We stay at The Victoria Falls Hotel on both the Waterfalls and Wildlife tour (two nights) and the Victoria Falls to Cape Town tour (one night). During our visit to the Victoria Falls National Park we take a guided tour of the falls and experience one of the best lunches on the trip!
Step over a threshold into a bygone era. An affable greeting from an impeccably uniformed doorman hints at what awaits. Resplendent with history, British colonialism and ethnic African traditions come together at the stately Victorian Falls Hotel with its exquisitely manicured grounds and gardens, while the ‘smoke that thunders’ rises in the background.
A waypoint on the Cape to Cairo railroad line being built by the British in 1904, the site was originally used to house railway construction workers as they erected a bridge to span the gorge created by the Zambezi River. The river is also the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, thus the bridge links the two countries and has border posts on the approaches at both ends.
As if spanning the gorge wasn’t an enough of an enormous and risky undertaking, the owners insisted the landmark Victoria Falls Bridge had to be precisely positioned so trains would catch the spray of the Falls as they crossed.
Once British and American tourists began arriving, the railway owners began construction of the Hotel. The property still belongs to the National Railways of Zimbabwe although it’s managed separately.
The elaborate architecture and elegant decor reflects the grandeur and opulence of that historic era. Lily ponds, sculpted gardens, and broad verandas invite you to sit down, relax, and take in the natural splendor. The mist from the Falls is visible throughout the grounds and a pleasant 10-minute walk along a private pathway takes you right to the entrance.
Strolling through the photograph-lined entrance corridor takes you through the Hotel’s history. Rulers when the country was the British Colony of Rhodesia, portraits of Kings and Queens who’ve stayed here are prominent. Photographs of the building and grounds capture its stages of renovation and restoration.
A traditional High Tea of confectionaries, coffee, and tea is served every afternoon at Stanley’s Terrace, with one of the best views of the gorge, the bridge, and the mist from the Falls.
Showcasing local customs has been a feature since the hotel was constructed. In the evening, traditional groups perform singing and dancing during dinner. Music with traditional instruments is played during lunch.
An historical walking tour connects points of interest—like Jungle Junction, the river’s landing ‘strip’. These water landings in the gorge must have made for white knuckle rides for flights arriving in Victoria Falls. It’s now the namesake of one of the site’s restaurants where rousing entertainment epitomizes the spirit of Africa.
Steeped in history, preserving British and local history and traditions has been a priority since its inception. Retaining its Edwardian style while exuding a modern feel, The Victoria Falls Hotel has a wonderful ambiance, accentuated by one of the largest and most famous waterfalls in the world in its back yard.
Photos: Courtesy of The Victoria Falls Hotel