The sweet, soft gurgle of the Zambezi River as it pushed quickly through reeds along the bank was punctuated by a bird calling in the distance. The Zambezi River, one Africa’s largest, had swelled to peak flow and was the highest that it had been in nearly a decade. On two private islands connected by a small footbridge are the Islands of Siankaba lodge – one of the most luxurious properties near Victoria Falls and Livingstone, Zambia.
If there was ever a place to go and get away from it all, this is it. We knew this place would be special and decided to stay for three nights. In the morning, we sat on our deck and watched the mighty Zambezi roll past and as they sun came up on Zimbabwe across the river. At this point in the year, with the Zambezi swollen with rains, the river was well over a mile wide. Birds would take flight over the river and island monkeys could be heard in the trees. Mornings are special at the lodge.
The Islands of Siankaba luxury lodge has just six small chalets and one larger honeymoon suite, all built on platforms and connected by an elevated walkway (helpful for when the mighty crocodiles decide to come ashore). With a maximum of 12 guests, the guest-to-staff ratio is frequently 1:1, ensuring you get all the attention you could ever want. One of the very first things we noticed at Siankaba was the staff’s service attitude and attentiveness to our needs (and desires).
As the sun would get low in the sky, we would board a small pontoon boat and cross the Zambezi River for Zimbabwe. The far bank is a national park and animals would come down and drink from the river. We had great sightings of elephants, baboons, hippos and crocodiles! Then we’d pull the boat into an eddy behind a small island, open a bottle of wine and watch the sun set over the Zambezi River.
Islands of Siankaba made a great base for us to explore the region. Of course, the highlight of the area is visiting Victoria Falls, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Since we were there during the high water season, Victoria Falls (known locally as Mosi-oa-Tunya) was in peak flow. We also took the opportunity that day to visit the local market in Livingstone, Zambia and see how the local community lives and works and shops. The lodge has a relationship with the nearby village (many of the villagers work at the lodge) and we took advantage of the village cultural walk because it was an interesting way to see inside a traditional African village.
For adrenaline junkies, there’s bungee jumping, whitewater rafting and many other activities to keep people busy (we passed on those). Or, you can just sit at the Islands of Siankaba in total relaxation and read a good book or take a dip in the pool (which was more our style).
The Restaurant: The lodge restaurant sits on a broad terrace overlooking the Zambezi. The roof provides cover in the hot sun or if there is rain, but in the evenings, tables can be spaced out over the patio to provide lots of privacy for guests. The food is exceptional! At each meal, guests can choose between two offered main courses, which ranged from local (stuffed peppers with local grains) to international (beef chateaubriand, Italian gnocchi in cream, or mushroom tagliatelle).
Breakfasts were a multi-course experience and included yogurt with fruit and choice between a specialty omelet and a full English breakfast. Lunch was typically a local fish or meat and three side dishes – served family style. All of the food was incredible! Most of our meals were served by a slender young man named Adorable, who had a smile from ear to ear.
The Lounge: Before dinner and in the evening, we had a glass of wine or a cocktail to relax. The lovely assistant manager, Eunice, would keep us company and listen to our stories of the day and offer tips on the next day’s plan.
The Concierge: There isn’t a designated concierge per se (you’re in the bush after all), but the managers and assistant managers were able to take care of all our requests.
The Spa and Recreational Facilities: The Islands of Siankaba has a small building next to the pool, which houses the Sisters of Africa Spa. Since we were visiting Siankaba for total relaxation, we both had relaxing back and shoulder massages one afternoon (these were totally worth it!).
The Bed: The bed occupies the middle of the room and is oriented to look out on the Zambezi River. Like all beds in Africa, it was covered by a large mosquito netting, ensuring we would sleep in peace. The bed itself was an American-style king and was extremely comfortable.
The Room: Our room, the Acacia, was the second closest to the suspension bridge and looked out on the river. The two adjoining chalets each angled slightly away from ours, giving us a bit more privacy. The room is constructed on two levels – the back of the room (away from the river) has the bathroom (toilet in a separate room), a bathtub, shower and two sinks. On the lower level is a desk, bed, and sitting chairs. The lower level then opens up onto a walk-out balcony, which also has sitting chairs and small table for morning coffee.
The WiFi: The lodge had wifi in the bar/restaurant area, but not at the rooms.
The Television: Forget about it – no TV here. And frankly, you don’t want it. Who wants to watch re-runs of National Geographic when you can look out the front of your chalet and see it in real life?
The Safe: The room had a safe for valuables.
The Bathroom: The bathroom was an extension of the main room. Just up two small steps from the bed area, there was a large bathtub for soaking, a separate shower and two sinks. The toilet was in a private room with a door.
The Bathroom Amenities: The chalet had all the standard bathroom amenities (soap, shampoo, lotion, etc.). There were a few extra items from the spa in the room, including a relaxing lavender soap for the evening and also a eucalyptus insect repellent lotion, which we frequently used (although it was getting cool enough in the winter that there really weren’t any bugs).
The Cost: Islands of Siankaba is $535 per person, per night ($1070 per couple) for full board (food, alcohol, evening cruise, village walks and other activities).
The Location: The lodge is located approximately 25 miles upriver from Livingston, Zambia and about 25 miles downriver from the Botswana border (and Chobe National Park). Once off the main road, it is approximately 6 miles to the river and the lodge’s river landing. Total driving time to Livingstone, Zambia is about one hour.
The Transportation: The lodge can arrange all transportation options for guests, but there really isn’t a public transportation option.
The Airport Transfer: The Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport (LVI) is located on the north end of the Livingstone. We allowed about 75 minutes to get from Islands of Siankaba to the airport. Visitors should allow extra time at the airport for check-in and passport control (we encountered long lines and significant disorganization).
The Lodge Website: www.siankaba.net
The Islands of Siankaba is a lodge of exceptional exclusivity and luxury. This is the place to stay when visiting Victoria Falls for relaxation and romance!
We were the guests of Islands of Siankaba. As always, all views are our own.
And just because we loved it so much, here’s a few more pictures!