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“I LOVE THIS PLACE” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Tongabezi Lodge

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Tongabezi Lodge
Private Bag 31, Livingstone, Zambia   |  
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Ranked #1 of 13 Hotels in Livingstone
Certificate of Excellence 2014
San Diego
Top Contributor
100 reviews 100 reviews
22 hotel reviews
Reviews in 43 cities Reviews in 43 cities
49 helpful votes 49 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 24, 2011

I have traveled all over the world, but my four days at Tonga was the most magical travel experience I have ever had. I think I left a piece of my heart at Tonga. As I was looking back at my travel diary under Tonga I had written, “I LOVE THIS PLACE AND NEVER WANT TO LEAVE”. That truly sums up how I feel about Tonga.

We stayed in Honeymoon House. Although I had scoured the web and looked at all the pictures for months before the trip, I was still awe struck when we were brought to our room. Usually a room is a room. I can remember that the Peninsula in Hong Kong was grand, but I cannot describe the room to you, but every detail of Honeymoon House will be forever engraved in my memory. The thing about Tonga is that the room is a very big part of the ambiance and charm of the place. We thoroughly delighted in spending time in the room, just relaxing and watching the view of the Zambezi. But back to basics. Our room, and a few of the other rooms, are open on one side. The room faces the river but there is no wall at all on that side, so the room only has 3 walls. The sleeping area and sitting area are entirely open and except for half walls, the shower and toilet area are also open. At first I was unsure about this, however it is totally private, very safe, fun and allows you to feel that you are really part of the beautiful environment. And no, there are not lots of bugs and critters to worry about. Honeymoon House is very luxurious and has all of the amenities you could want and more. Plus Tonga also has a wi-fi area.

The service at Tonga is just amazing. From the minute we arrived, to our departure, we were treated like royalty by everyone. On arrival we met our private butler Treger, who escorted us to our room. He was the only person that accessed our room and he did the cleaning, the laundry and brought us coffee or whatever else we wanted. Tregar was incredible and I was only sorry that I could not bring him home with us. The rest of the staff was amazing also. Julia and Rudy were always checking on us to see if we needed anything and we even got to meet Chef. The other thing I noticed was whenever we went on any activity, the Tonga guide was always there to make sure we were safe, helping us in and out of the jeeps, making sure we did not slip on wet rocks, making sure our canoe trip was safe. I felt like our safety was always a paramount concern to the Tonga staff.

Once we got settled and had lunch, we met with the activities director. We purposely did not want to be on the go every minute, so he helped us plan all our activities, including arranging for all transportation to outside activities and still leave free time to just enjoy Tonga. I was glad we had scheduled four nights at Tonga as there is a lot to do and even with four nights, you can’t fit it all in. Many of the activities are included in the Tonga price but outside activities are at an additional cost.

On arrival day we did the sunset cruise, of course with gin and tonics. Before we left on the sunset cruise, we told Treger that we had eaten so much at lunch that we planned to skip dinner. When we arrived back in our room after the sunset cruise, he had prepared a bubble bath in the large outside bathtub and had set out candles. So for about an hour we just soaked in the tub, watching the sunset over the Zambezi and being serenaded by the sound of hippos.

On our first full day we were up at 5:30 AM when our alarm clock (Treger) delivered our morning coffee and rolls. I had expected it to be cold in the morning, but it was actually not that cold and it warmed up quickly once the sun came up. We then headed out and did the Elephant Safari, which we really enjoyed and that afternoon we did the Livingstone Island Tour. We elected not to actually go to Devil’s Pool, but enjoyed the trip anyway.

On our second full day we were up early again for the sunrise boat cruise with Fabious. We really enjoyed watching the sunrise, drinking coffee and chatting with Fabious. In the afternoon we had scheduled the Tonga “Island Lunch”, followed by a canoe trip. We were thinking island lunch meant sandwiches, maybe some cookies, but that is not Tonga’s style. We arrived on an island in the middle of the Zambezi and the staff had already been there and set up a table with an enormous, delicious, formal lunch for just the two of us. It was one of the highlights of our trip. After the lunch we did our canoe trip, which was also lots of fun. That night we were just too full for dinner so Treger brought us wine and chocolate mouse, which we enjoyed in our room as we watched the sunset.

On our third and last full day we went on the walking tour of the falls and in the afternoon we both had massages in our room. A wonderful last activity at Tonga.

The food at Tonga is amazing and it is served in very large quantities. As a sample, our island lunch started with soup and soda bread, with an eggplant dip, followed by large plates of beef and fish, with delicious sauces, a pasta dish, a platter with a selection of fresh vegetables, salad and for desert mango sorbet. No wonder we were too full for dinner that night! Breakfast and lunch are served on the terrace overlooking the river. Dinner can be served at a variety of places, however we choose to eat on the terrace, which we enjoyed.

I am not sure what the cost of Tonga was, as it was part of a four camp trip put together by our well recommended safari company, Aardvark Safaris (aardvarksafaris.com), but it was worth every penny and more. It was a truly unforgettable experience and anyone going to Livingstone should definitely book into Tonga.

Room Tip: Loved Honeymoon House
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  • Stayed September 2011, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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261 reviews from our community

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  • Location
    5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 stars
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English first
Senior Reviewer
8 reviews 8 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 21, 2011

We stayed at Tongabezi for our first two nights in Africa and it was a wonderful experience. The staff was very welcoming and helpful and the lodge and rooms and meals were spectacular -- everything we could have wanted for an African Safari. There were hippos in the river right outside our room and monkeys in the trees. On our first evening sunset cruise we saw elephants, crocodiles, baboons and impalas. The staff also made arrangements for us to visit the Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls. This lodge truly set the tone for our two-week safari.

  • Stayed August 2011, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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Top Contributor
166 reviews 166 reviews
81 hotel reviews
Reviews in 76 cities Reviews in 76 cities
147 helpful votes 147 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 11, 2011

We stayed 2 nights on Sindabezi (small island downstream, run as a part of the resort) and 2 nights in "The Dog House" - and it was a great experience.

Staying on Sindabezi, watching "Bush television" (camp fire), hearing elephants during dinner - and simply relaxing on an island with 5 rooms (open huts) was a great way to start our stay. Breakfast, sitting in the sun, looking over the river while enjoying the Zambian Porridge (try it - good alternative to your regular oatmeal) was fantastic.

After Sindabezi we went to the Dog House for 2 nights - and while less rustic than Sindabezi this was also a great experience. We did have a visit of annoying monkeys one day - but hey - it is Africa not some air-conditioned city hotel.

Food (both on Sindabezi and the main resort) is really good - and actually quite healthy (always veggies and salads + some well prepared meat/fish)

As for the activities we would say:
- Trip to Livingstone Island is a must. While the tour to the falls are OK it is from the island that you get a true picture of the falls.
- Helicopter flight over the falls: Great - but do go for the long (30 min) option - the flight down the gorge is awesome.
- Day trip to Chobe: Great tour - both Chobe and the trip there (crossing the border between Zambia and Botswana) is an experience
- Sunset cruise on Zambezi: Just do it - fantastic to see the sun go down over the river while enjoying a GT.

So overall: A very pleasant experience. One note though: You are staying in open huts (3 walls - open on the 4th side) so be prepared for colder (approx. 13 degrees in late August). Also: It is a safari camp - so yes you will hear animals (during night). If you are not prepared to enjoy a true safari camp then go for a traditional hotel.

  • Stayed August 2011, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
7 hotel reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
7 helpful votes 7 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 28, 2011

Although we werent in the main part of Tongabezi, there doesnt seem to be a separate area for Tangala comments so we are including them here.
Tangala House is located a few km's upstream from the main Tongabezi area and is actually the home of the lodge owners who vacate the property as and when guests arrive. The house as a result runs extremely well by the established domestic team. Every aspect of our trip was taken care of by our amazing guides. We were warmly welcomed into the house and it got better every day and we were reluctant to leave. The staff were non intrusive and a pleasure to be around. Attentive and extremely knowledgeable.
The food was excellent and the chef amazingly accommodating. This is an authentic African home and although luxurious, anyone uncomfortable with that should stay at the Royal Livingstone.
The benefit of having our own house and garden with pool meant complete freedom and space for the kids who we didnt have to worry about disturbing anyone. There was even a trampoline there. Our only neighbours were the numerous hippos and elephants who made their presence known, particularly at night! The 4 gorgeous house dogs made us feel safe and added to the warm homely environment. The staff would leave us after dinner and returned in the early morning. You are given instructions if you need to make contact with reception via radio, however, you are basically left alone. It worked well for us and we would 100% recommend beautiful Tangala.

  • Stayed August 2011, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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Senior Contributor
26 reviews 26 reviews
25 hotel reviews
Reviews in 20 cities Reviews in 20 cities
30 helpful votes 30 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 26, 2011

Tongabezi took my breath away from the moment I arrived. It is set upon the banks of the Zambezi river and is a quiet place to lose yourself away from the bustle of Livingstone.

We stayed in "The Dog House" which was simply stunning. Open plan (literally, there are only 3 walls) you sleep listening to the sound of the Zambezi river flowing by. We had our own private valet, Nyambe who was amazing. Friendly, accommodating and always happy, he happily escorted us to and from our room at night and was alway a friendly face to see in the mornings. The dog house had a spa as well as well stocked mini-bar but the best part was just enjoying the peace and quiet when our resident hippo-friend who lived outside our bathroom wasn't making hippo noises.

Being by the banks of a river I was worried about mosquitoes however, all the rooms are equipped with mosquito repellant. And I didn't get bitten once - that was great!

As part of the fully inclusive package were a number of tour options you could take which included sunrise or sunset cruises, local market tour, village tours (there were lots more to choose from but I can't remember them all) as well as optional extras which include horse riding, quad bike riding and lots of other activites. Even though it is peaceful and quiet at Tongabezi, if you're into adventure and keeping busy there is no shortage of things to do there too!

The food simply put is first class. All meals are included in the price and let me tell you that the food at Togabezi is right up there with the best restaurants of the world.

This place is magical. We loved it.

  • Stayed March 2011, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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Berlin, Germany
Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
6 hotel reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
17 helpful votes 17 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 23, 2011

We stayed at Tongabezi for the last 2 nights of a 2-month round-the-world honeymoon. It was nothing short of incredible, and one of the absolute highlights of our trip. It was an oasis of tranquility and calm, friendliness and smiles, particularly from our personal valet, Trega, who is the coolest of the cool. ‘So I was thinking, seeing as you are just going to relax in your house today, you’ll probably be wanting a coolbox of beer and wine … it’s coming right up’ – and with one of those smiles that just makes you smile all day.

There are 4 main rooms, each of which has one side missing - as in it is open to the elements and to the views outside - with mosquito nets draped over your beds. Our room – the ‘Honeymoon House’ – had quite possibly the best view in the world onto Zimbabwe and the Zambezi River, be it from the bathroom, the bed, the massage table (they come to your rooms for massage, manicure, etc and the table is set up on your terrace), or even the toilet! We were woken up in the morning to the sound of birds and monkeys in the trees and hippos grunting along the riverbanks. Oh, and there was a free-standing OUTDOOR bath on your terrace, making it truly a honeymoon experience.

The staff all know who you are and greet you by name each day; they bend over backwards to organise personalised trips / events over and above those provided in the price, with your table set for breakfast, lunch or dinner wherever you like in the grounds. They organised a Zambian quintet to seranade a happy marriage for us on our first evening as a surprise; they organised a moonset/sunrise trip along the river on our last morning - complete with warming cups of tea before breakfast and they prepared lunch for just the 2 of us on a canopy-covered boat, with a chilled bottle of wine. Just fabulous.

If you happen to be there at the time of the full moon, take the option of going to see the lunar rainbow at Victoria Falls - it really is something special (and not just a money-making ploy).

Tongabezi, we found, provided genuine, impeccable, smiley service - and from locals; one of the few safari places to hire and train locals as managers, as well as supporting the local school (where all the staff can send their children too). We were seriously impressed and can't recommend it highly enough.

  • Stayed July 2011, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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Top Contributor
53 reviews 53 reviews
33 hotel reviews
Reviews in 31 cities Reviews in 31 cities
62 helpful votes 62 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 21, 2011

We stayed at Tongabezi for 2 nights on the last stop on our holiday.

Tongabezi is a beautiful lodge around 25 minutes drive from the falls and from the airport. We stayed in Nut House. Although most of the houses are completely open, Nut house had large French doors opening out onto the deck overlooking the Zambezi. This allowed us to close the doors at night and keep out the insects and monkeys (which our butler told us often go into the rooms and “play about”).

The house had a reasonably sized infinity pool but the water is so cold at this time of year, guests would have to be very brave to take advantage of it, but I imagine that it is fantastic in the warmer months. The houses to the left of the lodge sit well above the river bank so guests are not at risk of a close encounter with a hippo on their way to dinner in the restaurant. This means that guests can come and go to the lodge as they please. Guests staying on the other side of the lodge have to be escorted after dark.

The views across the Zambezi from the houses are breathtaking. The food is excellent five star quality and guests can choose to eat lunch or dinner either on the deck or from the ‘lookout’ set 3m above the water. Breakfast takes place on the open deck on the water’s edge and starts with a variety of fruit and cereal on a buffet table in the middle of the deck followed by a cooked breakfast from a large menu. It is also very entertaining watching the waiters trying to stop the monkeys raiding the breakfast table for fruit, which they find irresistible.

Tongabezi is fairly large and so provides a less familiar service than the safari lodges we stayed at. It has more of the feel of a small hotel, complete with personal butler, but they do this very well and the staff are first rate.

The lodge provides a free sunset boat trip, a free guided tour of the Victoria Falls and a free land based safari. The tour of the falls was very good. On the recommendation of a number of people we met on our travels, we also paid for a 30-minute helicopter trip over the falls. This costs around $300 per person but provides unbelievable views over the falls and is well worth the money.

I had a fabulous stay at Tongabezi, which is a lot more than just a great base from which to visit Victoria Falls.

  • Stayed August 2011, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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Additional Information about Tongabezi Lodge

Address: Private Bag 31, Livingstone, Zambia
Phone Number:
Location: Zambia > Southern Province > Livingstone
Hotel Style:
#1 Romantic Hotel in Livingstone
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
Number of rooms: 10
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Tongabezi Lodge, the first river lodge on the Zambian side of the Victorian Falls, is a privately owned up-market lodge, built with emphasis on exclusivity and romance, located on the banks of the Zambezi River. Tongabezi has four open-fronted thatched houses and five river cottages all with sweeping views over the river and a Garden Cottage set in its own private walled garden. In addition we have the private island bush camp at Sindabezi Island and the Tangala House family home. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Tongabezi Hotel Livingstone

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