The Zambezi Queen is a luxurious, triple deck river cruiser based out of Kasane
Zambezi Queen: Our full report
The Zambezi Queen is a luxurious houseboat offering two- and three-day river cruises on the Chobe River in the renowned Chobe National Park. At 45m long and three storeys high, this river cruiser provides a relaxed way to explore the Chobe River away from the many lodges and hotels in the Kasane area. It is situated in an ideal location; not far from the Victoria Falls and very close to Kasane International Airport. This makes The Zambezi Queen a convenient addition to any trip taking in Botswana's Okavango Delta, Namibia's Caprivi Strip or Zambia and Zimbabwe's Victoria Falls.
The boat has 2 mooring points along the river. Because of it’s shallow draft in the water, it is susceptible to wind and so might remain moored at one if the winds pick up. We had a rather exciting and admittedly, nail biting close encounter with the bank of the river when we were cruising - but the crew were quick to respond and we were soon enjoying the sightings of elephant, buffalo and other wildlife as we cruised to our next mooring point.
The 2-night cruise departs on a Monday and Wednesday, and activies will usually include a morning game drive in Chobe National Park, as well as an afternoon/sundowner boat cruise. Note that you will need to clear both Namibia and Botswana immigration each way when taking a game drive. We left the houseboat on one of the tenderboats and then changed over to a large double-storey game-viewer boat for our sundowner cruise. While quite conspicuous, we found the views from our raised vantage-point were a definite bonus.
On a 3-night cruise, guests may also have the chance to visit a local vllage, and the school, if you’re there on a weekday, in addition, there may also be the opportunity for catch-and-release fishing and birding excursions on the tenderboats. Having said all that, the team of the Zambezi Queen aim to be as flexible as possible with activities, taking into consideration the needs and interests of all their guests. So activities will vary on a day-to-day basis.
There are 14 cabins spread across the bottom 2 storeys of the boat. Each of the cabins contains either double or twin beds with river views from your own private balcony. Four of these cabins are 'master suites' and have their own private outdoor area complete with sunloungers, and are larger than the other cabins. Two of these (24 & 26) have a sleeper couch for children and although spacious enough for two, it is likely to feel a quite cramped with more.
The Zambezi Queen's interior is designed to feel light and airy, and the decor is distinctly stylish.Ceiling fans and specially designed shutter systems helping air flow throughout the boat. This helps to keep the rooms cool, even during the warmer summer months, as we discovered on our most recent visit in September 2012. Each suite also has a private en-suite bathroom with a flushing toilet, handbasin and a surprisingly well-proportioned shower cubicle.
On the bottom level is also a small reading room with a small selection of reading material, and a few curios for anyone wishing to purchase a souvenir of their stay. We understand, though, that there are plans in the pipeline to make this a more substantial curios shop and to possibly add a desk and computer for guests to use. We found that while the boat had limited Wifi, most of the time the signal wasn’t very strong and this could become frustrating.
The top level of the Zambezi Queen is known as the entertainment deck. This is where you’ll find the dining room is the dining room, a lounge with several sitting areas to take in the surroundings, as well as a well-stocked bar. To the front is a sun deck with sunloungers and a small swimming pool. Because the water is pumped from the river, it’s likely to appear murky, but is perfectly fine to swim in as it is filtered first.
The dining room aboard the Zambezi Queen is rather special. It has been specially designed to provide 360° views of the Chobe River and National Park. Top quality chef's on board have all been trained at a well-respected academy in Cape Town, South Africa and we found the food was superb!
Our viewThe Zambezi Queen offers an intimate and luxurious way to get away, to a large degree, from the often crowded Chobe Riverfront area. Expect high levels of service in this a-typical safari lodging. We think that this could make a great way to end a safari, particularly for those who are used to the finer things in life.
While a game drive is a possible activity, especially between around July to October when wildlife numbers are high here, we discovered that the time spent getting to the park and back, as well as clearing immigration made it a rather and tiring lengthy excursion. Instead, we’d suggest using your stay on board this luxury boat to explore the Chobe river itself, particularly in the dry season when wildlife - especialy large herds of elephant and buffalo - congregate in high densities near the water’s edge. It’s also not unusual for guests to excuse themselves from activiities and simply enjoy the splendid views from onboard.
Ideal length of stay: Cruises are based on set departures. 2-night trips depart on Monday and Wednesday, while the 3-night departure is on a Friday.
Directions: Cruises are based on set departures. 2-night trips depart on Monday and Wednesday, while the 3-night departure is on a Friday.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: On our most recent visit in September 2012, the food was of an outstanding quality with good variety.
Breakfast is served when guests return from their morning activity and will usually be a choice of cereals, cooked porridge, yoghurt, fresh fruit salad, muffins, cold meat and cheese platter, as well as a cooked option with eggs made to order.
Afternoon tea was scrumptious and substantial; more of a late lunch really. On offer were freshly baked scones, jam and cream, a decadent lemon meringue cake, savoury canapes, tuna salad and freshly baked bread.
During our stay, we had dinner in the private boma on the shore. We started with a delicious corn chowder soup served in individual pots, along with freshly baked bread. Dinner was a barbeque with a selection of meat from lamb and steak to chicken. Sides included salads, cooked pumpkin, beans, carrots and potatoes. For those with room, dessert was a tart, lemon soaked sponge with cream.
Vegetarians can be catered for, but advance notice should be given.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: All soft drinks, mineral water, tea and coffee, local wine and beer are included. Premium brands, spirits and liqueurs will cost extra.
Attitude towards children: All soft drinks, mineral water, tea and coffee, local wine and beer are included. Premium brands, spirits and liqueurs will cost extra.
Equipment: Two of the suites have a sleeper couch suitable for one child to share.
Generally recommended for children: In some ways it could be great for a larger family if booking sole use of the entire boat. However, because of the limited size of the boat and proximity of the rooms to each other, children - and adults - are asked to be respectful of their fellow-guests and there isn’t anywhere to ‘let off steam’. So we believe it’s likely to be suitable for older, more mature children.
Notes: The pool is unfenced and the river has crocodiles and hippos. Children must be under the constant supervision of their parents.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: There is usually cellphone reception on the boat, and occasionally very limited Wifi.
TV & radio: There is no television or radio
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: The managers are first-aid trained. The nearest doctor is in Kasane.
Dangerous animals: Moderate Risk
Security measures: There is a security guard on board at night, in case of need.
Fire safety: There are fire detectors throughout the houseboat, as well as fire extinguers.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: A laundry service is not available
Money: There is an electronic safe in each cabin. There is no currency exchange available.