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Zambezi River: The Reluctant Adventurer’s Guide


Before plummeting in a single vertical drop — the whole volume of the river pouring into the Victoria Falls gorges from a narrow cleft — the Zambezi River flows broad and shallow over a level sheet of basalt. Here, upstream, at a safe distance from the falls, we are on a flat plateau extending hundreds of kilometres in all directions. All that water, our shuttle boat but a floating speck on its surface, headed towards a chasm where it will explode in an avalanche of spray and rainbows.

Wait, what?! As we size up our suitcases for buoyancy, the vessel changes course and we dock at The Royal Livingstone Victoria Falls Zambia Hotel by Anantara leaving the Victoria Falls meet-and-greet experience for later.

At 108 metres (354 feet), it falls short of being the tallest waterfall in the world (this honour belongs to Angel Falls in Venezuela). Yet thanks to humankind’s desire to measure, classify and catalogue everything, Victoria Falls still occupies a top position on the waterfall totem pole — by virtue of being officially the largest.

Another human obsession seemingly unknown to the more evolved animals is our love of chasing adrenaline-pumping thrills. You know the kind — bungee jumping 111 metres off the Victoria Falls Bridge, fraternising with crocodiles or clinging on to the lip of Devil’s Pool on the very edge of the waterfall as the raging waters of the Zambezi River crash over the cliffs a few feet away.

While the daredevils have claimed the upper reaches, below the falls the Zambezi River offers an adventure of a different nature. Anantara offers guided wildlife river safaris which promise excellent game and bird viewing. Specially designed safari boats are able to traverse the rapids safely and comfortably and can even cruise in water as shallow as 200 millimetres. The experience takes place at sunset, so all those photogenic hippos, crocodiles, and bush elephants in your snaps will be bathed in the golden hour glow.

So far, so tame. But that’s before we got chatting with local river guides and let ourselves be talked into giving white water rafting at the Batoka Gorge a go. The scenery is magnificent. The river flows swiftly through the gorge, the current being continually interrupted by reefs. It has been described as one of the world's most spectacular whitewater trips for a reason.


Dr. Livingstone, I Presume?

Now, if a severe case of FOMO leaves you crippled with anxiety and suspicion that people might be having more fun upstream, consider a canoe safari. You’ll be following the route of explorer David Livingstone in search of the rising mist of the Victoria Falls by paddling and canoeing down the river. On the opposing banks of the river, two life-size statues of the man (on the Zimbabwean side -wearily leaning on his walking stick, on Zambian — anxiously clutching a travel journal) gaze upon the falls, keeping you company from afar. 

We like to think that between reconnaissance walks and journal-keeping, David Livingstone allowed himself some downtime. Like a spot of fish fighting, perhaps. Sounds like a perfectly Victorian occupation, if you ask us. See, on the Zambezi River, they don’t catch fish, they fight it.  Anglers flock to test their skills against the legendary tiger fish, one of the world’s toughest fighting fish. And if you are sceptical about a fish being able to put on a good fight, just wait until you see the upper Zambezi River positively teaming with them. Greatly outnumbering the anglers, we must say.


And Relax…

On the border of the great central plateau of Africa, the rushing water of Zambezi River dotted with jungle-shrouded islands as far as the eye can see, we lay prostrate on a massage table at Anantara Spa. No piped spa music here. Instead, chirping birdsong and the calls of wildlife provide an uplifting soundtrack. As the therapist uses warm towels in kneading and compression movements, we feel tension drain. Off it goes, with the current.

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The Royal Livingstone Victoria Falls Zambia Hotel by Anantara

The Royal Livingstone brings plush luxury to a wild setting, with free unlimited access to the Victoria Falls, and tranquil gardens fronting the Zambezi River. Wake up to the sight of zebras roaming our grounds from your verandah. Head out on safari and then return to a traditional afternoon tea.