The Royal Livingstone Hotel in Zambia continues to impress with its spectacular views and hospitality

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

By James Ellis, Travel Adviser

I recently returned to Livingstone, Zambia, but this time when the mighty Zambezi, my favourite of all rivers, is in full flood. The facts that it is the source of the largest sheet of falling water in the world, some 1708 metres long, that generates 625 million litres of water per minute to cascade 108 metres over the edge, causing mountains of spray to rise 400 metres, are impressive enough.

But just to stand there, oblivious of being soaked to the skin, watching the sheer volume and raw force of the Victoria Falls, described locally as the smoke that thunders, with its spray pierced by vibrant rainbows, makes adequate description difficult. Overwhelming, perhaps, gets nearest to how you feel. Certainly getting close to this Natural Wonder of the World, is both a privilege and great life experience, and it certainly deserves to be up there with the other six Wonders: the Great Barrier Reef, Northern Lights, Grand Canyon, Mount Everest, Paricutin Volcano and Rio Harbour.

Not surprisingly, such a Wonder and the River, spawn numerous activities for the adventurous that vary according to the volume of water. The rains start in about November when the River is at its lowest, and end in about mid April, when it is most full, and so you can choose your time to visit, according to your activity priorities. When not so full it is possible to swim in the devil’s and angel’s pools on the cusp of the falls, and in the river beneath. When full, the Falls are at their most dramatic. White water rafting, riverboarding, canoeing, bungee jumping, zip wiring, abseiling, and microlighting are possible at most times of the year, as are fishing for 75 different species of fish, horseback safaris through the bush, and pods of hippo, elephants and crocodile that can be viewed from a river safari. It is also possible to walk with rhino.

Whatever your preference, or if you just want some R & R, a holiday here is significantly enhanced by a stay at the iconic Royal Livingstone Hotel, perfectly located upstream on the banks of the Zambezi, within the Livingstone National Park and walking distance of the Falls. Some thee years ago the Hotel was acquired by the Minor Hotels group, as an addition to its elite worldwide chain of Anantara hotels, and I was anxious to discover whether, and if so what, changes had been made. I was relieved to find that this was very little. The bedrooms still number 173, located in 17 blocks, each of which faces the Zambezi across lawns over which zebra, giraffes and impala are free to roam, and wonderful birdlife can be observed. The rooms are of a high standard, as are the Livingstone and Presidential suites. I preferred upstairs rooms in blocks 8, 10, 11 and 15, with the latter having the best view of the River. There are 564 members of staff, including butlers for each block, to ensure that your stay is special. Importantly, the Royal Livingstone Hotel prides itself on the quality of its drinking water.

Royal Livingstone Hotel

The new British general manger, Laurie Burr, is happy to be contacted by followers of The Sloaney directly to discuss your requirements. He will be incepting some improvements to upgrade, for example, internet access and some of the soft furnishings, but appreciates and values the character and comfort of the hotel, with its wonderful pool, lounge and veranda, dining room that spills out onto the patio and, for special occasions, the lawn. It also supplies dinner for the sunset cruise and for the Royal Livingstone express, with dinner served as you travel up river or through the bush.

The Pool at the Royal Livingstone Hotel

The Royal Livingstone Hotel spa now has three riverside cabins where a massage can be enjoyed facing and only a couple of metres from the River’s edge. There is also a well-equipped gym located in the hotel garden. Watching the sunset from the sundowner deck, or enjoying a private candlelit dinner served on the lawn close to the River, are both magical experiences.

It is rare to find a perfect and safe location, full of interest and comfort, that is appreciated and preserved when a new owner takes over, so that any changes are only those that are necessary and sympathetic to the hotel’s ethos. From what I have seen, I am satisfied that, under the present management, this is the case with the Royal Livingstone.

You can find out more about the Royal Livingstone Hotel online here: Reservations can be made by calling +260 213 321122 or +260 97 877 7044/7 or emailing

Read more from The Sloaney travel team