In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight – and you can join him with a stay at Matetsi Victoria Falls. This luxe riverside lodge runs along the banks of the mighty Zambezi River in Zimbabwe, close to its namesake cascades of water, but it’s also perfectly placed to explore this game-rich reserve. The camp is divided into two sides, East and West, with a private four-bedroom villa in between. Days are spent on safari drives or visits to the falls; Mosi-oa-Tunya, aka ‘the smoke that thunders’ – where so much water falls that rainbows are pretty much guaranteed – is under an hour away by car.
Get this when you book through us:
One 30-minute African footprint ritual treatment a person a stay
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £1373.34 ($1,886), including tax at 15 per cent.
Rates usually include all meals and most drinks (excluding premium picks), laundry, activities and transfers from Victoria Falls town and airport.
Food just keeps on coming at regular intervals throughout your stay, including a helpful caffeine drop with your pre-dawn wake-up call: just let a butler know if you’d like tea or coffee (snacks included).
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout and a gym. In rooms: free bottled water; a Nespresso coffee machine tea-making kit; air-conditioning; Bluetooth Bose speakers; iPads on request and Healing Earth bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Each room has a similar classic-safari-lodge look, so it’s more a case of how much space you want or if you’ve got little Smiths in tow: some have two bedrooms. Groups will love the four-bedroom River House, which has its own four-wheel drive, butler, chef and pool, along with plenty of indoor and outdoor living space.
Each suite has its own plunge pool, but there’s also a lengthy infinity one running along the banks of the Zambezi.
The spa is in an outdoor sala, where Africology rituals are carried out to some bush beats (as opposed to the regular whale music); treatments can be in your room, if you prefer.
Serious, sensible packing is necessary: no bright or fluoro colours or loud patterns if you want to successfully ward off the wildlife; stick to standard-issue safari neutrals (but no camo). Binoculars and a decent camera will come in handy as well, obviously.
The communal areas are mostly accessible for wheelchair users, but there is a step to navigate.
All ages are welcome, but a safari is better suited to older kids who will be able to fully appreciate the wondrous wildlife. An extra bed can be added for children under 16. Babysitting is available with a day’s notice; rates start at US$10 an hour.
The hotel uses locally sourced ingredients where possible, and the 55,000-hectare reserve has 16 solar-powered boreholes acting as a water supply to the wildlife neighbours to come and drink from. Most of the furniture came from Zimbabwe and not even one tree was cut down to build the hotel. There are also initiatives in place to help eliminate poaching.
Stake out the wine cellar for private meals, or go for a table right on the banks of the Zambezi River. Breakfast-cooking tips can be learned if you sit near the open kitchen and watch the chefs.
This is a safari stay, so it’s outdoor gear all the way, with lots of layers – the evenings can get more than a little nippy.
Matetsi doesn’t so much have a restaurant situation, as it does a constant-catering one. Staff will help to facilitate private dining in your suite, a table in one of the communal areas and regular boma (barbecue) nights, as well as sundowner and snack stops on your safari drives, and afternoon tea before your evening activity. There’s a small menu to choose from, with a meat, fish and vegetarian option; we loved the arancini followed by local beef fillet. Every few nights it’s boma time, where a fireside barbecue feast is laid on for all of the guests. Breakfast is a Continental-style selection of house-made muesli and muffins, with hot items cooked to order.
Each side of the camp (East and West) has its own copper bar, where you can guzzle Zambezi beers, expertly muddled G&Ts and rich South African reds from across the border. Antipasti platters and tapas-style plates can be ordered while you drink.
Meal times (and locations) are flexible, based around your daily activities. If you’re not out on a morning drive, breakfast is available from 7am to 11am. Staff will stick around until the last guest does (usually around 11pm).
All meals can be eaten in the comfort of your suite if you prefer – just let a butler know.
Matetsi Victoria Falls is, unsurprisingly, close to Africa’s famous falls, on the Zimbabwe side and along the banks of the Zambezi.
The waterfalls have their own handy namesake hub: Victoria Falls Airport is about an hour’s drive from the hotel; transfers to and from this airport are included. You can also land over the border at Zambia’s Harry Mwanga Nkumbula Airport; from here, hotel transfers cost US$60 a person and take two hours. International flights tend to connect in Johannesburg, or other larger African hubs, such as Addis Ababa.
It’s not common to self-drive in these parts; plus, transfers from Victoria Falls airport or town (40 minutes away) are included in your room rate.
There’s a helipad on-site if you’ve got a spare chopper.
Worth getting out of bed for
The famous Victoria Falls are probably going to get you out of the canopied king-size bed in your vast riverside retreat, but there’s plenty more safari-based adventure on offer, too. That’s after you’ve settled in to the outdoor spa sala for a treatment by the Zambezi, chosen a book from the lodge library or spied the wild animals that like to wander in and out of the grounds (mostly monkeys, antelope and elephants, but this is Africa and anything is possible).
Zimbabwe has great game potential, and so your twice-daily safari drives around the Matetsi reserve could well take in lions, leopards, elephants and more. The lodge boat is ready and waiting to whisk you on sunrise or sunset sails down the Zambezi (watch out for those hand-snapping hippos and crocs). The hotel can also arrange activities including white-water rafting, bird-watching, helicopter flights over the falls, horse-riding, canoeing, fishing and bungee-jumping for the brave.
If you’re booking a stay somewhere with ‘Victoria Falls’ in its name, chances are you’re signing up for a glimpse of the world’s biggest cascade of water – Victoria Falls, aka Mosi-oa-Tunya (‘the smoke that thunders’) is under an hour by car from the property.
The hotel is full-board, with scheduled stops on your safari drives for more snacks and drinks, so you’ll be spending most of your stay on-site (and literally never going hungry).
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this luxury lodge in Zimbabwe and unpacked their binoculars and sun-tan lotion, a full account of their safari break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Matetsi Victoria Falls…
With a Gatsby-style East (Egg) Camp and West (Egg) Camp, Matetsi Victoria Falls is a lodge of two halves that forms a perfect whole. This riverside reserve spans a 15-kilometre stretch of the Zambezi – 40 kilometres up-river from Victoria Falls. There’s no fence around the enclosure, so keep watch for wandering wildlife, though there’s nothing to fear: braver-than-you-are guides will escort you to and from your room. Meals are based around the day’s safari drives, with snacks before you set off in the morning, brunch when you get back, afternoon tea before you go out again at sunset, and dinner when you return each evening. There are frequent food and sundowner stops on the go, too; the feeling of hunger will be a distant memory for the duration of your stay. Luxurious it is, but any Gatsby references stop at ‘East Egg’: this lodge is less Roaring Twenties, more roaring lion. Awimbawe…