Ngoma Safari Lodge at sunset

Honeymoon review: Zimbabwe and Botswana

Art editor Katie Phipps enjoys everything from a cocktail river cruise to getting up close and personal with an array of animals

View of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

“This is what we call the Zambezi baptism,” laughs our guide, Zulu. As we edge along a rocky path under a cloud of mist, we are getting completely drenched. Little rainbows start to appear as the sun shines through the drops of water. The mist here can reach over 400 metres in height, as thousands of gallons of water crash over the biggest waterfall in the world, Victoria Falls. Framed by tropical plants and the beaming sunshine, we stand mesmerised by the majesty of this awesome sight.

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We’re here in Africa for the trip of a lifetime, taking in the beautiful sun-drenched landscape, hoping to experience adventure and encounter the local wildlife. Our journey has begun in Zimbabwe, with this amazing guided waterfall hike.

The restaurant at Victoria Falls Safari Club
Beautiful views looking out towards the watering hole at Victoria Falls Safari Club

Wild things

Arriving back from the trek at our hotel, the Victoria Falls Safari Club, and already wet, we head straight to the outdoor pool for a refreshing dip. Built on a plateau and with elevated views of the African bush, the lodge has a luxurious tree-house feel, making it perfect for wildlife spotting. Evenings here are best spent gin in hand and binoculars poised, as elephant, buffalo and kudu are regular visitors to the nearby private watering hole.

Pontoon boats on the Zambezi River at sunset
Sunset cruise on the Zambezi River

For an evening activity further afield, Wild Horizons’ boat tour of the Zambezi river is an unforgettable experience. Welcomed by the singing and dancing of local tribesmen and the faint sounds of the local wildlife, it’s a perfect setting. The African sky is always incredible, but on this night, it’s the most beautiful I’ve ever seen – ombré pink and purple, it creates a dream-like landscape. With cocktails flowing, and a chorus of happy hippos splashing in the river, it doesn’t get much more magical than this.

Dancers at The Boma - Dinner & Drum Show
Dancers at The Boma – Dinner & Drum Show

On our last night, we say goodbye to Zimbabwe in style at the dinner and drum show on the lodge’s estate. Ceremonially dressed in a kitenge (similar to a sarong) and with painted faces, we watch as local tribesmen perform traditional dances, and join in with the drumming. On the menu is warthog, elk, impala and, for the very brave, the mopane worm, a Zimbabwean delicacy. After hearing about the local witch doctor, I pay a visit to find out my fortune. In case you’re wondering, I was told I’m going to have two children – boys, in fact!

Ngoma Safari Lodge at sunset
Ngoma Safari Lodge at sunset

Hotel heaven

For our next adventure we cross the border into Botswana and check into the Ngoma Safari Lodge. This beautiful hotel is set in the Chobe Forest Reserve and has mesmerising views of the Chobe floodplain. There are just eight thatched huts, each with its own secluded terrace area and a small plunge pool nicknamed a “cuddle puddle”, and an alfresco shower. The interiors have a calming feel, with organic textures, floor-to-ceiling glass and plush four-poster beds.

I start each day here by opening the curtains at 5.30am and retreating back to bed with a cup of coffee to watch the sunrise. The landscape gradually fills with a dusky orange glow and flurries of movement as the local wildlife begin to awake. One morning, I head for the outdoor shower, only to find a large herd of impala just metres from where I’m standing.

Ngoma Safari Lodge, Botswana
Our bedroom at Ngoma Safari Lodge overlooking the Chobe floodplain

Pack your trunk

For more animal encounters, we set out for a game drive with our guide, Bevin. As our Land Rover weaves through the African bush, we spot zebras, buffalo, giraffes, baboons and crocodiles, and when we stop for a refreshing sundowner, we hear the unmistakable calls of vultures as they locate their next meal. Chobe National Park is also home to the largest population of elephants on Earth and it isn’t long before we see these amazing animals. It’s the baby elephants that are the biggest delight.

We watch as a young calf learns how to use its trunk by copying its mum, squealing for joy when it finally manages to grab a branch. Unbelievably cute!

We head back to the lodge, to the most romantic dining spot, The Boma. An outdoor enclosure under the stars, this is a dramatic setting for a firelit dinner of barbecued food served with an eclectic range of delicious curries and salads. A perfect way to end a memorable trip.

Later that evening, just as I’m about to go outside for a dip, I catch a glimpse of water splashing… followed by the sight of a long trunk. A juvenile elephant is taking a drink from my plunge pool. After a few moments, he turns around and, as silently as he came, walks off into the twilight. Soon all that gives him away are his ears flapping in the distance.

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Giraffe spotting on a game drive in Chobe National park
Giraffe spotting on a game drive in Chobe National park

Go there

From US$248 pppn (approx. £190) B&B at Victoria Falls Safari Club, incl. a shuttle service to Victoria Falls and Victoria Falls Rainforest, wi-fi, minibar, laundry, afternoon tea and sundowner cocktails and canapés. From US$565 pppn (approx. £433) at Ngoma Safari Lodge for a suite on an all-inclusive basis, incl. meals, non-premium brand beverages, up to four activities per day, park fees, community levies and return transfers from Kasane Airport or Kazungula, africaalbidatourism.com