Tongabezi is a romantic hideaway nestled on the banks of the Zambezi River just upstream of Victoria Falls. Over the last thirty years this lodge has become something of a legend in the safari industry. It has grown from a few open tents with bucket showers to one of Conde Nast’s Top 20 Hotels in the World, and all without losing the uplifting sense of community and kindness that defines this piece of paradise.
Tongabezi is known for having been conservation and community driven before it was cool. Guests are given an opportunity to experience the mighty Victoria Falls in the lap of luxury whilst also creating real, positive change in vulnerable Zambian communities. Here, the legendary warmth of the Zambian people is effortlessly combined with Tongabezi’s unique brand of exclusive ambiance.
On location at Tongabezi
Tongabezi is a short twenty-minute drive from the Livingstone Airport or a vital thirty-minute drive from Victoria Falls. The short journey away from Mosi-oa-Tunya, or ‘The Smoke that Thunders’, is enough to escape the crowds that gather from around the world to see one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World in all her glory.
Guests are welcomed to the lodge by a dedicated personal valet who will look after them for their entire stay. The main area boasts a river view pool as well as a sunshine lap pool, a private gym and trainer, multiple private dining decks around the property, and two fully organic gardens from where most of Tongabezi’s fruit, herbs and vegetables are sourced.
The rooms are a selection of six bespoke Houses and five River Cottages, all individually styled with sustainable interiors from all over Africa. Every House and Cottage has its own private deck, and five of the six Houses also have their own plunge or infinity pool. Tongabezi also has its own private island, Sindabezi, which can be booked exclusively for up to ten people.
The Nut House:
Contrary to its name, the Nut House is a haven from the madness of the outside world. Romantic art, textiles and textures are combined from all around the African continent, and design elements from Morocco, Mali, Zambia and South Africa feature throughout the immense interior space. Folding doors open onto the elevated private garden and an infinite plunge pool that overlooks the Zambezi right where the sun sets each night.
The Tree House:
Set against the basalt rock bed, amongst the branches of three Riverine Ebony trees, the Tree House spreads out over a sustainable pine deck and then onto the Zambezi River. The front façade of the Three House is entirely open, making this room completely at one with the sights and sounds of the river. This is the room for dreamers who want to be at one with nature… whilst sipping a glass of champagne in their bubble bath, perhaps.
Sindabezi Island is unique - the discerning traveller's best kept secret. An idyllic, exclusive camp on Tongabezi’s very own private isle on the Zambezi River, it is the only luxury bush camp from where Victoria Falls can comfortably be explored. Experience the large number of activities in the area during the day and return to a tranquil haven, a thousand light years away from the bustle at night. Fodor’s consider Sindabezi one of the top 10 eco lodges in Africa.
A Day at Tongabezi
Guests set their own pace at Tongabezi. Here ‘all inclusive’ is not simply about fine dining, sparkling drinks, and a sumptuous bedroom. Guests are also offered a range of inclusive activities. In keeping with Tongabezi’s individual approach to hospitality there is no set itinerary, so travellers are free to book every excursion at a time that fits perfectly with their ideal holiday.
Activity choices range from a guided game drive in the neighbouring Mosi-oa-Tunya National park – to see the rhinos, perhaps – to island picnics or a romantic dinner under the stars on Tongabezi’s famous floating sampan. Guided tours of Victoria Falls are of course included*, but so is a morning spent fishing or wandering around the local fabric markets.
Tongabezi is only twenty minutes from Livingstone, which is known as the Adrenaline Capital of Africa, so the Tongabezi Team are also available to organise additional non-inclusive activities for their guests. Guests are spoilt for choice: activities range from a microlight flight over Victoria Falls to swimming in the infamous Devil’s Pool on the very edge of the waterfall, from walking with rhinos to white water rafting.
The activity that Tongabezi staff are most likely to recommend is a visit to Tongabezi’s own Trust School: Tujatane. Tujatane means ‘Let Us All Hold Hands Together’. This school provides a free education to over 300 children from the local Simoonga area, and also supplies nutritious meals and other vital support to this vulnerable area.
The school is a short five-minute walk from the lodge itself, and the students are always excited to show off their achievements to guests from around the world. The Tujatane students are reigning National Champions at traditional dancing, as well as poetry and drama. Their original song performances are often performed on the Tongabezi grounds, and willing guests might even be invited to learn a local dance or two.
Tujatane offers an incredible opportunity for guests to engage with the empowering work that Tongabezi is doing. What better way to know that your luxury holiday is brightening Zambia’s future than to meet the children who will create that future?
Looking to the Future
In the beginning of 2020, Tongabezi also became a part of a larger story of responsibility and kindness. They joined the Green Safaris family, a collection of properties around Zambia and Malawi with an inspiring commitment to environmental sustainability, community empowerment, and animal conservation. Green Safaris is best known for their Silent Safaris, incredible electric game vehicles, electric boats, and electric bikes that change the entire safari experience.
So now, together with Green Safaris, Tongabezi will continue to strike a seemingly impossible balance between protecting pristine African wilderness, supporting their teams and communities, and outdoing guests’ dream experiences in Africa.
*Apart from Park Fees.