Protea Livingstone Hotel Review – A Marriott Property Near Victoria Falls
My Protea Livingstone Hotel review will cover the only points hotel option near Victoria Falls. After a recent stay here for 3 nights, I have some good and bad things to say about the property. First, I’ll cover the location, the hotel’s public areas, and then the room itself. In the second section of the review, I’ll discuss the staff and service at the Protea Livingstone Hotel.
How To Book
As Protea Hotels are now a part of Marriott Bonvoy, you can book the Protea Livingstone Hotel using free night awards or Bonvoy points. This is a category 2 hotel. I paid 12,500 points per night to stay here.
During my stay, the average cash price was $151per night. That’s a redemption value of 1.21 cents per point. That’s above average value for Marriott points.
Protea Livingstone Hotel Review – The Property
In this section, I’ll look at the hotel itself. The features, the location, public areas, and then the room itself—what are the positives and negatives here?
The Protea Livingstone Hotel is located in Livingstone, Zambia. It is the only points option near the Victoria Falls World Heritage Site. There are no hotel points redemption options available on the Zimbabwe side of the border (the town of Victoria Falls). If you are going to the Victoria Falls area, this hotel is your only option for using points for free nights.
Within Livingstone itself, the hotel sits a little bit south of the main town center (which is not overly large). It’s about 5 minutes by car into the town center. From the hotel to the falls, it’s about 10 minutes by car.
You could walk to the town center in about 20 minutes or to the falls in about 30 minutes.
Lobby / Reception Area
As with most of the hotel, the lobby and reception area is very open. It makes use of the breeze and natural light. There are no doors.
There are small seating areas to the left side when you walk in, and an activity booking office behind these. The reception desk is on the right. Overall, the whole area feels very open—it feels bigger than it really is, because there are no doors or windows.
Immediately to the right / behind the reception desk, there is a restaurant. This is the sole restaurant on the property. It’s open for 3 meals a day, and breakfast is buffet style. Breakfast is decent, but nothing spectacular.
Again, it makes use of a very open design with no doors or windows. Half of the seating is inside, while half is outside.
Past the restaurant and near the center of the hotel property, there is a bar. It’s surrounded by plants and open seating areas. I really liked the layout of this.
Past the restaurant and the bar, there is a small pool. Some chairs and loungers sit around the pool, but there’s not a lot. I got the impression there aren’t a ton of people using the pool, given both the size and the amount of seating provided. (I say this despite the fact the hotel was packed during my stay)
Meeting / Event Room
If you turn left out of the lobby, there is an event space. I never saw this being used or with the doors open. From my guess, the size looks decent. Again, it makes use of an open layout, where the doors can be opened to use additional space on the patio.
Past the event rooms and across the grass, at the very end of the property sits a playground. It looks like it isn’t used or maintained very often, but it’s nice to know it’s there for families with young children.
Another thing I want to highlight about the public areas of the hotel is that I saw animals regularly. Along the walkway through the public, central areas and before arriving to the guest rooms building, I saw birds constantly. They live in these nests built into the trees in the central area.
In the grass going to the playground and also near the front entrance, I saw zebras twice during my stay. There are signs in the hotel saying not to get too close to them. Apparently, they kick and bite guests who try to touch them or take a selfie with them. Fair warning!
Access To Guest Rooms
The guest rooms sit in 3 separate buildings, which are connected by outdoor walkways. There are indoor hallways where the actual doors to the guest rooms are.
To access the guest rooms, pass through the central area and into the center guest building. There are no doors or windows here. I liked the lobby in this area. It felt very inviting.
Each of the 3 buildings with guest rooms has 2 floors. There are no elevators, so if stairs are a problem, make sure to notify the hotel in advance.
To go from the central building to the building closer to the pool (where I stayed), there is an outdoor walkway. I noticed that there are screen doors (to control bugs) at the entrances to the buildings. However, I never saw them closed, so it’s a bit pointless I guess.
I stayed in room 211, which is on the top (2nd) floor of the building on the right, located in the center of the building.
I stayed in a “standard, 1-King” guest room. Despite having Titanium Elite status with Marriott, I did not receive an upgrade. The hotel was 100% booked during my stay.
There is a narrow entry from the hallway, then it opens into the room itself. The room is not overly large.
Along the right-side wall, there is a cabin, large desk, and then a chair in the corner. There are also mirrors and a TV along this wall.
The bed sits on the left-side wall, and the outside wall has large windows that let in a lot of light during the day.
There is an A/C unit in the room, located over the door to the bathroom. It worked well, and the remote was very simple to use.
While the room isn’t large, it’s not cramped. You can easily move around in it. That being said, I wouldn’t want the “standard, 2-Queens” guest room. I can’t imagine that there’s a lot of space / ease of movement in this room with 2 queen-sized beds in it.
The desk is large and made of solid wood. It has a drawer and also a chair (which is only semi-comfortable).
On top of the desk, there are supplies for tea and coffee, plus bottled water.
There is also a lamp on top of the desk, plus bug spray.
The cabinet next to the desk is essentially for putting your suitcase on top and has a mini fridge inside.
In the entry to the room, there is a closet with some hangers, shelves, a safe, and iron + ironing board.
The bed is … not great. It’s firm, but not too firm. However, the reason I didn’t like it is because of the comforter. Man, that thing is heavy! It felt uncomfortable and oppressive with the comforter on top of me. I couldn’t sleep with it on top of me, so I used just the sheet and kicked the comforter onto the other half of the bed.
The pillows were good, though. Each side had a thin pillow and a fuller pillow, so you should be able to find something you like.
Next to each side of the bed, there is a small table. Neither side had any plugs or a clock at all. There is just a phone on one side.
The other side had a small pamphlet about protecting yourself from malaria in the local area. I made sure to read that, given my previous experience with malaria. Now it makes sense why they keep a big can of bug spray in each guest room.
The bathroom is spacious and open. I liked it. The sink has a lot of counter space for your stuff.
Behind the sink, there’s a huge mirror.
Sufficient amounts of toiletries and towels were provided, and they were OK quality. Nothing special.
The shower was interesting. I don’t remember if I’ve ever stayed in a room with a circular shower like this before.
From looking at it, I thought it would feel cramped inside. It wasn’t. Actually, it felt somewhat spacious. I’m 5’10” and 165lbs, and the shower felt bigger than it looked from the outside. It worked well with decent pressure and easy controls.
Things To Improve In The Room
Overall, the room was mostly good. It wasn’t “wow”, but it was OK. However, there are 4 things that could be improved. First, there is a serious lack of outlets. There is one outlet by the desk. Other than that, you could unplug the lamp on the desk or the refrigerator if you need another one. There are no outlets at all near the bed, so charging your devices needs to be done at the desk. That means no glancing at your phone when you wake up in the night and wonder what time it is.
That leads to item 2: they should put a clock in the room. I found that very strange.
Third, I mentioned that the entry way is a bit cramped. The security bar on the door doesn’t have much space to open, since the wall and door are so close together. Often, this would drift closed a bit on its own. I’d go to yank the door open when leaving the room and get stuck on this. Something to hold this or a different setup would be better. I also heard other people in nearby rooms having the same issue.
That leads to number 4: you can hear everything from the hallway and from outside by the pool. I didn’t hear people in their rooms, but anyone walking down the hallway, opening doors, people talking by the bar (not even loudly)—you can hear it all. The rooms carry a lot of noise from the outside.
Protea Livingstone Hotel Review – The Staff
I liked the staff here overall. I had a few chuckles to myself during some of my interactions with them, but they were quite good overall.
Prior To Arrival
Before my arrival, I did not have any interactions with the hotel. That’s not for lack of trying. Within the Marriott app, there is usually a “message the front desk” option. I wanted to message them to ask how much they charge for airport pickup, but this feature didn’t show up for the hotel.
Thus, I decided to call them. I called the number listed on my reservation and got a message that “this number doesn’t exist”. Odd. So, I grabbed a taxi on arrival at the Livingstone airport and paid $15 to go to the hotel.
On arrival and during check in, there were big smiles and friendly faces. This is my overall impression of staff. They are friendly and always smile when you pass.
When I arrived at the front door and also at the reception desk, they greeted me by name. Given that the hotel was totally booked, that makes me think either I was the last person checking in for the door (it was 4:30pm) or the only person actually arriving that day. They knew my name as soon as the taxi pulled up.
Here’s where I got a bit of a chuckle: during check in, the employee started to tell me that I should join the Bonvoy program. Then, he saw my reservation was done on points, so he said, “Oh, I see you’re a member. Never mind.” He didn’t acknowledge my status level or thank me for loyalty, etc., which most hotels usually do. It didn’t bother me, it was just a little bit funny. I also didn’t expect or inquire about an upgrade, since I knew the hotel was sold out.
After a quick explanation of the restaurant hours, hours at the pool, and the activity booking office, he told me that breakfast was included and sent me off with directions on how to find my room. It was quick and efficient.
During My Stay
On arrival in my room, I got another chuckle. I had a welcome gift: a basket of fruit and nuts. OK, so they do know that I have status with Marriott. It was a nice touch, and I ate all of the items during my stay.
However, there was a letter on the desk that was…funny. It told me that Marriott has a loyalty program, and I should sign up for it. Again, I was amused by the conflicting messages, since I got a gift to thank me for being in the program…that they’re telling me I should sign up for. Thanks! I’m sure someone tosses one of these letters in every room before check in, but the mixed messaging was amusing to me.
Anyway, the staff. Throughout my stay, I never encountered one surly or grumpy person. Honestly, any person I said “hello” to would stop what they were doing and ask how my day was going. Not just a “keep sweeping but say hi to customer” response—they actually asked how I was doing, was I enjoying my stay, etc. I really, really liked the staff.
This goes from the front desk staff to the restaurant staff, cleaning people to the security guard at the front gate. And the man working the activity office was phenomenal, as well, helping me coordinate the Covid test I needed for flying to my next destination and chatting with me while we waited on hold with the doctor he called.
I accidentally dropped my phone in the water one day, and I went to the front desk to ask for a bag of rice. They were efficient and joked that I wasn’t the first person to ask for this at the hotel. The next day, the 2 employees who helped me remembered me and asked how my phone was doing. They seemed genuinely happy to hear it was working.
I liked all of the staff a lot.
At check out, it was very efficient. More smiles, asking if I enjoyed my stay, and a very quick process, since I had no bill to settle. I had arranged a ride with the same taxi driver who picked me up from the airport (I called him multiple times during my stay to take me to the falls and to arrange this ride), and he was waiting outside when I came down to check out. Staff also were friendly toward him. I find that more authentic, since he isn’t paying them anything.
My overall impression of the staff is fantastic. They are super friendly and helpful.
Protea Livingstone Hotel Review – Final Thoughts
From reading through my Protea Livingstone Hotel review, you saw that there are a few quirks that could be improved in the guest room. And, sure, the staff seemed a bit clueless when it comes to the Marriott loyalty program in some ways. However, I really enjoyed the hotel overall. The public areas are better than the guest room, in my opinion. The best part of the hotel, though, is the staff—absolutely. The hotel is good, but the people working there are awesome.