Toka Leya was the first camp we stayed at, on a 3-camp honeymoon with Wilderness Safaris, in May 2012, for 2 nights. After checking through immigration at Livingstone airport and grabbing our bags, we were politely greeted by a driver from Toka Leya who transported us to the camp. It is about a 25 minute drive, partially through the town of Livingstone, and then into the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park where the camp is located, anout 10km upstream from the Victoria Falls.
As part of your “entrance” to the camp, you are dropped off in an isolated spot next to the Zambezi River, where a guide helps you aboard a small speed boat moored on the riverside, whilst your bags are taken care of. This is your first taste of the Zambezi river, and with the spray from the Falls in the background, you take a short boat trip to the camp, located right alongside the river. We were greeted on arrival by the manager, with a refreshing cool towel and cold drink. A brief verbal introduction to the camp and minimal paperwork (only required to sign an indemnity form) later, you are shown to your room and free to begin enjoying your time at the camp.
Toka Leya is what Wilderness Safaris terms a “classic” camp, a notch below their top-of-the-range premier camps. If Toka Leya is anything to go by though, even the classic camps are amply luxurious, extremely well located, and offer every amenity available with impeccable service. It consists of 12 large “tents” (definitely one of the fanciest tents I have been in), raised on wooden stilts and each surrounded by expansive decking. At high volumes, the water from the river can actually extend under the camp, hence the fact everything is raised off the ground, with animals roaming around and under the camp. Two arms of tents are connected to the central camp area by wooden walkways, 8 on one side and 4 on the other. The main area of the camp consists of a number of interconnected wooden decks, covered and uncovered, which serve as meal areas, bar, lounge and bar areas. Next to the bar area is an “infinity” pool, which from certain angles, appears to drop off into the Zambezi river itself. A small spa exists, but we did not try this.
Each tent contains a large double-bed (very comfortable), behind which is the open-plan en-suite bathroom area with double sinks, cupboard (with electronic safe), separate toilet and shower. A door leads from the shower to the outdoor shower. Ample Charlotte Rhys toiletries are provided, as well as insect repellent and an air-horn for emergencies. The entire camp is totally open to the bush, so animals can and do come wondering in and past. Each room also comes with an air-conditioner, and a bank of electrical plug points which appeared to take all the major types, although I would still recommend taking the necessary adapters (3-prong round or square). Tea and coffee making facilities are available, and two new, reusable water bottles are provided, which you can fill with filtered drinking water rather than use factory-bottled water and the waste it creates (although this is still available if you desire). However, we never used these in-room drink facilities, as the main area of the camp has a bar and tea/coffee station, which always appeared to be open. One area which might need improvement is the training of the barmen. The one evening we requested some basic and very common cocktails, and he had no idea what these were, despite having all the constituents. Perhaps it may have been an isolated incident.
Our tent was located on the more “tropical” side of the camp, closer to the water and with thicker vegetation and trees, making it appear more private and secluded. Tents 5 to 12 on the other side of the main area, are located in a dryer, more open area. However, with lots of trees come lots of monkeys, and the animals took great delight in using our tent roof as a trampoline early every morning with sun rise, sounding like a rolling thunderstorm inside the tent! However, we did not mind this at all, as it is all part of the safari experience, and the monkeys were here long before we were! We also came across a hippo in the middle of the day busy munching away right below our tent.
Meals at Toka Leya are excellent, consisting of a buffet hot and cold breakfast (with a Chef’s special every day, for example eggs Benedict or scrambled salmon and chives egg), a la carte lunch (including pizzas with custom toppings, made in the camps own wood-fired pizza oven), mid-afternoon tea, and dinner (either a set menu or traditional buffet with barbecue/braai, plus paired South African wines). None of it is going to win any Michelin stars, but given the setting and location, it was very tasty and far beyond adequate, with plenty of choice. You will certainly not go hungry! Guests often gathered for drinks before dinner, and the one night we were entertained by a local band, complete with home made instruments and some humorous traditional stories told through song and dance.
Being the Victoria Falls, numerous activities are available catering for the adventurous and not-so adventurous, and either operated by Toka Leya itself, or they can organise for you through third parties. We did the afternoon/evening boat cruise, which is very relaxing and offers a great view of the must-see Zambezi sunset, with sundowner in hand. We also did a guided tour of the Falls, complete with waterproof ponchos and “crocs” sandals, provided by the camp. Finally, we did a game drive, primarily to see the small group of white rhinos within the Mosi-o-Tunya park, which are under 24-hour armed guard due to the terrible threat of poaching for their highly, but erroneously, valued horns. All 3 activites are highly recommended, and very reasonably priced (if not on the all-inclusive package at the camp). For example, the afternoon game drives were US$25 per person.
Service could not have been better, with each guide very helpful and knowledgeable, and the staff (from waiters to cleaners) in camp never stop smiling and going out their way to try make you feel welcome. You feel a genuine, natural warmth and friendliness radiating from each person, the Zambian people are some of the nicest I have met anywhere in my travels. Individual touches, such as the romantic turn-down and ice-bucket with sparkling wine waiting in our room one night, Amarula nightcaps, and little locally made “goodbye” gifts, on the pillows on our last night, abound.
Overall, Toka Leya was a fantastic start to our honeymoon, and I have no hesitation in recommending it highly as a place to stay for those wanting to visit the majestic Victoria Falls, or more correctly, Mosi-oa-Tunya.
- Also Known As:
- Toka Leya Hotel
- Toka Leya Hotel Livingstone
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Set on the western sector of the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, Toka Leya Camp perches on the banks of the precipitating Zambezi River. Only 12km upstream from the world-renowned Victoria Falls, the camp is well placed for you to explore the scenic and vibrant region. Limiting our footprint on this pristine land, wooden walkways snake between the 12 spacious en-suite safari-style tents. You will feel safe and comfortable in your tastefully decorated room with an expansive wooden deck looking out at the mighty river - often presenting the sight of rambling elephants, grunting pods of hippo and idle crocodiles. Under a canopy of shady trees, the camp's dining, lounge and bar areas offer ample space for you to relax, complete with an infinity pool. Did you know? Toka Leya has a worm farm and indigenous nursery so as to rehabilitate the plant species of the area. The densely vegetated islands in front of camp form part of the braided channel of the Zambezi River. 'Mosi-oa-Tunya' is the local name for Victoria Falls, literally meaning 'the smoke that thunders' which accurately describes the rising spray that can be seen 30km away. Additional activities on offer include guided walks and adventure pursuits. The park offers wildlife viewing of buffalo, giraffe, zebra, impala and white rhino. The prolific bird life includes the African Finfoot, a rarity elsewhere, yet here a resident. ... more less