With Zimbabwe fast re-emerging as one of Africa’s most popular safari destinations, experiential luxury travel company andBeyond is set to make its presence felt in Victoria Falls. The company will once again take over the management of the exclusive Matetsi River Lodge, as well as its 50 000 hectare (123 500 acre) wildlife concession on the Zambezi River, while also re-establishing an exclusive ground-handling operation in the area.
“With the expansion of Victoria Falls Airport providing easier access and changing the dynamics of how guests travel in the region, we felt that it was the right time to re-engage with an old safari favourite of ours, Zimbabwe, and Victoria Falls specifically,” says Joss Kent, andBeyond CEO. “In the process, we wanted to take the entire guest experience to a new level, from quality ground-handling services, transfers and excursions right through to providing the most luxurious accommodation and unique wildlife experience in the area.”
The brand new andBeyond Matetsi River Lodge is set to provide both these elements. Situated within 40 km (25 miles) of Victoria Falls, the lodge offers an exceptional wildlife experience on a massive concession that boasts 27 km (17 miles) of private Zambezi River frontage, as well as convenient and easy access to the magnificent sights and variety of adrenalin adventures available at the World Heritage Site. Previously managed by andBeyond from 1996 to 2011, the lodge is currently undergoing an extensive 10million US dollar rebuild and refurbishment and is due to reopen on 15 July 2016.
Located on one of the largest wildlife concessions in the area and boasting extensive river frontage, andBeyond Matetsi will offer the most rich and exclusive game viewing experience in Victoria Falls, with massive herds of elephant and the rare and majestic sable antelope as some of the highlights.
In addition to twice daily game drives in the privacy of the concession, andBeyond Matetsi will also offer interpretive bush walks. Riverboat cruises and canoeing off the banks of the private game reserve will allow guests to enjoy the river in complete exclusivity, with not another boat in sight, providing magnificent sightings of vast elephant herds coming down to the water to drink.
“The lodge’s owner is totally passionate about the project and has worked incredibly hard to resuscitate the concession, focusing both on wildlife and habitat. This matches andBeyond’s core ethos of Care of the Land, Care of the Wildlife, Care of the People,” explains Kent. “Having originally been involved in the conversion of the Matetsi concession from wildlife hunting to photographic safaris, we are really excited to once again be helping to protect and nurture this beautiful and unique wilderness area back to pristine condition. The game experience that we will create at andBeyond Matetsi will provide an element that has been missing in the Victoria Falls area for far too long.”
Thanks to its years of involvement with the staff of Matetsi and its model of promoting conservation through involving the people who live next to or near wildlife areas, andBeyond will also be working with its community development partner, Africa Foundation, to engage with the local communities.
“andBeyond will follow our usual principles of employing from the local community as much as possible and purchasing as much as we can locally, thereby contributing to the economic upliftment of both Matetsi and Zimbabwe as a whole. We want to build on the foundation we once had at Matetsi, bringing back some of our old staff and guides, with their warm hospitality and wealth of experience,” explains Kent.
andBeyond Matetsi River Lodge will feature two camps of nine suites each, including a family suite at each camp. A sole-use private villa, andBeyond Matetsi River House, will add exclusive accommodation for private groups of up to eight. The four-bedroom villa will boast its own kitchen, indoor and outdoor dining areas, a private veranda overlooking the Zambezi, a swimming pool and its own fire pit. It comes with a dedicated guide, private vehicle, chef and butler.
andBeyond’s specially designed children’s programme, WILDchild, will keep young guests busy with activities such as making their own fishing rods, fishing in the river and making plaster casts of animal tracks, making this an idea destination for multigenerational travel.
andBeyond has followed a policy of using local talent wherever possible in the rebuild of both lodges. As a result, the rich heritage of Zimbabwe is a strong factor in the new design, which draws inspiration from the traditions of fishing and basket weaving.
Swathed in layers of intertwined reeds that merge with the surrounding vegetation, the spacious suites will boast private plunge pools with Zambezi River views. Set between riverside trees, the soaring guest areas will open out onto the outdoor setting. The lodge will house a generous Safari Shop and state-of-the-art gym, as well as a massage sala and conference facility. A 25-meter-long (82-foot-long) rim flow swimming pool will stretch along the river’s bank, while an exclusive wine cellar will look out onto the Zambezi at eye level.
Sitting areas and dining spaces will make the most of the river views, with an interactive kitchen inviting guests in. Pre-dinner drinks will be served in an open bar area looking out onto the river or in a cosy lounge complete with fireplace. An open area with a blazing fire bowl as a centrepiece will provide the perfect setting for sundowners.
While the area’s cultural heritage will be highlighted with traditional abstract carvings of wood and stone, a more contemporary touch will be brought in with recent art by Zimbabwean artist Helen Teede. Splashes of bright blue will mimic the waters of the Zambezi River. A strong copper theme will run throughout the lodge in homage to the mineral riches of the region, from copper drums in the open-air outdoor enclosure known as a boma to copper pots and pans in the interactive kitchen and copper details on the taps in the bathrooms. Simple glass coffee tables will showcase objects naturally found along the banks of the Zambezi, such as such as driftwood, nests, rocks and pods. Recycled materials from the previous design of the lodge will be cleverly incorporated wherever possible.
“I am confident that andBeyond Matetsi River Lodge will be one of the finest luxury lodges in Africa, and certainly Zimbabwe, providing the best safari experience and quickly becoming a must-visit destination. I look forward to everyone coming to Matetsi and judging for themselves what we have created here,” concludes John Gardiner, the owner of andBeyond Matetsi River Lodge.
Bookings for andBeyond Matetsi River Lodge and andBeyond Matetsi River House open on 08 March 2016. For more information, log on to www.andBeyond.com or contact your preferred travel specialist.