CroisiEurope’s RV Zimbabwean Dream cruise safari in southern Africa packs a lot of action into nine days. It includes both land and water safaris in two national parks; a three-night stay on an elegant river boat, and another three nights in a luxury safari lodge; an overnight at Victoria Falls; cultural visits to local villages, and, of course, enough wildlife sightings to delight even been-there-done-that travelers. The bucket-list trip touches down in four countries – Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa -- and includes a tour and overnight stay in Johannesburg.
CroisiEurope is a French-owned company, but the flavor of both the boat and lodge are pure Africa. Décor incorporates splendid regional art. An African drum beat summons passengers to dinner on the small, but elegant eight-cabin Zimbabwean Dream. It sails in Zimbabwe on Lake Kariba, the world’s largest manmade lake. Soaring thatch-and-wood beamrooftops define the eight-bungalow Kaza Safari Lodge on the Zambezi River in Namibia. (A sister ship, RV African Dream, launched in 2018, follows the same Itinerary and has its own associated safari lodge.)
Passengers should be prepared for an active schedule that entails travel via commercial and private aircraft, and getting in and out of small safari boats. Luggage size is restricted due to small-plane transfers. And because of the multiple border crossings, CroisiEurope recommends having at least five blank pages in your passport.
Zimbabwean Dream’s sole itinerary is on Lake Kariba in southern Africa, but the trip is best viewed as a combination cruise and land safari.
CroisiEurope isn’t the only line to offer cruise safaris, but what sets this trip apart is its shear variety – both in venues and experiences. With touchdowns in four southern African countries, the logistics of this nine-day itinerary would be difficult for independent travelers to execute.
It starts in Johannesburg with a city tour and overnight stay in the chic 54 on Bath hotel. On Day 2, you board a commercial flight to Kasne, Botswana, then cross the Zambezi River via small, private boat to Namibia for three nights at the CroisiEurope-owned Kaza Safari Lodge. Day 3 brings a land safari in Botswana’s Chobe National Park, home to a full quarter of Africa’s elephants. It’s also teeming with bird species, hippos and crocodiles. On Day 4, guides lead guests on a walk through nearby villages. The afternoon is free to lounge around the infinity edged pool. After a final river safari on Day 5, passengers board a small private plane to Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe, home “port” to the Zimbabwean Dream.
The three days spent on the boat are also chock full of game-watching opportunities in open-air safari vehicles in Zimbabwe’s Matusadona National Park, and on the vast 140-by-25-mile lake, the world’s largest manmade reservoir.
The final night is at a lodge near Victoria Falls, followed the next morning by an optional flight-seeing trip via helicopter. Pre- and post-trip options are available.
The Zimbabwean Dream has three decks and eight cabins
The boat has a sleek, contemporary vibe with lovely teak floors and accents throughout. Fabrics and rugs hint at African motifs (think spots and stripes). There’s African art throughout the boat, from whimsical bead-and-shell dolls, to intricately patterned wooden fish, to colorful woven lampshades.
The eight guest cabins are on Deck 1. Deck 2 houses the lounge and dining room. The main lounge has two separate seating areas with L-shaped sofas and cushy chairs. A third seating arrangement faces a big-screen television. There’s a small, three-stool bar in one corner. (Most drinks, save for some premium liquors are included in the fare.) Off the lounge is a small outdoor deck with a couple of tables and chairs.
The light-filled restaurant at the rear of the boat sports individual tables that can be placed together to make one large communal dining area. Some tables have upholstered settees. A small bar hosts the breakfast buffet.
Just off the dining room is a hot-tub-sized dipping pool with a couple of chaises.
But prime lounging space is above on the Observation Deck. Big umbrellas and cushioned sofas and chairs beckon. Plus, there’s a 360-degree view.
Kaza Lodge exudes safari spirit with its soaring thatched-roofed main lodge, elevated boardwalks and colossal 700-year-old baobab tree. It has eight guest bungalows, most facing the Zambezi River. The main lodge has a large lounge and adjoining dining room. There’s also al fresco dining on the patio. The infinity-edge swimming pool is an inviting spot to spend down time.
· Meals and snacks
Two private flights and one commercial flight within Africa
· Gratuities to staff and guides
Some premium liquors
Helicopter excursion over Victoria Falls
Zimbabwe visa fee
About 80% of the passengers on the Zimbabwean Dream are French. Given the small size of the boat and lodge, it’s a good idea to inquire when making reservations what language will predominate. The entire boat/lodge can be chartered for those who want to put together their own group.
Because of the active nature of the trip, which involves lots of transfers, getting in and out of small boats and private planes, and climbing some stairs, it’s not a good option for those with mobility issues.
Strict rules limit luggage size, and bags must be soft sided with two wheels max. Though there are no required immunizations, it’s recommended passengers be up to date on tetanus, polio, hepatitis A and B, diphtheria and typhoid vaccines.