Zambezi Queen News

The Ultimate 50th Birthday Celebration

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Planning your 50th birthday party? 5 reasons why a river safari is the ultimate birthday party celebration!

Coming up with original ideas for a 50th birthday celebration can be tricky – it seems like it’s all been done before. From the ridiculous dress-ups to the elegant dinners, you’ve probably seen it all. If you are searching for a truly unique and memorable 50th birthday party idea, consider a luxury safari on the majestic Chobe Princess where you’ll be surrounded by your friends and family in one of the most magnificent settings on earth – the Chobe River.

luxury houseboat safari

Here are 5 reasons why we think this will be the most incredible 50th birthday party in history.

#1: The spectacular Chobe River setting

There is no doubt that you will have the most original 50th birthday venue – your very own luxury houseboat (or three) floating along 25km of the Chobe River. The Chobe Princess, your private floating villa, is as graceful as her name suggests. Exquisitely decorated, and designed to give you breathtaking views of the river and the teeming banks, there is no better setting for your 50th birthday party than this.

#2: You deserve to be spoiled on your 50th birthday

With all the catering and housekeeping taken care of, you only have one important task: relax and enjoy the luxurious surroundings and impeccable service. Savour the superb seasonal meals served in the open-air dining area, take a dip in the splash pool, or lounge on the sun deck.

luxury houseboat safari

The spacious lounge and bar on the upper entertainment deck of each Chobe Princess offers a wonderful vantage point from which to drink in the African beauty around you.

#3: The VIP guest list

You can book one or all three Chobe Princesses for your exclusive use, and invite your dearest friends and family to celebrate the momentous occasion with you. Two of the 18-metre Chobe Princesses each have four luxury cabins, and the third has five cabins, each sleeping two people on either a king size bed, or two double beds – whatever you prefer.

The other special guests will simply watch you from the comfort of their own kingdom – the river banks and the water. Hippos and crocodiles, hundreds of thirsty antelope and elephants, and maybe even a hungry lion or two all come down to the water during the dry season (March to November) when the watering holes no longer quench their thirst.

#4: Embrace your wild side

Each Chobe Princess has three tender boats to take you on game viewing, fishing, and birding excursions. Not only is Chobe home to the greatest elephant population on the continent, but you could have front row seats to their river crossing escapades. You’ll also see giraffe, lechwe, zebra, kudu, and the occasional leopard, to name but a few.

Chobe also boasts over 450 bird species – increasing in numbers by nearly 30% in the summer months. Not a birding enthusiast? You may well be after your trip! If you fancy something a little more adventurous, tiger fishing may be just the thing. Imagine catching one of the greatest fighting fish in the world – now that would be the best 50th birthday present ever!

Tiger fishing on the Chobe

#5: A river safari provides the best photo opportunities

Capture all the magical moments of your 50th birthday celebration in the golden light of the setting African sun. A Chobe River safari brings together the perfect conditions for you to photograph wildlife without having to compete for a good vantage point, and in the glorious golden hour. Absolute silence around you, and your unique position in the water, mean that the birds and animals will be seemingly oblivious to your presence.

Photographic safari, Chobe River

Of course you don’t have to wait for your 50th birthday party to enjoy the splendour of the Chobe Princess, but it does offer an excellent excuse!

An Unforgettable African Safari on the Chobe River

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The magnificent Chobe River rises in the Angola highlands and winds its way to the Zambezi River, flanked by forests, floodplains and woodlands. With the highest concentration of African elephants on the continent, and over 450 different bird species you’d better charge your camera and pack your binoculars.

The Chobe R

The life blood of the Botswana and Namibian safari experience

The River forms the northern boundary of the Chobe National Park as well as much of Botswana’s border with Namibia’s Caprivi Strip, and it is an integral part of the Botswana and Namibian safari experience. The area has only two seasons: a wet and a dry season. The wet season stretches from around November to March and transforms the landscape into a lush green sanctuary. During the dry season, when other water sources are scarce, large herds of animals concentrate on the banks of the river for a drink or a cooling splash. Of course this is great news to hungry predators like crocs and lions that are eager to make a quick meal out of a thirsty zebra or antelope.

Elephant herd on Chobe River

The Chobe is a birding paradise. You’ll wake to the sound of the African Fish Eagles as it swoops down to snatch a fish from the water. Watch the graceful African Skimmer leave a perfect wake, or gawk at the strange black Openbills, or Marabou Storks. Even if you’re not a birding enthusiast seeing some of the over 450 bird species and hearing your enthusiastic and well-informed guide talk about the habits and quirks of each Little Bee Eater, you may just be converted!

African Fish Eagle, Chobe River

The gentle giants

Chobe is home to 4 of the big 5: lion, buffalo, leopard, and of course – elephant. It is estimated that there are around 120,000 elephants migrating through the Chobe National Park and surrounding areas – the largest concentration of elephants in the world. It is not uncommon to see herds of over 100 animals grazing on the banks, or to find them crossing the river, or spraying each other playfully in the water. These gentle giants are ever present, and the best way to appreciate them is from the water on a river cruise. It seems that the animals are unperturbed by the boats drifting by – and they go about their daily routine as if you are part of the scenery. It is an incredible way to view them in their natural habitat without disturbing them – and what a photo opportunity!

Elephant, Chobe River

Surprising Africa

The African wild is exactly as enigmatic and surprising as it sounds. One might expect, for example, that, being in one of the most remote locations in the world, the sunset would bring serenity and tranquillity as a million stars light up the sky. But no, Africa comes to life after dark. The hypnotic chorus of insects; the mesmerising sounds of thousands of tiny creatures buzzing, zinging and chattering; the grunt of a nearby herd of elephants grazing, and the gentle lapping of the water will be your lullaby. Concentration of game around the river ensures your days are filled with sensational sightings.

In the lap of luxury

When you think of the Chobe, don’t think dirt and dust, think safari decadence. Luxury tented camping gives you the authentic African safari experience in unsurpassed comfort. Alternatively, stay in a floating boutique hotel, or a private villa on the water, where the scenery is always changing and you become part of the majestic landscape that is Africa.

Giving back: Our initiatives in the community

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At the Zambezi Queen Collection, we’re not simply about luxury travel and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. We’re also involved in development, education and employment initiatives that give back to the local community. Here are some projects our properties are currently involved with:

Zambezi QueenZambezi Queen | Luxury Houseboat

  • We sank a borehole at the Someli Village to provide clean drinking water for those living in the area. This eco-friendly borehole pump is powered by a solar panel, to make it as sustainable as possible.
  • We provided Ijambwe Village with a water pump and building materials so that they could construct an ablution facility that would accommodate more members of the village. Guests also donated seeds during a recent cultural tour so that a vegetable garden could be started. We support the village financially by paying a monthly rental fee, which also gives our guests the opportunity to visit the village and learn more about local life. Villagers can also use this opportunity to sell their wares to guests who visit, such as wooden carved bowls and beaded jewellery.
  • Our Forever Wild Project uses funds raised from the sale of plush toy wild rhinos to our guests, to provide the learners of Kasika Primary School with uniforms and stationery. Mr John Lutombi, the land-owner and our landlord, recently handed out these gifts to learners – this project will be ongoing so that local children have a better chance at a good education.

Kasika Primary School

  • We make monthly payments to the Kasika Conservancy to support them, and these payments also partly fund the salary of a cleaner who collects litter at the Kasika Immigration office. We also help this conservancy with the daily enforcing of the conservation laws of the area.
  • In the same way we also support the Kabulabula Conservancy with monthly payments. We provide food, transport and financial assistance to many Ndunas, the local leaders of communities, as well as members of their local Kuta, their court.
  • We recently built a sophisticated sewage treatment system at Nchenku, which will process waste from all of the Zambezi Queen Collection houseboats and promote a cleaner environment for all.

Sewerage System | Zambezi Queen Collection

  • We provide weekly transport for locals who need medical care or who are attending funerals. We also donate money to those requiring emergency medical assistance, as well as transport building materials when needed.
  • We donated a new boat to the landowner at Nchenku and this provides vital transport for the villagers of this area to reach the nearest towns, markets and schools.
  • Because we believe education is so important, we’re currently financially assisting three scholars with their university and tertiary education fees.
  • Our staff members regularly maintain immigration pathways by cleaning, removing rubble and rebuilding roads after rains and floods, both on Impalila and Kasika islands.
  • We provide transport to pensioners every month so that the elderly can travel from Leguva to Kasika and collect their monthly government grants.
  • When employing new members of staff, we always draw from local inhabitants on Nchenku Island, whether this is for permanent or temporary roles.
  • We help the Namibian Police Force as well as the Namibian Navy based on Impalila Island when they require repairs and maintenance to their patrol boats.
  • Weekly financial and food donations are made to members of the sub Kuta and Kuta, sectors of the tribal court, for celebrations, public holidays and social gatherings.
  • We sponsor local soccer tournaments regularly, providing food and money.
  • Our staff members continuously clean the river and estuary of floating pollution because we want to keep this area as naturally beautiful as it’s always been.
  • We buy fresh produce weekly from local farmers, in order to support the local economy while we feed guests on board.
  • We make annual donations to celebrate Independence Day to police stations, villages and schools.
  • We also help villagers drive cattle across rivers during the flood periods in order to minimise the loss of valuable stock.
  • We donate solar panels and batteries to villages on request.
  • We assist local conservancies by providing monthly fuel donations for their patrol boats.
  • After heavy storms, we help retrieve sunken boats from the Chobe River – especially during the rainy season.
  • We stock our Zambezi Queen gift shop with many crafts from locals, supporting their small businesses.
  • Most importantly, the Zambezi Queen currently employ 63 Namibian people from the local community, providing ongoing training and mentorship to them and enabling them to improve their lives and reach their full potential.

Chobe Princess houseboats and Ichingo Chobe River Lodge Chobe Princess and Ichingo Chobe River Lodge

  • Between the Chobe Princess houseboats and the Ichingo Chobe River Lodge, we provide employment to 65 people.
  • We currently pay 12 students’ fees at either university or school, coming to a total of approximately $15 000 per year.
  • We’ve set up a Community Development Fund that is used to administer and grow Impalila Island infrastructure, including providing salaries for school teachers and clinic nurses.
  • 150 people have access to taps and clean water because of the water supply we’ve set up for the five adjacent villages to Ichingo Chobe River Lodge. We also provide the village next to the lodge with electricity free of charge, as well as the adjacent government agricultural centre.
  • We’ve provided two boats and two engines to the villages of Kasika and Ijambwe to assist with the transport of goods and services, and to take the children to school whenever the rivers flood.

Boat Donation and Fresh Produce

  • We also provide financial support to the Khuta of Impalila Island, a tribal court of that particular island.
  • We arrange village walks in order to promote Impalila Island, including the schools and clinic, and to provide a market for local entrepreneurs to sell their curios.
  • We sponsor various Impalila Island events such as soccer tournaments and netball leagues.
  • We provided seeds to a local man on Impalila Island so that he could maintain a vegetable garden. The fruit and vegetables are then bought back by the Lodge and served to guests in our delicious meals.
  • We also make monthly contributions to the various conservancies, as well as to those families whose land provides space for our Chobe Princesses to dock.
  • We also make regular donations of money, transport and fuel towards the community when they need it such as at funerals and for any medical expenses.

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15 animals to see on a Botswana River Safari

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The Zambezi Queen Collection of properties is situated in the heart of the Chobe region with access to river frontage of the Chobe National Park, our water-based safaris allow you to experience the enormous diversity and concentration of wildlife the area has to offer.

Here are 15 animals you’ll most likely spot during your stay with us:

1. The giraffe is the tallest mammal in the world, with even new-born babies born taller than most humans.

Giraffe | Botswana Safari
2. Lechwe are strong swimmers and will often out swim predators to get away and can easily bound through water.

Lechwe Buck | Botswana Safari
3. Lions and leopards are the warthog’s chief enemies. Warthogs protect themselves from predators by fleeing or sliding backwards into a hole, thus being in a position to use their formidable tusks in an attack.

Warthog | Botswana Safari
4. The giant kingfisher is the largest kingfisher in Africa, where it is a resident breeding bird over most of the continent south of the Sahara Desert.

Giant Kingfisher | Botswana Safari
5. African fish eagles are very efficient hunters and only hunt for about 10 minutes each day. Besides fish, they also eat young birds, monkeys, baby crocodiles and frogs. They have special growths on their toes that help them to grip slippery prey.

Fish Eagle | Botswana Safari
6. The Chobe National Park is home to the largest concentration of African elephant in the world.

Elephant | Botswana Safari
7. The adage an elephant never forgets would be matched by a buffalo never forgives. They have been known to attack people that have harmed them even years after the event.

Cape Buffalo | Botswana Safari
8. An adult hippo needs to resurface every 3 – 5 minutes to breathe. The process of surfacing and breathing is automatic, and even a hippo sleeping underwater will rise and breathe without waking.

Hippo | Botswana Safari
9. The gemsbok is one of the most perfectly desert-adapted large mammals. It is capable of subsisting in waterless landscapes where few other ungulates can survive. This allows the gemsbok to utilize habitat that other grazers can only use during the rainy season.

Gemsbok | Botswana Safari
10. Where most reptiles lay their eggs and move on, mother and father crocodiles ferociously guard their nests until the eggs hatch, and they will often roll the eggs gently in their mouths to help hatching babies emerge.

Crocodile | Botswana Safari
11. Lions thrive in prides as the only cats to live in groups. With females as the primary hunters, males defend a territory that can stretch for miles.

Lion | Botswana Safari
12. Leopards are astoundingly strong. They are pound for pound the strongest of the big cats.

Leopard | Botswana Safari
13. Contrary to the picture below, zebras are actually highly social, and will only go to sleep if they are close to neighbours so that they can be warned if a predator approaches.

Zebra | Botswana Safari
14. The impala is rarely seen on its own. Females and young animals form herds of up to 100 individuals, while males live in a bachelor group of about 60 animals. They occupy a large range and make seasonal migrations from high to lower ground according to the availability of suitable food.

Impala || Botswana Safari
15. Monitor lizzards are fearsome predators, hunting on and under the ground, in trees and in the water.

Monitor Lizzard | Botswana Safari
Before your game viewing excursion, remember to apply sunscreen and wear a hat, as temperatures can reach over 40 degrees centigrade. You should also bring along a jacket for the chillier temperatures in the early mornings and evenings.

Enjoy the ultimate in game viewing safari decadence with the Zambezi Queen Collection as you cruise along the Chobe river in one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet.

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Five tips for photographing wildlife

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A photographer’s paradise

Uninterrupted access to wild animals. Absolute silence. Golden light.

The Chobe River is an unforgettable photographic safari destination, and arguably a wildlife photographer’s ultimate destination in Africa.

The region attracts large herds of breeding elephants as well as Cape buffalo, giraffe, sable antelope and a diverse range of birding species. During the dry season from May to October, herds of elephants can be seen swimming trunk in tail across the crocodile infested river to reach the lush grass covered islands – a once in a lifetime photographic opportunity – for both amateurs and professionals alike!

We recently hosted award-winning father and son photographic team, Iky and Ryan Plakonouris of Iky’s Photographic who between them have over 30 years of experience. Ryan Plakonouris’ years of wildlife guiding in many parts of Africa coupled with his photography skills perfectly complement his father’s in-depth knowledge of photography and technical camera repairs.

Here are their five top tips to keep in mind when photographing wildlife:

Wildlife Photography Tip #1: Usually an animal’s eyes tell the best story: get the eyes in focus, even if it’s the only aspect in focus it draws a viewer into wondering more about the animal’s mood and intentions. There is not a lot of time to get it right yet it’s worth focusing on the eyes. Generally, this technique produces a better image.

Pic 1

Wildlife Photography Tip #2: Set your camera onto its fastest frame rate. Often the difference between a perfect shot and a mediocre shot is just that one frame! It’s good to anticipate a moment yet often there isn’t much time so it’s best to be able to shoot at a fast frame rate.

Wildlife Photography Tips

Wildlife Photography Tip #3: Attempt to anticipate the animal’s behaviour. It allows you to be prepared for that perfect moment which can lead to a magnificent image. Animals move fast and when they want to. It’s best to be able to predict what they might do. You can practice with pets at home. It takes some knowledge on specific species behaviour and that’s where the Zambezi Queen Collection’s knowledgeable guides come into play.

Wildlife Photography Tips

Wildlife Photography Tip #4: Depth of field is important (the amount of blur between the foreground and background of the image). Depth of field dictates what is sharp and is also a very important artistic element which gives an image its mood and creates the focal point of your subject. The depth of field is dictated by the aperture setting within the camera.

Wildlife Photography Tips

Wildlife Photography Tip #5: The shutter speeds are important. A fast shutter speed will capture the moment and freeze frame your subject while a slower shutter speed can create a bit of blur. The blur is often an artistic effect which can produce very interesting images. Wildlife is often fast and a faster shutter speed helps to get the image in focus (usually there should be an element in focus otherwise it’s a soft image). The rule of thumb (and can sometimes be broken!) is to keep your shutter speed equivalent or higher than the length of your lens. If you have a 200mm lens, attempt to keep you shutter speed higher than 200th of a second (1/200).

Wildlife Photography Tips“These are certainly not the only important elements but if you get these right you can begin to appreciate the artistry in achieving great images “says Ryan.

The Zambezi Queen Collection’s custom-designed photographic safari boats are available on request and cater for 6 clients in individual photographic seats. Click here for more information or to make a booking.

About the contributing authors:

Iky Plakonouris Iky worked for Nikon South Africa as a technician for many years before he founded his own business, Iky’s Photographic in 1986. With 40 years in the photographic industry, the business has become a diverse operator in image creation, image management, equipment repairs, services and sales. Iky’s Photographic has extended its reach having recently branched out into professional wildlife safaris and tutoring.

Ryan Plakonouris Ryan’s passion was always wildlife and he completed his degree in Nature Conservation to become a naturalist, guide and conservationist. Many years working on game reserves led him to the hospitality industry and he eventually worked to being General Manager of Operations at a prestigious game lodge. Ryan considers himself fortunate to have worked in reserves in different countries such as Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa and has thus learnt a lot about the continent’s diverse habitats and wildlife species. Since he was taught photography by his father from an early age it was only natural that he now combines his experience and photographic skills to offer guests a unique specialised wildlife photography guided experience.

Click here for more information on Ryan and Iky’s Pro Photo Safaris which operate in East, Central and Southern Africa.