There’s no doubt that Matetsi Victoria Falls’s drop-dead gorgeous suites are some the most spacious and glamorous in Zimbabwe, but it’s the scale of the concession that never fails to impress me. With 15km of private river frontage and 55 000 hectares to traverse, Matetsi Victoria Falls remains one of the most significant legacy investments the country has ever seen. It was my second visit and I needed to see game. (I didn’t the first time – it was a scorching 40 degrees one October and we spent time on the water counting hippos and watching the baby ellies playfully squirt and splash.) What a joy it was to see the transformation since 2010: game is now thriving, particularly the elegant but endangered giraffe. I had forgotten the majestic mature trees in this special part of the world and the fact that this is a wilderness area that’s almost as big as the entire Sabi Sands Game Reserve (65 000 hectares) in South Africa. This time, I visited in June when Vic Falls was in flood, the water flowing fast and furiously downstream. Nature’s renewed energy was almost palpable and the massive investment and time spent restoring this game-rich area to its fullest potential is clearly paying off.
For the architectural transformation, the Gardiner family chose to work together with young local architect Kerry van Leenhoff, who worked with local designers and crafters to create a bush retreat of hand-hewn stone, sun-bleached wood and neutral tones to soften the geometric elements. I especially enjoyed the artwork (a series of 13 separate works that make up the ordinance survey map of Matetsi Private Game Reserve when pieced together). Floor-to-ceiling glass doors open seamlessly to the riverine bush and river flowing beyond the private plunge pool – the same view shared by the gloriously large round bathtub, which is a complete indulgence. The lodge consists of two camps: East and West, each one with eight suites and an interconnecting family suite. In the middle of the two is the massage sala, fitness studio, wine cellar, library and boutique – all overlooking a luxurious 20m lap pool on the river bank.
For absolute privacy, the exclusive-use River House commands an equally mesmerizing riverfront setting with uninterrupted views over the long pool and stylish black-and-white loungers to the river beyond. Set apart from the rest of the lodge, and with four private suites and a central open-to-the-elements living area, you could slip in here and remain unseen by the outside world for days, doing nothing but immersing yourself in the rhythm of the river and the bushveld.
What we love!
- The hand-drawn wall art of seed pods and plants by talented artist Helen Teede, a Zimbabwe-born Michaelis graduate who derives inspiration from nature’s landscape.
- The light dancing over the copper ‘fish scales’ lining the counters throughout the dining area – a subtle nod to the river and natural riches of the region.
- Water-bottling plants have been installed and served in glass (all recycled), and solar-powered boreholes and wide-reach radio networks were installed to protect wildlife.
- The pastries are to die for. Make sure you have space to try the sugar bean stew with scrambled eggs at breakfast too. Or the Amarula porridge…
Need to know…
- Flying into the new and sparkly clean Victoria Falls airport is easy, as is the road transfer to Matetsi Victoria Falls, which takes around 40 minutes along the road to the Botswana border (which, incidentally, crosses through the concession. This doesn’t seem to bother elephants, who happily walk on ahead, but game vehicles go through a tunnel underneath it).
- Private dinners are held on request in the wine cellar – perfect for milestone celebrations – but most meals are held outdoors under the trees or stars, so pack a warm down jacket and scarf for evenings.
- The family suite has an interconnecting passageway so that children can be close to parents. All bird and animal guides are on iPads for guests to use and WiFi is good.
- If you’re looking for traditional safari lodge, this isn’t the place for you: what you’ll experience is a sophisticated take on safari interiors and all the comforts of an urban lifestyle in a wild setting. It’s best to do all the Victoria Falls activities before you head out to the reserve so that you can completely relax while you’re here.
Reviewed by Michelle Snaddon
Sleeps 40 in two camps (East and West): 16 suites and 2 family suites