It may be the dry season in Zambia, but on the Knife Edge Bridge at Victoria Falls the weather forecast is wet, wet, wet. That’s thanks to the 2.1-million litres of water flowing over the “smoke that thunders” every second at the moment. Every second! Imagine if the fine folks of Gqeberha had access to a little of that? Sadly that’s not possible unless they hop on a flight to Livingstone to soak up one of Africa’s natural marvels.
And you certainly should, not least to visit the glorious lodges that hug the Zambezi riverbanks above the Falls. While the cataracts and cascades are the main attraction, you’ll find no end of diversions — and luxe lodgings — as you head upstream.
Start, perhaps, with the classic charm of Thorntree River Lodge, a member of the African Bush Camps portfolio. Just 25 minutes drive from the airport it’s fabulously convenient for accessing the myriad adventures on offer in and around the Falls, yet feels a world apart when you’re ensconced in your riverfront suite. There are just 10 under-canvas suites on offer — including two interconnected family units — to ensure an intimate riverside escape.
You’ll be sorely tempted to settle in here for the duration, but the skilled on-site guides will soon tempt you off the deck. Rates here include a wide range of activities, from game drives and rhino tracking in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park to visits to the Livingstone Museum and guided visits to the Falls.
But the most exciting activities are those that leave from the jetty out front. Strap on a life jacket for a morning of thrilling Zambezi kayaking — in stable inflatable kayaks — to an afternoon casting a line for tiger fish. Or, just kick back on a sundowner cruise upstream, keeping an eye out for hippo and crocodiles.
If you went far enough upstream you would meander past Tsowa Safari Island, a gorgeous 16-suite lodge set on its own private island. Tsowa translates as “new beginnings”, and it’s a fitting moniker given that the lodge recently reopened after a major revamp and expansion.
This under-canvas escape rests amid the lush indigenous forest, where Jackalberry and Waterberry trees play host to a vivid collection of birdlife.
“As with all our lodges, every consideration has been taken to ensure that all our eco-sensitive structures, have minimal environmental impact and blend into the stunning natural surroundings,” says Isibindi Africa Lodges CEO Brett Gehren
Each of the under-canvas suites boasts a private terrace overlooking the Zambezi, or you can saunter down to the riverside fire pit to trade travel tales with fellow guests. Tsowa offers the usual menu of watery activities, with its location upstream also making it well-positioned for day trips to the Chobe National Park in Botswana.
Tsowa isn’t the only shiny new lodge to look at on this bank of the Zambezi. Mukwa River Lodge opened in early-2022 after a two-year development, offering just six free-standing suites decorated with natural textures and locally inspired décor. What’s more, every suite boasts its own private deck with a plunge pool and double outdoor shower delivering impressive views of the waterways.
Mukwa River Lodge is, like most properties on this bank of the Zambezi, an intimate boutique property, but look ahead to late-2022 and Radisson Blu is going to shake things up.
With two existing properties in Zambia, “It was essential for us to complement our presence in Zambia with a resort offering in one of Africa’s most visited leisure tourism destinations,” explains Ramsay Rankoussi, vice-president of development for Africa and Turkey for the Radisson Hotel Group.
Set on the Zambezi close to Livingstone, Radisson Blu Resort Mosi-oa-Tunya will offer 174 contemporary rooms, alongside 26 spacious villas. Expect all the big-ticket attractions of a resort-style destination, from an impressive main swimming pool on the river to a spacious spa and fitness centre.
Respected operator Safari par Excellence is right next-door, offering easy access to all the local adventures. It’s not all about play though: Radisson Blu is also looking to tap into the corporate and conference market, with a 500m2 events facility alongside boardrooms and breakout spaces. Looking to plan an epic year-end work event? Mosi-oa-Tunya might just be the ticket.