Featured Favorite: Thorntree River Lodge


Livingstone, Zambia

Who it’s best for:

Luxury travelers, those seeking a little pampering, honeymooners, families and those wanting a variety of Victoria Falls activities


Offered at Thorntree River Lodge: Tours of Victoria Falls, sunset river cruise on the Upper Zambezi, catch-and-release fishing, canoeing, game drives in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, rhino tracking experiences, birdwatching, cultural visits, the Livingstone Museum, spa treatments and the Ngwana Club for children

Additional Livingstone activities that can be booked: guided rainforest walks, bungee jumping and helicopter or micro-light flips over the falls

Why we love it:

In a destination as popular as Victoria Falls, the accommodation options are endless, but not all spots are created equal. We love Thorntree River Lodge not only for its gorgeous, Afro-modern design but also for its waterfront location, wide variety of activities and ownership. It’s part of the African Bush Camps portfolio, which is founded and owned by Beks Ndlovu, a leader in the safari world who was born and raised in Zimbabwe.

The Smoke that Thunders

Victoria Falls is perhaps one of the most iconic places in the whole of Africa and for good reason. Spanning the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, this magnificent cascade spans 5,600 feet across and 355 feet tall. When it’s at peak flow, there are few sights more spectacular. Voluminous clouds of mist billow skyward from the falls, inspiring their traditional name ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’, or the ‘Smoke that Thunders’. While touring the falls, be ready to get wet if you visit during the months of peak flow. The spray drenches the forests that line the banks of the river and many of the viewpoints. You’ll never feel more alive than when thunder fills your ears, your hair soaked with spray and rainbows shimmering in the mist filled air around you.

No matter what time of year you visit, it will be memorable. The flow is high from February to June, with the peak flow in May and June. During this time, the falls form the largest continual curtain of falling water on Earth. We love pairing a stopover at Victoria Falls with a wildlife safari in Southern Africa and time in Cape Town. Whether we use it as a soft landing into Africa, a dip into civilization in the middle of a long trip or a grand finale, it never fails to impress.

Experiencing the Falls

Staying at a small, intimate camp such as Thorntree River Lodge gives you the flexibility to shape your days how you please in a way that the larger hotels in the area can’t offer. On any given day you can choose what activities you want to do, so your time there feels more relaxed and less scheduled – just like the river, you can go with the flow. Though the falls are the primary focus of any stay at Thorntree River Lodge, there are plenty of other activities on offer that let you appreciate the full breadth of the area.

A sunset river cruise on the Upper Zambezi is a must – there’s nothing more magical than sipping cocktails while the coral sky reflects off surface of the water. Stop off at an island in the middle of the river for the ultimate sundowner experience. Because Thorntree offers private cruises to only their guests, you will depart right from your lounge area instead of driving to a shared dock. The experience is much more relaxing and intimate as a result, which we love.

Canoeing or catch-and-release fishing are other great ways to immerse into the river setting. Of course, one of the best ways to enjoy yourself is simply relaxing on the gorgeous floating river deck that makes Thorntree so special. Watch as fish eagles hunt right in front of you, listen to the distant rumble of the falls and watch as dragonflies dance through the air.

In nearby Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, you can go on classic game drives in search of big game, go birdwatching or spend time tracking rhinos. For those that just can’t get enough wildlife during their trip, this is a great option. A cultural experience or a visit to the Livingstone Museum are also worthwhile if you have the time during your stay. Livingstone is charming little African town that offers a glimpse into the daily life of the locals. Donkey carts pulling a farmer’s haul amble past your vehicle. Women catch up together as they do their shopping and men sip cold cokes in the shade of a tree.  

Riverfront Bliss

Stretched along a peaceful section of the Upper Zambezi River, Thorntree River Lodge is all about riverfront living at its best. Panoramic views and understated luxury define the ambiance of our favorite Victoria Falls accommodation. Since Thorntree is located 20 minutes upstream from the falls and the bustle of Livingstone town, it feels like a safari camp instead of a hotel as many of the options in the immediate vicinity of the falls do. We love that its safari-like atmosphere gives it an effortless flow between your time in the bush and there.

With the chic, organic design and plethora of creature comforts, you’d never realize it’s an eco-conscious retreat that works in harmony with the natural setting. ­The clean lines of the design contrast with the fluidity of the river while a neutral color palette lets the setting shine as the real star. Plush linens, floor-to-ceiling open air design, roomy suites and thoughtful touches create a barefoot luxury that we adore.

It has all the creature comforts you’d expect from a high-end camp, such as a spa, private plunge pools, indoor and outdoor showers overlooking the river, private decks, soaking tubs and a large pool and campfire area. However, thanks to its location near a town, it can offer elevated amenities that you don’t normally find in off-the-grid bush camps. While at Thorntree, you can enjoy extra perks such as a gym, hairdryers, wifi and air conditioning.

The service offers a blend of polished and relaxed feels-like-family hospitality – think freshly baked scones and piping hot coffee delivered to your suite in a butler’s pass-through at your desired wake up time. Simply put, life is good when you’re at Thorntree.

Families at Thorntree

With years of experience taking his own children on safari, owner Beks Ndlovu knows exactly what families need and want in a safari camp. The spacious family suite is connected by a walkway, so parents are close to their children, but still have their own space. With both a private plunge pool and a large main pool, kids will love it. The Ngwana Club for children offers nature walks around camp, arts and crafts projects, cooking lessons and other specialist activities that will keep them entertained. If parents want some alone time, Thorntree also offers childminders on request.

Ecotourism at Its Best

A big reason we love Thorntree River Lodge is what it represents in the wider world of ecotourism. We are deeply committed to supporting any camps, reserves and projects that truly embody the ethos of ecotourism – sustainability, community development and giving back. We’re not the first people to celebrate Beks Ndlovu and his company African Bush Camps, and we won’t the be the last.

He is a born and raised Zimbabwean who has founded one of the most successful luxury safari companies in Africa. With his roots as a professional safari guide in his native Zimbabwe, he saw the opportunity to start his own company in 2006 and has skyrocketed to success from there. With camps now spanning Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia, he represents the future of community-led ecotourism that keeps a higher percentage of tourism dollars in the immediate economies. We hope to see more and more of these operations emerge in the footsteps of Ndlovu and look forward to supporting them as enthusiastically as we do African Bush Camps.

Visit Thorntree River Lodge for Yourself!

If you’re looking for the embodiment of riverfront bliss, Thorntree River Lodge is the place for you. Bringing chic style and a refreshing tranquility to this world-famous destination, you can escape the crowds and enjoy Victoria Falls at your own pace. This is the perfect complement to any safari and a must for first-time visitors to Southern Africa.

Check out our Natural Wonders of Southern Africa itinerary to pair a stay at Thorntree River Lodge with time at a luxurious Cape Town boutique hotel and two diverse areas in the coveted Okavango Delta-Linyanti ecosystem. After the vibrant cultural scene of the city and an action-packed wildlife safari, a relaxing finale at Victoria Falls is the perfect way to reflect on your big African adventure.

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