The Zambezi Queen
I arrived into Kasane on my Air Botswana flight from Johannesburg. My Wilderness Safaris guide met me and transferred me to the Chobe River Immigration center, so I could leave Botswana and head into Namibia. The Zambezi Queen cruises in the waters of Namibia, so I had to start there. I then boarded a small boat and headed upstream to the Namibia Immigration and arrived alongside the Queen. Whilst this sounds like a drawn out process, it really isn’t and flows very smoothly and adds to the adventure.
The Queen is a newly renovated river cruising boat, catamaran in style allowing a wide deck to be used. Three decks total, with the dining and viewing areas are on deck three. The cabins are on deck one and two. I was with some South Africans from Durban as we arrived and were warmly greeted by Wayne, the Queen’s Manager and his wife Vicki.
After some welcome cocktails, I was shown to my cabin on the port side of the bow of the boat. I had a great little balcony with two deck chairs and views heading forward and along the port side. The cabin is roomy enough, with a large queen bed, wardrobe and bathroom. Being an expedition ship, most of the time is spent either on deck or in the small boats attached for game viewing. It was very similar to the True North which Linda and sailed on in Australia last year.
As soon as the other passengers arrived (some arrived from Livingstone and Victoria Falls – which is close by), we set sail for a short cruise along the Chobe River. Right now in May, the river is at its highest from the annual floods, and there were herds of elephant grazing in the reeds and hippos everywhere. Soon the river will subside and the animals will have less water to swim in, but more land to graze.
There is abundant bird life here in the afternoon. I spent much of the afternoon snapping pictures of them flying around. Being a small river boat, they were able to nudge the bow into the bank to come very close to the elephants and hippos. We had Croc sightings along with various antelopes all from the comfort of the Queen. It was a great afternoon.
We then headed back to the mooring (the Queen doesn’t cruise that much, it really is more of a floating lodge and is moored each night) and were offered some more pre-dinner drinks as we all watched a most beautiful sunset before dinner at 7.30pm.
The majority of the crew are from Botswana and Namibia, which adds so much to the experience as they are so proud of their country and what it has to offer us. They love visitors and they love showing off their animals and natural beauty.
The food tonight was great, I chose a salad and some Botswana Beef which was superbly cooked and prepared. We had three choices which included some local fish and a vegetarian dish.
I retired early as this had been a long travel day.
I woke early and sat outside to see the sun rise over the reeds. Again a truly magical moment. We headed out in the dinghy, back to Namibia Customs (to leave), then arrived into Botswana again, and we then joined our landrover for a game drive in the Chobe National Park. Sinta was our guide, we all had window seats as they only have 6 people per vehicle, which is the best way to see the park. During the drive, which I felt was a nice relaxing one (and I have been on over 140 game drives now), we saw:
Elephant, Buffalo, Giraffe, Crocodile, Kudu, Puku (a local antelope only found in the Chobe area), Warthog and Impala.
The drive started at 9.30am, so the cats were sleeping at that time of day, which is usual. We came back to the border, gained entry, crossed to Namibia and back to the Queen in time for lunch. Again the food and service was impeccable and everyone enjoyed it.
We then set sail up the river to explore a new region. The nice thing about the Queen, it cruises slowly allowing you plenty of time to soak up the scenery and enables you to get to know your fellow explorers. On board we had Americans, four other Aussie’s and South Africans.
After lunch we left on a water game drive, where we boarded a double decker smaller boat and cruised along the southern banks of the Chobe on the Botswana side. Here we saw the elephants coming down and swimming across the channel to the small island (claimed by Botswana and proudly showing their flag), hippos and small antelope. The fact that we could get so close to the animals was a treat for us all. Literally we could touch the elephant as he glided by us.
We enjoyed sundowners (cocktails to see the sun set) and cruised back to the Queen.
We were then surprised and taken ashore (Namibia side) to enjoy a traditional dinner by the boma. There are many explanations for BOMA, but really it means a place to meet and eat, which we certainly did, followed by some displays by the staff of their traditional dances, at which in the end, we all joined in.
I spent one last morning watching the sunrise, and then a great breakfast before I left by boat to clear Customs and head on to my next stop – Livingstone, in Zambia….
I really enjoyed this experience, and not because I love boating, but because it is a great relaxing way to get into safari mode or end a number of days of game drives. So can add to start after Victoria Falls or Livingstone at the start of your trip or at the end after coming in from the tented camps in Botswana before heading to the falls.