The River Club -- Riverside Dreaming in Victoria Falls
Dreaming in dappled shade on the shores of the Zambezi, The River Club is located upstream of the Victoria Falls on the Zambian side of the Victoria Falls, about 30 minutes from the Falls and 45 minutes from the airport. It shares the turn-off with Tongabezi and the two are about five minutes apart by boat. While Tonga hugs the shorline, River Club is set quite high on the banks of the Zambezi -- both the rooms and the public areas sweeping views of the river. The infinity pool is stunning and really does look like the photos on the website! It has solar heating which is more than adequate on warm days in Zambia. There is a small, secluded sitting area down hill from the pool which makes a wonderful place to sit and enjoy the view.
River Club has two types of rooms -- normal cottages and honeymoon cottages (plus one family cottage, which is essentially a honeymoon cottage with an extra bedroom). All of the cottages are named after early explorers. The normal cottages are two-story duplexes (bedrooms upstairs on the ground floor, bathrooms downstairs on the slope of the river bank) made of dark wood and reeds with a strong safari look and feel. They are open to the river in front, but the bedrooms can be closed off with folding concertina shutters. The bathrooms have pull-down screens as well though they dont close the room off completely. (NB there are plans to install loos on the ground floor of the normal cottages for greater convenience when using the facilities at night.) The honeymoon cottages are spread out over one floor and are made of yellow stucco. Theyre a bit more spacious and have a little private garden in front. Theres also one family cottage with two bedrooms which has a particularly nice view. The beds in all of the cottages are four-posters swathed in mosquito netting, and you can ask for a double bed in the regular cottages as well as the honeymoon cottages. I shared my room with a friendly gecko who took care of any mozzies that escaped the shutters.
Peter Jones is a fantastic host in the eccentric Englishman mode -- he's been in Zambia for over 14 years and has a lot of interesting stories to tell! Beware the bugle, though...I'd advise you to pass it on if it comes your way at dinner. The staff at RC are excellent and very welcoming (as is Peters yellow Labrador, Charlie) though a bit more formal in manner than those at Tongabezi (this does not, of course, apply to Charlie who ever met a formal Labrador?) The food at RC often gets a bad rap (it's described as British, and you can't get much worse than that) but I found it to be quite good -- much more high table than school dinners.
While at RC I did a helicopter flight over the falls, visited Simonga Village, and visited the Zimbabwean side of the falls. Given the high water levels, which meant that there was so much spray that it obscured the falls from the ground, the best view of the Falls was definitely from the air. Id hoped to take the doors off for aerial photography but it wasnt possible with this model of helicopter however, I was still able to get some great shots, both of the Falls and of the gorges down below.
At Simonga, the villagers whose homes we visited have given permission for people to take photos so there was no awkwardness involved on that score, and we were guided by a member of the local community. People went on about their lives as if we werent there; no one tried to sell us anything, and the only thing the children begged for was the chance to see themselves on the screens of our digital cameras. Id probably credit Peters policy of encouraging guests to give to the community fund rather than to individuals for the changes. The Zimbabwean side of the Falls was spectacular IMO much more so than the Zambian side. Sunset cruises are wonderful, and Peter knew of a place where there was a colony of white-fronted bee-eaters for us to see (and in my case to fail to photograph).
One of the best things about The River Club is that once you stay there youre always a member of the family I came home to a welcome-home email from Peter and I received a Christmas card (showing Charlie perched on the side of the pool wearing a Santa hat) from him and the staff. I look forward to seeing them again the next time Im in Victoria Falls!