BACKGROUND: Previously a Sun International-owned and operated property, the Royal Livingstone fell under the Thailand-based Minor Hotel Group’s management in 2015 when MHG bought the majority of Sun International’s African assets, including a stake in this hotel. But it wasn’t until 2016 that Minor acquired full ownership of the property and rebranded.
WHERE IS IT? On the banks of the Zambezi River, with the hotel’s lawns extending onto a deck that looks over the river. From there, it’s a walk of approximately five minutes to get your first sight of the falls. The town of Livingstone has the closest airport, roughly a 20-minute drive away, or you can fly into Vic Falls, as we did, although this entails a slightly longer drive and going through the border post, which, to be fair, was pretty quick and seamless on both occasions.
ROOMS: The hotel has 173 rooms, divvied up into Deluxe and Deluxe Corner rooms, Livingstone suites, and the Presidential suite. At 30m2, the two ‘standard’ room options are not the biggest, but the comfort levels are high and there aren’t too many reasons to stay cooped up in your room, anyway, particularly due to the heat. Fortunately, there is good air-con and a fan in each room, with my wife and I accommodated in a Deluxe room situated about 50 metres from the Zambezi, with a balcony looking over the lawns and onto the river. Besides the air-con, there were all the ‘mod-cons’ you might expect from a five-star hotel room: king-size bed with fluffy pillows; large TV with DStv satellite channels; complimentary tea and coffee-making facilities; mini-bar; good wi-fi; cupboard with hanging space, ironing board and safe; hair dryer; desk with stationery; and a bathroom with separate bath and shower, and single vanity. Oh, and there’s a butler on call, should you need him.
FOOD & DRINK: The Old Drift Restaurant is the hotel’s main dining option, but you can also enjoy lunch and dinner at Kubu, which is the deck overlooking the Zambezi. That’s where we enjoyed sundowners on our first night, before heading for a scheduled boma dinner, which was due to take place between the hotel and its sister property, the adjacent AVANI Victoria Falls Resort. Unfortunately, a big storm forced us indoors, but we still enjoyed a delicious buffet round the large pool at the AVANI property. Think loads of different meat options, crunchy veggies, and malva pudding, all washed down with the local beer, Mosi Lager. Back at the The Old Drift the next morning, the breakfast spread was extensive, but I opted for fruit, yoghurt, and some salmon on fresh bread, along with pretty strong – and fairly bitter, I’ll be honest – coffee. But that certainly fortified me for the day ahead! We were back at The Old Drift for dinner that evening and on this occasion I opted for the Carpaccio Zambian Beef with Grilled Artichoke and Mexican Salsa, followed by a main of Seared Duck Breast with Apple Tart au tan and a glass of the house Sauvignon Blanc. All delicious, with little or no space for dessert. Additional dining and drinking options are the hotel’s lounge and the Travellers Bar, whilst there’s also in-room dining and a daily afternoon tea, served between 15h00 and 17h00.
BUSINESS FACILITIES: As an attractive MICE destination, it’s no surprise to see the Royal Livingstone has plenty of meeting options that range from the Banquet Hall that can accommodate 450 delegates, theatre-style, down to the 12-seater Royal Livingstone Boardroom. All in all, there are eight venues, whilst the hotel also offers standard business facility support, in the form of projectors, screens, speakers etc. A good MICE option is dining on the Royal Livingstone Express, a restored steam locomotive offering fine-dining journeys across Victoria Falls.
LEISURE: Well, firstly, there’s a good chance you’ll see a giraffe or zebra grazing a few metres from your hotel room door. That happened to us. Otherwise, you can book game drives, helicopter flips, white water rafting, bungee jumping, and canoeing safaris. However, my recommendations are the sunset cruise and the Livingstone Island experience, which culminates in you swimming in Devil’s Pool on the edge of the falls. A real bucket list experience. There’s also the hotel spa, situated just metres from the Zambezi, and an outdoor swimming pool between the hotel and the river.
VERDICT: Luxurious, colonial, indulgent, and with five-star service, along with a setting to remember.
A: Mosi-oa-Tunya Road, Livingstone
T: +260 213 321122