Victoria Falls River Lodge
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
At a Glance
So close to the Victoria Falls that you can see the spray in the distance
Situated right inside the Zambezi National Park for exceptional game viewing opportunites
Uninterrupted panoramic views of African sunsets
Take a cruise up the Zambezi whilst sipping a sundowner as you watch the animals come to the waters edge to drink at the end of the day
A bird watchers paradise; sit on your private deck and admire the birds as they fly past
Best time to Visit
Good time to visit
Average time to visit
There are two very distinct seasons at the Victoria Falls, the wet/flood season and the dry season. These seasons do not reflect the quantity of rain, rather reflect the volume of flow of the Zambezi River. From around March through to July the river surges in size as the rainfall in Angola and Zambia from months before swells the current. The falls are at their most dramatic at this time of year with huge columns of spray. The nights are cold and the days warm at this time of year. From around September to January the water levels drop, the falls are more accessible and views are clearer as the flow can drop in volume by 90%. It is worth noting that the rains come from late October through to February, this combined with high heat, 40 celcius or more, in October and November, causes high levels of humidity.
To start planning your holiday to Victoria Falls River Lodge
Victoria Falls River Lodge is a private game lodge set in Zimbabwe's Zambezi National Park, just minutes from the magnificent Victoria Falls. It is close enough to see and hear 'the smoke that thunders' from your private viewing deck.
Within easy reach of Victoria Falls Town, yet hidden away inside the park, Victoria Falls River Lodge is a great base from which to explore and experience both the adrenaline fuelled adventures offered around the falls, as well as a range of safari focused activities.
The Victoria Falls River Lodge occupies a wide stretch of Zambezi riverbank, minutes upstream from the falls. This area attracts wildlife throughout the year. Herds of elephant regularly make their way past camp, headed for the river to drink and play. Pods of hippos noisily make their presence felt along the shallower pools out of the main current. The national park itself is home to a fantastic array of wildlife as the animals are drawn to the constant source of water and the lush vegetation growing alongside it. Kudu, impala, hippo, buffalo and crocodile are all commonly spotted from camp.
The food is delicious with a fresh menu that gives you variety of different dishes to choose from.
This lodge is perfect for those looking to enjoy the falls but still have a traditional safari lodge experience.
There are thirteen spacious, luxury tents, and five luxury family tents all complete with plunge pool overlooking the banks of the Zambezi River. While each room is covered on the outside by canvas, this is the only tented aspect of them. Inside, a high a-frame thatch structure maintains a cool interior in the day and a warm and cosy atmosphere in the cooler winter nights.
Each tent has been tastefully decorated in earthy hues and offers a large king size bed, freestanding bath, comfortable sitting area, indoor and outdoor shower and a private deck where guests can sit and watch the river flow by.
The family tents have added space for two bunk beds
All rooms are air conditioned and have ceiling fans and mosquito nets and cots can be provided for infants upon request.
The lodge welcomes children of all ages and three of the luxury tents have an additional room to accommodate families. There are host of activities to keep them happy. Child minders can also be arranged upon request.
The main lodge is a large, open plan area, set back from the river, an excellent location from which to relax with an evening drink and watch animals graze along the bank. Follow the deck out to the pontoons and you'll find a comfortable viewing platform, built above the river itself.
Food is taken very seriously at the Victoria Falls River Lodge. The professional kitchen has been designed by US chef Bruce Bromberg, and the menu provides a variety of locally sourced and freshly prepared dishes.
For those after a little pampering, a selection of in-room massages and spa treatments are offered.
A tour desk can arrange any number of local activities in the local area and there is a small gift shop with a selection of high quality arts and crafts all made by local artists.
Benefiting from its location in the Zambezi National Park and right on the banks of the river, guests have the opportunity to pick and choose between game drives and river safaris. Night drives and walking safaris are also offered at an additional cost. There are a range of activities on offer for children including grass weaving, bead-making and fishing.
Sightings in the National Park improve year on year. While great elephant sightings are guaranteed, the river is home to a healthy population of hippo and crocodile. On land, kudu, buffalo, giraffe amongst others are regular sightings. If you are lucky you may spot lion moving through the area, one of the resident, but elusive leopard, or even, with increasing frequency, a marauding pack of wild dog.
Being so close to Victoria Falls Town, guests can enjoy all of the activities on offer there such as bungee jumping, white water rafting, helicopter trips over the falls and visiting the local crafts market.
Zimbabwes renaissance is something to behold
It wouldnt happen on easyJet. Or Ryanair. As I board my light aircraft I ask the pilot, more in hope than expectation, if we can detour due north for a spot of high-altitude sightseeing. Why not? he replies without pausing. Ive kept you waiting a while. It would be rude not to.
Minutes later were 2,000ft above Victoria Falls, transfixed by the furious ribbon of white water and its atomic mushrooms of spray. We circle twice, the pilot dipping his wings so every passenger gets clear snaps: an impromptu Flight of Angels before we arc east towards our intended flight path.
Its a spontaneous reminder of how gloriously relaxed, hugely friendly and exquisitely beautiful Zimbabwe can be. After living there in the early 1980s and returning for several holidays, Ive not visited for more than a decade, deterred, like many, by political instability, rampant inflation and shortages of food and fuel. Tourism declined by about 90 per cent over the Noughties.
Now things are looking up. Despite a flatlining economy, the country is transmitting a re-energised signal to the holiday radar. With its dollar abandoned in 2009 nine foreign currencies are now legal tender and a coalition government creating a more stable political climate, tourist numbers are said to be rising, lodges opening, and staff and guides returning from exile.
Its good news for anyone interested in visiting one of Africas most dazzling safari destinations. To witness the renaissance, Im heading back to three of my favourite haunts along the river and immense lake that define its northern border with Zambia.
The first positive signs come at 5,000ft. As our international flight descends into Victoria Falls, I gaze down on a half-built runway next to our landing strip, part of a 91 million Chinese redevelopment does anyone else build African airports these days? scheduled to open this year, with the capacity for 1.5 million passengers a year. On landing I learn Im now eligible for the new univisa, a Zimbabwe Zambia initiative allowing easy access between the two countries, along with neighbouring Botswana, for 32 a month.
If both developments suggest faith in the future, so does the Victoria Falls River Lodge. It opened two years ago with eight tents, and has just added four more with two extra in the pipeline, along with a new tree house suite on nearby Kandahar Island: your chance to be a desert-island castaway in the middle of the Zambezi. It was the first private lodge inside the Zambezi National Park but it already has two competitors.
Our numbers have doubled since 2012, says lodge manager Sabrina Butler. Were pretty much full for the rest of the year. Its no surprise. The lodge, 8km upriver of the falls, is an absolute peach. Its vast tasteful tents with stand-alone baths, outdoor showers and decks overlooking the water, tumble along the riverbank either side of a coolly contemporary, crescent-shaped dining area.
Its the launch point for a heavenly sundowner cruise my first for 32 years. The ritual is unchanged. The hippos still grunt revealing mammoth salmon-pink gobs, the ilala palms still silhouetted against a molten sun, the gin and tonic still brutally cold. Why change a winning formula?
The next morning we drive through undulating bush dotted with magnificent baobab trees, their branches like a Medusas crazed hair. Its all brought brilliantly to life by an exhaustive four-year training regime that makes Zimbabwes guides the most knowledgeable in Africa.
Nature, of course, provides them with impressive, sometimes extraordinary, material. I learn how giraffe can clean their ears with 45cm-long blue tongues (Im inviting one to my next dinner party), marabou storks turn their legs a cooling shade of white by urinating on them (Im not inviting one), and female red-billed hornbills pluck themselves naked to build feather nests for their chicks something I plan to casually mention when my wife brings up the pain of childbirth.
I havent just come to Victoria Falls for wildlife, however. Theres the small matter of the mile-wide waterfall; the largest on earth. The last time I saw it from above was in an ultralight (a seated microlight), and from the chest-deep water of the Devils Pool, feet from the edge of the abyss. This time Im on foot. Its a little more pedestrian and an awful lot busier. At Devils Cataract I wait patiently for a Japanese tour party to take twenty identical snaps of each other, before being knocked out of the way by an African nun taking a selfie on her mobile.
Its still incredible. Under monsoon-like spray at Danger Point, I meet 22-year-old Tess from Colorado. Yesterday she bungee jumped, tomorrow shes continuing on her overland trip to Cape Town. I know there are problems, she says, but I didnt consider not coming. Her group of Aussies, Kiwis and Brits, think Zimbabwe is awesome.
Tess is a drenched reminder that Victoria Falls was once an essential adrenaline stop for overland expeditions. Upmarket lodges may be resurgent, but what about budget-conscious independent tourists? For answers I visit Shoestrings hostel where Mr Jones echoes from the speakers, and backpackers lounge on sofas, play pool and study flyers for rafting, swinging and zip wiring potential clients for the areas newly opened Bear Grylls survival academy.
Bar manager Rodney tells me hes seeing far more independent travellers of all ages and nationalities, and heard rumours that the big overland players are re-routing back through town. Were optimistic. Even the sculptors and artists, who still struggle, believe its about to change.
Devil's Swimming Pool
Take a swim in the infamous Devil’s Pool, an infinity pool unlike any other. It is a small, natural plunge pool enclosed by rocks and right on the very edge of the Victoria Falls.
Dinner on the Livingstone Express
Dine onboard the Livingstone Express, a vintage train, offering guests the chance to travel in style, discover the mighty Victoria Falls at sunset and enjoy fine dining with a difference.
Fishing in Zimbabwe
Visitors travel from across the globe to Northern Zimbabwe to try their hand at catching one of the most iconic of fresh water game fish: the Tiger Fish. Ten-pound plus tigers are a common catch on the waters of Kariba and the wider Zambezi.
Helicopter Flight over Victoria Falls
Take a helicopter flight over Victoria Falls to witness one of the seven wonders of the natural world from the air. A flight over the falls gives a dramatic perspective of the largest sheet of falling water in the world.
The Boma - Place of Eating
The Boma - Place of Eating is a restaurant that specialises in a selection of traditional Zimbabwean dishes and is famous for its warthog fillet.
White-water rafting on the Zambezi
Experience the thrill of white-water rafting on the Zambezi River on the rapids below Victoria Falls. This stretch of water is home to the largest number of high volume Grade 5 rapids on the planet. An adrenaline fuelled experience in a dramatic setting.
Family Fun in Botswana
Makgadikgadi Pans, Linyanti & Victoria Falls
from £8500 pp inc flights & transfers for 9 nights
- Active teenagers will love the chance to do a canoeing safari along the Selinda spillway, and horse ride in the Makgadikgadi
- Explore the untamed wilderness of the Selinda Concession and the Makgadikgadi Pans to see how vastly different they are
- Head across the Makgadikgadi Pans on a quad bike or by horseback to see what this moonscape landscape is really like
Location & directions
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Victoria Falls River Lodge is located in the Zambezi National Park, right on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River and so close to the Victoria Falls that one can see the spray in the distance.
How to get there
It is an 11-hour international flight to Johannesburg International Airport, followed by a 1-hour 45-minute flight to Victoria Falls. Alternatively, you can fly to Victoria Falls via Harare. Victoria Falls River Lodge is only a 20-minute drive from Victoria Falls Airport. As River Lodge is only a short trip upstream from the falls, it is possible to arrange a 5-minute boat transfer, a great way to first arrive.
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