Places: Victoria Falls and Livingstone

11 July 2023

By: Tendai Bushe

Over the last 2 years we have spent a lot of time in the bush and as a team we have had wonderful opportunities to stay with camps and lodges in the different parks of Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Botswana. However, we were not so up to date with the hotels and lodges in the Victoria Falls particularly in Livingstone. Emma thought the start of the season would be the perfect time to get down there so she asked me to do a little refresher trip and of course I was very excited to do so!

Victoria Falls

A quick 1-hour Proflight flight got me to Livingstone, a short road transfer with Bushtracks got me over the border into Victoria Falls Town. I added a few nights in Victoria Falls because it is just a hop, skip and jump away from Livingstone so it made sense to cover more ground. I got to the Zambezi National Park gate and found Johannes from Chundu Island waiting patiently for me. He advised the game drive transfer into camp would be about an hour and as great guides always do, he encouraged me to stop him anytime I saw something. We chatted the whole way- sharing life stories, work stories and discussing fun facts about game and the bush along the way. We saw some buffalo, Kudu, Giraffe and Crocodile along the way. We stopped at the main land parking and walked down to the jetty where a boat was waiting to take us to the Island. It is a very short boat ride but if you are lucky (like I was) you might see something interesting along the way. We saw a mother and baby hippo relaxing on the banks. After disembarking I did a site inspection of the camp. It is a charming camp set in a beautiful location; I loved every corner of it but most especially the family suite which has such a great view and a large deck. I had lunch with camp manager Dardley by the pool and enjoyed conversing with him, mostly about tourism and how great it is that our industry is back up and running. He took me back across the river and onto the vehicle for a drive transfer to Victoria Falls River Lodge. As if she was magically summoned, we saw a leopard sitting right next to the road. Very relaxed she crossed in front of us! I arrived at Victoria Falls River Lodge a little too late in the afternoon to go on an activity but the drive transfers were good enough for day 1 and I was just happy to be back in nature so I spent most of the late afternoon on my deck looking out at the river.

Victoria Falls River Lodge is a beautiful lodge with very artistic décor. The main area has so many corners to curl up in and take a beat. I read my book on one of the hanging swings and watched two teen girls chat away on the couch while their little brother kept himself busy. It is a perfect lodge for families who want to have a sophisticated safari holiday. The staff are very professional, always smiling and eager to help. Tino, my waitress, presented the dinner menu which 3 had different options for the main course. I was stuck between 2 options and she advised I pick the curry. It was an excellent choice, very tasty and wholesome. I love that they have separate kids’ menus too which caters to junior taste buds. After dinner I was dropped off at my room (on a golf cart) and I had a nice hot bath before jumping into bed. I woke up early to watch the sunrise from my deck with a steaming hot cup of coffee. After a quick shower and delicious breakfast, I went around the property for a site inspection. I saw the rapids villa which is one of the two new Villas at Victoria Falls River Lodge – it is perfectly secluded from the main lodge and has unobstructed gorgeous views of the mighty Zambezi. Zambezi Crescent has various accommodation options in the falls – they have so much to offer to different kinds of travellers. We are looking forward to seeing the new Malachite Camp!

Next up – I went to Mpala Jena. I was very excited to be back there because I first visited when it was very new and facing some growing pains. On arrival I was met by familiar faces and everyone was very jovial. After a quick orientation I was taken to my room which was as beautiful as I remember. Every amenity you can think of is neatly placed in the room from a mini bar that also has lemons for your G&T to a bathroom that has black towels labelled makeup for ladies to feel free to use without feeling bad about possibly staining the perfectly white towels. Pictures absolutely do not do this place justice. Mpala Jena is a beach resort in the National Park and I love the contrast! The sand is so soft you can walk barefoot. There is ample seating around the main area from couches in the lounge to bean bags on the sand and hammocks and swings by the bar. I had my lunch on one of the swings. It was very relaxed and I enjoyed chatting with the staff and watching them prepare for the group of 12 they had coming in. After lunch I went to relax in my room and ended up in the outdoor tub looking out at a semi bush-semi river view with monkeys fooling around. After a quick coffee at high-tea, I went on the river for the first of many boat cruises to come. We saw a little croc (the smallest I have ever seen) resting on a low hanging tree branch and then a massive one on the banks of the river. The hippos were popping up and down in the water and the colors in the sky started to change in preparation for sunset. We watched the sun go down and soon enough the sky changed from orange/ yellow to pink/purple and the crescent moon was visible. Back at camp I was welcomed with warm towels, cheerful smiles and a bursting fire. After a delicious dinner I retired to bed with plans of waking up early for a sunrise cruise. The next morning it was cold and barely light out when we got onto the boat and once again the colors of sky danced and changed until the sun peeked out and rose into her full glory. It was absolutely worth it to be on the river that early. After indulging in a beautifully laid out breakfast I said my goodbyes to the amazing team and was off!

Next up I went to 528 - a family owned and run guesthouse in the suburbs of Victoria Falls town. I think this location would be perfect for a small group and for families. The lounge is fully stocked with games, there is a pool and also a very friendly dog. The rooftop bar has a great view and it is only open to in-house guests making it that much more intimate. Everything is easily accessible from there and so I took the opportunity to go out on site inspections. I started with Victoria Falls Safari Lodge where I had lunch before doing a thorough site inspection of the property. With all the different room types it is a big property and I was so happy to see how busy they were! Despite the various arrivals and departures all the staff were very attentive and eager to assist. The highlight for this visit was visiting the new spa – it is so tranquil and that corner of the lodge feels like a world of its own. After VFSL I went to The Victoria Falls Hotel who were also extremely busy! I did not get to see many room types but I was happy to see one of the refurbished rooms which is modern and bright whilst still maintaining touches of the old-world style. After a busy afternoon of sites, I had a quick dinner at Three Monkeys then got back to 528 for a good night’s rest.


The next day I crossed the border back into Zambia to spend the next week in Livingstone. My first stop was David Livingstone Safari Lodge. I had a very pleasant check in and room orientation. I had lunch at the restaurant which has an amazing unobstructed view of the river. After lunch I had a site inspection to see the other room type and also visit the facilities such as the gym and the spa. I was given a voucher for the Lady Livingstone cruise so at 4 p.m. I checked in at the jetty and went to the top floor of the triple decker boat for the best view. With snacks, drinks, and new friends I watched hippos fighting, crocs sun bathing and of course enjoyed another beautiful sunset. Feeling quite full from all the treats on board I went straight to my room and got ready for an early night. I watched some TV, caught up with the news and then drifted off to sleep. The next day I went down for the buffet breakfast which had so many options catering to different tastes then I went next door to the Waterfront for a quick site inspection before heading to the brand spanking new Radisson Hotel.

The new Radisson Mosi-oa-Tunya Resort is an afro chic modern hotel with African art adorning the hotel from the ceiling to the floor. It is so tastefully done and I loved walking through the hotel and noticing all the details and décor used to bring the afro-chic theme to life. My room was on the 3rd floor and the view from the top was beautiful during the day and also stunning at night when all the lights were on.  I spent my day at the Radisson exploring all the different facilities. I went to see the tennis courts, the putt-putt course, the gym, the spa and the kid’s area. The spa comes with its own day beds/ cabanas as well as its own pool which has an incredible view of the hotel grounds and the Zambezi River. The kid’s facility has a vast playground (safari themed), a pool, an indoor play area with TVS, an indoor kitchen and an outdoor pizza oven. Mubanga, Sales Manager at the resort took me to see the Villas which are slightly separate from the main hotel. They are more private and have a larger floor plan than the rooms in the main hotel building. I preferred these rooms because of their size, the lounge area and also because they are secluded and away from the main area and the busyness that comes with being a popular hotel. After my site inspection of the facilities, I opted for room service and enjoyed a delicious burger. Just before sunset I went down to the viewing deck where I watched the sunset with a glass of wine. I turned in for the night and the next morning I woke up feeling well rested and refreshed. I went down to the main restaurant and the buffet had everything one could dream of for breakfast – I was spoilt for choice. Overall, I was very happy to see and experience the resort. I can see why it has been the talk of the town!

I was then transferred to Maramba River Lodge which is very close to Radisson so the drive was short. I was met by Chile, whom I have known for a few years. It was good to see him again post Covid. We caught up a little as he showed me around. I love the simplicity of the rooms, the vibe of the staff and the fact that elephants are always frequenting the lodge. It is a great lodge that is easy on the pockets and family friendly. The kid’s area has a little cinema, desks and chairs for drawings, and an outside area with a variety of toys including trampolines and giant chess.  The family Chalet is the perfect rooming option for families of 4-6. My chalet was perfect for me- it was clean and cozy and had everything I needed. The executive tents are bigger and even have lounge areas so those are perfect for people who want extra space. I love pizza and when I see a pizza oven everything else on the menu doesn’t matter so I had a spicy cheesy pizza while looking out at the Maramba river which flows into the Zambezi. I went on a boat cruise and my main aim was to just enjoy the sunset. As it goes with travelling, I was with other guests and we all chatted and got along very well. After my late lunch I skipped dinner and went to bed wishing to see elephants the next day. I have always heard that Maramba Lodge is usually visited by Ellies and so I held onto my wish to see them before I had to leave. At breakfast the waiter told me elephants were round the back of the main lounge. I watched them munching away in the shrubs and that was the perfect way to end my visit.

After Maramba, I was off to Sanctuary Sussi and Chuma. There is something so sophisticated about that camp, it is very tastefully set up! Although quite minimal in style the rooms have everything you need- not a single amenity missing and all details thought of such as a gym in a bag in every room. I had a quick camp and room orientation and then freshened up for an island lunch. We hopped onto a boat and arrived on the island where the staff had set up tables and a delicious buffet facing the river. It was lovely and all the guests were gushing with excitement. I met a lovely solo traveller and we shared a meal and a conversation. After lunch I headed back to my room to freshen up for the afternoon activity. I chose to go on a game drive which includes a Rhino Walk. Although the Mosi oa Tunya National Park does not have cats and outside of seeing the Rhino it is not one of Zambia’s most popular national parks it was a very good game drive. We saw a bull elephant, very chilled out enjoying the shade and the food from the trees. We also saw several giraffes along the way and I learnt that although darker giraffes are typically male because of the inbreeding in the small park most of the new generation giraffes are pale-whether male or female. I enjoyed focusing on other animals but I was bursting with excitement when we pulled up to the Rhinos. We had a safety briefing and then walked up to the Rhino with one of the rangers. There is no way to describe the feeling of seeing them and being almost eye level with them. Although it is not a lengthy activity it is worth doing! We soaked in the moment and then left the site with photos and memories. As we continued our leisurely drive around the Park, we came across a mother Rhino with a baby. She had separated from the main group so whilst we were told there was a little Rhino it was pure luck that we saw it! We did not get off the vehicle to view on foot but it was another very special moment. I got to see conservation at work and witness a new generation of an endangered species thriving! After a local tasting of nshima, various vegetables, village chicken and caterpillars we went in for a 3-course dinner and as you can imagine after a day of excitement I was knackered and ready for bed. The following morning, I was taken to the Victoria Falls for a guided tour. We went right before it got busy and the light was incredible. Seeing the mist and the smoke, hearing the roar of the falls and feeling the spray of the water was the most refreshing and exhilarating way to start my day. The double rainbow was the cherry on top! After getting soaking wet I was happy to get back to camp for a shower before saying good bye and heading to Mukwa River Lodge. 

Mukwa River Lodge has been the talk of the office for a while now and so I was super excited to see and experience it firsthand. It is a delightful lodge – the décor is quirky but stylish, the staff are professional and homely, the food is gourmet but also wholesome. The rooms are massive with various seating options inside and outside on the deck. The round tin plunge pool is a cool feature adding character to the room. The bathroom is chic and modern with a big bath, glass shower, gold trimmed mirrors and a double outdoor shower. After taking in my surroundings, I headed to the main deck for lunch with Miyaze. It is always nice to see familiar faces at new properties and catch up over a meal! My salad was fresh and the view of the river as gorgeous as always. I was looking forward to the sunset cruise that afternoon. The warning on the dock said to beware of crocodiles and hippos and that is exactly what I was looking for! Just a few minutes into our cruise we saw a big crocodile basking in the sun, he didn’t move or jump in the water but his yellow eye told us that he was watching us watch him. Next, we came across 3 hippos, 2 adults and one baby. We got quite a show with one hippo opening its mouth, showing teeth and letting us know who is boss! I loved seeing the baby follow suit and also open its little mouth and do what mama did! The rest of the cruise we observed more hippos in the water and quite a few birds before we drifted slowly enjoying the sunset. Back at camp we were welcomed by the team and ushered to a roaring fire. Inside the restaurant there were 2 fireplaces lit and blankets draped on the chairs which was very welcome given the winter breeze. I must say this again- the food is incredible! I love that almost everything they serve is hand-made not store bought even condiments such mayonnaise.  The next morning, I was treated to another yummy meal, my breakfast spread was absolutely one fit for a queen. I am not much of an early eater but I indulged in some eggs as I knew they came straight from the chickens on site and then headed off to Royal Livingstone Hotel!

With only one night left on the trip I was glad to be at a hotel where I could catchup on some emails, unwind a little and recuperate before heading home. But first, I had business to attend to. I started with a site inspection at Avani and it was a cheerful as I remember it. I saw some different room types, the kids club (which is so fully kitted they even have bunk beds for nap time), the gym, the clinic, the banking and curio mall as well as the main restaurant and pool bar. In addition, I saw the Boma dinner arena and absolutely loved how it is set up with a market at the entrance before the main boma area. It is definitely something to consider for guests staying in Livingstone.  After my site at Avani, I went back to The Royal Livingstone and checked into my room. Everything was spick and span, all perfectly in order. The view from my room was of manicured lawns ahead of the mighty Zambezi. I went down to one of the decks to check emails with a magnificent backdrop of the river and the spray! After a delicious lunch and a few pictures of the resident Zebras munching away I went to my room to relax until sunset with the plan of returning to the deck to catch one last clear sunset over the water before heading back to Lusaka. When I came back down, I was greeted by traditional dancers entertaining and engaging with guests as they sipped sundowners and nibbled on snacks. The changing colors of the sky and the dancing light on the water was the perfect way to end the evening. The next day I was beyond spoilt for choice at the breakfast buffet but my absolute favourite thing was the orange juice that was slow pressed right in front of me. With vitamin C in one cup and caffeine in another I enjoyed my breakfast and took in the stunning view! When the Royal Livingstone Choir (as I fondly call them) sang goodbye to me I felt very grateful for the amazing experiences I had in Vic Falls and Livingstone. I hopped into the Bushtracks vehicle and headed to the airport with my bags, memories and notes that would turn into this blog!

Buffalo Giraffe Leopard Kudu Hippo Rhinos Hippo Zebra Game Drive Transfer Mpala Jena Victoria Falls Rainbow Avani Cultural Dancers Breakfast Lunch High Tea Coffee at Sunrise Sunrise Bush TV Spray of The Falls Sunset

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