As warm welcomes go, the fabulous greeting that my wife Pauline and I received from the The Royal Livingstone Hotel, Zambia, will be hard to beat.
Grinning from ear to ear, wearing brightly coloured shirts, they swayed, danced and sang in melodious harmony.
It was a visual feast, quickly shattered for the other arrivals when, unable to contain myself, I leapt in to dance with my two left feet and sang along with my voice like a box of broken razors.
I was hoping the equally happy receptionist would greet me with a version of the classic phrase, used by Henry Stanley when he finally caught up with one of Scotland’s most famous sons, David Livingstone, in 1871.
Livingstone is still revered in these parts, so I was hoping to be greeted with: “Mr MacLeod, I presume? “
What I got was even better: “Ah, Mr MacLeod, your room, I’m sure you will be pleased to hear, has been upgraded to the Presidential Suite.
“Welcome to Zambia, Mr and Mrs President. The butler will take your bags and attend to all your needs.”
This was music to my ears and, of course, I hammed up my role as President at every opportunity.
It was fabulous hotel which had an abundance of zebras, impalas, giraffes, mongoose and baboons roaming the grounds, nestled on the banks of the Zambezi river.
And it was only 20 minutes’ walk from the “Smoke That Thunders”, the truly magnificent Victoria Falls.
One of the natural wonders of the world, so astonishing, that an awe-struck Livingstone, said these were “scenes so lovely they must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight”.
And one of the main reasons we were there.
Pauline had always expressed a desire to visit the Falls so, as a very special birthday treat, old romantic and soon to be very skint me, decided to take her as the highlight of our trip.
But our trip had actually started several days before, when we arrived in South Africa after an 11-hour flight from London.
The next day, along with 60 other excited guests we boarded Rovos the salubrious 18-carriage train The Pride of Africa.
It was so classy, it made the Orient Expredd look like it was run by ScotRail.
For the next four nights we lazily wound out way through the Highveld wilderness of SA and on into Zimbabwe and through the Hwange National Park.
It was a train journey like no other and we struck up some great friendships with some of the other guests. Many of whom wondered, given my dress wear, if I was a rock star!
But no matter how comfortable the train was, after four days spent lurching up and down narrow corridors, permanently half-cut because of the amount of free booze on offer, when it pulled into Victoria Falls station we were desperate to get off.
And for the next five days, in between being treated royally by the hotel staff, we did just that.
We flew over the Falls and down the Zambezi River in a helicopter, we spent a wonderful day on the wetlands of the river and took a game drive through Chobe National Park, Botswana, a park that has more than 20,000 elephants living safely within its borders.
We took a sunset cruise up the hippo-infested Zambezi, visited a lion reserve and, accompanied by armed guards, walked into the jungle to see Zambia’s few remaining Rhinos.
The only shooting I did, was with my camera. Sadly though because of poaching and big-game tourist hunters rhinos, leopards and other rare species could become extinct within the next 50 years.
Our final African night in Zambia was probably the most memorable, certainly for my shocked wife it was.
The staff presented Pauline with a cake and then, as they did to welcome us to the hotel, danced round our table, singing their very own version of Happy Birthday.
It was absolutely brilliant!
We then sat back and watched as a herd of wild beasts ambled up to our table before heading off into the darkness – it was our very own zebra crossing
Nothing can beat the real thing…and I doubt anything will ever beat this fantastic trip.
Africa, I salute you!