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The Royal Livingstone Victoria Falls Zambia Hotel by Anantara is Nature’s best kept secret

Nestled along the tranquil banks of the Zambezi River, this opulent hotel offers an unparalleled experience where wildlife roams freely in its natural habitat. Glamour’s Features Editor, Thobeka Phanyeko shares her journey to uncovering the layers.

A journey begins...

I depart from the Mother City at 13h10 and enjoy a smooth and pleasant flight experience with Kenya Airways. Touching down at Victoria Falls Airport at 17h25, we begin a scenic journey through Zimbabwe en route to Zambia. Nestled between Zimbabwe, Angola, and Botswana, Zambia is a modest country with a population of just over 20 million. Our driver, Chris, warmly introduces us to the region, offering insights into its charm and the hospitable nature of its people. Passing through the Zimbabwean border, we encounter two amiable officials who graciously grant us a 10-day visa to explore the country, despite our shorter stay. Within moments, we arrive at our destination, eager to begin our adventure.

Image: Instagram@royallivingstone_anantara

We spot impala and giraffes as we drive into The Royal Livingstone Hotel, surrounded by lush landscapes. This idyllic setting becomes Nature's playground, inviting guests to immerse themselves in the unparalleled beauty and serenity of the African wilderness. We disembark to the sound of drums as the staff offload our bags and take them to our rooms before we check in. Our host, Grace Shonga warmly greets us in the opulent lobby and offers a refreshing glass of iced tea, a welcome respite after a day of travel.

Within minutes, our dedicated butlers escort us through impeccably manicured lawns to our rooms to get ready for dinner. The 5-star hotel has 3 dining areas; we dine at the Kubu Deck overlooking the Zambezi River, and get acquainted over an a la carte menu fusing local and international cuisine before toasting to the breathtaking view of the African sunset.

Image: Instagram @royallivingstone_anantara

A New Dawn…

The tone is set for a remarkable stay, we comfortably settle into our surroundings. The General Manager, Laurie Burr, shares his enthusiasm for the current state of the tourism industry. "It's an exciting time," he gushes, mentioning the recent expansion of Minor Hotels, including the acquisition of the Hilton, their inaugural property in South Africa. He shares optimistic plans for further expansion into Rwanda and Namibia. Such developments paint a promising picture, especially in light of the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic on the hospitality and tourism sectors. Reflecting on this, he notes a surprising uptick in African tourism post-pandemic, suggesting a newfound interest in travel to the continent. “The numbers have increased from 2021, and we’ve recently welcomed Flysafair to Livingstone.”

Image: Supplied

So what brings tourists to this corner of the globe? "People flock here for fishing, and the thrill-seeker's paradise is a big draw. It's seen as a blend of leisure, adventure, and rejuvenation," he continued. Considering that the Livingstone is quite a scenic destination, it’s no surprise that people love to explore it on foot. The Victoria Falls, part of the Zambezi, just a stone throw away from the hotel beckons explorers. “People also love to go to the bottom of the gorge to see this majestic splendour from the other side.” It’s my first time in Zambia so I’m excited to explore this beautiful country. The evening draws to an end, and an exciting itinerary awaits us at dawn.

Roaming Nature’s terrain…

I rise with the sun and I’m greeted by the sight of Zebra’s grazing along the edge of the Zambezi River. A sight to behold! I decide to take a walk to immerse myself in the lush greenery, and as I get closer to the river, I see a rainbow, arching over the Victoria Falls. I bask in the enchanting moment before returning to my room to prepare for breakfast at the Old Drift Restaurant. The menu boasts a delightful array of options, from classic fare to traditional continental breakfast offerings.

The stunning sight of the falls inspires us to embark on a leisurely stroll towards them, granting us an intimate encounter with the 7th wonder of the world—an experience that leaves us utterly mesmerized. The thunderous roar of the water crashing against the rocks reaffirms that we are exactly where we belong.

Image: Instagram @royallivingstone_anantara

After fully immersing ourselves in the experience, we make our way back to the hotel for a rejuvenating full-body massage at Anantara Spa, with a picturesque view of the river. The spa treatment proves to be just what the body needs, and I drift off into a state of deep relaxation, completely at ease.

As my blissful massage concludes, I realize it's time for lunch. I make my way to the restaurant, where the chefs eagerly await to guide us through a culinary journey along the Zambezi. We're treated to a delightful cooking class, courtesy of Spice Spoons, where we delve into the rich flavors and cultural traditions of village life, gaining insight into the essence of local cuisine. We whip up a feast featuring nshima (the Zambian rendition of pap), quail, chikanda, and village chicken complemented by delectable pumpkin fritters for dessert. With glasses raised, we toast to a day filled with memorable experiences before setting off on a Sunset River Cruise….

Sailing Serenity…

During the cruise aboard the Princess Anne, we delve into its rich historical narrative. “In October 1964, a new government ascended to power, marking the transition of Northern Rhodesia into the independent state now recognized as the Republic of Zambia.” Our guide further enlightens us about the origins of Livingstone town, attributing its establishment to the proximity of the Victoria Falls, which lies just 10km to the north. The town's emblematic sign was strategically selected based on its geographical significance. With this in mind, we explore the Zambian seas and enjoy sundowners. We make our way to shore in anticipation of our outdoor dinner experience. With nature as our stunning backdrop, the service is flawless and the conversation effortlessly unfolds. Beneath the twinkling stars, we raise our glasses in a toast before bidding the night farewell.

Image: Instagram @royallivingstone_anantara

An unforgettable experience…

I eagerly embrace the morning, excited for the epic adventure ahead. Livingstone Adventures shuttles us for a thrilling micro flight experience. Though it's my first time on such an adventure, any anxiety melts away as the pilot directs my gaze to the awe-inspiring views of Victoria Falls and the majestic gorge sculpted by the Zambezi River through the surrounding terrain over time. I begin to fully lean into the moment at the realization that I will never get another opportunity to relive this EPIC FIRST. This moment is all I have, I am completely engulfed by a feeling of gratitude. I am alive!!!

What follows is a thrilling quad biking excursion, marking another unforgettable first that will forever be etched in my memory. As we head back to the hotel, it dawns on me that our time in the beautiful country is coming to an end which evokes mixed emotions. Leisure time at the pool area allows me to reflect on the day’s events. As I observe the Zebra’s roaming freely, I'm struck by the desire to preserve this image as the quintessence of my Zambian experience – freedom intertwined with nature. The sunset takes on a poignant significance, signifying the conclusion of this epic journey. It’s not goodbye, it’s later!

Image: Instagram @royallivingstone_anantara

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