The Palm – a riverside oasis in Victoria Falls

Sally Wynn, Wild Zambezi • 14 October 2021

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At the beginning of October, while visiting Victoria Falls to celebrate the 30th Birthday of Ilala Lodge, Wild Zambezi was delighted to be able to sample the tourism experience awaiting future visitors to Ilala’s brand new sister property, The Palm River Hotel.

I knew that the location of this new luxury hotel right on the banks of the Zambezi River upstream from the Victoria Falls would be prime, but I wasn’t quite prepared for just how carefully this magnificent development has been crafted to blend into its riverine woodland surroundings.  After all, with 73 rooms including a private Villa, this is no boutique hotel – this is a large development with a potentially vast footprint on its surrounds. I was delightfully surprised at how lovely it has turned out to be.  

The hotel design is inspired by the Australian “Queenslander” style, using corrugated iron, timber and decorative metalwork (including a replica of the famous Falls Bridge) verandah features, prominent exterior staircases and a sense of spaciousness throughout. 

The large high-ceilinged central reception-dining-bar area is carefully crafted as a huge airy space which maximises through-flow of cool air from the river - a perfect design solution to the high tropical temperatures experienced almost year-round in Victoria Falls.

The elegant, air-conditioned, top-quality Deluxe and Suite rooms are located separately in individual accommodation sections (blocks) spread out along the river frontage and each named alphabetically after a tree species found on the property (Acacia, Baobab, Combretum, Duiker-Berry, Ebony, and Fig).  

I loved this deliberate emphasis on the trees.  The magnificent, natural riverine forest of Ilala Palms and Water-berries along this stretch of the Zambezi River has been enriched by selective tree-planting of other indigenous species which have matured over decades to provide the most magnificent shady canopy.  Very little of this has been disturbed in the construction of the hotel.  Indeed, some of these beauties have actually been incorporated into the design of the central area – a laudable (and ambitious) achievement, to say the least!

My Deluxe Room with en-suite bathroom (one of 60, of which two have been specially designed for wheelchair access), offered a high degree of modern comfort and luxury, including air-conditioning, fans, a fully-stocked tea/coffee station and a mini-bar, and a verandah.

The view looks out through shady trees towards the Zambezi River, with (if you’re lucky) a resident family of warthogs passing by, efficiently keeping the green lawn neatly cropped!

The property also offers two Deluxe 2-bedroomed Family Suites, three Executive Suites, two Honeymoon Suites, a Presidential Suite and the private, exclusive-use, 3-bedroomed Palm River Villa.
An outdoor bar, swimming area with three pools, a beauty spa, conferencing and event facilities, a tours and activities desk, and a complimentary shuttle to Victoria Falls are also available to visitors staying at The Palm River Hotel.  A private jetty on the riverbank in front of the hotel moors the fleet of three traditional Ra-IKane riverboats which are available for tranquil and leisurely breakfast, lunch and sundowner cruises between the islands downstream of the property – a delightful activity for everyone, especially families, nature-lovers and bird-watchers.

There are many things that tick all the right boxes at this beautiful new tourism product in Southern Africa’s main tourism hub. But for me, its winning attribute is its idyllic wild location right on the banks of the Zambezi River only 4km upstream from the roar of the Victoria Falls themselves.  

A stay at The Palm River Hotel allows visitors to Victoria Falls to immerse themselves completely in the magnificent natural beauty of the place.  

After a walk through the famous rainforest, where you feel the thunderous power of the Zambezi River as it throws itself over a 100-metre cliff into its deep rocky gorge, and are soaked by the drench of its spray, you can escape from the buzz and beat of the busy resort town and retreat to the cool shady spaces of this lovely hotel alongside the river’s peaceful upstream backwaters.  Here you can enjoy your evening cocktails, delicious gourmet meals and a luxuriously comfortable night’s sleep in beautiful, natural surroundings as the waters of the mighty Zambezi flow past only a few metres away.  

Believe me, it’s hard to beat!

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