Protea Hotel Southern Belle is one of the largest houseboats on Lake Kariba, Africa’s largest artificial lake. The luxury vessel offers its guests the chance to take in the wildlife and sunshine in a leisurely manner. The trip to the boat requires a flight into Lusaka International Airport followed by a three-hour trip to Manchinchi Bay, on the north-eastern end of the lake, where the Southern Belle is moored.
Lake Kariba is more than 220kms long and 40kms wide and straddles Zambia’s border with Zimbabwe. It is home to various islands. The lake was created with the completion of the Kariba Dam on the Zambezi River in 1960, at what is now the lake’s northern end. Operation Noah saw thousands of animals rescued from the rapidly rising waters by small boats led by game warden Rupert Fothergill when it was first formed.
Launched in 1997, the Southern Belle used to sail the Zimbabwean side of the lake until she was bought last year by Protea Hotels Zambia and refurbished at a cost of over US$1-million. The interior refurbishment has been extensive, with all the original decor and furnishings having been stripped, and the old generators having been replaced with more energy-efficient alternatives, as well as solar energy water heating systems.
The Southern Belle has three decks offering 22 luxury cabins (including a presidential suite) as well as a conference room for up to 30 people with private veranda. It also features a lobby, restaurant and bar, top deck with bar and a swimming pool. Cabins feature air-conditioning, en suite bathrooms, top notch bedding, satellite TV and superior finishes. (The toilet does require pumping to make it flush.)
The vessel targets leisure, conference and incentive markets. It is available for full charter bookings as well as individual bookings available on selected dates only. Charter cruises can be tailored to meet a group’s specific needs. Published charter rates start at US$8 500 and include accommodation; breakfast, lunch and dinner; mid-morning and mid-afternoon tea breaks; activities; and 16% VAT and 10% service charge. It excludes beverages. Guest rates start at US$225.