Mosi-oa-Tunya is the indigenous name for Victoria Falls. It means ‘the smoke that thunders’. And thunder it does, as one of the biggest waterfalls in the world. Vic Falls lies on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe and can be visited from both sides. Unfortunately since Zimbabwe has been going through some turbulent political and economic times, visitor numbers on the Zimbabwe side have dropped. Except at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge which is one of the few hotels in the area which continues to experience high occupancy rates. There is a reason for that, if you read the reviews on Trip Advisor, you will read only happy stories about this hotel just 5 minutes from the Falls.
On the 14th of December, 1994, the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge welcomed its first paying guests. That was 20 years ago and the company has grown from strength to strength. I was invited along with 2 other bloggers from the African Bloggers Network to participate in the 20th year celebrations and share the experience with my readers, along with the amazing success story that is the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge and its sister venues that make up the Africa Albida Tourism group.
Victoria Falls Safari Lodge is perfectly located, just 4 minutes from the actual Victoria Falls, 24kms from Victoria Falls International Airport (which is currently being upgraded) and close to the Zambezi river. All the Safari Lodge accommodation offerings enjoy uninterrupted views over the wilderness landscape of the Victoria Falls National Park.
Victoria Falls Safari Lodge started as Lokuthula, a RCI timeshare offering, the first timeshare offering in Zimbabwe. Lokuthula is rated as a Gold Crown RCI resort, ranking on the top 5% of the more than 3000 RCI resorts wordwide. These 2 and 3 bedroom self-catering lodges enjoy all the perks that come with the amazing location of the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge. The Boma restaurant was also built at this time, but it was a very rustic outdoor affair, nothing like the food and entertainement extravaganza it is today.
Opened in 1994 (and significantly revamped in 2013), the 72 room Victoria Falls Safari Lodge has become the flagship of the AAT group. The Safari Lodge is no stranger to awards, receiving many over the years, including being awarded as one of Africa’s finest safari lodges by Conde Nast Traveler. The Association of Zimbabwe Travel Agents has voted the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge as Zimbabwe’s best safari lodge every year since it opened.One of the awards which speaks to the ethos of the AAT group is the Green Globe which was awarded in 2000 for fostering stewardship by protecting the environment, managing natural resources and benefitting the community. This was reinforced in 2008 when Environment Africa recognised AAT as an environmental corporate champion.The Safari Lodge also boasts a small conferencing facility, suited to groups of up to 80.
With the same majestic view, these 16 rooms and 4 club suites were added to the AAT portfolio in 2012. The Safari Club is perfect for guests who enjoy luxury. The suites are more lavish, and include extras such as a Nespresso machine and complimentary mini-bar. Guests of the Safari club enjoy perks such as personal butler service, a private game-viewing deck and complimentary extras such as afternoon tea, evening cocktails, etc.
Launched at the end of 2013, this most recent addition to the offering is the ideal option for families or groups. These premium 2 and 3 bedroom suites include a lounge and a deck that leads out onto the National Park. The suites cater for children with TV sets and docking station for electronic music devices. The ‘gallery bedroom’ on the top floor boasts some of the best views at the Safari Lodge.
Many people have asked me how long they should stay for when visiting Victoria Falls. That really depends on the types of activites you enjoy. Apart from the ubuquious visit to the Falls, there is white river rafting, a cruise on the Zambezi river, game drives, elephant experience, bungy jumping, golf, and much more. Not to mention some ‘down time’ relaxing around the pool. Something we were hoping to do was the helicopter flip over the Falls, unfortunately it was raining when we intended to go. If you have your yellow fever certificate, then a visit to Livingstone town in Zambia is also worthwhile. It seems that one could easily spend 5 days visiting Victoria Falls and surrounds.
This was my first visit to Zimbabwe and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I guess due to the political situation over the last few years, I might have had the idea that it would be a bit run down. First impressions at Victoria Falls airport certainly fed that impression. Having our luggage handed to us directly off the luggage trailer was certainly a first! Having said that, a modern airport is currently under construction and will be operational in 2015 (it has 3 proper luggage conveyors).The town of Victoria Falls was also looking rather weary, but it was clean seemed safe. Outside the Falls there is a market which I am told used to be bustling and full of vendors, but when I visited there were only a few vendors there and not much going on.
It’s quite sad to see but it it also made me feel like my visit was making a contribution. Tourism is one of the few remaining sources of income in Zimbabwe, so every tourist makes an impact.There are grand plans to promote more tourism and upgrade the area, but I’m pleased that I got to see it as it is now. I found the old airport endearing and I feel that it’s good to see something other than the shiny, commercial and modern. Not everything has to be luxurious to be appreciated. This is Africa, and it is good.
I was really impressed by the Victoria Falls. Not just the actual Falls, which are mind blowing, but the infrastructure that has been created to facilitate the viewing of the Falls. South Africans (all SADC countries) pay $20, while others pay $30. It is worth every cent, an incredible experience. A pathway has been created through the rainforest, which is in itself a lovely walk. Then all the way along there are viewing points, offering unrivalled photo opportunties. Be warned, you will get wet! Give yourself a few hours to spend there, it’s not something you want to rush.
When we got to Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, there was no shortage of luxury. My room was so spacious and comfortable, I thought I had been given a top of the range suite, only when I did the site inspection did I realise it got better and better! My room (like all the other rooms) had an incredible view of the watering hole in the foreground with the National Park stretching out into the distance, and a balcony from which to enjoy it. It had free wifi, an assortment of plugs to power my devices (those 2 things alone make me very happy). I had a desk to work at and the room was airconditioned to keep me comfortable. The recent revamp is evident, everything looks new and clean. The shower is so awesome I wanted to chop it out and take it home with me, but I had to settle for showering twice a day instead.
Leaving the room was difficult, but it was made easier by the enticing swimming pool and deck overlooking the National Park. I could not resist gin & tonics at the Buffalo bar, especially when I saw that the pouring gin was Tanqueray. Drink in hand, I climbed a few flights of stairs to the top of the lodge where I could relax and enjoy the best view of all from the comfort of a lounge chair. The lodge is an impressive building, made entirely from wood except for a few concrete support pillars in the middle. It’s imposing, reaching 5 stories high but, thanks to the wood and thatching, it blends into the forest nicely.
There are no fences separating the lodge from the forest, so it wasn’t surprising to spot animals wandering around the lawns of the lodge. I saw warthog and deer while doing the site inspection. The other thing I noticed was the attention to details. Small things like the cheerful Christmas lights and warm welcome for arriving guests, really make a difference to the experience. On that note, I was really impressed with the staff. They were so friendly and helpful and unlike South Africa, where you wonder half the time if the person knows what you are talking about, they were all wonderfully articulate. The people can really make or break an experience and at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, they definitely make it.
My only disappointment on this trip was that it took me this long to get to Victoria Falls. It was an amazing experience, thanks to Victoria Falls Safari Lodge and the awesome people who work there. I highly recommend that if you haven’t been, make a plan to visit asap.
See my full gallery of photos of Victoria Falls Safari Lodge here.
Read more about Victoria Falls Safari Lodge at the Africa Albida Tourism website.