Victoria Falls is one of those sites that everyone needs to put on their bucket list. Known as the greatest curtain of falling water in in the world, you should aim to see the falls from both the Zambia side as well as the Zimbabwe side, because both offer different — but equally thrilling- experiences. This is relatively easy to do because a bridge connects the two — although passport control can sometimes take a while.
While the Zimbabwe side consists of two thirds of the falls, and offers great closeups and some breathtaking full frontage views, the Zambia side is home to the famed “Devil’s Pool”, a great spot for white water rafting and swimming.
If you’re on a budget, finding accommodation in Zimbabwe is probably the better bet. But if it’s luxury you’re after, Zambia is the best option, with some spectacular hotel and lodge options, two of which are detailed here.
Royal Chundu Zambezi Lodge
Privately owned, but part of the esteemed Relais Chateaux group of luxury properties, Royal Chundu is the ultimate in exclusive African getaways. The property consists of a River lodge with 10 chalets, and 3.5km upstream, an exclusive Island lodge is made up of only 4 villas. I was lucky enough to stay in the latter, although both are situated in beautiful, lush surroundings, overlooking the mighty Zambezi river.
As much as the lodges themselves are stunning, the luxury lies in the detail. We were assigned a “host”, who was at our beck and call, ready to answer any questions we had throughout the stay. Whenever we left the lodge and returned again, there was our host, waiting to greet us, with cold towels and friendly smiles.
The villas at the Island lodge are palatial, and come complete with his-and-hers basins, a double rain shower and a large outdoor bath situated on a wraparound outdoor deck. When we had our room orientation, it was pointed out to me that the phones do not work, nor is there a tv. While I’m happy to have books as my only entertainment, I was a bit concerned at not being able to phone up reception, as I usually have some odd request, like an adaptor, a shower cap or an iron. However, I was soon to find out that the room amenities left me wanting for nothing- everything is considered: mosquito repellent, loofahs, extra still water and a spectrum of quality body products.
Once in the villa, I felt as though I was the only person on the island, I couldn’t hear a sound from my neighbouring villa. Royal Chundu goes to great lengths to maintain this privacy- in the mornings, my coffee was placed in a hatch that opens from the outside of the villa, so there was no need to scramble out of bed to open the door.
Dinner, a 3 course set menu, was served at the Island lodge. Royal Chundu sources all its produce from within 4km of the lodge, ensuring community development. Supplies are fairly limited, so many of our desserts were made with canned fruit, while tinned tuna was used in quite a few salads.
Meals were covered on the all inclusive package I was on, as were a number of other activities, including a daily sunset cruise that was the highlight of each day, because of the numerous animal sightings on the river banks.
For more info, visit www.royalchundu.com
BathroomBathroom at the island villa / Rishav Nair
Outside DeckOutside deck at the island villa / Rishav Nair
Island VillaLounge area of the island villa / Rishav Nair
Morning CoffeeMorning Coffee / Rishav Nair
sunsetZambezi River at Sunset / Rishav Nair
Luxury Accommodation Options On The Zambia Side Of Vic Falls
Next time I visit Zambia, I plan to stay at the historic Royal Livingstone. This hotel used to be on the dreary side, but in 2012 it underwent a multi million dollar refurbishment. One thing that didn’t change is its colonial style décor- the intention was not to dilute the original design intent. The real drawcard, however, is its location, walking distance to the Falls, and within the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park.
This means that guests may have a safari experience while lounging by the pool- many wild animals roam freely on the premises, including zebra, impala and brazen vervet monkeys who will find nothing wrong with jumping on the buffet table and grabbing a croissant.
Rooms come complete with free wifi, down duvet and flat screen tv, as well as a butler who will see to guests’ every need. The large hotel (173 rooms), means that service can be impersonal during busy seasons, but if all goes according to plan, guests will be wanting for very little.
For a different type of excursion that isn’t water related, guests can board the Royal Livingstone Express vintage steam train for a fancy silver service 5 course dinner, enjoyed in a restored dining carriage.
It’s good to know that this 5 star hotel, along with its sister property, 3 star Zambezi Hotel, is the town’s largest employer, providing work for around 1000 locals. The only way that luxury can work in impoverished environments is through philanthropy- and both hotels have this as a focal point.
No stay at the Royal Livingstone would be complete without enjoying high tea, served everyday at 3pm in the hotel’s opulent lounge, against large paintings of David Livingstone. Guests go all out for this affair, donning wide brimmed hats and formal attire. Expect mini scones with farm fresh clotted cream and jam, tartlets and tiny cucumber sandwiches.
For more information, visit www.royallivingstone.com