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Sunset Cruise on the Zambezi River

As I lean on the railing of the boat, watching the sun set over the Zambezi River, I wonder if anyone has ever felt as content as I do right now? It was like that moment in Shirley Valentine, when she’s staring out over the Mediterranean Sea (except I didn’t feel sad or old and there wasn’t a dodgy 80’s perm in sight). I was glad to be there. In that moment. Just…happy.

Zambezi River Sunset Cruise Livingstone Zambia www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

Earlier that afternoon, a mini bus picked us up to take us to our sunset cruise down the Zambezi River, complete with bbq and the hope of seeing animals in the wild. The mini bus navigated the pot holed roads much easier and faster than the old but trusty Book Bus we usually travelled in could.

The drive takes us through the centre of Livingstone and down Mosi-Oa-Tunya Road, a bustling high street with a plethora of shops where you can buy pretty much anything you might need. Outside the shops, men sell knock off dvds and sunglasses from makeshift stalls as women sit along the pavement, in their brightly coloured chitenge, kids in tow, selling dried fish (covered in flies), tomatoes and other homegrown produce.

The hustle and bustle diminishes as we reach the edge of town and continue onwards towards the Falls, turning off a few kilometres out of town at the sign for Taonga Safaris. The eight of us are dropped at a building on the banks of the river – me, Kelly, Struan and the Hardcastle family. We walk down a path and enter The Shack – a bar with a fire pit, sand on the floor and great views of the river. Zambians and tourists alike sit chatting over bottles of Mosi, the local beer.

After giving our names in at reception, we’re led to the dock and shown to our very own boat. A big ol’ boat all to ourselves! It’s somewhat more rustic than I was expecting but it looks river worthy (kind of) and is full of charm!

Taonga Safari Zambezi River Sunset Cruise www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

* Photo courtesy of Trip Advisor

We set sail, the Zambezi River our welcoming host for the next two hours. The crew have already fired up the bbq  and our charismatic Captain keeps us entertained with hilarious stories.

Zambezi River Sunset Cruise Livingstone Zambia www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

We all grab ourselves a drink from the free bar, stocked with beer, cider, spirits, soft drinks and water, and make ourselves comfortable for the ride.

It’s not long before we’re all back on our feet as we’ve spotted some hippos – my first ever hippos! A couple of them eye us suspiciously, barely visible above the water line, their ears twitching as they watch us glide on by, whilst others treat us to a fantastic yawning display – it’s a hard life doing all this wallowing!

Zambezi River Sunset Cruise Livingstone Zambia www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

In between stuffing our faces with delicious bbq food – chicken, sausages, coleslaw and salad (pizza for the Veggies) and topping up our beers/vodka and still Fanta cocktails, we manage to see crocodiles, giraffe, tons of birds and even an elephant who has come down to the river to drink! Seeing an elephant in the wild, for the very first time, if something you don’t ever forget.

Zambezi River Sunset Cruise Livingstone Zambia www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

Zambezi River Sunset Cruise Livingstone Zambia www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

Zambezi River Sunset Cruise Livingstone Zambia www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

As the light begins to fade, we turn around and make our way back down river. I stand at the back of the boat with the others. We’re quiet, all lost in thought as we watch the sun setting below the horizon. The only sounds are the light whirr of the engine, animal calls and the faint rumble of Victoria Fall a few kilometres away.

Back on dry land, we were all in high spirits.

“I don’t want this night to end!” I said.

“Well the night is still young!” Kelly exclaimed enthusiastically.

Then 9-year-old Anna piped up “Unlike you Kelly!” – CHEEKY! 🙂

Cue laughter from everyone due to a conversation Kelly and I had with Struan a few days earlier where he’d described us as “reasonably young” compared to some of the other travellers around who were in their 60’s. 🙂

Back at the Grotto we all danced into the wee small hours, my iPod blasting out everything from chart hits, to classic 80’s power ballads.

Over the coming weeks I would laugh more times than I could count, with a friendship group that spanned 7 decades.

This is why I love to travel.

Zambezi River Sunset Cruise Livingstone Zambia www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

A couple of weeks later, I was lucky enough to take another trip down the Zambezi. This time the boat was busier (and bigger – same style, just bigger) and more of a ‘booze cruise’ than the other one had been – but still just as lovely, if not quite so memorable (damn those vodka Fantas). We even stayed around at The Shack afterwards, dancing the night away, our bare feet in the sand. It was a great atmosphere, with a great crowd! But be warned – sand is harder to dance on and you may end up covered in someone else’s sticky cocktail – like I did. Thanks Marjorie!

Here are a few of my favourite pics from that trip too…

Zambezi River Sunset Cruise Livingstone Zambia www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

Zambezi River Sunset Cruise Livingstone Zambia www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

Zambezi River Sunset Cruise Livingstone Zambia www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

Zambezi River Sunset Cruise Livingstone Zambia www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

Zambezi River Sunset Cruise Livingstone Zambia www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

Zambezi River Sunset Cruise Livingstone Zambia www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

I highly recommend that you take a cruise down the Zambezi during your time in Zambia. If you’re not a much of a drinker (and/or a veggie), the cruise might seem quite expensive, but I’d still say it was worth it! The view from the river is just beautiful. I loved it and I’m sure you will too!

Zambezi River Sunset Cruise Livingstone Zambia www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

Zambezi River Sunset Cruise Livingstone Zambia www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

Essential Info:

I did my Zambezi cruise with Taonga Safaris. The 2.5 hours trip, including food and drinks cost approx. $45
Bon voyage!

 

 

About Author

I'm a travel blogger and tour operator with a passion for Africa travel. I love the great outdoors, going on epic trips around the world and helping others travel!

10 Comments

  • Dana Carmel @ Time Travel Plans
    August 14, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Cruising down the Zambezi sounds like the experience of a lifetime. Especially seeing animals in their natural habitat. And your sunset pics are gorgeous! I’d like to invite you to link up on my blog for Wanderlust Wednesdays every Wednesday at the link below.
    Dana Carmel @ Time Travel Plans recently posted…Atlanta: Playing ‘That’s My House’ in BuckheadMy Profile

    Reply
    • Helen
      August 15, 2013 at 12:26 pm

      Hey Dana,

      Ah, I missed this one but I will be sure to check in next Wednesday!

      Helen

      Reply
  • YJ @ thefancyvoyager
    August 15, 2013 at 8:29 am

    Gorgeous sunset! Can’t imagine how much more beautiful it would have been being there in person!
    YJ @ thefancyvoyager recently posted…6 Things to do in RomeMy Profile

    Reply
    • Helen
      August 15, 2013 at 12:25 pm

      Oh it was! You can’t beat an African sunset! How are your travels going??

      Reply
  • TammyOnTheMove
    August 19, 2013 at 2:42 am

    Wow this looks amazing. I love your photo of the hippos!
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted…Flashback Friday: The day I met Diego MaradonaMy Profile

    Reply
    • Helen
      August 19, 2013 at 4:41 pm

      Ah thank you! I love taking pictures of animals!

      Reply
  • Christine
    August 26, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    Wow! This is awesome! I’ve been dying to go to Africa but haven’t seen many African destinations on backpacking blogs. Thanks for sharing!
    Christine recently posted…Budget Breakdown: San Cristobal de las Casas, MexicoMy Profile

    Reply
    • Helen
      August 26, 2013 at 10:30 pm

      Thanks Christine. I’ve spent just under a year backpacking round Africa so just getting it all down now! Africa is a wonderful place to visit, can’t recommend it highly enough! Give me a shout if you would like any info! I haven’t been to South America so we’ll have to trade tips! 🙂

      Reply
  • Lance
    July 14, 2014 at 4:37 am

    Great post! Love that sunset photo. I have to say, the sunset cruises on the Zambezi were our favorite things in Zambia!
    Lance recently posted…Total Relaxation at the Islands of SiankabaMy Profile

    Reply
    • Helen
      July 17, 2014 at 6:59 pm

      Thanks Lance!! Yes, I loved them too! Have been on a few and just can’t get enough of that sunset, or the wildlife and the nice cold beers! 🙂

      Reply

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