The Zambezi Queen is a 5-star triple-decker houseboat providing possibly the best way to go on safari that has been invented! She floats in a watery no-man’s land with Namibia on one bank and Botswana’s Chobe National Park on the other. With an estimated 160,000 elephant in Chobe (approximately half the world’s population), plenty of leopard and lion and several packs of wild dog, this really is game-watching paradise.
The World Travel Awards 2013 voted Zambezi Queen as the World’s Best Boutique Cruise. I felt like the Queen of Sheba on that boat and would includ in any Botswana or Victoria Falls safari itinerary.
Very Environmentally Friendly
Only a determined out of Africa entrepreneur like Brett McDonald, would conquer the obstacles involved in building a 5-star luxury houseboat, with special jet engines from America, prism solar hot water systems from Austria, energy saving fixtures from Germany and accelerated bacterial septic tanks from Louisiana. It’s these behind the scenes environmentally-friendly considerations that give the Zambezi Queen extra brownie points. The face that guest experience is the luxurious interior, designed by Jenni Button, the array of fine food and the decadence of floating aboard this intimate hotel moored in middle of the Chobe River.
Straining on her loose mooring on the Namibian side of the Chobe River, the current gently pushes the vessel from side to side and allows the breeze to flow easily through the ship. Drawing a draught of less than one metre, the Zambezi Queen can pretty much go where she pleases, including both the Namibia and Botswana riverbanks. Brett somehow managed to gain approval to take the ship and her tender boats across the invisible country border into Botswana territory. He dug up some old agreement to do with the contested Sedudo Island that lies in the river between the two countries, and is now able to take his guests right up to the Botswana riverbank to see some of the best game viewing on earth and take out the tender boats for close-up animal viewing. That’s not always necessary though, as there are usually plenty of elephant and hippo within easy watching distance of the mother ship.
Excursion with a difference
For an excursion with a difference into Chobe National Park, the Zambezi Queen offers a 4×4 game inspection with Chobe National Park’s Honorary Wildlife Vet, Cray Wilson. This could involve any number of animal encounters like darting an injured animal. As Cray carefully measured a dose of tranquilizer to immobilize an impala with a wire trap around its leg, he warned, “One drop of this stuff will kill you, so please don’t touch it.”
Go with the flow
This is just one of several special activities available to the maximum 28 guests on the Zambezi Queen. But most are happy to go with the flow (so to speak) and tag along on game cruises or a visit to Kasemu Village on Impalila Island, known for its enormous baobabs. Villagers are used to receiving guests and keep their village spotlessly clean and lay out a circle of crafts including beautifully woven baskets. With river water so accessible it was unusual to see some stand pipes in the village, but they were installed after crocodiles took one too many lives from this small community.
It always helps to have a moment that puts things into perspective when you are in the fortunate position of returning to the lap of luxury. And the Zambezi Queen is that. The staff to guest ratio seemed to be about 2:1 and each individual is as delightful as the next. You cannot help but be seduced by a stay on the Zambezi Queen but just remember, there is so much more to her than just a pretty face.