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Reviewed February 8, 2013

We spent two nights at SSL in late January and loved every minute. The service was impeccable from the moment Curtis picked us up at the airport and drove us past our first views of the falls until the last minute when we had to say goodbye to our new friend Desai and the rest of the team. Our arrival at the main lodge was like something out of a movie set: the open architecture, the safari furnishings, the lovely arbor where another couple was eating lunch, the view straight out over the garden and the inifiniti pool right to the top of the Falls. Then, as we were marveling at the lovely main lodge, its loft, fireplace, etc., we get two great pieces of news: first, we were upgraded to a suite and that you eat your meals anywhere and any time you want. You can have any meal in the garden, pool, loft, your room, anywhere. they bring the whole white tablecloth setup to wherever you want to eat. So if the moon is lovely you can eat out under the stars or if it's too hot at lunchtime, you can eat in the pool!
We had selected SSL due to its small nature, only 10 accommodations total, so we were especially thrilled to have been upgraded due to the fact that they were not very busy that weekend. So, we next went to see our suite (the family suite) and were further astounded. The suite was enormous with a sitting area, desk, fridge, deck, bedroom, plunge pool (!), bathroom, etc., and it was all open to the air. The thatched roof and high ceilings just looked like a lodge out of architectural digest or something. Since it was a hot day, we were thrilled to put our feet into the plunge pool right away without having to leave our room and while still looking at the top of the falls. The bathtub also looked fabulous, like a movie set, but we never used it as the shower was so refreshing and also allowed us to watch the falls while showering.
After getting settled, we had our first lunch at SSL (we opted to eat in the main lodge map room area) which was delicious lasagna and then got ready to go out on our first evening event (river cruise). When we got back, Desai--our assigned guy for all things--was ready to bring us dinner whenever we were ready. Dinner was a 3-course affair with an app, entree, and dessert. As a fully inclusive lodge, all drinks incl alcohol were included (laundry too if you need it!). It was lovely to eat in the gathering dark as the noise of the falls and night birds became more clear. Once we finished and returned to our suite, the staff had prepped our room with the mossie nets down, coils lit, and soft lights lit. We had absolutely no trouble with bugs overnight and the best part of the whole trip emerged in the morning. Having no walls means that as soon as you open your eyes you're looking out, over the tree tops and the birds, straight to the Zambezi and the top of the falls. In the morning, you can hear them roaring clearly and with the cool air, the mist of the falls was condensing directly into clouds and was fascinating and relaxing to watch. We watched that scene like a TV show for an hour before moving. I will say it was probably good that we had been on safari prior to staying here, so we were accustomed to the bush type environment, noises, etc. Coming straight from a city life to a room open to nature might have been intimidating, despite the game fence around the lodge.
Day 2, we chose to have breakfast on the main lodge's outdoor deck to have another view of the falls and river. We chose just the continental meal as we had eaten so much the day before. Another happy day started by seeing Desai, who is about the most jovial and happiest person I have ever met. Next we had our included tour of the falls, and it was private for the 2 of us since we were the only new arrivals. Curtis took us over to the park and organized all the entry formalities and then walked us around the park. Fortunately he brought ponchos because the water was high. Even with those, we got drenched. Curtis was a good and patient guide, taking our picture along the way, and then waiting while we shopped at the market by the entrance.
Lunch was another lovely pasta dish outside on the terrace, all organized by Desai, and then we had a lazy swim in the inifiniti pool. It was hard to ever pull myself away from the view of the falls, so luckily the layout of the whole resort means you never have to stop. Later we had another afternoon activity, for which SSL drove us to the pick up point. This was great b/c unlike other places where the tour operator spends an hour gathering guests from various hotels, having SSL take us to the tour meant we wasted none of that time.
We selected our dates for SSL to coincide with the full moon, and we told Clara of our keen desire to see the lunar rainbow/moonbow. Our first night it was cloudy so we didn't try to go see the falls. On the second night it had cleared up during our outing, so Clara arranged a way to see the moonbow and save time. When our driver came to pick us up at the end of the afternoon tour, he just took us straight back to the VF park instead of driving back to SSL, making a plan, etc. Clara had arranged for us to have local currency in case the park only took that for the special moonbow entry fees. The driver, Efaso, went in and organized everything for us and we even got special souvenir tickets that advertise the moonbow, since the park opens specially for the full moon. We did have to wait by the falls for about an hour for the moon to come up high enough in the sky, but we did see the moonbow. Mostly gray and with pink and other colors emerging as the moon got lighter. Well worth the timing, both for the full moon and rainy season.
Efaso was very patient and waited for us to be ready and then we went back to SSL, where Desai was smiling and waiting as happy as ever. Another fabulous dinner later and we were exhausted. (PS while we had no dietary restrictions, the other family there were diabetic and said there meals were also lovely and met all their needs.) Again, the room was perfect with the nets and coils and soft lights and we listened to the sound of the falls against the dark sky.
Our last morning was tough, we certainly didn't want to leave the heat and the beauty and the happy people we met everywhere at SSL. We lingered as long as we could over our full English breakfast, then in the pool, before we had to let Desai take the bags. When Clara came to check us out, even that process was easy and well handled. When she gave us our final bill envelope, we found she had also put in a lovely postcard of the moonbow and one of our suite. That was really nice and unexpected, but will help us remember that lovely room. One last trip in the van past more elephants and a final view of the falls, and we were back at the airport. But, whenever I close my eyes, I can still see that image of the trees, river, and falls as it looked from the luxury of our bed and open suite. And I know Desai is still there smiling and laughing.

Date of stay: January 2013
  • Trip type: Traveled as a couple
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7  Thank Laurie_B_VA
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 22, 2013

We spent a few nights there just before Christmas. What a wonderful location and view over the valley. The room was clean, the bed superb and generally well tended. The staff was very friendly and helpful and we had amazing dinners outside. Our special thanks to Wietz du Plessis that went out of his way to make arrangements for our excursions and to ensure that we had a pleasant stay.

Room tip: Ask for a room with a pool.
Date of stay: December 2012
  • Trip type: Traveled as a couple
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8  Thank Paul H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 18, 2013

Spent a couple of nights at Stanley Safari Lodge and I feel that this is how one truly should experience Zambia! Beautiful rooms, amazing views and sunsets, good food and friendly staff - nothing was too much of an effort!

A very special thanks to Witz, the manager who made it feel like a home away from home!

Date of stay: November 2012
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10  Thank JeremyC75
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 7, 2013 via mobile

We spent 3 nights, including New Years evening.
Stayed in open large suite rooms, which had a very authentic atmosphere.
This lodge could really be one of the best if they decided to invest in a decent cook because food was awfull and the housewine undrinkable.
Service was very good.
The location is not ideal and a bit far from the falls and the river but this is compensated by the intimacy of the resort.
All resorts close to the river are big and lack personality.

Date of stay: December 2012
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1  Thank Peterderiemaeker
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 29, 2012

I can't begin to state what a disappointment this place was. Everything about it was awful. For the amount of money they charge, you would expect edible food, clean sheets, freindly staff and an enjoyable experience, however, this place was the exact opposite. The food was canned or frozen and tasted terrible, the bed had dust mites that caused hundreds of bites on our legs, there were stains on the sheets and the employees clothes, and the manager Paschal was so rude to my wife I was shocked he worked in a service industry.

Being a travel agent and having worked in the industry and traveled to thousands of hotels over the last 20 years, I can honestly say this place is one of the worst places I've ever stayed at. We left after staying one night and that wasnt soon enough. For this place to say they are "5 star" is a complete joke. Do yourself a favor and check out the David Livingston Lodge which is where we ended up staying the rest of our trip. It was 1000 times nicer and more relaxing.

Date of stay: October 2012
  • Trip type: Traveled as a couple
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3  Thank jm1078
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
StanleySafaris, Manager at Stanley Safari Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded March 25, 2013

The 2 reviews posted Dec 29 and November 25, seems to be from the same New York couple who stayed at the lodge beginning October.
We are extremely sorry to learn that they were dissatisfied by their brief stay at that the lodge was not what they were expecting.
The lodge has been built by a European architect for travelers seeking an extraordinary experience, away from the usual concrete towers of the worlds finest hotels. We try to give a truly African experience, not a replica of a Western chain hotel with some African sauce. This means true hospitality and true friendliness of the staff team, true interest in the guests experiences. The Zambian staff, with a natural smile on their faces, certainly do helps lot! There is no Main Building, but a Main House, often staff writes to guests as they became friends. All rooms are different, some open in an adventurous African style, others closed in a more formal colonial style with their private plunge pool. But the essence remains the same: a unique experience in a unique setting with an unforgettable experience. Guests ranging from New Zealand to Vancouver or from Argentina to Hong Kong or from European Royal Family to a truck driver, they all come for the unique experience, which is indeed different from a 5 star Western Hotel chain. That is exactly the reason of our existence.

However, most guests book the lodge and the rest of their trip through Zambia or Botswana through an agent that has a profound knowledge of this part of Africa.
Stating his mother works for Cruises N’More, a travel agency, they obtained a trade discount. These trade discounts are meant to finance the trade for their consulting role, which is essential. The booking was processed via a North-American tour operator, who booked their trip through a South African tour operator. The tour operator has insisted with the travel agent, to check whether their hotel choice would match the final clients (at first not knowing it was family). The running promotion at that moment on this lodge, made that they were reluctant to look for other options, which would have suited them much better.

Both reviews mention the lodge advertises itself as a 5star property. The lodge advertises itself not as a 5 star property, but rather as an exclusive lodge.
According to the Zambian hotel star grading system, 5 star properties should have a TV in their room and an air conditioning. Due to the style of the lodge, we have deliberately chosen not to install TVs in the rooms. Although some closed rooms have air conditioning, the open rooms can by nature not have an airconditioning. Hence the lodge does not have the ambition to obtain a 5 star status according to the local hotel grading system.

The special deal these guests had was accommodation including a helicopter flight. After picking up the guests from the airport, it struck our driver that the guests asked to go immediately to the heliport for the free heli flight. This is rather unusual, as most guests prefer to drop their luggage and settle in, before doing any activity. Upon arrival, the manager informed the guests that late afternoon is an unfavorable moment of the day to fly the helicopter in that season, due to the spray of the Victoria Falls. Far more impressive is an early morning flight during that season.

The manager –who just met the guests- started to have the feeling that the guest were trying to obtain quickly the free stuff, which is obviously their right.
Although the guests had not yet seen their room, the guests requested immediately a free upgrade to one of our suites with private plunge pool. Obviously this surprised again the manager, but as it was high season, no suites were available for that same evening. This infuriated the guests, to such an extent that the manager had to apologize repeatedly to other guests for their behavior.

According to the tour operator, these guests have complained about every hotel/lodge they stayed in during their trip, including the best hotel in Southern Africa.
After our refusal to upgrade the guests, they started to request an additional discount. When the manager refused this, they threatened to publish ‘negative stories all over the internet’, which apparently happened.

The experience of these guests shows how important it is to prepare a safari journey well, so that the hotels/lodges meet the expectations the traveler has. Every hotel or lodge has its specialty and targets different kinds of travelers. It is the art to find the right match between the experience that the traveler is looking for and the experience the lodge/hotel offers. An experienced specialized safari agent finds this perfect match.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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