I did an amazing trip through Africa and I had the opportunity to visit Victoria Falls on the Zambia side, it was a rich and unique experience. If you are planning to travel there then read on because I will tell you where to stay in Livingstone, Zambia. Below I will share with you more details about Tongabezi, the best Lodge in town!
The Falls are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most tourists visit Livingstone for the sole purpose of going there and this is a big mistake especially if you are staying at Tongabezi.
# Where to stay in Livingstone – Location of Tongabezi
Tongabezi is situated in Livingstone, Zambia. From the bridge that separates Zimbabwe and Zambia to the lodge is about 15 minutes by car and from Livingstone Airport is 20 minutes.
Tongabezi is on the banks of the Zambezi and all its accommodation overlooks the river. By the way, the name Tongabezi means tonga = local tribe + bezi = Zambezi River. Cool huh?!
It was clear that the staff was prepared to welcome me. As soon as my taxi stopped in front of the reception, one of Tongabezi’s employee welcomed me by name and did my check-in. After that, she gave me a delicious “welcome drink” and introduced me to another staff member, the person that was going to show me around.
# Customer service
One of the lodge’s common areas has a room divided into 4 living-rooms, each with its own decoration. On my first day there I sat in one of the sofas before dinner to answer an email, the sofa was cozy and elegant. As soon as I got there, an employee came to ask me how my day was and offered me a drink (wine /beer/mojito). This is the kind of attention that you will receive during your stay at Tongabezi.
Each accommodation has an exclusive valet who along with all the staff made me feel completely comfortable and really rather special.
It was pleasant to talk to the staff, even about issues that were not directly related to my stay. They are captivating people who work happy and because of that, they exceeded what is expected in terms of customer service from a five-star lodge. After being there, after talking to the employees I understood why Tongabezi is such an example of excellent customer service: in addition to the individual professional preparation of the employees, there is an investment in the quality of life of their families.
Although Zambia has eminent social consequences because of the turbulent political history, people who work in Tongabezi are supported by favorable conditions, such as transportation to work, a good school for their children. It is notable that the person who attends you, valet, driver, guide, housekeeping, has enough quality of life so that in the work environment she/he can pay good and take care of the guests well I felt that they go above and beyond.
In one of these informal conversations with the staff, I mentioned that I would like to spot the bee-eaters. Immediately they scheduled a boat ride for the next day and Cap. Felix (one of the great employees) took me to watch the immense family of wonderful colorful birds nesting in the ravines that border the river.
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Along with other cute details, such as flowers and a welcome card hand-made by the students of Tongabezi Trust School on the bed. By the way, the school was created by Vanessa Parker, the late Ben Parker’s wife, who establishedTongabezi in 1990 along with the late William Ruck-Keene. In addition to the relationship with the school’s foundation, Tongabezi is committed to raising funds for the maintenance of quality education offered there.
A clean and sophisticated environment is made up of few elements and uniformity of styles, right? Not in Tongabezi. Good taste, open-mindedness, and professionalism have reached a perfect harmony in an eclectic mix of different African styles.
The Lodge has 9 accommodation suites including cottages and houses prepared to accommodate from 2 to 5 people. I stayed at The River Cottage and the Nut House. Both offer the perfect environment for romance. I’m looking forward to suggesting one of them to my clients who are looking for a honeymoon/special anniversary that includes luxury, romance, and nature.
The rooms are arranged so that guests feel free, can enjoy utter privacy, and contact with the natural environment in full comfort. The views from both rooms have a wonderful angle of the Zambezi River, perfect to watch the sunset.
At The River Cottage, you can watch the Zambezi river life and listen to hippos grunting safely from the deck, the bed, the tub or a cozy space attached to the room.
The Nut House has 3 warm areas beyond the bed and the huge bathroom. Oh, and the closet! I could live in the wonderful robe with colorful prints, the face of Africa! As if that were not enough, the private infinity pool made me feel connected to the river. The biggest concern of the day was deciding whether I wanted to watch the sunset from the pool, the tub or the boat ride. Guess what I chose?
Oh, another difficult decision was if I was going to have a local beer or wine.
In addition to romanticism, the Tongabezi environment is suitable to accommodate the whole family and children (over the age of 7 years) in accommodation that is even larger than the ones I describe here.
For those who are staying at the River Cottages or prefer to socialize in common areas, there are two shared pools at Tongabezi’s. Also, there is a gym on site, it is large and well equipped. It seems able to accommodate more people than the Lodge can accommodate.
The spaces that we use at Tongabezi, both common and private areas, are all wooded. Some species of trees are identified with plaques. Some of them are very large and suggest that they have been preserved from the natural environment.
It is remarkable how the Lodge was built so broadly with so little impact on nature. This is very evident when the lodge is seen from the river and also by the species of animals that feel as comfortable as the guests to circulate around the common spaces. If you do not want to participate in the lodge activities you can spend a whole day photographing, listening and watching the birds that are going to feed there.
In both “rooms” I stayed there were amenities like tea (about 10 types), coffee, mini fridge, kettle, shampoo, hair conditioner, liquid soap, body moisturizer, mosquito repellent, hair dryer. Also, there is a complimentary laundry service throughout the week.
# Breakfast /Lunch / Dinner
At breakfast, I was able to choose from a variety of fruits, yogurt, granola, cereals, tea, coffee, juice, English breakfast, scrambled eggs with bacon or without.
I had two lunches there, one of which was the “Island picnic lunch” (a complimentary activity), which was an excellent experience! Around lunchtime, we took a boat to the island, along the way we saw hippos, elephants and various birds. Arriving on the island there was a table set up and a lodge employee waiting for us. Everything prepared for us!
The dinner, like the other meals, was delicious. I ate soup, the main course that I chose was meat and dessert. After dinner, the Chef went to our table to hear our opinion about the food.
Get ready to witness the perfect combination of the burnt cement floor with the tasteful colonial tiles. I was surprised how lamps, lampshades, and chandeliers can be so different from each other and so complementary, ranging from woven straw, opaque glass, ceramic, metallic or gilded metallic elements … and yes! They managed to make it all harmonize.
The detail that most captivated me: in the wide walls of the Nut House they opened cavities in the style of the bathroom door where they placed elements of decoration (like candles) that were even more valued by illumination from within the cavity.
The Lodge has a list of complementary activities, but in fact, as I described my desire to go see the bee-eaters, the activities are not restricted to this list. From the list, I remember the Sandbar, Sunrise or Sunset boat trip, guided tour of Victoria Falls, Simonga Village (which is a local village), Floating Dinner on the Sampan (romantic dinner under the stars on a floating deck), The Livingstone Museum, game drives and picnic on the island.
On my first day at Tongabezi I chose to do the “sunset boat trip”, an activity that consisted of a boat ride along the Zambezi River to an island where you can enjoy the sunset while sipping drinks at a pop-up Sand Bar.
All the activities that are related to the river will surely include spotting animals such as elephants, hippos, crocodiles and many, many species of birds (large, small, white, colorful).
The picnic at the island is not only about going to eat in a different place but also about doing a mini boat safari and then when you arrive at the island you find a beautiful table prepared and a butler at your disposal, including great wines!
The same applies to the Sand Bar. The purpose of this tour is to enjoy the sunset while drinking a glass of wine champagne, Amarula, traditional drinks, beer … then a delicious dinner will be waiting for you.
As for sunrise or sunset, besides being the most beautiful hours to see the landscape of the river, are the most appropriate times to observe the fauna.
One activity you need to do is the Victoria Falls tour. Can you think why the lodge puts this tour as one of the complementary activities?! The first reason is that it will definitely bring much tranquility to your trip. It must be remembered that Livingstone does not have a developed public transportation system so the lodge will arrange transportation.
In addition to transportation, the guide will make your visit to Vic Falls much richer and interesting with historical, geographic and biological information. Oh, the guide also takes a raincoat and umbrella in case you choose to use it. I confess that I used both of them haha
Another interesting activity is the visit to Simonga Village. I chose to go to the village by bike, so I did enjoy another activity that the lodge offers, which is cycling. The path is short and flat, easy to cycle. I loved it!
At the village, there were many children making a bustle at a tap. They were laughing a lot. They asked me to take a picture of them. I asked what they were doing and they informed me that all that play was just a water-drinking ritual on the way out of school. Covered in drinking water from head to foot! LOL
The boy who introduced me to the community explained that this generation did not even know the times when it was necessary to walk to the river to get water, at which point crocodile attacks were common. In addition to water pumps and solar panels, the community is assisted by a school, a health center, and churches.
He proudly pointed out that there is the evangelical, Catholic and voodoo church and that everyone in the community has a religion. With regards to the school, the residents stressed how effective the school is in teaching the Tonga and English languages, as well as mathematics. He said they are mandatory subjects to get a job. And I had already noticed that this happened because all the inhabitants with whom I had contact in all the different environments were fluent in both languages.
Another thing he proudly showed and described were the elements of the Zambia flag painted on a school wall: orange and green natural and mineral riches, red representing the blood spilled in the struggle for independence and the conquered freedom represented by the eagle. The black he touched with his hands and said, “This is our color of which we are very proud.” The visit was very touching and made me rethink about life.
After my amazing days there, my grade can only be 5, which is the maximum. My stay at Tongabezi was just perfect!
That’s it for today! If you have any questions about the Lodge just leave a comment here below. See you later!
Nasci e cresci no interior de Minas Gerais, sou advogada de formação e consultora de viagens de profissão. Tenho 32 anos e desde sempre sonho em viajar o mundo. Já visitei 37 países (alguns mais de uma vez), tendo morado em 4 deles. Em 2016 criei o blog Partiu Viajar para ajudar e inspirar mais pessoas a viajar.