Ilala Lodge: Our full report
Just ten minutes' walk from the Zimbabwe side of the Victoria Falls, Ilala is very well placed.It's even closer to the centre of Victoria Falls town, too, offering good-quality, affordable accommodation furnished in a comfortable colonial style.
When we last visited Ilala Lodge in December 2016, a brand new wing had been completed, extending the property into adjacent land. The hotel now has 73 rooms and suites across two buildings, each with rooms on three levels.
Rooms on the top and middle floors have patio doors onto their own balcony, while those below open onto a veranda, which leads directly onto the lawned gardens. Clever design means that the lower tier of rooms is set slightly further forward from the upper tier, thereby minimising any noise from the patios above.
The rooms are split into four categories, but in each one there’s an en-suite bathroom and separate shower, air conditioning, an overhead fan, satellite TV, WiFi access, phone, tea- and coffee-making facilities, insect repellent, and an electronic safe that’s large enough to fit a laptop.
- The "standard" rooms in the original wing are adequately sized, with enough space to store luggage and still be able to move around the room freely. From early 2017 these standard rooms are being upgraded with new bathrooms to bring them to the same level as the new "deluxe" rooms.
- The "deluxe" rooms in the new wing, where we were fortunate to stay on our most recent visits to Ilala, are larger and tastefully furnished. Crisp, white linens and a light-green throw blanket and pillows top the bed, whose contemporary dark-wood headboard adorned with a decorative tapestry doubles as a wall behind the bed. Along with a large wooden custom-built wardrobe you’ll find a simple vanity desk beneath a big mirror, and an upholstered chair with a folding table set with magazines of local interest. These rooms each have a minibar and Nespresso machine, sockets for most international plugs and a USB port. Simple beige curtains open to reveal sliding glass doors onto the balcony, where two iron-framed chairs and a table overlook the gardens with views over the bush to the mist rising from the Victoria Falls in the distance.
The bathrooms are very spacious and modern with twin ceramic basins and a large glass-screened shower boasting a very generous water flow.
- Two "standard" suites are located on the top floor of the old wing. These suites have a double bed and a separate single bed. Another bed can be added to accommodate a family of four.
- Two "executive" suites are on the top floor of the new wing. The décor here is similar to the ‘deluxe’ rooms, but the suites have a freestanding bath as well as a shower in the bathroom. They also have their own lounge, separated by large sliding wooden doors, and both the lounge and the bedroom open onto a large balcony, with a table and chairs, as well as a couple of sunloungers.
- Finally the Strathearn suite is Ilala's answer to a presidential suite. Similar to the 'executive' suites but larger, with the option of in room dining & private chef. The Strathearn also has a hot tub on its private balcony.
we sat outside and saw a full moon rising behind the spray of the Falls – it was wonderful.
Adjacent to the restaurant is a good-sized swimming pool, with a smaller and shallower children’s pool at one end, and sunloungers with umbrellas for shade. Beside this is an open-air cocktail bar with comfortable chairs and sofas – a great spot to enjoy a drink on a warm balmy evening. As well as soft and alcoholic beverages, snacks can be ordered here throughout the day.
Courtesy of the activity centre at Ilala Lodge you can book the many activities offered in the Victoria Falls area, from the relaxed to the strenuous. One appealing option, at additional cost, is a sunset cruise on the Ra-Ikane riverboat – which is named after one of the first guides to lead Dr Livingstone on the Zambezi. There’s an open bar on board with snacks provided; when we joined the cruise these included 'crocodile bites', cocktail sausages and a variety of nuts, crudités and dips. The cost for this trip is extra but it's a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend a few hours.
There are a number of other boat operators on the river so this isn't the most tranquil of trips. That said, once you get away from the more crowded area near town there is the chance to see crocodile, hippo and elephant, as well as kudu and bushbuck on the shore.
IIala Lodge does a great job of maintaining a "lodge" feel despite its size. The service is personal without being over the top and the rooms are clean, comfortable and kitted out with more than simply the basics. The food is up there with the best in the Falls (although there is a wide range of cheaper, if lower quality, places to eat in town). For a base from which to explore the Victoria Falls, Ilala is certainly one of our favourites because it's close and so well-priced.
- Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
- Ideal length of stay
- Typically 2–3 days is an ideal length of stay here, although occasionally our travellers stay longer if they plan to engage in lots of activities.
- Guests arrive into either Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) or Livingstone (Zambia) by air and then transfer to the hotel by road. They may also be transferred to Ilala Lodge by road from one of the other major tourist destinations in Zimbabwe, such as Hwange, Mana Pools or Matobo Hills national parks.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Bed & Breakfast
- Food quality
- When we stayed at Ilala Lodge in December 2016, the food was excellent and extremely varied. Note that The Palm is popular, so it is advisable to reserve a table for your meals on arrival.
Breakfast is very good indeed. An extensive buffet of freshly baked breads, muffins, fresh fruit, yoghurt, cheeses and cold meats with a hot breakfast cooked to order will set you up for the day ahead.
Lunch is a relatively light menu with a selection of salads, sandwiches, burgers, fish and chips or steak and chips. Dessert was a choice of vanilla waffle (with banana, praline ice cream and caramel sauce), a seasonal fruit platter or a trio of seasonal fruit sorbets.
The dinner menu at The Palm is varied and imaginative, with starters such as soup of the day, gemsbok tartare, crocodile frikadelle, crumbed brie cheese, and a springbok and pancetta samosa. There is also a duck salad or beef and asparagus salad.
For the main course there was a choice of blesbok shank, crocodile and porcini risotto, pan-roasted ostrich fillet, duck breast, olive and feta chicken supreme, beef tenderloin, kudu wellington, baked tilapia (a local fish) and marinated sirloin. Vegetarian options included butternut and sage risotto, mushroom tagliatelle and chickpea and vegetable curry.Round off your meal with the likes of coffee and Kahlua parfait, pear and oat strudel or lemon cheesecake.
- Dining style
- Individual Tables
- Dining locations
- Indoor and Outdoor Dining
- Further dining info, including room service
- Room Service is not available
- Drinks included
- Drinks are not included with meals. A complimentary minibar is available in all the rooms. Once this is used up then it is restocked and you are charged for it. Mineral water is provided in all the rooms.
- Attitude towards children
- Ilala Lodge welcomes children
- Property’s age restrictions
- Special activities & services
- Babysitters are available on request. Please note that they are members of staff and not formally trained child minders.
- There is a highchair in the restaurant.
- Generally recommended for children
- IIlala Lodge is a good place for families. The suites can accommodate extra beds, while for families of four or more, inter-leading rooms can be allocated.
- Wild animals such as elephant and warthog wander around the grounds and there is also a deep swimming pool with no lifeguard, so children should be supervised by their parents at all times.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Ilala Lodge
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Ilala Lodge have kindly recorded their wildlife sightings and shared them with us. The results are below. Click an animal to see more, and here to see more on our methodology.
- Power supply notes
- There is a back up generator for use in the event of a power failure.
- There is a telephone in each room and the lodge has internet facilities for guest use in reception. There is WiFi throughout.
- TV & radio
- There is a TV in each room receiving satellite channels from South Africa (DSTV).
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- On our last visit to Ilala Lodge the water was hot and the pressure was good.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- The nearest hospital is in Victoria Falls town, close to the Lodge. In the event of serious injury or illness, guests would be transferred by air to Harare or Johannesburg if necessary.
Balcony safety warning: The balconies belonging to rooms 32 to 35 at Ilala Lodge are not suitably enclosed for children under the age of 6 years. We strongly recommend families with young children book alternative rooms here.
Swimming pool warning: Please be aware that the swimming pool at Ilala Lodge is not suitable for children under the age of 6 years due to safety concerns.
- Dangerous animals
- Moderate Risk
- Security measures
- Security guards patrol the premises day and night.
- Fire safety
- There are fire extinguishers dotted around all the hotel.
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- Ilala Lodge offers a laundry service at an extra cost.
- Each of the rooms has an electronic safe large enough to fit a laptop.
- Accepted payment on location
- The lodge accepts Visa and Mastercard but not Amex or Diners Club. Cash payments may be made in both international currencies (US dollars, pounds sterling), and regional currencies (South African rand, Botswana pula).
Other lodges in Victoria Falls
Alternative places to stay in this same area.