I’ve always said life is about timing and lighting — and you can only control one (which is why you will never catch me at a restaurant with flourescent lighting and no dimmers).
This theory is true for most things, but even more so for lunar rainbows, or “moonbows”: rare, natural wonders that appear as if by magic during a full moon typically near waterfalls or after thunderstorms. It is also for many people, an awe-inspiring event that will happen maybe once in a lifetime — unless you are a guest at the Anantara Royal Livingstone Hotel in Zambia, where, every month after the rainy season, if the sky is clear, you can witness this ephemeral event. And you can do so comfortably ensconced under the ancient Mutondo tree on the hotel’s deck over the mighty Zambezi River listening to Victoria Falls roaring in the background.
I was one of the lucky few for whom timing and lighting came together for two nights in May during a trip to Livingstone, Zambia, where traffic stops for herds of elephants crossing the road and there is a jewel of a hotel perched on the lip of one of the natural wonders of the world.
Located inside the UNESCO wildlife park Mosi-Oa-Tunya, the Royal Livingstone is a haven from the outside world.
Arriving on a river boat as if out of a scene in the “African Queen,” you are greeted by Edward, the hotel’s cultural concierge and a huge rainbow which fills the sky over the nearby falls.
While the hotel was just built in 2001, it was done in such a way that it feels like a layover from a far gone era. The main building resembles an old hunting lodge, with old growth trees dotting the lawn and a pool where guests can swim and sunbathe in full view of the Falls. The hotel proudly touts its eco advantages, none of which are more enjoyable than the hotel’s famed herd of zebras, impalas, and four giraffes that act as reliable lawn mowers and tree trimmers.
During my stay I rode horseback through the Mosi-Oa-Tunya park, had a four-course, five-star meal on a historic restored steam train, which ferried us over the Victoria Falls Bridge and visited the nearby Mukuni village. My heart also stopped when I agreed to take a micro flight with Batoka Sky — where I flew over the falls, the gorges, and the Zambezi in what was basically a paraglider outfitted with a lawn mower engine. It’s safer than it sounds or looks. I swear.
And on the final night, I joined my friends for a river safari, an experience you read about and can’t believe it is a wondrous as it is — until you do it. While there are fancier options in larger boats with two decks, a full bar and hand carved wooden chairs, my friends and I opted for a smaller transport that seated just 10 so we could get up close and personal with the wildlife. And we were not disappointed.
During the hour long ride, we spotted huge crocodiles, flocks of colorful bee eater birds, river eagles, a pod of yawning hippos, and a herd of elephants with a baby splashing in the shallows. As the sun sank into the horizon setting fire to the sky and the Falls roared a kilometer downstream — my friend Elizabeth made a toast. “To a life changing experience,” she said, raising her gin and tonic.
I’ll cheers to that.