Visiting Victoria Falls is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Seeing the smoke that thunders for yourself is an experience you will never forget. How can you top that? Well, you can stay somewhere that is once-in-a-lifetime too….saying that, I really hope that we get to visit Tongabezi again. Read on to see why in our full Tongabezi review.
I am actually going to split this review into two parts as we were lucky enough to try out two of Tongabezi’s properties. Here you will find out all about the main accommodation at Tongabezi and then coming soon, I will publishing a review about our amazing night on Sindabezi Island.
Right on the banks of the Zambezi, Tongabezi is a short drive from Livingstone, Zambia. If you visiting the Victoria Falls, this is the main settlement on the Zambian side. It is possible to cross the border to see the Falls from the Zimbabwean side quite easily as long as you have the right kind of visa.
But back to that river view.
The mighty Zambezi May have been at low water but it was still spread out, wide and flat in front of the lodge. Tongabezi sits on a large meander so you get an amazing view across the water. Listen carefully and you’ll hear the hippos grunting and snorting.
River cottage number 2 was our home away from home. Who am I kidding? Our house is nowhere near as nice as this place!
The Double Room
The main room mostly consisted of a huge bed. They really know how to do plush when it comes to beds around here. Lying in bed, or sitting on the sofa at the foot, you could relax and look out of the patio doors.
The mosquito net is worth mentioning as it extended quite a long way beyond the bed. The bottom was weighted and sat on the floor. For once, we could use our bedside tables without dragging a net around. And the best thing? We didn’t have to put the net up or down.
The colour scheme, which carried throughout the villa, was black and white, punctuated with natural wood tones. The monochrome was quite a contrast from the world outside and I thought it looked very, very cool. My favourite piece was the wooden table that was monochrome to the max.
Just outside the door, under a porch of sorts, was an outdoor living room. Here you can relax in the shade, grab a cold drink from the fridge, or make a hot drink. The interior (exterior?) here is to die for. The wicker rug and the shell chandeliers were just lovely.
I completely fell in love with our bathroom. It had a huge bath and at the end, an open shower. The shower was bedecked in black and white mosaic. It was so stylish. The pipe work and toilet were bronze and looked incredibly vintage.
From the villa, you got a full view of our huge riverside deck. Lounge chairs, a cafe table and sun beds dotted the edge. We could eat in private or just relax looking over the water. It was so romantic to relax with our very own sunset view. I;m not normally so soppy but this one got me.
A Look Around Tongabezi
There is a riverfront lounge at Tongabezi, which I’ll call the clubhouse. Here you will find some gorgeous coffee table books about the local area and the Victoria Falls, board games and the wifi.
The tree house that you can arrange a special dinner in. We were lucky enough to enjoy lunch here on our second day and it was so nice seeing people come and go from their activities. The sun was bouncing off the river and the breeze whispered through The Lookout, it was blissful.
The main buzz of activity took place around the restaurant. It was here that we had our first lunch. In act, we never actually ate inside the restaurant. Every time we head down there to eat, the staff found us a private spot.
By the clubhouse was the main pool. This was a cute little plunge pool with a nice waterfall feature. In the middle of the day, it was drenched in sun, but as the afternoon passed, it lost it quite quickly.
We chose instead to take a dip in the lap pool. This rectangular pool was surrounded by a large sun deck with lots of sun beds. There was also a bar but no staff came down whilst we were there.
The pool itself had a little shallow area at one end with a bench for lazing about in. The pool then became quite deep, great for swimming and diving. There is no lifeguard though so you do these things at your own risk.
To the side of the pool was a large, air conditioned workout room. It had a great selection of weights and machines, enough to work off all of those three course meals.
The resort used to have tennis courts but they have since converted them into herb and vegetable gardens. A tour of the gardens is one of the included activities and we really wanted to have a look around but we completely ran out of time. There was just too much to do and see!
Prepare yourself for something a bit special when you visit Tongabezi. I had no idea what we had in store and I am not have eaten for a few weeks before we went if I had known. It is all delicious, with plenty of veggies and very fresh. Let’s start with breakfast.
Breakfast was brought to to our room for us. We ordered from a menu the night before and it was all brought to our sundeck and set up on the cafe table. After a few big meals, I decided to go for something a little lighter. Just some fruit and a slice of toast for me please, with a coffee. Well, even this was a giant portion.. The fruit came on a heaped plate of deliciousness, and the coffee was a whole pot.
Our first meal at Tongabezi was lunch. We were brought the “tapas-style menu. Our first misconception was that you selected a few bits. Well, they corrected that. We chose a starter and then the whole tapas menu would be served.
Our second misconception was the dishes would be tiny…that was wrong too. We were actually presented with a boat of food. It was huge, it was all scrumptious and it set us up very nicely indeed.
Our second lunch was served in the Lookout. We couldn’t eat much after a big breakfast but really enjoyed every mouthful we managed. Beetroot and orange gazpacho to start and then a beef dish with a selection of delicious sides. Then, even though we were stuffed, we both had dessert. It was so good that it would have been rude not to.
Dinner was a more formal affair. We picked our three courses from a menu and they were served individually.
During our stay at Tongabezi and Sindabezi, we were assigned an activities manager. We just browsed the folder that was chock full of ideas, and told him what we wanted to do. If we had stayed for longer, we would have tried out lots more but we had to be picky and decided to stick to the activities offered by Tongabezi themselves. These were from the list of included activities, rather than those that cost extra.
Jump abroad one on Tongabezi’s boats and take to the river for wildlife spotting, relaxation and a drink or two. We were asked what we would like for a beverage and once we stopped, mid-stream, it was whipped out. The sunset was amazing, and apparently, that is quite normal! We so enjoyed watching the birds coming into roost. Even once the sun finally dipped below the horizon, the boat ride wasn’t over, and we watched monkeys playing on the bank of the river.
We took advantage of the chance to enjoy dinner on our own floating platform (sampan). Every course was delivered by kayak and we had the river to ourselves. I am going to write more about it on our Sindabezi Island review so keep your eyes peeled for that!
We got a transfer into town to have a look around the Livingstone Museum. This was a little old school but we really enjoyed learning more about Zambia’s history and traditions.
Tongabezi Trust School
We fully intended to visit Tongabezi Trust School, but we completely forgot that it was Saturday (no school). I till want to tell you a little about the project though.
Set up in 1996 with just 15 young pupils, this school now has almost 300 children between 4 – 17. It was originally to give the children of Tongabezi’s employees a place to start their education. The school has been growing ever since, and its pupils have received scholarships to colleges and universities across the country. It is not funded int any way by the government, but just by the donations of Tongabezi guests and other charitable folks. Its a pretty amazing enterprise. If you would like to find out more, or donate, then check out the Tongabezi website here.
Tongabezi was a little slice of heaven. We met people who return again and again and we can really see why. We felt like VIPs the whole time with the staff making every effort to make sure we were having the best time.
If you are thinking of visiting Tongabezi, here is some information you might like to know:
- You can find all of the best deals and latest offers on the Tongabezi website here.
- We were staying in a River Cottage but there are several rooms that have different features like their own plunge pools.
- You can fly into Livingstone airport directly from Johannesburg with British Airways or South African Airways and Tongabezi will help arrange a transfer from there.
- Tongabezi is located on the Zambian side of the Victoria Falls so you will the right kind of visa if you arriving into Victoria Falls airport in Zimbabwe.
- Tongabezi organises trips to the Devil’s Pool at Victoria Falls during the dry season. It is the most wonderful way to experience falls…full review to come soon!
I would travel back to Tongabezi tomorrow, or even today. It is just the most romantic spot. I wish we had known about it for our honeymoon. I couldn’t recommend it more for anyone that is travelling to Zambia.
We were lucky enough to be guests of Tongabezi but we genuinely loved our time there and as always, our opinions are all our own.