Issue 29
The Sound and the Fury
The Anantara brand's philosophy of "Life is a Journey" is reflected at its Zambian luxury hotels at the foot of Victoria Falls
Article and photos by Jo Kromberg  ·  2016-09-30  ·   Source:

It is another perfect day in Africa as I find myself sailing down the Zambezi River for the second time in three weeks. The calm water with the sunlight lightly playing upon its serene surface belies the possible dangers lurking beneath.

"How cute!" says a little girl when our guide points out a hippo's ears sticking out of the water. Little does she know, dear thing.

Within a jiffy we moor at the iconic and stupendous Royal Livingstone Victoria Falls Zambia Hotel by Anantara, in Livingstone, Zambia, right on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River. The ebullient and lovely hotel representative Joyce meets me and we take an adventurous golf cart journey to the adjacent AVANI Victoria Falls Resort. In David Livingstone's footprints and only moments away from the dramatic torrent of the Victoria Falls, the Resort is quite marvelous.

The architecture is adobe style and the simplistic finishes highlight bright mosaics, ethnic wall stencils, timber and plaster ceilings, Zambian artworks and accessories. It is constructed in a series of eight buildings, consisting of the guest rooms, a central pavilion of restaurants and a fabulous convention center. There are tame warthog, impala, zebra, giraffe as well as the pesky monkey and baboons all wandering around the property from the beautiful outdoor venues. I smile to myself as I hear another guest, presumably from America, ask her husband: "Do you think these animals are real?"

 

Family friendly 

Guest room amenities include air-conditioning, satellite TV, mini-safe and telephone. Ice machines are conveniently located near to the rooms. The interior design is playful and quirky but it suits the resort—baby blue drawers and orange bed cloths. Rooms are small yet cozy and overlook either the gardens or the river.

The décor is a mix of playful retro and Moorish influences.

The central reception area houses a family-friendly, high-quality buffet restaurant, pool deck, bar and a lively, alfresco grill and entertainment area. The poolside restaurant offers an Al fresco menu of cool staples from Pregos and snack baskets, to signature favorites like the Steak Portuguese—a garlic beef rump—or the Zambezi Cheese Burger made with pure grain-fed beef topped with all the trimmings. Guests rave about the cocktail menu. The Kalambo Jagermonster, which promises "It will bring out the animal in you" is a hoot, while the whiskey-based Luyando Slap is sure to get you giggling. Also on offer is live entertainment during dinner at the pool deck.

The Theatre of Food buffet restaurant serves a daily breakfast and dinner buffet. The menu changes often in order to keep it fresh and surprising.

I have a mouth-watering pizza and local beer as I sit in the sun, relaxing by the pool.

After a stroll around the beautiful grounds and a long luxurious soak in the tub, dinner awaits. At night the hotel is transformed into a fragrant fairy-tale from Lawrence of Arabia with candles and tiki lamps everywhere. The superb buffet dining is complemented with soft classical music with the thundering sound of the Victoria Falls providing the bass.

 

All aboard for classic sundowners 

The next morning sees me up and about early for a walk around the Falls, as they call it here.

One of Eight Wonders of the World, the Victoria Falls is known locally as "The Smoke that Thunders" and was "discovered" by David Livingston, a Scottish doctor and missionary, in 1855. While it is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, it is classified as the largest waterfall on Earth, based on its combined width of 1,708 meters and height of 108 meters resulting in the world's largest sheet of falling water. It is located in two countries, namely Zambia and Zimbabwe.

It is almost hypnotic, this vision. The might, the power, the gargantuan relentlessness of such a unique natural phenomenon will leave you speechless.

Much excitement ensues later as we board the Royal Livingston Express train for a sun downer train ride across the Falls. It's a grand affair for which you have to dress up and it conjures up a long past colonial era with the train's couches draped in leather and handsome waiters dressed in white. It ticks all the nostalgic fantasy boxes as we travel at a leisurely pace in this opulent luxury while the magnificent African sun slowly sets. We go through the picturesque Zambezi Valley in Pullman style coaches which have been lovingly restored to their former glory.

We alight on the bridge just as the last rays of sun play across the all mighty Falls and the photographs we take attest to this special and unique experience.

Dinner is a top-notch affair offering five courses and plentiful wine.

It's a horse of a different color as my heart almost jumps out of my chest, waiting for my helicopter flight the next morning. I'm booked on a 30-minute flight over the gorge and the Falls and I'm not good with heights...

But soon my fears are assuaged as we snake in and out of the long and winding Batoka Gorge, dropping 500 meters and then rising again, following the contours. It is exhilarating and I laugh like a child every time the tremendously skilled pilot Dale flips the helicopter this way and that. He also tells us exactly where we are at any given time and his knowledge of the area is second to none. We climb and circle the Falls. The view from this angle is simply mind-blowing and the other passengers with me take in with wide-eyed, silent amazement.

 

UNESCO World Heritage location 

I say goodbye to the awesome AVANI Victoria Falls Resort the next morning and undertake the five-minute journey to my abode for the next two nights—the iconic, incomparable Royal Livingstone Victoria Falls Zambia Hotel by Anantara. Minor Hotels ventured into a strategic partnership with Sun International in August 2014, to own 50 percent of The Royal Livingstone Hotel. Minor Hotels has now acquired 100 percent ownership of the property and going forward will fully operate the hotel. As part of the acquisition, Minor Hotels has rebranded the Royal Livingstone by adding the hotel to its core luxury Anantara portfolio.

The hotel overlooks the Falls and is no stranger to both local and international travelers. Set on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River, the five star, 173-room hotel has been named as one of the best hotels in the world by Travel + Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler. The hotel is highly sought after for its UNESCO World Heritage location, fine dining, adventurous outdoor activities and warm hospitality.

It is immediately apparent from the décor that the hotel is steeped in African custom, with hints of European influences that can be felt in the deep verandas, generous spaces and cool courtyard retreats. Lazy fans overhead, winged-back chairs, beautiful art and Persian carpets all ads to the remarkably stylish yet relaxing ambience. You might as well substitute the words "class and elegance" for The Royal Livingston in the dictionary. The à la carte restaurant opens onto rolling lawns overlooking the river and offers both international cuisine and fusion style African dishes.

I am shown to my room and it is a veritable study in colonial charm with sweeping views of the Zambezi River, meters from your own personal verandah. The sense of peace is all-enveloping.

The air-conditioned guest rooms are situated in two-story clusters offering private balconies or terraces with decor capturing the essence of an opulent era.

The lunch menu has a contemporary flavor with dishes like avo and fennel soup, Basa fillet with Asian rice and pulled pork ribs but I opt for a good old-fashioned cheese and tomato sandwich which is not on the menu but which the kitchen happily obliges me with. Now THAT is five-star service in my book. An outrageously relaxing afternoon massage is soon followed by a nap and then, too soon, it is time to sup. The food here truly is perfection; there is no other word for it. Asian and continental flavors adorn the menu and I opt for the tomato soup—the best ever—and the seafood extravaganza. A triumph, no less. In fact, there is some alchemist magic to the food so I go to meet the chef—she's a tiny slip of a woman with a smile as wide as the Falls—it's obvious why she is so good. Food at any hotel is arguably the toughest thing to get right and this place ticks all the boxes—plus it ticks boxes not yet invented.

 

Sailing on the African Queen 

The following morning sees me en-route to Livingston Island to visit the world-famous Angel's Pool right on the edge on the Falls. This is where you get your picture taken in the natural pool—right on the edge of the Falls!

An orphanage visit in town later that afternoon leaves me humbled but proud that there are such amazing people and places still in the world, providing sanctuary for bereft children.

The Lubasi Home (Lubasi meaning "home"), gives shelter to 32 children, ranging in age from two to 18 and the administrator is the blessed Sister Petronel. They have their own chickens, a garden project and keep the children busy with recycling, art classes, sport and they have different speakers at the orphanage every month. "We are our own family here," says Sister Petronel.

Though poor, it is nevertheless a happy place and I come away thinking therefore by the grace of God.

A lazy trip aboard the marvelous vessel the African Queen follows on the Zambezi River. The impressive African Queen is a triple deck 70-foot catamaran and time stands still as we meander along the mighty river, spotting elephants, crocodiles, many hippo's and a myriad of bird life. I'm back at the hotel in time for a quick shower and then an exclusive dinner with the head chef of the Royal Livingston John and the oh-so charming General Manager. Much mirth ensues late into the night over fantastic food and even more fantastic wine pairings.

The Victoria Falls is an evocative destination and the sights and sounds are redolent with expression and emotion. The innate heritage of the land yields a paradise for nature lovers, offering relaxing river cruises, wildlife safaris and a variety of trails and hikes amidst the falls and the surrounding area. Imagine your favorite song. You know the one... it conjures up as many emotions a there are stars in the heavens—that is how this place makes me feel. Like I am in music...

 

About Anantara 

Anantara is a luxury hospitality brand for modern travelers, connecting them to genuine places, people and stories through personal experiences, and providing heartfelt hospitality in some of the world's most exciting destinations. The brand celebrated its 15th anniversary in March this year and the portfolio now includes 35 hotels and resorts in a diverse range of locations across Asia, the Middle East, the Indian Ocean and Africa.

The Anantara brand spread its wings into Southern Africa in 2014, adding two resorts in Mozambique—Anantara Bazaruto Island Resort and Anantara Medjumbe Island Resort—and now Zambia. "Life is a Journey" reflects a contemporary interpretation of Anantara's unique philosophy and core values of natural luxury. 

 

ACTIVITIES IN ZAMBIA 

Bushtracks Africa 

Royal Livingstone Express Train

Airport Transfers

Game Drive and also facilitated other activities.

www.bushtracksafrica.com and www.royal-livingstone-express.com 

United Air Charter 

Helicopter flight

www.uaczam.com 

Livingstone Adventures 

Horse Riding

African Queen Sunset Cruise

Canoeing

Water Taxi transfer

www.livingstonesadventure.com 

Tongabezi 

Livingstone Island

livingstoneisland@tongabezi.com

Safari Par Excellence 

White Water Rafting

www.safpar.com 

 

Contact: 

AVANI Victoria Falls Resort

Website: www.avanihotels.com/victoria-falls

Twitter:  @AVANI_Hotels

Hotel telephone number: +260 978 777 044-7 or +260 213 321 122

Reservation telephone number: +27 010) 003 8979

Reservation email: victoriafalls@avanihotels.com/reservations.africa@minorhotels.com

The Royal Livingstone Victoria Falls Zambia Hotel by Anantara

Website: www.royal-livingstone.anantara.com

Twitter: @RoyalLivHotel

Hotel telephone number: +260 213 321122

Reservation telephone number: +27 010) 003 8979

Reservation email: royallivingstone@anantara.com/reservations.africa@minorhotels.com

Getting there: 

Air China outbound flights to Johannesburg in South Africa operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, with return services from Johannesburg offered on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Flights will departs from Beijing at 23:15 Beijing time, and arrive in Johannesburg at 7:35 local time on the following day. The inbound flight departs from Johannesburg at 11:50 local time and arrives in Beijing at 7:30 Beijing time.

Go to: 

http://www.airchina.com.cn/en/

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