The luxurious Zambezi Queen offers two- and three-day cruises on the Chobe River beside Botswana’s Chobe National Park. At 45m long and three storeys high, this river cruiser provides a relaxed way to explore the Chobe River away from the many lodges and hotels in the Kasane area. Its base, not far from the Victoria Falls and very close to Kasane International Airport, makes the boat a convenient addition to trips to Botswana’s Okavango Delta, Namibia’s Caprivi Strip or Zambia and Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls.
The Zambezi Queen has two mooring points along the river. Because of its shallow draft in the water, it is susceptible to wind and so sometimes needs to remain moored at one when the winds pick up. On our recent stay on the ship, we had a rather exciting and admittedly, nail-biting close encounter with the riverbank when we were cruising – but the crew were quick to respond and we were soon enjoying sightings of elephant, buffalo and other wildlife as we cruised to our next mooring point.
The team of the Zambezi Queen aims to be as flexible as possible with activities, so these will vary on a day-to-day basis, taking into consideration the needs and interests of all their guests.
The two-night cruise departs on a Monday and Wednesday, and activities will usually include a morning game drive in Chobe National Park, as well as an afternoon/sundowner boat cruise. Note that you will need to clear both Namibia and Botswana immigration each way when taking a game drive. We left the houseboat on one of the tenderboats and then changed over to a large double-storey game-viewer boat for our sundowner cruise. While quite conspicuous, we found the views from our raised vantage point were a definite bonus.
On a three-night cruise, guests may also have the chance to visit a local village, – and the school, if you’re there on a weekday. In addition, there may be the opportunity for catch-and-release fishing and birding excursions on the tenderboats.
We discovered that the time spent getting to the park and back, as well as clearing immigration, made game drives rather tiring and lengthy excursions. Instead, we’d suggest using your time on board to explore the Chobe River itself, particularly in the dry season when wildlife – especially large herds of elephant and buffalo – congregate in high densities near the water’s edge. It’s not unusual for guests to do this, excusing themselves from activities and simply enjoying the splendid views from onboard.
There are 14 cabins spread across the two lower decks of the boat, each with either a double or twin beds and river views from a private balcony. Four of these cabins are larger ‘master suites’ and have their own private outdoor area complete with sunloungers. Two of these (24 and 26) have a sleeper couch that is spacious enough for one child (but likely to feel quite cramped with two). Each suite has an en-suite bathroom with a flushing toilet, handbasin and a surprisingly well-proportioned shower cubicle.
The Zambezi Queen’s interior is designed to feel light and airy, and the décor is distinctly stylish. Ceiling fans and specially designed shutter systems help to keep the rooms cool, even during the warmer summer months, as we discovered on our most recent visit in September 2012.
At the top of the Zambezi Queen is the entertainment deck, where you’ll find the dining room, a lounge with several sitting areas and a well-stocked bar. The dining room was specially designed to provide 360° views of the Chobe River and National Park, and the food – provided by top-quality chefs trained at a well-respected academy in Cape Town – was superb!
Also on this level is a sundeck with sunloungers and a small swimming pool. Because the water is pumped from the river, it’s likely to appear murky, but it’s filtered first so is perfectly fine to swim in.
The lower deck currently has a small reading room, where a few curios are available to purchase. We understand that there are plans to make this a more substantial curio shop and possibly to add a desk and computer for guests to use. We found that while the boat had limited WiFi, most of the time the signal wasn’t very strong and this could become frustrating.
- Submitted On : 11 Apr 2015