There are a lot of accommodation options in Livingstone — at all price points and comfort levels — that cater to the hordes who flock there to see Vic Falls, but the Royal Livingstone Hotel by Anantara is by far the cream of the crop. As far as hotels go it’s as iconic as the falls, and definitely one of the nicest I’ve ever stayed in.
Arriving by river, we whizzed past pods of hippos and crocs sunning themselves on their backs until the smooth, white buildings slowly came into view, rising above the lush greenery of the jungle. If ever a hotel had a better location than the Royal Livingstone, I’d be shocked. Located within Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, on the banks of the Zambezi and just steps from Victoria Falls, this is one of those few hotels where the attractions are truly right at your doorstep. While you’re sitting on your patio you can see the mist from the falls, hear the rushing river, and watch zebras and giraffes wander across the lawn. The sundowner deck has probably the best upriver view of the falls in the area, and during peak flow periods you can hear the roar while you sip your cocktails. The location is so superb that many couples decide to get married here, and there is a dedicated (and private) riverside area especially for wedding ceremonies.
Though the striking black-and-cream interiors of the 173 recently-renovated rooms are done in a sort of modern Victorian way, the common areas are deliberately styled with an olde-worlde colonial-nostalgia theme, but tastefully so. We took afternoon tea in the grand Royal Livingstone lounge, where the walls are adorned with portraits of Livingstone himself and zebra pelts double as area rugs, and were transported back to the turn of the century. Elsewhere on the property is a serene river-facing pool, an in-house restaurant, and a boma (cultural village), which is shared with the next-door sister property, the AVANI Victoria Falls. Smartly-dressed staff greet you by name whenever they pass, and each room has a dedicated butler who can get you reservations, a toothbrush — or enthusiastically help you search the grounds for your lost eyeglasses, in my case.
If you’re not feeling energetic, days can be spent lying in a hammock by the river, indulging in a waterside picnic, getting a massage or facial, or wandering the grounds taking photos of passing herds of zebra, giraffes, impala and mischievous vervet monkeys. By night you can opt for dinner under the stars, or drinks in the lounge. If you want to partake in local activities such as the Royal Livingstone dinner train, helicopter tours, or a horseback safari, they are a short 10-20 minute drive in either a golf cart or a private minibus. But of course don’t forget to visit Victoria Falls, which is only 10 minutes away on foot (the entrance is literally adjacent to the hotel gate), and allows free entry to guests when you show your hotel key card. In fact, I recommend visiting the falls several times — if you’re staying a few days, you may as well, since there are numerous trails and viewpoints to explore.