Camp Reviews: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

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Accomodations, Advice, Africa, Review, Story, Victoria Falls, ZI

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The small town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe is less than two kilometers south of the Zambezi River and the border of Zambia. Until Zimbabwe’s political problems surfaced, it was the place to see the waterfalls. The town was buzzing and vibrant. While the past few years saw troubled times for the country, this was one of the few areas that managed to retain a semblance of a tourism industry.

Recently the town has been going through major changes with hotels receiving refurbishments and new restaurants opening. Easily reached from the parks in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana, Victoria Falls Town is a wonderful start or end to any safari.

Ilala Lodge

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The lodge is just a ten minute walk from the Victoria Falls, and is even closer to the town centre. It offers good quality, affordable rooms furnished in a comfortable and fairly timeless style.

The accommodation at Ilala is on two levels: rooms on the upper level have a balcony that can be reached through patio doors in the bedroom; the lower level has a verandah in place of the balcony. All the rooms have a view of the falls. The patios and balconies are arranged quite tightly next to one another which is great if you are with a group and know your next door neighbors.

There are thirty-two spacious standard rooms and two deluxe suites at Ilala Lodge. All have en-suite bathrooms and separate showers, as well as a satellite TV, a phone, an overhead fan and air-conditioning. Each of the standard rooms is adequately sized with enough space to store a decent amount of luggage while still being able to move around the room freely.

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Ilala Lodge’s communal area contains a pleasant lounge area with free internet access. The Palm Restaurant at Ilala Lodge is a focal point of the main area and offers dining both indoors and outdoors. Almost adjacent to the restaurant there is a good sized swimming pool with an open air cocktail bar. Ilala is a reasonable alternative to having lunch at the famed Victoria Falls Hotel.

The activity centre at Ilala Lodge is where you can book the many activities that Victoria Falls has become famous for over the years. These range from the relaxed to the ridiculous but whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or prefer to keep your feet on the ground, one particular option that appeals to all is the Ra-Ikane – a river boat named after one of the first guides to lead Dr. Livingstone on the Zambezi. The Ra-Ikane offers a variety of trips with the most popular being the sunset cruise. You’ll be transferred from the hotel to the jetty and on arrival be greeted by traditional dancers. There are snacks and an open bar.

Ilala seems like a well-run establishment. It’s size is just right to offer professional and personalized service to guests.  People sometimes appreciate less bureaucracy so you can direct your issues straight to the manager. It is the closest hotel from the VFalls so it’s easy for guests to enjoy the park at leisure. It’s also convenient to just visit the restaurants and shops nearby so I would definitely recommend this to clients, especially ladies who like to venture for some retail therapy apart from the tours.

Among the hotels in Vfalls, I would say this is the best value for money in terms of its location and good price. Of course, the accommodation may be less luxurious than a VFalls Hotel or less trendy than the newer VFalls River Lodge, but it serves the client’s B&B requirement well. I didn’t try the food but I am assuming that their restaurant is good enough for tour operators to constantly send their guests for lunch. The ambiance there is more casual too, as we walked pass the main dining area, people were enjoying their lunches al fresco with the view of the falls from beyond the trees – A less busy scene than in other hotels around the area.

For older clients, Martin suggests that we book the rooms by the pool level. This way they avoid the stairs. For families, they can book the 4interlinked rooms or one of the deluxe suites that can add an additional bed.

Victoria Falls Hotel

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The elegant Victoria Falls Hotel is located within walking distance of the Victoria Falls with views over the famous Victoria Falls Bridge spanning the Batoka Gorge. The hotel is decorated in a style reminiscent of Edwardian times as it was originally built in 1904 to house engineers and associates working on the construction of the railway.

The hotel is set in lush, well cared for gardens with a few calm and tranquil courtyards. At the entrance, there is a lily pond and slender palm trees, as well as the carriage of an old tram that used to carry visitors from the hotel to the Falls. In another courtyard, in the Stable Block, the hotel management is planting vegetables and herbs for the hotel kitchen. The compost is made from kitchen waste and scented shrubs make this a very pretty and peaceful area.

The Victoria Falls Hotel has 161 rooms, ranging from standard rooms, traditional and deluxe rooms to executive suites. If guests check in for at least two nights in the stable room, you are entitled to private check in, airport transfers, complimentary cocktails, canapé room service, a complimentary mini-bar, complimentary massage service, afternoon tea and a sunset Cruise along the Zambezi.

The Suite offers a more luxurious bathroom. It’s bigger and is more conducive to seniors who need space to maneuver. They can even sit while taking a shower.

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An extensive range of facilities are on offer at The Victoria Falls Hotel, including a selection of restaurants to choose from.

The Livingstone Room is an adults-only classic Edwardian dining room which opens nightly for dinner and dancing to a live band. It has an à la carte menu with an international and local wine list. Next to the pool area, is the more relaxed Jungle Junction which overlooks the Victoria Falls Bridge. It’s open for breakfast and dinner buffets. We had lunch at the hip Stanley’s Terrace and Stanley’s Bar where most of the visitors enjoy hanging out for afternoon light meals or cocktails. It’s here where you’ll be served the hotel’s famous high tea.

As well as relaxing on the terrace you can pamper yourself in the spa, visit the chapel, try your hand at tennis (there are two all-weather tennis courts) or visit their well curated curio shop.

The Hotel has an ‘activity centre’ where you can organize a range of activities including horse riding, parasailing, golf, and canoeing. For the more adventurous, white water rafting, jet boating, abseiling, bungee jumping and gorge swinging are also offered. Flights over Victoria Falls by microlight and helicopter are available as well.

I couldn’t help but admire the memorabilia displayed on the walls. Some spaces featured art collections by upcoming artists; other areas provided ambient lounges.

It’s definitely the most expensive means of accommodation in the area but you are paying for the premiere experience. I recommend staying in the Deluxe Rooms. For just a few dollars more, you get more space and a grander bathroom set up.

Victoria Falls River Lodge

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This is one of the most spectacular settings in the Victoria Falls region with the lodge right on the banks of the Zambezi River. Victoria Falls River Lodge is also the first private game lodge to be set in the Zambezi National Park.

The main lodge has an open plan design and is also in view of the elephants’ natural evening route. Dining is a treat for guests here as the menu caters to all tastes and include a variety of local traditional dishes, prepared by their expert Zimbabwean Chef. They also offer in-room spa services, a tour desk and gift shop with an exclusive selection of high quality arts and crafts from talented local artists.

The lodge consists of just 13 luxury tents, all with fantastic views over the Zambezi. There are five spacious, luxury tents, five luxury family tents and four Superior Tents that feature their own private plunge pools. Each room is covered on the outside by canvas but 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 cozy atmosphere in the cooler nights. Rooms are air-conditioned, have ceiling fans, mosquito nets and wifi.

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. Cots can be provided for infants upon request. The family tents have an adjoining room with one single bed and a bunk bed, where up to three children can sleep comfortably while giving their parents their much-needed privacy. Children 15 years-old and above can stay in a separate room. Private vehicles will need to be arranged for families with kids below 12.

Guests get to enjoy the bush experience in their surroundings. They can do morning and evening game drives, bush walks, river cruises and even a canoe tour around the river where they can stop by a nearby island for a bush brunch or afternoon tea.

The lodge provides a subtle taste of the Bush experience and a great selection of activities offered around the area. It is a good place to either jumpstart or unwind.

Personally, I think staying on the Victoria Falls side is a better deal for families and more adventurous guests. The lodge is located strategically away from the hustle and bustle of town, it’s a few minutes away from the airport but is also in a more serene environment to enjoy nature tripping. Game experience may not be as prolific as the other safari destinations but it’s a good teaser.

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge

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A waterhole, well frequented by wildlife, can been viewed from most of the bedrooms, the bars, the pool deck, restaurants and lounges.

This is one of the most popular places to stay in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The Lodge is on a high plateau overlooking the Zambezi National Park, providing the feeling of being out in the remote African wilderness, yet it’s only 15-minutes away from the town center and the Victoria Falls entrance.

Upstairs from the main reception area is the Makuwa-Kuwa restaurant which offers a buffet breakfast and a la carte lunches and dinners. Two floors below the restaurant is the Buffalo Bar, which serves drinks and snacks all day. A large deck leads out of the bar providing sundowners and pre and post-dinner drinks. There is also a curio shop, an internet café, and a television lounge. Wi-Fi is available all over. 

Adjacent to the main lodge is the Boma Restaurant. It is open for dinner every evening and specializes in traditional Zimbabwean dishes, serving a four-course dinner cooked on a barbecue. The entertainment includes traditional dancers and singers. After dinner, guests are invited to join in with some local drumming.

There is a courtesy shuttle bus that runs every hour to various locations in Victoria Falls conveniently stopping at the main points in town such as the market and the Falls.

The 72 Rooms are divided into 61 standard rooms, 5 double deluxe, 3 King Standard Suites, and 3 King Deluxe Suites with Jacuzzi Bath. All the bedrooms at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge are en-suite and the sliding glass doors open onto balconies with uninterrupted views of the National park. The rooms all have soft natural fabrics and brightly colored African paintings giving them a wonderful contemporary safari lodge feeling. Deluxe rooms can accommodate a rollaway bed for child under 12. Children between 4-12 years old pay half price.

The ambiance of the lodge was just too touristy for me. We arrived in the afternoon to a drop off point that was busy with guests arriving. While waiting for the Guest Relations Officer to show us around, we checked out their main lounge. It was a multidimensional structure that felt like I was in a multi-level treehouse. It was confusing.

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