Tongabezi Trip Report
Brooke and I recently visited Tongabezi, Sindabezi and Tangala House to get an overall update and to see first hand all of the recent improvements, like the completely rebuilt Cottages and the extensive changes to the Houses.
I feel that Tongabezi is the best combination with luxury lodges in South Africa, Botswana, and other Southern African countries, as the small size (only 11 units) allow for a safari-lodge-style experience. Meals, drinks and activities are included and wonderful staff and guides are always ready to attend to every detail and request.
We were also impressed with Sindabezi, with its exclusive "private island" feel. You're definitely not roughing it on the island! There is the same delicious food, impressive wine and personalized service as at Tongabezi. It's also a great option for clients coming from South Africa who want to experience a stay in tented accommodations.
Keegan, our guide, fetched us from the airport and drove us the half hour back to Tongabezi, all the while pointing out the quaint attractions within Livingstone (the craft market, Livingstone Museum, Mosi Oa Tuna National Park). 20 km (13 miles) upstream from Victoria Falls, Tongabezi is the truest safari experience on the banks of the Zambezi. From the newly renovated Cottages to the awe-inspiring suites, called Houses (Nut House, Dog House, Bird House, Garden House, Tree House and Honeymoon House), the accommodations are the most imaginative and well designed and decorated on the river. Meals were always exceptional, from a poolside breakfast with new friends made around the fire the night before to a private lunch in the Dog House dining room to a unique floating San Pan dinner.
Sindabezi Private Island:
Captain Ronald motors away from Tongabezi’s main dock, through the waters of the Zambezi. After less than 10 minutes, we land on the sandy shores of Sindabezi Private Island. Brenda, Sindabezi’s hostess, greets us with cool towels and a refreshing drink. Brian sorts out our afternoon activities, including a sunset boat cruise and sundowner excursion during which we skirt by a few hippos and come across a family of ellies having their own sunset drink. Charles, our private butler, shows us to the Honeymoon Suite, pointing out along the way where Horus, the resident hippo, sometimes likes to sleep. All five luxurious yet eco-friendly tents have amazing views over the Zambezi, and a few look out onto the nearby Zambezi National Park. As we choose our courses for dinner, we are quite impressed by Nasson, the island’s host, who is the only person we’ve ever met on safari who asked if we wanted our red wine slightly chilled or at room temp.
This exclusive private family home just upstream from Tongabezi is perfect for people searching for the fully catered-to home-away-from home experience. You’re close enough to town and Victoria Falls to participate in all of the activities of the area, yet secluded in a way where you can really rest and rejuvenate. Tangala House beckons for a longer-than-typical stay. The four-bedroom (three en-suite) home has been featured in the UK’s House & Garden magazine for good reason. It comes with a vehicle and boat, chef and waiters, private guide and housekeeper, and two dogs. It features a private 33ft swimming pool, 250 yards of river frontage, a raised tree deck and lots of lawn space. Only available during Christmas, Easter, and June, July and August, Tangala House is the perfect place to make lasting family memories and plan spectacular celebrations.
Tongabezi Trust School - Tujatane:
One of the most heart-felt inspiring experiences at Tongabezi is walking from your Cottage or House, through the impressive organic gardens growing the lodge’s produce, to the Tongabezi Trust School – Tujatane. The school started 19 years ago as a pre-school for 15 children whose parents worked at Tongabezi. Every year, as the children moved up a class level, the school grew, and today Tujatane is a comprehensive primary school with over 250 students. Privately funded by the lodges and by donations, with numerous volunteers and a dedicated community of teachers, parents and neighbors, it is one of the most successful programs of its kind. You’ll be moved when meeting the students, seeing the facilities (including a library, computer room, performance amphitheater, and so much more) and hearing the incredible success stories. For instance one assistant teacher has three children, all of whom attended the school: the eldest has now graduated and is attending university, the middle son has won top Zambian awards for theater and dance, and the youngest will surely follow in their footsteps. And beyond just her children’s accomplishments, she was also getting an education, something she never had the opportunity to before.
In addition to one of the world’s natural wonders, Victoria Falls is also known as Africa’s Adventure Capital. You can soar, zip, swing or walk above the falls with many of the outfitters in the area (we have our favorites and are happy to arrange plans for you). But in order to stand on the edge, swim in Angel’s Pool, sit on the Devil’s Armchair, and see the falls as David Livingstone first did, you have to venture out to Livingstone Island. Tongabezi holds the lease to this World Heritage Site and so is able to get preferred reservations for guests during the five daily departures. After the awe-inspiring island tour, enjoy a gourmet breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea. The destination is definitely worth the journey.