Tongabezi…The Best of Victoria Falls

The world’s largest waterfall extends 5,604 feet and crashes into the Zambezi River casting a mist that can be felt for 30 miles…but to unlock the true wonder of Victoria Falls, a stay at Tongabezi Lodge is key. As the first hotel to be built on the upper banks of Zambia’s Zambezi river, Tongabezi has the ultimate location, connections, and expertise to satisfy your every glamping desire.
Founders Ben and Vanessa Parker built the eco-lodge to embrace the area’s African roots and wild environment…without straying too far from Western comforts. This is the base camp for their slew of river activities and where we met for our first culinary adventure.
At the dock, a wooden boat greeted us with a perfectly set table for two. We savored every course as we wound our way up the lively Zambezi.

The spiced lamb kebabs with sauteed okra and tomato (grown in Tongabezi’s very own garden) had the most incredible flavor…a trend that continued with every meal. For a little post-lunch entertainment we coasted by a family of hippos having an afternoon dip.
Escorted by our valet Niambe (all guests have a personal attendant throughout the course of their stay…talk about luxury!), we were presented with two fantastic suites to choose from. One was a gorgeous room directly on the river with nothing but screens keeping you from the sounds and breezes of the Zambezi. The second choice was the “Nut House,” a thatch-roof cottage tucked up on the hill with views out to the river and an infinity plunge pool outside. Both amazing, but who says no to a private pool?
Here is the aqua beauty that won us over, complete with to-die-for views of the wildlife teaming along the riverbank. We swam in the heat of the day and the twinkle of the stars.

Inside our suite, the room was the epitome of African luxury. A staircase brought us down past our bar area to the fireplace lounge area, and then to our grand four-poster bed. The vibrant Zambian textiles, antique accents, and modern amenities made us want move in.

In the afternoon we went on safari at the nearby Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park (which means “The Smoke that Thunders,” the Tonga name for the falls). There we saw giraffe, zebra, warthogs, elephants, baboons…but this hippo sighting? It was at dinner! We were on the patio a few feet above the riverbanks and heard the sound of a big mouth chopping and snarfing; we flashed our light and low and behold it was an adolescent hippo a few yards from our table! You’d think with the light he might scurry away, but no, he ate right alongside us throughout our meal and even joined us for some after-dinner drinks.

09. livingstone
Tongabezi is a true pioneer in eco-tourism throughout the region and the best example of that is Livingstone Island. They have exclusive access to this island which literally hangs over the edge of the world’s largest waterfall, providing views that will make your stomach drop and your heart soar. For our full experience at Livingstone Island and the National Park of Victoria Falls, see our Glamping review of their neighboring property Sindabezi Island Camp.
When it comes to ambiance and romance, Tongabezi left us love-struck. Chilled wine awaited us in the room each evening, bubble baths drawn before dinner, hot cocoa and blankets for morning boat rides, and countless other thoughtful touches popped up at every turn. But the gesture that really gave them top billing in our hearts was our dinner on the Sampan. Check out this video clip and imagine sitting with your partner on a floating dining room in the middle of the Zambezi river, enjoying dinner under the glow of lanterns and moonlight, accompanied by the sounds of an African choir growing louder and more beautiful as they row towards you in a canoe. It will take your breath away.

Most mornings we woke up early to take advantage of the cool air and to watch the animals start their day. While out for a sunrise boat ride and fishing adventure, we saw a bit of rustling on the river bank and spotted this feisty pair of elephants having a drink. Press play to see this powerful encounter.
A visit to Tongabezi wouldn’t be complete without at stop at their trust school, Tujatane. It started in 1996 as a primary school for the owner and staff’s children, but with fantastic success it now serves nearly 200 community youth. We took a tour with the principal and he proudly regaled us with stories of students that had gone on to be doctors, pilots, and leaders in their community. Amazingly the school is run entirely on donations and proceeds from the gift shop!
Staying a few nights at Tongabezi and a couple nights at their sister camp Sindabezi was the perfect way to experience the Zambezi River and Victoria Falls. The same river and safari activities are available from both properties –so regardless if you want the excitement of camp or the creature comforts of the hotel, you don’t have to compromise any adventures by day.

Anne and Mike Howard are creators of the around-the-world honeymoon blog and Long Term Travel Coaches for anyone looking to travel the world safely, affordably and off the beaten path. You can follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @HoneyTrek.

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