LOS ANGELES (TheStreet) -- When most people think of African luxury safaris, they envision high-end tents, chugging Land Rovers and early-morning drives accompanied by guides and fellow guests.
But along the majestic Chobe River in Botswana, known for its large population of elephants, lions and hippos, a new luxury riverboat called
is redefining the way travelers experience the classic African safari.
Located on the Caprivi Strip that divides the four corners of Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana, visitors arrive from Johannesburg via Kasane, Botswana, where a 90-minute game drive and boat trip through the wild wilderness ends at the Zambezi dock. Most people opt for a two- to three-night add-on to existing safaris in Botswana or Sabi Sands National Park, which this year is bathing in popularity due to the World Cup taking place in South Africa in June.
This isn't your typical riverboat cruise. In fact, the fashionable details of this micro-ship would humble even the most reputable luxury cruise lines. From outside, the ship looks like a cubist yacht, painted white with architectural cutouts that reveal oversize glass windows and step-out balconies. Like a modern version of the Orient Express, visitors make a grand entrance on the lower deck where native staff dressed in crisp black-and-white uniforms welcome no more than 28 passengers at a time.
The itinerary of the boat remains consistent through the year, traveling from established docks along the river where visitors go onto smaller canoes or riverboats for water-based game views or land safaris in well-equipped 4-by-4s. The water-based game viewing is often the preferred choice for third- and fourth-time safari-goers. For an additional cost, an aerial-safari option allows game viewing by light aircraft of daytrips to Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River.
The Zambezi Queen is built for water-based game viewing in Botswana.
At night, guests return to the Zambezi Queen for dinner in the glass-enclosed dining room on the top floor arranged in all-white club chairs and exotic hides where it's entirely possible to see a passing pride of lion while munching on South African chef Pete Goff-Wood's inventive regional cuisine. By the second night, many safari guests choose to take communal dinners with newfound friends.
Afterward, they retire to the adjacent bar or nearby lounge, arranged in sectional sofas and sleek seating areas with a wood-burning fireplace, to take in animal sightings at watering holes along the river. The top floor is home to a small library with African-theme books.
Outside, a rooftop plunge pool is heated day and night with butler service to bring things like evening appetizers or bottles of Champagne. Weather varies minimally throughout the year, with temperatures ranging from the high-70s to the 90s.
The quiet, jet-powered riverboat barely makes a ripple along the water's edge, which means animal life can pass without human interruption. A steel hull allows for maximum stability, with eco-features like solar-heated hot water and on-board water purifier that allows the boat to travel without interrupting the ecosystem.
A total of 14 guest cabins include 10 standard suites and four upgraded master suites. Located on the first and second floors of the riverboat, each feels more like an airy beach house surrounded in open panels of glass that slide open to reveal small balconies and extremely private views of passing river topography. Larger master suites feature more living space with bigger balconies and better views, all with visually appealing bathrooms with rain showers and glossy white details.
Eco-consciousness means that strategically placed shutters and fans replace hulky air conditioners throughout the entire boat with mosquito screens that are essential during wetter months. Rates range from $400 to $600 a person per day with double occupancy for standard suites throughout the year and 30% surcharge for larger master suites based on a two- to three-night itinerary.
Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com -- a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in In Style, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine, ITV and BBC.