In the 30 years since Zambia’s Tongabezi opened on a pristine stretch of riverfront just 12 miles upstream from Victoria Falls, the great Zambezi River has seen the arrival of more than a few new luxury lodges. But none has retained the provenance and spirit of the region’s original. Now, with the completion of an 18-month renovation, the iconic camp is better than ever.
The brainchild of South African designer Abi James, Tongabezi’s new look brings richly layered interiors to this safari destination, with specially commissioned pieces by artisans from South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi. Five houses and four cottages are each unique, featuring bespoke furnishings, block-printed fabrics, copper inlay tables, and hand-painted tiles. And though the treehouse-like abodes have been upgraded with glass walls and butler service, everything remains as elemental and adventurous as before.
At night, guests fall asleep to the sound of hippos grunting and elephants splashing in the river below. Meals are served whenever, wherever—from lunch on a secluded river sandbank reached only by canoe to dinner on your private terrace. In addition to daily trips to Mosi-oa-Tunya (the Kalolo-Lozi name for Victoria Falls, meaning “the smoke that thunders”), guests of Tongabezi can also embark on game drives, fishing and canoeing outings, and sunset river cruises. Come September, the completion of a new swimming pool with an outdoor bar, as well as a gym and spa, will provide the perfect excuse to linger in camp just a little bit longer.