Q – We have found a sixteen-day tour to South Africa run by AMA Waterways. I’ve never heard of them or the river cruise boat they are using, a boat called the MS Zambezi Queen. South Africa has been a dream of ours for a very long time. On this trip you visit Cape Town, then you do a safari cruise through the Okavango Delta and you stay for two nights each in two safari camps. The trip ends with two nights in Victoria Falls. At $12,000 per person not including airfare, this is a considerable investment. Since we’ve never heard of these companies we were wondering what you think we should do? Is this really a smart way to see South Africa and is the boat really reliable? It really looks nice. Can’t wait for your response. Oh, I should add that we’re in our mid-sixties, we live in Tampa, and, sad to say, we’re not as well-traveled as many of the people who ask questions on this site. Our doctor says we’re in good shape, but what the hell does he know?
A – We really think you have walked or, rather, stumbled into one of the exciting new programs in South Africa. We absolutely love this itinerary and, as safari programs go, the price is really quite reasonable given that it includes internal flights and some extremely good lodges. We think you should go, with one important caveat. First, let’s clear up any confusion about the travel company involved. AMA Waterways is highly respected, earning their reputation primarily as operators of river boats in Europe. They place extremely high in our ratings, ahead of well-known brands such as Viking River and Avalon. South Africa is a new area of the world for them and they are actually selling space on the Zambezi Queen. She is an absolutely beautiful boat, built in 2009 with a modern design allowing for maximum viewing of the sites along the Chobe River in Botswana. Botswana is considered the best game-viewing location in all of southern Africa. The smallest cabin on the boat is over 200 square feet, larger than most European river boat standard cabins. The itinerary is masterfully designed. Begin by flying into Cape Town, and then go to two different safari camps, then a four night cruise, followed by two nights in Victoria Falls – a truly wonderful collection of experiences.
But we said there was a caveat. The cabins on the Queen are not air-conditioned, only the public areas are air-conditioned. Guests sleep under ceiling fans in their cabins. This can work well, but you need to know this in advance. Would we do this program – do we recommend it? Enthusiastically.