Zambia - River Club in Livingstone

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Sep 16th, 2005, 10:59 AM
  #1
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Zambia - River Club in Livingstone

Hello,

Has anyone here stayed at the River Club in Livingstone (Victoria Falls)? I can't recall reading about it in any trip reports and would love to hear what other Fodorites think of it.

I'm trying to choose between the River Club and Matetsi Water Lodge in Zimbabwe. I really like the look of Matetsi, but it seems like the activities I'm interested in are all run from the Zambian side of the Falls. I'll be there in July 2006.

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 16th, 2005, 11:38 AM
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Ahem....Don't you think I should be part of this discussion? ;-)

(I got off work early today...I'm going over itineraries right now!
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Sep 16th, 2005, 11:40 AM
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We absolutely loved The River Club and it was the perfect ending for our safari in Botswana. It's such a unique place with open chalets to the Zambezi and you wake to the sound of the hippos and have a full on view of the river from your bed and bath(there are other special touches but I don't want to reveal all to you in case you do go). The people working there are lovely and breakfast is served on the lawn within sight of the hippos, lunch on a lawn a little further back from the river under trees. Dinner is communal, just like at the safari camps, and is served in a dining room, very romantic. All activities were included and we took most of one day to visit the falls and the staff went out of their way to get us a helicopter ride over the falls at the last minute. We also did the sunset boat ride on the Zambezi with wine/canapes included and that was beautiful with lots of baboons on the shores and crocs on the banks. There was an article in the NYT travel section shortly after we returned where it was one of the featured destinations-you might want to look that up from 2003(fall). I can't recommend it highly enough!
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Sep 16th, 2005, 11:43 AM
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,

Just thought I'd gather some additional information, in case I end up going solo -- of course, if we're there together, everything is up for discussion!

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 16th, 2005, 11:45 AM
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Moremiles,

Was the area of the Zambezi where the River Club is located peaceful? I was a bit concerned it might be full of booze-cruisers...

Was it easy to arrange transfers to/from the falls when you wanted them, or was there a set schedule?

Thanks!

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 16th, 2005, 11:52 AM
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Very well...
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Sep 16th, 2005, 12:01 PM
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,

Just checked Expedia - flights from Livingstone to JNB are about $150 one-way, $300 return.

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 16th, 2005, 12:25 PM
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Yes, it was very, very peaceful(other than the hippos) and felt quite secluded. I don't remember a schedule for the falls-from what I remember, we went when it was convenient for us with our schedule. Don't worry if you are going alone-it definitely was not just couples and we were a family of 3.
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Sep 16th, 2005, 12:27 PM
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Thanks Moremiles -- I also tracked down the article you mentioned in the Times. Sounds like a wonderful place. Did you meet Peter Jones?

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 16th, 2005, 04:26 PM
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Yes, we did meet Peter briefly on a couple of occasions-seems quite a character, wish he had joined us at dinner with some tales. Mary, who is pictured in the article, was very gracious, welcoming and helpful to us. I'm so glad we ended our trip there rather than the Royal Livingstone.
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Sep 16th, 2005, 05:22 PM
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We enjoyed the River Club. It's very romantic in a very colonial kind of way. A bit "shabby chic" as well. I agree everyone there was super nice. The area is very peaceful, yet easy to access the falls and the village.

Only drawback is that the food is quite bad.

Judy
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Sep 16th, 2005, 05:32 PM
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Hi Judy - Just how bad is the food? This surprises me!
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Sep 16th, 2005, 06:15 PM
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I agree about the poor quality of the food at the River Club. I thought I was the only one who had a problem with it. For example, dinner was plain chicken without sauce and white rice without seasoning... and no choice. Since this was a few years ago, that is all I remember and it must have been bad if I still recall the menu.

The other thing that disturbed me is that the bathroom is down a flight of stairs which is annoying in the middle of the night. More annoying, is that there is no screen which looks nice, however, the white china fixtures are literally covered with insects. When we checked in, the hostess said they only put down the rolled screen during storms. I suggest that you request that the screens be kept down during your stay. We realized too late.

And just one more disturbing thing. The local staff was dressed in the uniform used during the British rule. Personally, I found that offensive. The management was all caucasian.

The site is beautiful. There is a local village of under 100 people which the club sponsors and which you can visit. We found that both interesting and upsetting. Do go if the tour is still available.
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Sep 16th, 2005, 06:35 PM
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Julian- Are you reading this??
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Sep 17th, 2005, 01:54 AM
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,

1030pm Fodors Time = 530am here -- I certainly hope to be asleep!

I'm surprised to hear about the food -- River Club is a Wilderness lodge, and the other WIlderness places I've stayed at have good food (if not gourmet). Matetsi is known for its good food, so that's food for thought...

Evelyntrav, what time of year were you there? I didn't think the insects were so bad in Vic Falls, but they might be when it's warmer. I'm hoping for relatively few of the buggers since it will be winter (July).

The village tour sounds interesting -- I think it is still offered.

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 17th, 2005, 07:04 AM
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I must agree that the two dinners we had there were not great but certainly edible. Breakfast and buffet lunch were ok. We had no problems with insects in August and it was starting to warm up but the nights were still cool.
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Sep 17th, 2005, 09:49 AM
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Cooncat,

The food is edible, but not enjoyable. Bland and overcooked fish, chicken, etc. I would equate it to bad food like you'd get in the UK 10-15 years ago before everything got gourmet. It was much much much worse than the Botswana camps (which all had delicious food).

I agree about the bathroom and the stairs. The floor is concrete and very slippery, so wear your shoes to go down the steps to avoid slipping/falling. Also agree about the open front, which brought in quite a lot of insects. Don't leave your lights on. It also makes the night extremely cold (we were there late May).

Even with all these drawbacks, it's still very enjoyable. The bath is awesome, and you can get a great massage looking at the Zambezi river. The sundowner cruise is free and very pleasant. The visit to the village is very worthwhile. People are nice and interesting.

Judy
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Sep 17th, 2005, 02:47 PM
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Judy,

When were you at the River Club? I couldn't find a trip report mentioning it, so I was wondering if it was awhile ago. I'm definitely asking about the food though -- one of the reasons I travel is to escape British food!

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 17th, 2005, 03:05 PM
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LOL. Julian, that is a nice reason!
 
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Sep 17th, 2005, 05:30 PM
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About the insects, I was there early June.

I complained to my TA about the food at this camp and the insect situation and he received a very defensive reply from the River Club. They said they often receive rave reviews about their food, clearly not the case according to the folks on this forum. They also said that they would have been most willing to roll down the screens which was not our experience. I cannot recall if they supplied flashlights, but either pack one or request one so that you can use the bathroom at night without having to turn on the light.

The food at the other Wilderness camps was just great.

I don't know if there are any better options in the area of V. Falls.
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