Zambia’s Tongabezi Lodge is built into a tree on the Zambezi River just above Victoria Falls.
The most spacious, elegant room on the great Zambezi River is actually just one giant platform, built in an old ebony tree, with a few shin-height poles around the edges to prevent you falling off.
The raised deck extends over the river, so while you’re lazing on a lounger, having mango salad, fresh muffins and espresso for breakfast on your private dining table, or taking a candlelit bath or open-air shower, you’ve got views of hippos harrumphing in pools and fish eagles dive bombing their lunch.
Tongabezi Lodge embraces its surroundings by building its best suite into a towering ebony tree.
You enter the suite from a long path on the riverbank; if you don’t want to be disturbed you just hang a little rope across it.
Some furniture was made on-site from local trees by the British owners of Tongabezi Lodge, Ben and Vanessa Parker, and their Israeli friend, Hanoni Momo Shlomo; some was bought from the hip South African shop Amatuli, or created by Vanessa’s sister, Suzie Lightfoot, at her Malawi homecrafts emporium.
The inventive mix of Asian chests, Anatolian carpets and safari-style directors’ chairs, alongside old maps and handmade lamps, gives the room a unique look that’s both natural and modern. The four-poster bed, enclosed in white insect-proof netting, is air-conditioned from within, so no matter how hot it gets (up to 40C), you stay cool.
The food is delicious: local fish and beef farmed locally, and fresh salads from the owners’ garden. At dinner, romantics can be canoed out to a sanpan on the river that is lit by paraffin lamps – with the Milky Way above.
Between meals, there are plenty of diversions: a pool in which to swim, kayaks in which to explore, boats from which to fish – and the Devil’s Pool, from which to admire the Victoria Falls from above.
Date: 20 October 2013