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A Tryst With Africa

Sheetal Munshaw experiences the majesty of the Victoria Falls during a stay at The Royal Livingstone

In keeping with its title, The Royal Livingstone pays homage to the legendary Dr Livingstone who has become an inerasable footprint in the sands of Zambian history. The very fact that the town and the international airport are named after the famous explorer is testimony to his popularity and contribution to the nation. As history has it his initial claim to fame was that he discovered the jewel - Zambia.

In keeping with its name then, the property exudes royalty reflected both in its opulence as well as its essentially colonial ambience. You can't miss the domineering juxtaposition of colonialism and modernism, as every element mirrors the exoticism of a bygone era and at the same time boasts contemporary state-of-the-art facilities. Essentially designed for the discerning traveller, The Royal Livingstone offers you a soul-searching experience. The property is only about a year young and has already established the repute of being one of Sun International's finest hotels. In fact, The Royal Livingstone is now a destination by itself.

But why don't I tell you what makes it that formidable. The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of the property is colonial. As I stepped down from the combi, I was warmly welcomed by an extremely courteous team led by the General Manager of the property, (great hospitality comes naturally to most Southern Africans). The most outstanding thing was their attire so typically English and immaculate and of course everyone is English speaking. Its like the whole place has a bit of a Brit hangover that is apparent from the style of dressing to the high tea tradition. Another remarkable feature was the unusual style of checking in their guests. Surprisingly I didn't have to wait impatiently for my key card as the front office personnel glared at the computer. Instead, there was a smiling hostess penning down my details as I sat comfortably overlooking the calm Zambezi River, sipping a refreshing drink - talk about being in the lap of luxury.

Once done with that, I was "taken through" to my room in a golf buggy accompanied by my personal butler who greeted me with his visiting card! It only got better as I made my way into my well-appointed room adorned with everything synonymous with luxury. The rooms are extremely eloquent and spacious. Each room has a deck overlooking the picturesque environs where you could sip your coffee but keep away the bitings if you want to keep those unfriendly monkeys in your neighbourhood at bay. The whole aura is romantic and relaxing with the Zambezi river up ahead of you and lazy hammocks roped up the trees making it an ideal open air holiday reading "room" or just the idyllic spot for you to soak in the sun. The cigar bar is an ideal spot to retire into solitude and retreat into the explorers era in an entourage of leather bound national geographics (a rare sighting in our times) or simply to have a heart to heart chat over endless cups of tea.

Apart from its affluence, the draw card is also its idyllic setting within a nature reserve where you are surrounded by the beauty of the wilderness. You sometimes might spot elephant and hippo at a distance as you sip your sundowner and soak in the glorious African sunset at the sun deck - its truly picture perfect. Speaking of its proximity to nature, The Smoke That Thunders - Victoria Falls - is just a walk away. You can feel the majestic spray as you walk along the bridge, there are viewing points that give you a real zoom view of the legendary falls such that you could actually walk from one point to another to view a completely different section of the falls unlike that of the Zimbabwe front where you can only see the falls at one glance and definitely not half as close as that on the Zambian side!

Keeping up to the chain's tradition, the property boasts some very appetising gourmet fanfare. The highlight is that chefs prepare your personal favourites and even vegetarian meals could be made on request. Although personally, I most enjoyed the idea of eating a sumptuous breakfast and rounding it up with a mélange of orange juice with vodka or simply an indulgent glass of champagne. What I also really appreciated is the quality of service where the team would even beat up white egg omelettes for their diet conscious guests. I would strongly recommend a dining experience after the soulful sundowner at the sun deck. For honeymooners it's more than perfect! You could just lose yourself in the romantic mélange of fine wining and dining enhanced by the beautiful backdrop of the river.

If your lucky, you could also savour some sumptuous traditional African Boma dinners that give you a truly lavish experience combining the rustic bush style with the spread of game meat with colonial style refined cutlery and the eloquent ambience resonating with cultural thumping as local artists perform to entertain you.

The property also shares an entertainment and convention center with The Zambezi Sun, the other Sun International hotel. You could book any excursion that meets your fancy at the center. By far the most enthralling scenic flight would be the Microlite and even if you fear heights its worth a try there couldn't be a better way to rid your inhibitions. For the adventurous the options are galore you have from gorge swinging, bungee jumping, abseiling, high wiring and white water rafting to high speed jet boating, angling or fly-fishing all the Zambezi river.

A "must do" in my opinion is the sunset cruises along the Zambezi where you could wine and dine and savour the charismatic ambience. So for all of you who thought that the Victoria Falls was the only attraction to Zambia, think again!

Visas can be processed on arrival but passengers need to inform the hotel personnel a fortnight in advance and furnish certain details, on completion of which the hotel personnel would be glad to arrange for your visa.