The River Club's infinity pool overlooks the great Zambezi River
The River Club: Our full report
The River Club sits high on the banks of the Zambezi River with expansive views both upstream and towards the Victoria Falls, and across into Zimbabwe. It’s a small, smart lodge at which guests usually stay for 2-3 nights when visiting the Falls. Owned and run by the knowledgeable Peter Jones, the lodge is based around a renovated 1940s’ farmhouse which now forms The River Club’s main area, and has a distinctly colonial feel to it.
The River Club may have been open for only a decade and a half, but visitors could imagine they have stepped back in time to Livingstone’s colonial heyday. From the waiters’ costumes, to the croquet lawn, the billiards room and the vintage Rolls Royce that can be hired for special occasions – some will find the atmosphere contrived and artificial, whilst others will love its historical feel.
In the main area of The River Club, known as Zambezi House, dining, entertainment and relaxation are top priorities. Here you’ll find a large lounge, library and study area stocked with a remarkable array of literature and photographs. As well as detailing Livingstone’s rapid development over the past century or so, these catalogue some of the town’s events and its more eccentric and charismatic residents. Leather chairs and comfortable couches provide a good excuse to just sit and pass the time, and there’s a gigantic fireplace for those chilly winter evenings. Alongside a variety of board games, and in stark contrast to the feel of the rest of the place, there’s a laptop with WiFi, for those wishing to tune back into the 21st century.
To one side of the main room is a tea and coffee station where a buffet breakfast is served. Afternoon tea is also served here, but dinner is usually taken outside on the veranda and eaten as a group (private dining can also be organised on request for special occasions).
In front of Zambezi House, the Club’s plunge pool must have one of the best views in Africa: looking straight out over the Zambezi. This isn’t just a great place to cool off in the heat of the day but also an idyllic setting for private dinners.
A short walk across the croquet lawn brings you to the Summer House, which is decorated with pieces of campaign furniture and old trophies. Here there is a wide-screen TV for any sports fixtures you might want to catch as well as a billiard table and chess set.
There are just ten chalets at The River Club, each named after famous colonial and African figures including explorers, hunters, politicians and royalty. The chalets are constructed on stilts and well spread out in fairly dense vegetation above the Zambezi River, giving each a very secluded feel.
Broadly, there are two types of chalet:
- Eight are split level, with the bedroom and a small seating area at the top, and views through a screened window to the Zambezi below. This screen serves both to allow a through breeze and to ensure that insects are kept out; there are also mosquito nets on all the beds. From this upper level, where there’s also a separate toilet, quite a steep flight of stairs leads down to the bathroom complete with shower, free-standing bath tub and a second toilet. One of these split-level chalets is a family suite, featuring a second twin bedroom, plus an outdoor shower and a private plunge pool.
- Two river suites (Rhodes and Livingstone), suitable for the less agile, are spacious chalets set in private gardens with their own private plunge pools and teak decks.
All of the chalets have air conditioning as well as ceiling fans above the beds, plus a fridge with bottled water, and an electronic safe.
Not surprisingly, activities at The River Club are largely based around the Zambezi, both upstream and further down at the Victoria Falls – about 45 minutes’ drive away. The lodge has its own boat which offers leisurely sundowner cruises accompanied by an experienced river guide. On our last visit to The River Club we thought that this was a particularly well-run activity which really took advantage of the Club’s peaceful location. Although there are a couple of other lodges in the vicinity with their own boats, you won’t see anywhere near the volume of traffic you might expect further downstream.
If being on the water is really your thing then why not try your hand at a spot of fishing? Whether a novice or an experienced angler you can spend a morning using the Club’s tackle before returning in time for lunch. Also on offer, of course, are tours of the Falls as well as visits to a local village (where many of the staff live with their families).
For those looking to keep fit while away, The River Club has its own tennis courts and even a couple of running tracks which ring the property.
Our viewThe River Club is a very good base for exploring the Victoria Falls and the area in and around Livingstone. Easily accessible from both Livingstone Airport and Botswana’s border, it’s situated far enough from town to be secluded but close enough to visit the Falls as often as you like. The genteel colonial atmosphere won’t suite everyone, but if old-world luxury, good food, and a wide variety of activities are what you’re looking for, we’d recommend The River Club.
Ideal length of stay: We’d recommend a stay of around two or three nights at The River Club depending on how many activities you’d like to engage in at The Falls.
Directions: The River Club can be reached by road transfer either from Livingstone Airport (about 40 minutes) or from the town of Kasane in Botswana. The Club also has its own helipad.
Owner: The property's owner, Peter Jones, still runs the river club, and is usually there - often spending time with guests. He's a raconteur of note, and a mine of information on the history of the local area.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Soft drinks, bottled water, spirits, local beers and a selection of (generally) South African wines are included. Imported wines and spirits and champagne cost extra – and may need to be requested in advance.
Attitude towards children: River Club is very happy to welcome older, well-behaved children.
Equipment: None available.
Generally recommended for children: Yes - but only for older children.
Notes: Parents need to understand that there is no fence around the infinity pool, and that the atmosphere hiere is a fairly 'adult' one ... so loud or unruly children wouldn't fit in well.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Communications: There is WiFi in the main building, and a computer that guests can use.
TV & radio: There is a TV in The Summer House for special sporting events but fundamentally the river's the main entertainment, and there's a fair bit of birdlife and wildlife to watch too!
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: Nearest doctor is in Livingstone, about 30mins drive away.
Dangerous animals: Moderate Risk
Security measures: The security here is very good - with an electric fence and radio-controlled security guards. Every room has individual digital safes.
Fire safety: Extinguishers outside every room and well kitted-out with fire hose system
Disabled access: In Place
Laundry facilities: Full Laundry Service - Included