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Total Relaxation at the Islands of Siankaba

Sunset over the Zambezi River in Zambia.

The sweet, soft gurgle of the Zambezi River as it pushed quickly through reeds along the bank was punctuated by a bird calling in the distance. The Zambezi River, one Africa’s largest, had swelled to peak flow and was the highest that it had been in nearly a decade. On two private islands connected by a small footbridge are the Islands of Siankaba lodge – one of the most luxurious properties near Victoria Falls and Livingstone, Zambia.

An elephant on the Zambezi River shore in Zimbabwe during our sunset cruise.  We were staying in the Livingstone area at the Islands of Siankaba.

If there was ever a place to go and get away from it all, this is it. We knew this place would be special and decided to stay for three nights. In the morning, we sat on our deck and watched the mighty Zambezi roll past and as they sun came up on Zimbabwe across the river. At this point in the year, with the Zambezi swollen with rains, the river was well over a mile wide. Birds would take flight over the river and island monkeys could be heard in the trees. Mornings are special at the lodge.

The view from our chalet at the Islands of Siankaba lodge first thing in the morning out over the Zambezi River.

View from our chalet first thing in the morning

The Islands of Siankaba luxury lodge has just six small chalets and one larger honeymoon suite, all built on platforms and connected by an elevated walkway (helpful for when the mighty crocodiles decide to come ashore). With a maximum of 12 guests, the guest-to-staff ratio is frequently 1:1, ensuring you get all the attention you could ever want. One of the very first things we noticed at Siankaba was the staff’s service attitude and attentiveness to our needs (and desires).

All of the chalets at the Islands of Siankaba are built up to the edge of the Zambezi River and offer stunning views.  The honeymoon suite at Siankaba also has a private sitting area.

Honeymoon Suite

As the sun would get low in the sky, we would board a small pontoon boat and cross the Zambezi River for Zimbabwe. The far bank is a national park and animals would come down and drink from the river. We had great sightings of elephants, baboons, hippos and crocodiles! Then we’d pull the boat into an eddy behind a small island, open a bottle of wine and watch the sun set over the Zambezi River.

Every afternoon at the Islands of Siankaba, we would take a sunset cruise across the Zambezi River and spot wildlife.  And every evening, the hippos would be out to great us.

Islands of Siankaba made a great base for us to explore the region. Of course, the highlight of the area is visiting Victoria Falls, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Since we were there during the high water season, Victoria Falls (known locally as Mosi-oa-Tunya) was in peak flow. We also took the opportunity that day to visit the local market in Livingstone, Zambia and see how the local community lives and works and shops. The lodge has a relationship with the nearby village (many of the villagers work at the lodge) and we took advantage of the village cultural walk because it was an interesting way to see inside a traditional African village. For adrenaline junkies, there’s bungee jumping, whitewater rafting and many other activities to keep people busy (we passed on those). Or, you can just sit at the Islands of Siankaba in total relaxation and read a good book or take a dip in the pool (which was more our style).

Girls in the village of Siankaba at the new water well.  This is much safer than getting water out of the Zambezi River with all of the crocodiles.

Girls in the village of Siankaba at the new water well

The Lodge

The Restaurant: The lodge restaurant sits on a broad terrace overlooking the Zambezi. The roof provides cover in the hot sun or if there is rain, but in the evenings, tables can be spaced out over the patio to provide lots of privacy for guests. The food is exceptional! At each meal, guests can choose between two offered main courses, which ranged from local (stuffed peppers with local grains) to international (beef chateaubriand, Italian gnocchi in cream, or mushroom tagliatelle). Breakfasts were a multi-course experience and included yogurt with fruit and choice between a specialty omelet and a full English breakfast. Lunch was typically a local fish or meat and three side dishes – served family style. All of the food was incredible! Most of our meals were served by a slender young man named Adorable, who had a smile from ear to ear.

Most meals at the Islands of Siankaba are taken al fresco by the river's edge.

The Lounge: Before dinner and in the evening, we had a glass of wine or a cocktail to relax. The lovely assistant manager, Eunice, would keep us company and listen to our stories of the day and offer tips on the next day’s plan.

Lunch at the Islands of Siankaba is served family style and includes a main course (typically a fish) and three side dishes.  Everything is delicious!

Lunch at Siankaba

The Concierge: There isn’t a designated concierge per se (you’re in the bush after all), but the managers and assistant managers were able to take care of all our requests.

The Spa and Recreational Facilities: The Islands of Siankaba has a small building next to the pool, which houses the Sisters of Africa Spa. Since we were visiting Siankaba for total relaxation, we both had relaxing back and shoulder massages one afternoon (these were totally worth it!).

The swimming pool at the Islands of Siankaba luxury lodge outside of Livingstone, Zambia.

The Chalet

The Bed: The bed occupies the middle of the room and is oriented to look out on the Zambezi River. Like all beds in Africa, it was covered by a large mosquito netting, ensuring we would sleep in peace. The bed itself was an American-style king and was extremely comfortable.

The Room: Our room, the Acacia, was the second closest to the suspension bridge and looked out on the river. The two adjoining chalets each angled slightly away from ours, giving us a bit more privacy. The room is constructed on two levels – the back of the room (away from the river) has the bathroom (toilet in a separate room), a bathtub, shower and two sinks. On the lower level is a desk, bed, and sitting chairs. The lower level then opens up onto a walk-out balcony, which also has sitting chairs and small table for morning coffee.

The rooms at the Islands of Siankaba are quite spacious and beautifully decorated.  We can't imagine any place in Livingstone, Zambia more romantic or relaxing.

The WiFi: The lodge had wifi in the bar/restaurant area, but not at the rooms.

The Television: Forget about it – no TV here. And frankly, you don’t want it. Who wants to watch re-runs of National Geographic when you can look out the front of your chalet and see it in real life?

The Safe: The room had a safe for valuables.

The bathroom in our room at the Islands of Siankaba.

The Bathroom

The Bathroom: The bathroom was an extension of the main room. Just up two small steps from the bed area, there was a large bathtub for soaking, a separate shower and two sinks. The toilet was in a private room with a door.

The Bathroom Amenities: The chalet had all the standard bathroom amenities (soap, shampoo, lotion, etc.). There were a few extra items from the spa in the room, including a relaxing lavender soap for the evening and also a eucalyptus insect repellent lotion, which we frequently used (although it was getting cool enough in the winter that there really weren’t any bugs).

The Islands of Siankaba lodge is quite remove and is about six miles off the main road.

Siankaba is quite remote

The Details

The Cost: Islands of Siankaba is $535 per person, per night ($1070 per couple) for full board (food, alcohol, evening cruise, village walks and other activities).

The Location: The lodge is located approximately 25 miles upriver from Livingston, Zambia and about 25 miles downriver from the Botswana border (and Chobe National Park). Once off the main road, it is approximately 6 miles to the river and the lodge’s river landing. Total driving time to Livingstone, Zambia is about one hour.

The poverty of the neighboring village stands in stark contrast to the Islands of Siankaba lodge.  However, many of the locals work at the lodge and their situation would be less well off if it weren't for the lodge.

The neighboring village of Siankaba

The Transportation: The lodge can arrange all transportation options for guests, but there really isn’t a public transportation option.

The Airport Transfer: The Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport (LVI) is located on the north end of the Livingstone. We allowed about 75 minutes to get from Islands of Siankaba to the airport. Visitors should allow extra time at the airport for check-in and passport control (we encountered long lines and significant disorganization).

The Lodge Website: http://www.siankaba.net/

The suspension bridge connecting the Islands of Siankaba.

The suspension bridge connecting the two islands

The Final Verdict

The Islands of Siankaba is a lodge of exceptional exclusivity and luxury. This is the place to stay when visiting Victoria Falls for relaxation and romance!

One of the traditional canoes at Siankaba

One of the traditional canoes

We were the guests of Islands of Siankaba. As always, all views are our own.

And just because we loved it so much, here’s a few more pictures!

You really can't have enough pictures of African sunsets.  This is another sunset over Zambia and the Zambezi River.

You really can’t have enough pictures of African sunsets

Another family-style lunch at the Siankaba lodge.

Another lunch at Siankaba

A view of the Zambezi River from the luxury lodge, Islands of Siankaba.

The Zambezi River

Every day, the menu for the evening is posted.

The evening menu is posted at the bar

In the afternoons at the Islands of Siankaba, a traditional tea service (complete with cake) is prepared for the guests.

A traditional tea service is prepared every afternoon






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What do you think about Total Relaxation at the Islands of Siankaba?

  1. A Lady in London July 14, 2014 at 3:39 am #

    Great post! Looks like you enjoyed the islands as much as I did!

  2. Doreen Pendgracs July 15, 2014 at 12:01 am #

    Lance, this truly looks like an amazing place to stay. Everything about it makes me want to hop on a plane and visit this incredible lodge in Zambia. Thx so much for sharing, and posting the terrific pics!
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…a profile of Executive Chef Hubert Des Marais IVMy Profile

  3. Frank July 18, 2014 at 10:25 am #

    Oh wow, fancy stuff! I lived in Zambia as a kid, went back as a teenager – but it’s been almost 30 years now since my last visit there. It’s on my list, would like to go back to Victoria Falls and show Spanky. I’ve done a lot of travelling, but it is still the place that sticks out in my mind as the most impressive site in the world…

    And I remember Zambian service, white glove treatment with a smile.
    Frank (bbqboy)

  4. Jeremy July 19, 2014 at 10:02 pm #

    Looks like an outstanding place to experience the Victoria Falls in luxury, while maintaining a link to the wildlife and nature that abounds in this area … I’m jealous you got this press trip, looks like an amazing resort!

  5. Justyna | one-penny-trip.com July 26, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

    Fantastic experience! I’m hoping to get in that area in November…let’s see if it will work out for me. But seriously guys, I envy you so much now! 🙂

    • Laura Longwell July 29, 2014 at 10:47 pm #

      This was our first trip to Zambia, but we hope it won’t be our last. I hope you get there!

  6. Diana Edelman August 3, 2014 at 11:20 pm #

    This place looks amazing!!!

  7. Alex August 4, 2014 at 8:16 am #

    Love the yawning hippo! This place looks like a dream.

  8. Angie Away August 4, 2014 at 9:29 am #

    Looks so romantic & secluded! THAT honeymoon suite! Added to my bucket list…

    • Laura Longwell August 7, 2014 at 10:59 pm #

      It is definitely both of those things, and a bucket list addition is a good choice 🙂

  9. noel August 4, 2014 at 11:29 am #

    Wow a fun excursion, I would love to visit and stay in that suite, what a way to travel and explore this amazing landscape.

    • Laura Longwell August 7, 2014 at 11:01 pm #

      There is definitely something very special about staying on the islands and right over the river, especially since the river was so high during out visit.

  10. Kristin Addis August 4, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

    Wow, looks so dreamy. I really must get to Africa soon!

  11. Giselle and Cody August 4, 2014 at 9:13 pm #

    Wow, what beautiful views! Africa certainly has some of the most outstanding views in the world, and the claw foot tub! LOVE.

  12. Megan Claire August 7, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

    Awesome photos!! We absolutely love wildlife so traveled to Africa for the wildlife photography – great shot of the Hippo!!

  13. Ligeia and Mindy August 10, 2014 at 3:21 am #

    Wow! What an awesome experience!!! How lucky you are to see both an elephant and a hippo in the wild. And the lodge looks amazing, especially the bathroom! We definitely gotta get to that area of the world! 🙂
    Ligeia and Mindy recently posted…A Day Trip to BeitouMy Profile

    • Lance Longwell August 11, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

      We waited way too long to go and explore Africa. Now that we’ve been, it’s the place we’re most anxious to get back to!

  14. Camels & Chocolate August 10, 2014 at 9:57 pm #

    There’s so much of Africa I’ve yet to explore! It’s a shame the ebola outbreak is probably going to keep a lot of people from going to those parts =(

    Glad you had a great experience there!

    • Lance Longwell August 11, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

      That’s a good point. This is a long way from the current ebola outbreak area. People shouldn’t forego trips to the continent just because of the regional outbreak out west.

  15. Helen August 11, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

    Great post you guys! When I lived in Livingstone I never got the chance to visit the Islands of Siankaba, but I heard great things. This post proves it!! 🙂

    • Lance Longwell August 11, 2014 at 2:56 pm #

      It was absolutely luxurious! We’d highly recommend it.

  16. Leyla August 27, 2014 at 2:42 am #

    Such a lovely place to stay! When I was traveling in Africa I made it a point to stay in luxury accommodations once a month – just to relax and be good to myself. This place would have been perfect! Next time I’m in the region…

  17. Dale August 27, 2014 at 5:39 am #

    So much food choice, it’s incredible to think that all of that is available for you; and such amazing surroundings too!

    • Laura Longwell August 28, 2014 at 1:39 am #

      It was really stunning, and the food was great. I bet they could have even accommodated a vegan 🙂

  18. Casey @ A Cruising Couple August 30, 2014 at 7:15 am #

    Amazing! We’re convinced – this looks like a fantastic place to experience wildlife and the falls without having to forego all luxury. Sign us up 🙂

    • Laura Longwell August 30, 2014 at 4:56 pm #

      That’s a perfect way to put it. There’s no shortage of luxury at Siankaba.

  19. Kasandria Reasoner September 1, 2014 at 6:16 am #

    WOW! What a beautiful place! I’m adding this to my bucket list of places to see.

  20. Molly @Green Global Travel December 7, 2014 at 9:27 am #

    Beautiful photos! Especially love the elephant and the yawning hippo. Looks like an incredible experience 🙂

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