Old Drift Lodge: Our full report
On the banks of the Zambezi River, 7km upstream of the Victoria Falls, the stylish Old Drift Lodge opened ...... in mid-May 2018. It is one of a handful of camps within Zimbabwe’s Zambezi National Park, with regular visits from elephants to the lodge, especially later into the dry season.
Overlooking the mighty Zambezi River, the site of Old Drift Lodge was once the original crossing point of the river, dating back to 1898. Known as “Clarke’s Drift”, and just 7km upstream from the waterfall, it was the narrowest part of the river, making it the best crossing point.
Old Drift Lodge has 14 tented chalets, all slightly raised on wooden decks and spaced out along the riverfront. These chalets are quite contemporary in design, their canvas walls the only real nod to a “tent”. Light-coloured canvas, glass sliding doors and windows and high ceilings all create a well-lit space.
The sizeable open-plan bedroom has a four-poster mosquito net enveloping a large king or twin beds, plus bedside tables, and a small dressing room behind the bed with built-in cupboards that house the air conditioning. A seating area affords space for relaxation, with two comfortable armchairs and a small coffee table, a locally made wooden desk and dresser, plus a minibar, tea and coffee station and ice-making machine.
Leading off the dressing room, four of the chalets have a second en-suite bedroom (with a shower and toilet), so cater well for families with young children.
Back in the main bedroom, a sliding canvas door opens into the equally spacious en suite bathroom, with twin copper basins, a large glass-screened shower cubicle, and a toilet behind another sliding door. Step outside and you'll find an outside shower, as well as a free-standing ball-and-claw bath on the deck, with canvas curtains should you prefer a little more privacy.
A lot of thought has gone into the little touches in each tented chalet, whose amenities include toiletries, dressing gowns and slippers in the bathrooms, along with mosquito repellent and bug spray, a hairdryer and even hair straighteners! There's also a charging station by each desk, and international and USB plug sockets next to the beds.
The sliding doors from each chalet open onto a wooden deck, with loungers placed next to a small plunge pool, looking out to the river. Your days will no doubt be filled with activities, but for those spending the afternoon siesta at the lodge, this is a great spot for birdwatching, with plenty of pied kingfishers, bee-eaters and swifts flying past. On our most recent stay, in October 2019, we spotted some kudu too.
Linking the chalets to the expansive tented main area are wood-effect walkways, with regular breaks allowing river access along the natural migration routes of elephant, and sometimes buffalo. Large wooden doors open into the main area itself, with cream canvas walls, whitewashed wood floors and folding glass doors opening the full length of one side. Wrought-iron lights hang over comfortable chairs and sofas, piled with cushions and soft blankets for the colder evenings, and surrounding a central fireplace – which creates a focal point in front of a bar and small library. Friendly staff – ever present but unobtrusive throughout our stay – are on hand to bring drinks and nibbles, attend to guests' queries and offer assistance.
In the dining area to the other side of the main tent, tables are placed under ceiling fans, as well as on the deck looking over the river. Outdoor lounge areas, with a mix of wooden and wicker furniture, are shaded by large cream umbrellas on a series of split-level decks leading down to a firepit and jetty.
Activities included at Old Drift Lodge are varied: game drives into the Zambezi National Park, river cruises, guided walking safaris, lunch at the Lookout Café and a guided tour of the Falls (excluding entry fees to the falls which need to be paid direct).
Extra activities, which incur an additional cost, include fishing and canoeing, as well as microlight and helicopter flights and a variety of adrenalin activities – all can be arranged through the lodge's reception. Note, though, that some of these activities can get booked up a while in advance, so do chat to us about the options before your trip.
If you're heading into Victoria Falls town for activities you'll either be driven in, or you could be transferred by the lodge's motorboat, which cruises between here and the Old Drift's own jetty, opposite Kalunda Island, just a short drive from town. For any activities that will keep you in town for the full day, lunch is included at their sister establishment, the Lookout Café, a large open-sided restaurant and bar in a stunning location atop the Batoka Gorge.
We’ve been really impressed with Old Drift Lodge on all our visits. With a beautiful location, stylish tents and a fantastic front-of-house team, it’s a great lodge, either as a base for your visit to the Falls, or as a stand-alone lodge for a few days of relaxed safari activities.
- Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
- Ideal length of stay
- We'd suggest a stay of three or more nights at Old Drift, which will give you time to relax at the lodge as well as enjoying some of the many activities in Victoria Falls.
- The Old Drift jetty is a 35-minute drive from Victoria Falls airport. You'll then be transferred to the lodge via speedboat, which usually takes 10–15 minutes, depending on the wildlife you see along the way.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- The food we’ve had at Old Drift has always been very good, and their team are able to cater to a variety of different dietary requirements. This was evident during our most recent visit in October 2019.
Tea, coffee and rusks are on offer first thing in the morning if you're heading out in a game drive; otherwise a full breakfast is served from 7.00am with a continental buffet, and hot dishes available to order.
Lunch is flexible, depending on the timings of your activity and the number of guests at the lodge. Either buffet or à la carte, there's a mix of salads, quiches, and meat and vegetarian dishes. For guests in Victoria Falls for an activity, lunch is included at the Lookout Café with a great view down to the river below. We enjoyed freshly made tuna salad sandwiches and ice-cream milkshakes.
Dinner is again buffet or à la carte depending on the number of guests. We had a choice of vichyssoise soup or beef carpaccio for starters, followed an extensive selection of either pan-fried tilapia (locally known as bream) fillet, grilled beef sirloin or sautéed vegetable curry, topped off with a choice of either vanilla and coffee bavarois or fresh fruit for dessert. On a previous trip we had a traditional braai (barbecue) of pork, chicken, beef and fish, alongside various salads, freshly baked rolls and a selection of pickles, sauces and dressings: all delicious.
- Attitude towards children
- Old Drift welcomes children over the age of seven in camp.
- Property’s age restrictions
- The lodge allows children from the age of seven and upwards, though children under 16 must share a room with an adult. The age limit for walking in the national park is 16 years old.
- Special activities & services
- Children under the age of 16 years may be taken on a drive while the adults go for a walk.
- Day beds can be included in the family rooms.
- Generally recommended for children
- Old Drift has a relatively mature and stylish feel, and there are no specific children’s activities on offer, so we’d recommend it as more suitable for older children.
- The plunge pools are unfenced, and wild animals often walk through camp. Children should be supervised by their parent or guardian at all times.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Old Drift Lodge
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Old Drift 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
- Old Drift Lodge has a back-up generator in case of a mains power failure. Solar power is used to run the geysers for each chalet, and there are plans to broaden this until the whole lodge runs on solar power.
All rooms have international charging points, along with USB sockets.
- WiFi is available in the central areas and chalets.
- TV & radio
- There are no TVs at the lodge.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- Water is pumped from the river, filtered and treated. The bathrooms have plumbed, hot showers and flush toilets.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- Staff members are first-aid trained, and there is a main first-aid kit in the reception. Smaller first-aid kits are carried by all guides whilst on activities. The closest medical clinic is in Victoria Falls.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- Security personnel are on site round the clock, with armed guards at night. There is an intercom in each chalet to call through to reception, and staff escort guests to and from their chalets in the morning and after dark.
- Fire safety
- Fire extinguishers are located in each tented chalet, and throughout the main lodge.
Guided walking safari
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- A daily laundry service is included. Laundry can be washed by hand or machine, and can be tumble dried on request.
- Each chalet has a digital safe. The lodge is often able to change small amounts of currency on request.
- Accepted payment on location
- Payment can be made via Mastercard and Visa, as well as cash in South African rand, Botswana pula, euro, UK pounds and US dollars.
Other lodges in Victoria Falls
Alternative places to stay in this same area.