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June 29, 2018

Africa Part 2: Livingstone and Victoria Falls

Not sure where this week went (how about that full moon in Capricorn?) but as promised, part two of my Africa extravaganza. (You can catch Part One here!). After four nights on dreamy Medjumbe Island, we flew back through Johannesburg to Livingstone, Zambia. Often referred to as “The Real Africa,” Zambia is home to 15 million people and 72 tribes and languages.

Livingstone is the country’s crown jewel. Discovered by Scottish explorer, David Livingstone, the town is nestled near the Zambezi River, Victoria Falls and Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. Now imagine a hotel with access to all three and you have The Royal Livingstone Anantara Hotel where we stayed. We approached our hotel by boat, with views of the falls.

The entire experience was an embarrassment of natural riches and I shook my head in disbelief for a week straight. For starters: the animals. Zebras are basically really big squirrels here so they hung out in the yard, by the pool, while we at our meals. I wish we could pet them but alas, I’m told they’re ornery. The giraffes, however, seemed like gentle giants. Still, no one would let hug one!

I wish that a photo could do Victoria Falls justice, but alas, how do you capture the largest waterfall on the planet? One of the seven wonders of the world it’s three times taller than Niagara Falls! We had private access to the falls from the hotel so just walked on over.

To stand on a narrow bridge in the middle of the falls wearing a (practically useless) poncho puts life and our tiny speck of existence in perspective.

It was almost as exhilarating as flying over the falls in a microlight plane (don’t tell my mother!). From above the park, we could take in sleeping herds of hippos, giant bird’s nests, and more giraffes. Notice the bare feet—they made me leave my Birkenstocks behind so they wouldn’t fall into the river!

We also saw the falls by train, with a dinner ride on the Royal Livingstone Express. The restored steam locomotive is so, so charming and the views! I’ve never seen such glorious sunsets or rainbows in my life.


Zambia only became independent from Great Britain in 1964 so the colonial, Out of Africa vibe (which, aesthetically, I adore) is alive and well—especially at The Royal Livingstone Anantara Hotel. I mean . . .

The highlight of the hotel are the spa gazebos. Think glamping, with massages, facials and foot rubs, right on the Zambezi River. Rumor has it that these beauties cost $70,000 apiece to construct, which I secretly scoffed at until I spent some serious time in one.

They’re luxe without losing the raw lushness of their surroundings. There was even a mirror situated UNDER the treatment table so I could watch the river and steam from the falls while Ruth worked my weary calves. She’s a bit of a legend in these parts.

Ruth treated me to a Zambezi massage, which starts with traditional hot towel compresses to soothe sore muscles. I had no idea that this deceivingly simple indigenous technique could make me feel so cared for. African essential oils are also used in a number of treatments, including the aforementioned foot rub, which just add to the restorative and authentic experience. I’m admittedly skeptical of hotel spas after years of sub-par experiences but The Royal Livingstone’s is the real deal and special, just like everything else about this incredible African adventure.

GETTING THERE: Airlink airlines offers direct flights from JFK to Johannesburg. From there it’s a quick flight to Livingstone, followed by a shuttle or water taxi (so stunning) to the resort.

  • Elizabeth Dehn
    Born and raised in Minnesota by surprisingly low-maintenance parents, beauty writer and lifestyle editor Elizabeth Dehn (aka Bets) spent her awkward years buying Mood lipstick and whipping up DIY face masks before founding Beauty Bets in 2009.
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