In Livingstone’s footsteps…

In Livingstone’s footsteps…

View as you come in to land in Livingstone.

Zambia and Botswana have always seemed far-off and rather expensive destinations – usually only accessed by driving many, many kilometres in an off-road vehicle. But what if you could access them in two or three hours from Johannesburg?? Well, FlySafair recently introduced a flight directly into Livingstone – for approximately the same price as you would pay to fly from Jozi to the Mother City (Cape Town)! These flights are available Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. You could also, obviously, drive as part of a safari…

The front of the lodge.

The Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport (formerly Livingstone Airport) is a quaint little airport. When we landed, we were the only plane on the runway. A bus transferred us from the plane to the airport building – which was a very short ride. There may well be a good reason, but we were rather puzzled as to why the plane didn’t simply stop at the nearby terminal doors, but the quirkiness of African travel is half of the fun…

The rooms looking onto the Zambezi.

The formalities and luggage collection were over in the blink of an eye, and we were met by a driver organised by the hotel. The drive to the hotel is a mere twenty minutes, on a route that takes you through the town of Livingstone. The driver proudly pointed out all the older buildings, as well as the Livingstone Museum. It was wonderful to experience a person who was so very proud of his country and its history – and this was an attitude which we were to experience again and again in this friendly country…

The red carpet walk onto the Lady Livingstone.

Until 1935, Livingstone (named after David Livingstone, the Scottish explorer and missionary who was the first European to explore the area) served as the capital of Northern Rhodesia. Located only ten kilometres north of the Zambezi River, it is a tourism magnet – especially for the Victoria Falls. White rhinos are another sight people are prepared to travel to Livingstone to see. About forty years ago, Zambia had the third largest black rhino population in Africa: approximately 12000, with 4000 of them in the Luangwa Valley. Twenty years later there were none. 

The lovely Lady Livingstone. 

A sad story mirrored in much of Africa, where the poachers are winning the war more often than not. They were declared officially extinct in Zambia in 1998. In response, the North Luangwa Conservation Programme (NLCP) was set up, and in 2003 five rhino landed in the North Luangwa National Park, transported by a Hercules aircraft. The rest, as they say, is history. But it is a complicated, ongoing and expensive initiative, and the rhinos have armed guards with them day and night. And these days, you can also experience a breathtaking encounter with the endangered White Rhino whilst walking in the untamed Zambian bush of Livingstone’s Mosi O Tunya National Park.

The captain has a high vantage point.

The David Livingstone Safari Lodge and Spa is a luxurious 4-star establishment situated on the lush banks of the Zambian side of the Zambezi River. It seamlessly blends into its surroundings and entering the gate is like entering your own piece of paradise. Almost every room in the hotel overlooks the tranquil Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park and the Zambezi River, ensuring that guests enjoy the same breathtaking views that once captivated David Livingstone. It is located a mere 13 km from the Victoria Falls rain forest. 

The Lady Livingstone flies the Zambian flag.

There is a pool, Wi-Fi and a Spa available at the lodge. There are also numerous activities you can participate in through affiliated adventure companies, such as white water rafting, a Chobe day trip, bungee jumping at the Victoria Falls Bridge, a microlight flight over the falls, walking with the rhinos, a tour of the falls, a high tea with a possible swim in Devil’s pool (google it – quite something!), a village tour, a tour of the Livingstone museum, breakfast at the Elephant Café, a bridge swing and/or slide, tiger fishing or even a fine wine and dine experience as you cross the Victoria Falls Bridge in the Royal Livingstone Express Steam Train. The list is virtually endless!

Slowly the Lady Livingstone made her way back to the lodge after a wonderful sunset cruise…

On arrival, we were greeted with friendly smiles and a deliciously cold glass of lemonade. It was already late afternoon by this time, and we were due on a cruise on The Lady Livingstone imminently. We popped to our room, which was large with beautiful décor which had a vague Arabian / Zanzibari feel to it (at least to my eye). There was also an impossibly large bath – with a window into the bedroom, allowing one to languish in the bath and have a chat to a friend at the same time. After taking a moment to freshen up and reapply sunscreen, we headed down to where this upmarket river cruiser was moored. We literally got the red-carpet treatment.

The infinity pool looks out over the mighty Zambezi…

She has three decks and has a capacity of 144 passengers. We were lucky, and because it was the quiet season, we had less than twenty on aboard. We spent a wonderful afternoon cruising the Zambezi – complete with snacks and whatever drinks took our fancy. The captain of the boat provided a wealth of information, especially on birds, and it turned out to be a very informative trip. On our return it was virtually dark, and we headed up to the restaurant for our evening meal. We chose a corner table which afforded us a beautiful view of the river. 

The foyer of the lodge in the evening light.

It consistently amazes me how chefs are able to provide phenomenal meals in the middle of nowhere, and this occasion was no different. The Afro-Arabian fusion menu was comprehensive and the service subtle and beyond reproach. That evening we enjoyed a starter of butternut ravioli served with creamy mushroom and sage sauce, with a side of Parmesan cheese. 

We managed to get a corner table with a stunning view across the river.

This was followed by a surprise sorbet to cleanse our palate between courses. Our main courses arrived cooked to perfection. Botswana beef is superb, and the fillet was served on potato, with shallot puree and thyme red wine jus. The grilled bream fillet with garlic sauteed spinach and lemon butter sauce was simply sublime… By that point, we had no space for desert – although the list on the menu was very tempting!

The festive deck of the lodge – quiet in the evening with everyone in the restaurant.

At this point we decided to call it and get an early night, as the next day involved an exciting border crossing over a brand new bridge into Botswana – but that is a story for another day, and the next column…

Jacqui Ikin & The Cross Country Team


The David Livingstone Safari Lodge and Spa


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