When visiting Southern Africa, there’s an almost magnetic pull to check out two of the natural wonders of the world – Table Mountain and Victoria Falls. Sure, we know we are in the business, but these truly are must-see, must-do, must-happen special experiences. Based in Cape Town, at Luxury Safaris we are very familiar with Table Mountain. From taking the cable car to the top, hiking with friends and family, trail running or having a picnic and sundowners on Signal Hill with Table Mountain as a backdrop on the one side and the famous Robben Island on the other – we know the old girl well.
Victoria Falls on the other hand is more like a foreign cousin we only see every now and then but get on with famously. We know it well having grown up with it, but we don’t get quite as much face time as we would like. When we do get up there, we have a few very specific ways of experiencing it.
First off, we favour the Zambian side of the Falls, where our go-to accommodation is the incredibly special Thorntree River Lodge set in Zambia’s Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park. FYI – Mosi-Oa-Tunya is Tonga for ‘The Smoke That Thunders,’ a perfect description for this memerising natural wonder, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
40 minutes from the Falls, Thorntree River Lodge does a great job of fitting into its surroundings rather than sticking out like a sore thumb. With unique tented roof structures, it’s both African in its nods to local culture and customs, but also modern and forward-thinking in its environmentally conscious design. Somehow it hits that sweet spot between being authentically local and comfortably global in all its style and services. Trust us, that’s a lot harder than it looks.
Thorntree River Lodge boasts eight standard rooms as well as two family units comprising of four beds each. Each unit also has its own private plunge pool and it’s not just to plunge in, it’s a nice size pool! Family or not, if you prefer to mingle, the main lodge with its communal deck is the place to be. Here, on the edge of the Zambezi riverside, you can chill in the sunken boma or lounge in the pool and watch the comings and goings of the African bush. From hippos snorting and grunting in the river, crocs doing their best to imitate dead trees and incredible bird life overhead, this place is alive. As the sun goes down and the moon and stars come out, you can experience brilliant African cuisine in the open dining area.
But it’s not all, about chilling, or at least it does not have to be. If you like to keep active; Thorntree and Vic Falls has no shortage of options. First and foremost, you have to visit the Falls, whether it’s from the Zambian or Zimbabwean side, or even both. Take your time, walk through the rain forest, check out the different vantage points and listen to the thunder. Once that’s done, there are myriad options in the area from swimming in the Devil’s Cauldron (right on the edge of the Falls), to taking on some of the best white water rafting on the planet (not for the faint-hearted), to fishing for toothy tiger fish and visiting the Livingstone Museum to re-enact the pith-helmeted meeting of Livingstone and Stanley. Thorntree offers an amazing activity, rhino trekking on foot in the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park. You literally go walking in the bush (with a few rangers of course) and stand a few metres from the Rhino’s, just in awe of this beautiful animal. Other activities they offer are cultural village visits, sunset river cruises from the lodge, island picnic lunch, canoeing, game drives and the young rangers club for children.
If we can recommend one super special activity however, it would be to take a gorge flight in a helicopter. The Zambezi Spectacular Flight is well-named as over the 25 minute duration it takes you on an incredible flip from the gentle meandering curves of this great river, down and over the Falls into the gorge and then back over the park for some aerial game viewing on your way back. If you only go to Vic Falls once in your life, this is an experience worth having. We did it recently and were blown away.