A warthog family lives on the grounds.
And wild elephants drink at the water hole in front of the lodge’s Buffalo Bar.
But we were focused on what was inside our room.
Like the in-room Nespresso machine, basket of complimentary sunscreen and mosquito lotion, and pillow menu. Free WiFi, air conditioning and blackout drapes. A minibar with complimentary wine and beer. And best of all – a hair dryer!
What, the hair dryer doesn’t excite you?
It would if you’re coming from a safari in the bush. No matter how fabulous and luxurious our Zambian safari was, the bush camps we stayed in were totally off-the-grid (solar-powered with only radio contact to the base camp) – and so we relished the luxury of checking in afterward at the Victoria Falls Safari Club.
“Beware of the crocodiles!” read the sign just beyond our balcony. But inside the Safari Club, all was civilized – and we soaked it all up for three welcome nights.
Victoria Falls a popular stop on the safari circuit
Many visitors on safari in Zambia, Botswana and/or South Africa plan an overnight stop at the world-famous Victoria Falls – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the “Seven Natural Wonders of the World.”
The falls lie on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Traditionally, visitors have stayed on the Zambia side in Livingstone; on a previous visit to the African continent, we bedded down at The Royal Livingstone – a delightful colonial-style resort where you can walk to the falls.
But now that Zimbabwe is opening up to tourism again, safari-goers also have the option of staying on the Zimbabwe side in or around the town of Victoria Falls.
A new visa makes this easier too.
A single 30-day visa (the KAZA Univisa) was introduced in December, 2016, to allow visitors to travel to both Zambia and Zimbabwe (and back and forth between the two countries) for $50 USD. So this visit, with our passports stamped with this visa, we stayed on the Zimbabwe side of the falls at the Victoria Falls Safari Club.
Victoria Falls Safari Club review
The 20-room Victoria Falls Safari Club, which opened in 2012, is found on the same grounds as the older and larger Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, voted the best resort hotel in Zimbabwe for the last 20 consecutive years by the Association of Zimbabwe Travel Agents.
You can use all the facilities of the Lodge, like its candlelit Makuwa Kuwa restaurant for dinner (perhaps kudu stew with date salsa or bacon-wrapped crocodile tail?).
But the Club is more exclusive and you get a more personalized stay.
For example, you can enjoy complimentary breakfast, afternoon tea and sunset cocktails and canapés on the Club’s viewing deck, where elephants and giraffes can be spied drinking from a nearby water hole.
And the rooms?
Spacious, bright and light, they have sisal rugs on tile floors. Multi-colored paintings of African ladies in traditional costume decorate the walls. Big sliding glass doors open onto large balconies (but we were warned not to leave the doors open as baboons could enter). They’re extremely comfortable – among the best rooms in Victoria Falls.
Service is excellent, because you have access to a concierge and reception desk just for guests in the Club’s 20 rooms.
Of course, the main reason people go to Victoria Falls is to visit the amazing curtain of water almost a mile wide – nicknamed “the smoke that thunders” – that crashes down from a height of over 300 feet.
There are 19 viewing points – 15 on the Zimbabwe side and 4 on the Zambia side.
Less dramatic perhaps, but equally interesting in its own way, is the “Vulture Culture” experience at the Lodge. The Lodge feeds hundreds and hundreds of wild vultures daily; you learn more about these creatures, then watch them fly in and rip into meat carcasses.
Why you might ask, do vultures need to be fed?
Supporting the community…
Both the Club and the Lodge are operated by Africa Albida Tourism, a Zimbabwean-based hospitality group with hotels, lodges and restaurants in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in southern Africa. We were interested to know that Africa Albida Tourism is lauded for its environmental efforts and supports the local community in a number of ways.
How Africa Albida Tourism gives back
- They donate to Environment Africa, which determines where the local need is most urgent. For example, they recently made a large donation of bedding and mosquito netting to rural villages.
- When the Safari Lodge was built in 1994, an environmental architect was consulted to reduce the environmental impact. No mature trees were cut and all trees removed during construction were transplanted to the surrounding Zambezi National Park – a move unheard of at the time.
- Africa Albida Tourism is a member of Pack for a Purpose, a non-profit organization which encourages travelers to fill left-over space in their suitcase with pens, deflated soccer balls, medical supplies and the like for the local community.
- The Safari Lodge helped form the Victoria Falls Anti-Poaching Unit, which now employs about 17 scouts. The unit has removed more than 22,000 wires snares, saved the lives of nearly 200 animals and arrested some 700 hardened poachers. The lodge pays the salaries for six scouts and contributes supplies for their work.
- Africa Albida Tourism provided accommodation, generators and other support for American doctors, surgeons and nurses who set up a temporary eye clinic for local patients.
- Along with other Victoria Falls town members, the Safari Lodge contributed to the construction of an electric fence around the town’s garbage dump, as three elephants had died from eating all the plastic there.
- Two now-elderly local wood carvers had been arrested and re-arrested many times for cutting down trees in the national park for their carvings. So several years ago, the Safari Lodge gave the carvers sustainable wood and a place to sell their giraffes and other carvings (at the Boma restaurant). The elderly gents are still seen at the Boma every night with their wares for sale.
- The Lodge is a member of the international Green Tourism organization. (Green Tourism is the world’s largest sustainable certification program; it’s certified over 2,000 hotels and tour operators.) Both the Club and the Lodge offer natural insect repellents in the rooms and use eco-friendly cleaners.
All photos are © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase (except lead image and where noted)
Read more about things to do in Victoria Falls
See our story on “Authentic Africa in Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls,” published in TravelAge West magazine.
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