A recent media visit to the Kaza region (Kavango-Zambezi), where South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana meet (incorporating the towns of Victoria Falls and Livingstone) revealed that there were more options for visitors, other than large, hotel-chain properties.
A growing number of boutique hotels and game lodges are cropping up in the area, and these tend to be more accessible to those looking for more affordable options.
The small, 30-room Bayete Guest Lodge, only four kilometres from the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, offers comfortable rooms with mosquito nets strung over expansive king-size beds, spacious bathrooms with showers and tubs, and shady patios in its tropical gardens. As a boutique lodge, the property's rates are affordable at US$107 per person per night, inclusive of bed and breakfast. The lodge is also family-oriented, offering 50% discounts for kids under 12 years and free accommodation for children under three.
The intimate Waterberry Lodge, overlooking the Zambezi near Livingstone on the Zambian side of the Falls, is a lesser-known gem that offers great food and exceptional service delivered with Zambian warmth. The lodge currently has an offer of US$495pps, per night. This includes full board, morning and afternoon activities, all drinks, airport transfers and laundry service. Seven brightly decorated, thatched chalets have been built into secluded corners of the expansive gardens.
They feature king-sized beds, a small lounge area and spacious bathrooms. Each chalet has a private patio, many of which overlook the Zambezi and are perfect spots for enjoying the prolific riverbank birdlife. The lodge itself is airy and open-plan, offering great views over the river. There is a large swimming pool, a private jetty, and a number of elevated wooden decks well positioned for optimal enjoyment of a gin and tonic.
The newly refurbished Chobe River Lodge in Botswana is now only an hour's drive from Livingstone, thanks to the opening of the new Kazungula bridge between Zambia and Botswana. The lodge's rates have dropped from US$275 due to COVID-19. This includes dinner, bed and breakfast. The lodge has its own jetty on the Chobe River and offers game drives and boat cruises. The owners are building a larger boat and plan to introduce dinner cruises on the river in the near future.
Also located in Kasane, Pangolin Chobe Hotel offers another niche boutique experience especially tailored for photography lovers. Guests are taken on cruises along the Chobe in the hotel's boat, which has been specially kitted out with swivel chairs, and photographic gimbal arms. DSLR cameras, kitted out with 150-600mm zoom lenses, can also be used by guests during their stay.
CEO of regional association, Africa's Eden, Jillian Blackbeard, confirmed that the boutique hotel and lodge offerings in the region were growing fast.
"To name just a few on the Zimbabwean side of Victoria Falls, Mbano Manor Hotel and Vic Falls 528 are brand-new properties and we are also expecting Pioneers Lodge and Nkosi Guest Lodge to open soon. Both Bayete Lodge and Batonka Guest Lodge have just been refurbished. These smaller properties all offer personalised service and tend to be very family-focused. They also often boast nicer rooms than many of the older and more traditional hotels in the area,” said Blackbeard, who recommends these affordable offerings for SADC travellers in particular.