Dear Partners in Travel,
Machaba Safaris extended an invitation for me to attend an educational trip to Robin’s Camp situated in the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. This also allowed me to spend some time in Victoria Falls pre and post the educational to get up to speed with some of the new properties and activities on offer.
I have not been in Victoria Falls for a number of years and my first impression was just how much the town has grown, especially in terms of tourism products. From new restaurants, micro-breweries & boutique shops to a host of new accommodation options. It was also very busy, buzzing with tourists which was a welcome sight to see.
Please find below an update on the properties and activities I had a look at while in town.
ACCOMMODATION VISITED IN VICTORIA FALLS:
This lovely property is part of the More Family Collection of hotels and located in the Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve outside the town. The location of the property makes it ideal for guests looking for a luxury stay removed from the relative hustle of Victoria Falls town (although you are still only a 15 minute drive away).
Accommodation is provided in 16 luxurious suites, with 2 sets of interleading suites making it ideal for families.
One of the newest properties located in the suburbs of Victoria Falls Town (2.5 km from the Falls) this fifty room lodge is a welcome addition for both FIT and group travellers looking for affordable, well-appointed accommodation. The rooms are spread out and set in lush gardens with beautifully manicured lawns creating a resort like feel. Pioneers is a family friendly property with four family rooms available.
I was very impressed with Pioneers especially at the price point offering excellent value for money.
One of the older properties in the area, Victoria Falls Safari Lodge Estate is situated on a plateau just 4km from the Falls.
The main property, the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge recently underwent a complete refurbishment of its 72-rooms. The new rooms are much lighter than before and definitely feel a lot bigger than before because of this.
Safari Lodge is flanked by the more exclusive 20-room Victoria Falls Safari Club and the six spacious double-storey two and three-bedroom Victoria Falls Safari Suites which are ideal for families and small groups.
Their new jewel in their crown is the purpose built Victoria Falls Safari Spa which is simply stunning and open to in house as well at outside guests.
This new property opened its doors in January 2023. Spaciously laid out around indigenous Mopane trees with open gardens, streams, ponds and a watering hole it feels very well established and settled.
26 luxury and 14 signature exquisitely decorated rooms offer a rare African elegance and the utmost comfort.
4km from Victoria falls, they provide complimentary shuttles into town on a schedule and to their affiliated jetty site with their own two river cruise boats to best appreciate the Zambezi River for evening cruises and river-side dining.
This exclusive property located on the outskirts of Victoria Falls town has become a firm favourite with a number of our clients and having experienced an overnight stay at the property I completely understand why. Once you drive through the gates you are transported to this magical enclosed ancient teak forest comprising the 18 eco luxury suites & one forest villa that make up Mbano. It is a welcome oasis after a busy day of activities around town.
The luxury suites are large with stunning bathrooms and is firmly amongst the top accommodation offerings in the area. The service is attentive but not intrusive with a comfortable, friendly atmosphere.
The most iconic hotel in Victoria Falls has recently undergone a substantial refurbishment of the rooms and suites in the main hotel building. Note that the refurbishment is ongoing and being done in phases but that only the newly refurbished rooms are open to guest. Rooms that are still to be refurbished are not part of the accommodation offering and blocked off.
With the refurbishment the rooms have been given a thoroughly modern update although steeped in the hotel’s historical Edwardian style. This is a delicate balancing act but they have done a marvellous job. Talk about an old gal in a new frock!
In recent years the hotel has come under pressure due to the number of new 5-star offerings in town, but with the refurbishment she can still take her rightful place as the iconic luxury hotel in Victoria Falls.
Talking about new 5-star offerings in Victoria Falls, the stunning new The Palm River Hotel is right up there amongst the best. The sister hotel to the well-known Ilala Lodge, the hotel has a superb setting right on the banks of the mighty Zambezi river, 4km upstream from the falls.
The hotel offers 72-rooms which are spread out in accommodation blocks along the banks of the river. Well-appointed with modern international standard 5-star hotel furnishings,
The Palm River Hotel has been inspired by the architectural style of the Queenslander. The innovative blend of traditional East-Coast Australian design and the unique landscape of the upper Zambezi River has resulted in a brand new and distinctive landmark for Victoria Falls.
ACTIVITIES AND EXPERIENCES IN VICTORIA FALLS:
The Victoria Falls Theatre Company has put together a world class production in the purpose build, intimate 180-seater open air Ndlovu theatre which forms part of the Elephant Walk Shopping Centre in town.
Directed by acclaimed handspring Puppeteer Mongiwekhaya, SIMUNYE is a captivating fusion of puppetry, dance, music, and visuals, delivering a powerful message of love and community.
It is a welcome addition to the Victoria Falls experience and highly recommend for all visitors.
This is a superb experience and takes about 2 hours in total (+/- 45 minutes on the water) so not too difficult to work into an itinerary.
465 horsepower, specially-made Adventure Jetboats takes one up the rapids and right under the Falls into the Boiling Pot. The true power and intensity of the Falls can only be felt as you view them from below. This is an amazing vantage point!
Just a note that the walk down the gorge to get to the river is very steep with ladders and steps along the way, and the hike back up is pretty taxing so clients need to be reasonability physically fit for this experience. Also take note to wear appropriate clothing as you will get very wet on the boat.
I was very surprised by the number of cruises that now head out onto the river for the traditional sunset cruise, significantly more that the last time I was in the area.
With this a more exclusive option like the Riversong starts making much more sense.
Cruising down the river at sunset is a perfect way to end the day and with the abundance of delicious hors d’oeuvres throughout the cruise, as well as selection of cocktails, premium drinks, beers, juice, water and soft drinks one can just sit back and relax. Magic!
Shearwater has stopped all Elephant Back Riding activities in Victoria Falls and changed the activity to a more educational experience. You still get up close and meet some remarkable personalities in the herd. Discover some unique skills and behaviours that make them the amazing creatures they are. At the end of the experience you get to watch the elephants in their natural environment, playing, bathing, rolling in mud and generally putting on a show at the waterhole!
eleCREW is registered non-profit organisation with a vision of an Africa in which humans and elephants coexist in a balanced environment.
Hwange National Park
Although Hwange is accessible from Victoria Falls by road (Robin’s Camp is a 2 hour drive from Victoria Falls with the majority of the drive within the Hwange National Park), Machaba Safaris took us on a Mack Air scheduled flight from Victoria Falls Airport straight into Robin’s Camp airstrip which is a mere 15 minute flight.
Hwange National Park is the largest in Zimbabwe, covering an impressive 14,650 sq. km. As you’d expect from a park of this size, the breadth of wildlife species is astounding. Over 100 species of mammals reside here, whilst almost 400 species of birds decorate the skies. Perhaps most exciting is the 40,000-strong population of elephants, whose presence is world-renowned and a joy to watch day after day.
The dry season (from July to October) is the best time to visit Hwange, as large concentrations of wildlife– particularly the wonderful elephant herds – descend upon the area to drink from the waterholes in order to survive in this hot and unforgiving environment.
ACCOMMODATION VISITED IN HWANGE:
Robin’s Camp is steeped in history dating back to its original owner Herbert George Robins who acquired the farm in the early 1900’s. HG Robins was quite the character and reading up on his history and eccentric antics is very entertaining.
Modern Robin’s Camp is a lovely property in the traditional style of safari lodges comprising a total of 36 chalets split into two sections called Acacia and Mopani. All the chalets have undergone full refurbishments and offer superbly comfortable accommodation. Even though there is no air-conditioning the fans provided in the rooms are sufficient and makes the stay comfortable. All rooms naturally also have mosquito nets.
The main lodge facilities offer a comfortable, relaxed and homely atmosphere dominated by Robins Tower, the highest building in Hwange National Park offering the best possible sunsets and sunrise views.
Game drives are undertaking into the Hwange National Park in the morning and afternoon and optional walking tours are on offer conducted by the most qualified walking guides in Africa!
Superb experience overall and Robin’s would be an ideal combination for a 2 night safari with a stay in Victoria Falls for both FIT and groups alike.
We had a look one of the other Machaba Safari camps in Hwange called Deteema Springs. Located close to the Deteema dam, the camp is perched on a slight rocky rise above permanent water springs, offering magnificent views of large concentrations of animals. We had lunch at the lodge and during our time we saw huge herds of elephant from the camp as well as general game.
Accommodation is provided in 8 free standing luxurious tents including one family tent.
Deteema Springs is a significant step up in terms of exclusively and luxury to Robin’s Camp and this is reflected in the fully inclusive rate.
A last overall note on Zimbabwe. The level of service I experienced throughout my stay from drivers, guides, hotel staff etc. was very impressive. Zimbabweans have this amazing warm, relaxed and friendly way of interacting with guests which is so enjoyable to watch and experience. It makes for a very easy environment to relax and simply enjoy the stunning surroundings.
Best tourism wishes,