Zambia -- The low-lying banana boat picked me up at a small dock
and departed with the caution not to dangle a hand in the water.
The reason soon
became apparent. The eyes and hide of a 10-foot crocodile surfaced
several feet off the boat, then disappeared beneath the murky
waters of the mighty Zambezi.
An hour later,
the boat entered a wide stretch known as Atuleo Amanzi, or Quiet
Waters, where David Livingstone drifted by in 1855 before
discovering Victoria Falls.
High among the
trees along the river bluff, portions of several bungalows could be
seen on the Zambian side, facing Zimbabwe National Park and the
sunset. The boat docked under the trees.
Steep steps led
to the incongruously luxurious River Club Hotel. Home was one of 10
thatched chalets, accommodating up to 20 guests, with balconies
hanging over the river on stilts, their backsides open to the
There was a
swanky bedroom on the top level, where draped mosquito netting was
an art form, framing an orchid presentation on the bed. An
old-fashioned tub and shower were on the lower split
The front door
opened toward a croquet lawn and an Edwardian home that is the
hotels dining room, veranda, library and drawing room.
This particular night, at his
private home on the river bluff (a long nature-walk path from the
hotel), the hotels proprietor was entertaining River Club guests
who sat on makeshift bleachers.
The occasion was
a rugby championship, brought in by satellite TV with mercurial
reception, cursed by the owner as he fiddled with wires and paced
like a panther.
Guests caught the
owners enthusiasm as he redefined irrational exuberance every time
England scored over Australia and his hounds took up the howl. The
River Club chef, an Australian, was as combative until England
emerged victorious. He was needled by his boss so mercilessly that
guests wondered if a food taster would be a good idea.
The game, and the
relative comfort offered by the club, underscores the duality of
African travel -- upper-crust exclusivity contrasting the elemental
existence in much of Africa, which depends heavily on the tourism
dollars of high-end travelers.
Travelers look to
the wildness of Africa for many of the adventures they seek, for
the feel of being someplace truly different. A premium is placed on
the wildlife that much of Africa struggles to keep in its natural
The hotel often
boards travelers acclimating to Africa after arriving in the region
or decompressing from a package of safari trips elsewhere, from
Namibias Skeleton Coast to Botswanas Okavango Delta. Such safari
travelers usually arrive by small plane.
Its a mistake for
consumers to try to piecemeal a trip. Go with tour operators who
know the territory and can better and more reliably coordinate the
soup with the nuts.
Rates at the
River Club, which consists of a main lodge with a dining room,
lounge, library, pool and 10 thatched chalets with sleeping
accommodations, are seasonal and start from $730 per person from
July to October.
information, call (011) 260-97 771-032.
the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to[email protected].