By Dian Hasan | July 15, 2010
Fresh on the heels of FIFA World Cup 2010, everything African seem to be in vogue. The continent which offers so much natural beauty is finally getting the exposure it deserves, with travel getting the immediate boost. The continent that invented the safari, is now spearheading hospitality design and responsible tourism into a bold new direction: eco-friendly designers digs, whether in tents, more permanent accommodations, and now… even on water. Design is the new catchphrase!
Africa’s first luxury river safari has been launched: The 135-foot-long Zambezi Queen is the first eco-friendly, floating boutique hotel in Southern Africa. Its inaugural journey a few weeks ago in Botswana marks a major departure in high-end river experiences and a landmark event in African tourism.
The state-of-the-art ship takes guests along Botswana’s great Chobe River, which boasts one of the densest populations of wildlife on the African continent. The chic, contemporary design of the Zambezi Queen set against the backdrop of the African wilderness creates a unique experience. All fourteen suites are tastefully furnished with either a double or two single beds. Private balconies in all rooms offer unparalleled views of the African wildlife along the river.
A library with books on the fauna, flora and history of the area, numerous games, a DVD player with wildlife documentaries, and computer facilities with Internet access is located on the first level of the three story vessel. Pete Goff-Wood, food guru and one of South Africa’s top chefs, oversees the dining room on the third level. Also on the third level is a stylish bar stocked with the finest wines and spirits and a spacious lounge area with a wood-burning fireplace. The top deck offers two outside areas with shaded spaces as well as a pool.
The two and three night voyages cruise along the banks of the magnificent Chobe National Park throughout the year. The area is teeming with wildlife, including approximately 120,000 elephants and more than 400 species of birds. Prides of leopard and lion, huge groups of buffalo, waterbuck, roan, eland, sable, giraffe, and the rare puku, can also be seen. The river itself is home to hippos and crocodiles.
Sustainable, responsible tourism lies at the heart of this project. One of Zambezi Queen’s major concerns is the preservation of this unspoiled area. The boat has therefore been designed and built to very specific requirements. It does not use conventional propellers but a jet propulsion system which reduces damage to the river bed and enables the boat to operate in very shallow water. At night it switches over to a low emission power system for lighting, refrigerators and other technical equipment. This unique system also allows guests to enjoy the sounds of the bush, undistracted by the sounds of modern technology. All hot water requirements are provided by solar panels which transfer the sun’s heat to storage boilers. Taps and showers incorporate the most advanced water saving designs available and all waste water is stored in holding tanks, so as to prevent discharging directly into the river.
Zambezi Queen is owned by business partners Tony Stern and Brett McDonald. Tony’s flair for design and Brett’s passion for Africa form the catalyst behind the creation of one of Africa’s most luxurious vessels.