Matetsi River Lodge, Zimbabwe

Matetsi River Lodge, Zimbabwe

After extensive renovations, &Beyond Matetsi River Lodge has reopened and no expense has been spared at this expansive property situated along the Zambezi River. There is something about the wide, tranquil Zambezi that is hypnotic and instantly puts your soul at peace. The lodge, the flowing mighty river left us mesmerized and a tad speechless. Callum and I arrived in time for lunch and it was one of those meals where we barely spoke to one another, except to say how this would make an easy weekend away from Joburg and we must return. These are the moments in life that I find enthralling and rare. Being present and in the moment is something I strive for and rarely obtain in life. Yet, within 20 minutes of arriving at Matetsi River Lodge this was exactly the feeling that had overcome me. 

Matetsi River Lodge is located 45 minutes outside of Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwean side. The 18 suites are divided into two camps and despite the large size, it feels intimate and private. There is a wine cellar where you can request to eat a meal or pop in for a drink, a pool, a gift shop, gym, and conference room with an extremely large TV, in the event you are in desperate for news from the outside world or in our case, highlights from the Stormers rugby game. If you are planning on popping up to see Victoria Falls, this is the place to book. Included in a two night stay is a tour to Vic Falls and high tea at the grande dame of colonial era hotels, the Victoria Falls Hotel. Boat cruises and game drives are also complimentary. Additional activities such as helicopter flips, bungee jumping and white water rafting for the adrenaline junkies are offered at an additional cost. 

The suites are simply stunning. The second we walked into the room, we knew it would be hard to tear ourselves away from the outdoor lounge and plunge pool to enjoy the activities on offer. With a tub large enough for two and room stocked with every imaginable amenity, including bluetooth speakers and an iPad loaded with information about the flora, fauna, mammals, and birds of the area, it is easy to understand why we were hard pressed to leave our suite. One evening we forwent any planned activity and enjoyed beers and malaria warding gin and tonics from the suite as the sun set over the river.

On our first evening we took a sunset cruise along the Zambezi. Before our departure, a bevy of delectable snacks awaited us. I wish I had the wherewithal to not sample every morsel of food because on our way to the boat we stopped at a surprise roadside ice cream cart that was serving guests. Give in and plan on gaining five pounds. We joined two other couples on the boat for an hour and a half long cruise upstream whilst the sun set. It was divine and after six days of game drive, a nice change of pace.

The next morning we opted for a game drive in search of Sable (a majestic anteople) which we managed to find, but were sadly too far away to photograph. We returned in time for breakfast in the garden and had a few hours to relax beside the plunge pool before departing to see the Falls. I have seen the Falls before, but from the Zambian side and I can attest that the views from the Zimbabwean side are more impressive. We were visiting in March when the Falls were near their peak in terms of the sheer amount of water plunging over the cataracts. This meant that the spray from the Falls often obscured the view, but there is something powerful about engaging your sense of feel instead of sight. Locally the falls are called Mosi-oa-Tunya or the smoke that thunders an apt name for this impressive wonder. Our camp manager told us to skip the ponchos and get soaked. This was the best advice. We were drenched and loved every second of it. Remember to pack a change of clothes if you are going on to high tea. 

Whilst I would return to Matetsi in a heartbeat, I found there were a few teething issues that are uncharacteristic for &Beyond lodges. Overall, we had extremely minor gripes, including our mini bar not being restocked during our stay and communication between camp managers. For instance, one camp manager said we would receive a packed lunch for our trip to the Falls but the camp manager on duty the next morning wasn’t aware of it. A more major complaint was around the tour to Victoria Falls. We arrived later than anticipated because we were meeting other guests in town who had done a morning activity. Unfortunately, they were running 15 minutes behind and thus began the domino effect. While we could have made up some time at Victoria Falls, an avid Instagrammer was part of the tour and she (understandably) wanted the perfect shot of herself. This in turn meant we arrived at the Victoria Falls Hotel with only 45 minutes to rush through high tea. The departure from the hotel couldn’t be changed because two other guests were scheduled to go out on the sunset cruise. We only received our three tiered, delicious tea platter 5 minutes before we were due to leave. We did note this with the camp manager. Since the lodge had just reopened, these kinks are normal and I have no doubt that they will be ironed out. 

For any of you who regularly read my blog, you know what happened next. I received devastating news from home and sadly we weren’t able to fully enjoy our remaining night at this gorgeous lodge. The staff were extremely understanding of our desire to not leave our room and delivered dinner and a glass of wine to us. It wasn’t the celebration of six amazing months together that we had hoped for and it certainly put a damper on the end of our holiday. Despite everything, it was absolutely the perfect culmination of our magical vacation. A month after returning we even inquired about booking another stay.