Zimbabwean safari lodge Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel would tell you it’s rude to stare (well, it is named after two Victorian explorers best known for their overpolite comportment); but they can’t really blame you. After all, natural-wonder water-feature Victoria Falls and the Big Five are just your average view around these parts. The former is a free 15-minute shuttle ride from the hotel and the latter you’ll likely see from your deck or over dinner. It’s one of just two hotels on the reserve and it welcomes little wild ones too – Stanley and Livingstone, you have rooms free to book, we presume?
Get this when you book through us:
A sundowner drink each; stays of three nights or more get a free afternoon tea for two per stay
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £396.98 ($486), including tax at 15 per cent.
Rates usually include breakfast (lunch and dinner too if you’ve booked all-inclusive), shared transfers to Livingstone airport, Victoria Falls and Victoria Falls Town.
Afternoon tea, served on the terrace, is a genteel daily tradition here; alongside dainty savouries and cakes, and a crate’s worth of tea, you’ll get gin and champagne cocktails too. A good peace-of-mind perk: rates cover emergency medical evacuations, if needed (although we hope not).
At the hotel
Lounge, terrace, gardens, concierge, kids club, laundry, free WiFi in all areas. In rooms: viewing deck, minibar, slipper bath tub, air-conditioning, mosquito nets.
Our favourite rooms
All suites are set in peaceful gardens with furnished terraces to relax on (some more private than others). The mythical romance of Victorian exploring is evoked in canopied beds, and slipper bath tubs, but all rooms are guaranteed comfort zones. All views, however, are not equal: the most advantageous aspects of the watering hole are from rooms eight to 12. For families there are two sets of interconnecting suites (formed of one double and one which sleeps up to three), and include special surprises for smalls.
Set in the garden, the unheated pool is a relaxing spot with a line of loungers in the shade. Thirsty? Peckish? Have a chilled glass of wine or some snacks delivered poolside.
In your downtime between drives, have a spa therapist skilled in massages, facials, wraps and mani-pedis (all using gentle Africology products) come to your suite.
The usual safari khakis and sun-protection kit. The park isn’t malaria-free, so be sure to stash the requisite meds in your suitcase.
One of the Luxury Suites has wide doorways and plenty of space for guests in wheelchairs; however, there are no special adaptations.
All ages are welcome. Two sets of suites interconnect to sleep family groups of up to five. Babysitters can be booked for US$20 an hour (must be booked 24 hours in advance, and must be paid to the sitter in cash).
Kids from five upwards will have the most fun here.
Two sets of suites interconnect to make two-bedroom hideaways for families (with one double bedroom and one that sleeps up to three).
Staff will prepare for little ones staying by stocking their room with toys and games, plus a few surprises. The Mack & Madi Kids' Adventure Explorers Club is for five-to-11 year-olds and has a team of trained childminders who’ll arrange visits to Crocodile Ranch and Victoria Falls, fishing expeditions, community tours, movie nights and more (entry and meals are at an extra charge).
There are no lifeguards and no shallow end at the main pool, so bring water-wings for learners and keep a watchful eye.
Kids are welcome in 1871 and even have their own menu with chicken-schnitzel fingers, burgers, pizza, spaghetti and healthy veggie bowls. There are highchairs to hand, and staff will happily heat up milk or baby food.
Babysitters can be booked for US$20 an hour (must be booked 24 hours in advance, and must be paid to the sitter in cash).
No need to pack
The hotel has playmats, soft toys, books, puzzles and craft materials. But bring essential sun-protection gear and gentle mozzie spray.
Kids will also find to-scale bathrobes and slippers, storybooks left on their pillows at bedtime and gentle bath products in rooms.
The reserve is an intensive-protection zone for the endangered black rhino.
Secure a candlelit, all-the-better-to-see-you table at the terrace’s edge, overlooking the watering hole.
Rock blend-into-the-bush style by day, stand-out sophistication by night.
1871 restaurant has bespoke patterned wallpaper, veldt-green panels and elegant table settings, but the terrace has the views. Lunches are light, with summer rolls, vegan bowls, burgers, sandwiches and such, and for dinner there’s the likes of venison loin, lamb rogan josh, Zambezi bream and considered vegetarian options. Menus change seasonally and aim to introduce African flavours, so you may find Mozambican prawns or chocolate fondant with Amarula ice-cream and other delicacies. To up the romance, ask for a table to be set up in the gardens or the wine cellar. Kids have their own menu of firm favourites too, plus some healthful summer bowls. Any allergies? The chefs are happy to create something special for you.
The bar is a bright welcoming space, but you’ll probably take your drinks alfresco. There’s an impressive selection of South African wines (ask staff to arrange a tasting for important research purposes) and the gin-muddled cocktails go down very smoothly.
Service at 1871 is from 7am until the last guest goes to bed, but last orders must be in by 9.30pm.
Get dishes delivered to your suite during restaurant hours.
Old Ursula’s Road, Stanley & Livingstone Private Game Reserve
The Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel is pitched in the private, wildlife-rich Victoria Falls Game Reserve, close to the mighty waterworks.
Victoria Falls International Airport is just a 20-minute drive from the hotel; most flights stop over in Johannesburg or Addis Ababa and transfers to and from the hotel are free. Or fly into Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport (formerly Livingstone Airport), a 45-minute drive away (you can get picked up and dropped off here for free too).
With free transfers to everywhere you’ll need to be (the airport, the Falls, the town) and game drives and bushwalks available to book, a car won’t be necessary. If you’d like a little more flexibility, you can hire a car at both airports and there’s parking at the hotel (it’s advised to carry documentation in case you encounter police roadblocks and be cautious when driving at night).
Worth getting out of bed for
The lodge is designed for downtime: where time is spent paddling in the pool or having a massage or just kicking back on your deck and waiting to see which animals drift by. Watch the watering hole for passing creatures, or ask the concierge to arrange a game drive, bushwalk or horse ride: alongside the rhinos, elephants, lions, leopards and buffaloes, zebra, springbok, kudu, giraffes and varied flocks of birds go about their business over the 6,000 acres of savannah and bushland in the Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve. The star spot is the endangered black rhino, who thrives here as a result of a successful conservation campaign; you can spy this portly fellow on a special game drive with a guide schooled in rhino facts.
Official Natural Wonder of the World Victoria Falls is a mere 15-minute drive away on the hotel’s free shuttle. This veil of powerfully gushing waters (five million cubic metres of the stuff) from the Zambezi – dubbed ‘the smoke that thunders’ by the locals – is framed by rainforest and often sparkles with sunbeam rainbows (and occasionally ‘moonbows’ after dark). If you’re feeling brave, the waters subside enough from September to December to allow brave souls to take a swim in the naturally formed Devil’s Pool, at the edge of the falls. And that’s not the only pulse-racing way to experience them: swoop over the cascades in a helicopter (flips may be involved), zipline over Bakota Gorge or bungee jump from Victoria Falls Bridge. Or get to know the locals in the reserve-edge Woodlands settlement, then take a restful sunset cruise along the Zambezi.
Kids can join in most of the lo-fi activities, but they’ll also be kept entertained by the experienced minders in the Mack & Madi Kids’ Adventure Club.
The hotel restaurant will likely lure you in of an evening, especially if meals are included in your room rate. But, if you want to mix things up, make use of the hotel shuttle into Victoria Falls Town to try the Palm Restaurant for springbok samosas, dukkah-crusted ostrich fillet or warthog tenderloin. Or head to home-from-home for Victorian and Edwardian royalty, the Victoria Falls Hotel, for a seven-course, dress-to-the-nines dinner at the genteel Livingstone Room. We also like Shearwater Café for its wasabi crocodile wraps and live music (Alistair Burton, the Bulawayo Bob Dylan plays frequently), and Zambezi House for their crocodile-tail pizza.
The hotel’s bar is well-lubricated, but we also like River Brew Co’s refreshing ales and IPAs all made with water from the Zambezi.
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 laidback safari lodge close to Victoria Falls and put together a slideshow of their snaps of the Falls and the local fauna, a full account of their laidback safari break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel in Zimbabwe…
When booking a retreat in Zimbabwe, follow your animal instincts and stay at Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel, which sits in the teeming-with-wildlife-not-tourists Victoria Falls Game Reserve – one of just two hotels on the bushland. This sophisticated safari lodge is named for the first foreigner to ‘discover’ Victoria Falls, and the reporter-explorer whose hilariously stiff-upper-lip greeting of ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume’ has gone down in history. Suites have a Victorian, Golden Age of exploration feel, with Metro-tiled bathrooms, slipper bath tubs and canopied beds, plus all mod comforts; and most have views of a nearby watering hole popular with Big Five-ers and other must-spot species. But, megafauna aren’t the only thing to leave you slackjawed with awe around here. Mighty wonder-of-the-world Victoria Falls is a mere 15-minute drive away, and a free shuttle will run you out so you can see rainbows cross its cascades and hear the roar of the tumbling Zambezi that gives the landmark its local nickname: ‘the smoke that thunders’.
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