My experience of Tongabezi, Zambezi
For some 17 years, Tongabezi has been top of my list of places to stay near the Victoria Falls. And with good reason: it is owner run, its location is undeniably stunning, the rooms are individual and unique, and the staff are a joy.
It has been incredible to see how Tongabezi and its sister property Sindabezi Island have developed under the owners, Ben and Vanessa Parker’s creative eye. Situated on the banks of the Zambezi, my favourite river, the lodge offers a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of the Victoria Falls itself. To me, it’s the ideal spot to relax and recover from a long journey and a great place to introduce yourself gently to Africa before you head off on your safari.
There are fun and varied hidey-holes here – from an open ‘treehouse’ and the more-typical cottages to a garden villa (ideal for families) and four other luxurious houses, not forgetting the stunning Sindabezi Island for those who want the excitement of staying on a little isle in the middle of the river.
The Parkers have it sussed, but they are not resting on their laurels. Having stayed there again recently, I can report that the new chill-out and dining areas look amazing which, along with the completed additional swimming pool and gym, mean that Tongabezi will remain firmly at the top of my list!
When speaking to Ben Parker, he told me how he came to create an opportunity for guests to visit Livingstone Island and swim in Devil’s and Angel’s pools. When the lodge first opened, he would fly his microlight over the falls and often noticed locals taking a hair-raising wash in the lagoons, which sat right on the edge of the Victoria Falls. He eventually persuaded one of them to take him to the island and immediately realised that this was something very special indeed.
Through determination, he managed to persuade the government and World Heritage to allow him access – and so it all began. This is still something that is arranged exclusively by Tongabezi to this day. I can concur that it is something that every client should opt for, whether you are staying at the lodge or not. Since I survived Devil’s Pool some 10 years ago, little has changed on the island itself. You still sit and wallow in your natural Jacuzzi, dangerously close to the edge of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. It is a truly extraordinary experience.