the main Road ( leads to the falls )
Backpackers is Fawlty Towers- USD80 for s single room
Market in the old black part of town – very basic
Craft market in town
Some interesting things:
Current – Kwachas – You can use Rands and Dollars and credit card ( hotel ) – have your credit card open for overseas use.
Medical – Yellow Fever is no longer required for Zambia BUT Malaria Tablets are definitely HIGHLY recommended – you will need to get a doctor’s prescription. Take Tabbard. Visas are not needed for SA passport holders for up to 30 days
Dress is casual, light and comfortable walking shoes recommended.
All in all a superb Educational and very well presented and organised by Lee Ann Wesson for Das Boffa- Meyer of Seasons of Africa. This trip was extremely beneficial to me as I will now try to sell Victoria Falls the Zambian side with more interest and vigour as before I pushed mainly if not only the Zimbabwe side - so thank you for changing my perspective on Victoria Falls.Note that the Victoria Falls is an IN- destination and should be on everyone’s check list for travel.