From Royal Chundu in Zambia, we head out on an interesting trip, crossing the Zambezi River on the Kazungula Ferry (it’s really just a boat) right where the 4 countries of Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia meet. We pass through parts of Botswana and the Kasane Regional District Immigration Office and Customs Services.
From there we get on another boat which takes us on the Chobe River to the immigration office at Impalila Island where we enter Namibia – our final destination.
The Zambezi Queen – Luxurious but With Some Flaws:
We arrive at the Zambezi Queen, where the staff greets us with a song and cold, refreshing towels. The Queen (as the staff call her) is probably the most luxurious houseboat on the Chobe River in Namibia with just 14 suites, common areas (lounge, bar and restaurant) and a small, outdoor plunge pool.
Our suite is on the lower deck – right on the water. The size is pretty good and it’s beautifully decorated. The suite has a king bed, closet space with safe, robes and slippers and a bathroom with shower. We also have a small balcony with two chairs.
These are indeed luxurious accommodations, but as soon as we look closely, there are lots of little flaws…mostly in the bathroom where the screws are coming out of the wall and the rainfall shower head is rusty.
The top deck of the Queen is where the lounge area (it’s like a big living room), the bar and restaurant are located. This is where we typically hang out and chat a bit with the other people on board. The other guests are from all over – mostly Americans but there are also people from France, the UK, Finland, Spain, Namibia and South Africa. We talk to most of the other guests and it’s really fun to hear their travel experiences and compare our own.
The Food and Service on the Zambezi Queen – Not the Best I’ve Ever Had:
All of our food and beverages on the Queen are included. Breakfast and lunch are served as a buffet. The food is tasty, but we find the variety to be just on the lower end. It’s definitely not an impressive buffet and for being on a luxury houseboat, the food could definitely use an upgrade.
Our first dinner is served as a 3-course meal. Again, it’s very light but after so many days of excessive eating, I’m thinking that it’s not such a bad thing after all.
Our second (and last) dinner is an African themed buffet with traditional food and it’s delicious. After the meal, the staff comes out singing and dancing – and we’re all invited to join along. Everyone seems a bit nervous at first, but it doesn’t take long before we’re all dancing and having a laugh.
The overall service on the Queen is okay, but not the best I’ve ever had. You can really tell that there’s a huge difference in service e.g. in South Africa and in Namibia. The staff on the boat are accommodating, but they don’t go out of their way for you – and they hardly ever seem to smile.
An Early Morning Fishing Trip – What I Wish I’d Known:
Since we’re on the water, naturally my hubby wants to go fishing. So, we head out early in the morning on a private boat with a captain who is from the area – we even pass by his house by the river.
He says that the best fishing is over on the Zambezi River, so that’s where we go. The way we fish isn’t really my favorite. It’s basically just casting, letting the bait drift in the current and waiting for the fish to bite.
We’re fishing for Tiger Fish, and it’s totally boring. I wish I’d known that we were going to be fishing like this the whole time. Also, it’s not the season this time of the year, as our captain points out. So, there’s not a whole lot of action going on.
I get one good bite but have a really hard time “striking hard” (as the captain says I must do), so I only have it hooked for a few seconds before it’s gone again. We both lose bait, get our lines tangled in the low-hanging trees and tranches…
Finally, after hours on the river, Anders tells the captain that I’d actually rather fish with a Rapala and just cast-and-reel-in. So, he sets me up and even if I’m not getting any bites this way and it’s not the correct way to fish (for this particular time of the year), I’m having much more fun.
When Anders catches his Tiger Fish, I’m so relieved because I’ve been dying to pee forever! We head back after about 5 hours and make it back to the Queen just before I literally explode. Women! I know, I know.
TIP: We get a to-go breakfast, but it’s honestly very poor for such a long daytrip! We just get 2 small yogurts, 4 apples, water and a bag of chips…for 2 people to share for breakfast and lunch! Had I known this beforehand, I would’ve specifically asked for e.g. a few sandwiches and muffins to go along with the fruit and yogurts.
Game Drives – A Different View of the Wildlife:
The game drives are much more my thing, and the Queen has a daily morning and an afternoon drive. During our stay, we only go on 2 afternoon drives – well, they’re actually sailing trips. We head out in the tender boat which takes about 15 (?) people plus the captain. The trips on the river are so amazing – the scenery and nature seen from this angle is incredibly beautiful.
I’ve read that the Chobe National Park along the Chobe River is supposedly the place in Africa that has the biggest population of elephants. So, naturally, I’m very excited. But, unfortunately, April is not the season – neither for Tiger fishing or for seeing tons of wildlife by the river.
But we do get a different view of the wildlife and we see animals that we haven’t seen before on our safari trip.
We see one elephant! One! But it’s so cute…a young male (?) all by himself eating by the river and playing with a piece of wood.
We see lots of birds, including the African Fish Eagle, Pied Kingfisher and a huge stork. We see a big troop of baboons and share a funny and kind of awkward moment as we watch two of the baboons mating right in front of us.
We see buffalo, hippos, reedbucks and a lizard.
We see huge crocodiles – mouths wide open and big teeth glaring at us.
And we see sunsets. Oh my, how gorgeous are the sunsets on the river!?! It’s like staring straight into Heaven.
Our 2 nights on the Zambezi Queen pass by so quickly, and I’m sad because it’s also the end of an unbelievable trip. The countries that we’ve visited have offered nothing but incredible and unforgettable experiences. We’ve seen, smelled, heard and felt beautiful nature and animals up close, which has been absolutely mind-blowing.
If you think that you’ll be cruising along the Chobe River (like we did), you’re wrong – sort of. During our stay, we hardly seemed to move that much. Apparently, the Zambezi Queen only sails about 25 kilometers along the river – IF the weather is okay. At night, she stays put in one of the designated mooring spots, where she slowly spins around (or does a half-loop – I’m not sure) to give the impression of constant movement.
As I’ve mentioned before in another post, 2 nights in one place is too little – too short. So, if I were to do this again, I’d choose the 3-night stay, which they offer. And I would find out when the best time of the year is for viewing wildlife and fishing. We went in April, and it wasn’t the season at all.
Viewing the wildlife from the river, gives you limited viewing options (compared to viewing on land), because unless the animals are down by the river – you won’t see them! And it’s not like you can go inland to find them.
Although staying on the Zambezi Queen this wasn’t my favorite part of our entire vacation, I’m glad that we had this experience. It was definitely something different and so nice to experience Africa from another perspective – on the water.