Have you ever heard a hippo trumpet?
The highlight of my time at Tongabezi was sitting on the deck outside our room, surrounded by mischievous monkeys, gazing out on the pods of trumpeting hippos in the afternoon sun.
When rumours spread that Prince Harry and then girlfriend Meghan Markle were staying at the Tongabezi Lodge at the same time we were, we knew we were in the right place.
Where else in Zambia can you hide away with your beloved, wiling away the hours hand in hand near one of the world’s largest waterfalls, the gentle spray of water baptizing you with the promise that you’ll stay together forever?
Condé Nast Traveller voted Tongabezi the #1 safari lodge in Zambia in 2018, and for good reason.
As we stepped out of our car, our personal valet welcomed us to Tongabezi and led us in to check in. After toasting our arrival over a local aperitif, he took us on a tour of our simply elegant river cottage along the banks of the Zambezi and continued to take care of us throughout our stay.
Tongabezi Lodge is located on the Zambezi River, right on the border in Zambia, just north of western Zimbabwe. Here we found peace and seclusion. With only five houses and four river cottages, when we did run into our neighbors, we became fast friends as we exchanged excited stories of our time here and compared notes on the adventures we’d had.
Upstream from world-renowned Victoria falls and on the banks of the Zambezi River, the luxurious Tongabezi Lodge promises a lot, and it most definitely delivers. Here you can take your pick of a stately house or a cozy cottage, where each and every one is outfitted with beautiful furnishings, hand-picked from artisans all over the continent of Africa. Just be sure to book well in advance!
This is a privately-owned property, and as such, is run by friendly and knowledgeable staff whose hospitality ensure you have the most memorable experience in Zambia imaginable. Wake up in a tree house, enjoy lavish candlelit dinners overlooking the Zambezi, watch the sun rise and set from your private deck in your River Cottage.
Our stay included a wide range of activities. I loved that we were not on a set schedule and had many choices. We could wake with the sun (or not) and enjoy the Zambian sights at our own pace. When we were ready for adventure, the staff were delighted to arrange us an exquisite dinner at the Elephant Cafe elephant sanctuary. We also took a boat out to Livingstone Island. You can also go on game drives, bush walks, and even enjoy a sunset dinner cruise on the river.
Adrenaline junkies will appreciate the whitewater rafting, helicopter flights, or the real test of adventure: a Victoria Falls bungee jump. Obviously not for the faint of heart, and not for us!
In between the adventures, we took a lazy day and simply stayed inside the property. I spent hours watching the birds, monkeys, and hippos, and we booked a lunch the Hangout, a self-proclaimed ‘chill zone’ perched on the edge of the Zambezi River. As we dined, all we could talk about was the next meal – dinner on the Dining Deck next to a fire pit surrounded by exotic lanterns. The food was prepared by award-winning chefs who grow seasonal produce in the property’s own vegetable herb gardens and fruit orchard. We were even offered a tour of the kitchen garden.
Tongabezi is also very involved in supporting the local community. They help to build houses and schools, to raise awareness about HIV, and are putting a lot of effort into reducing their emissions and becoming as environmentally friendly as possible.
Feeding rescued elephants at The Elephant Cafe
Dinner at The Elephant Cafe
Our ride for the day trip to Livingstone Island was on an exhilerating a twin-engine boat. We zipped along the Zambezi dodging hippos disguised as boulders. With the spectacular backdrop of the largest waterfall I’d ever seen and one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls, we were given a guided tour of the island and its rich history, followed by afternoon tea. What was once a sacrificial site in ancient times is now a World Heritage site.
And then there was the Devil’s Pool, one of the scariest things I’ve done in my life! Attracting thrill-seekers from all over the world, you can sit in a pool of water and peer over the brim of Victoria Falls after just a short swim from Livingstone Island. The guides hold your hand along the way to keep you safe, but my sister and I were still trembling with fear. As long as you do it between August and January, when water levels are low enough, you are golden.
Our stay at Tongabezi Lodge surpassed anything we could possibly have anticipated. The entire staff could not have been more welcoming. Everyone went above and beyond to make us feel welcome and comfortable.
Beware of Burglars