Review: Sanctuary Sussi & Chuma

Sanctuary Retreats' lodge on the Zambezi River affords guests prime access to Victoria Falls

Location: Though just a 25-minute drive from Livingstone airport, Sanctuary Sussi & Chuma feels wonderfully remote, set into a quiet curve of the meandering Zambezi River in the wildlife-rich Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park.

The region’s best asset – Victoria Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in the world – is just over seven miles away. Scheduled and charter flights are available into Livingstone; road transfers can also be arranged from Victoria Falls town and Victoria Falls airport in Zimbabwe, and Kasane airport in Botswana.

First impressions: “The owners of this land are free to come and go as they wish,” our guide says on arrival, referring to the abundance of animals that roam, carefree, through the lodge’s unfenced borders. It means wildlife encounters often come to guests, and we’ve barely been at the property 15 minutes before we glimpse hippos breaching from the lodge’s cinematic terrace and monkeys and warthogs picking across the forest floor.

The facts: Sanctuary Sussi & Chuma comprises just 12 treehouse suites, all connected via elevated timber walkways that criss-cross the park’s natural foliage. The wooden reception area is surrounded by jackalberry trees and phoenix palms, while accommodation is perched on stilts amid a canopy of ebony trees. Each circular treehouse features a private viewing deck, an en suite bathroom with a free[1]standing tub, and a king-sized bed with mosquito nets and an overhead fan, plus a mini-bar, air conditioning and free Wi-Fi.

The main lodge building houses a bar, lounge area, restaurant and expansive deck for open-air dining and drinking. There’s also a raised swimming pool overlooking the riverbank, a spa treatment room and a shop. One of 12 lodges in the Sanctuary Retreats portfolio, the property is committed to philanthropy and guests can take part in a tour of local village Nakatindi and its community school.

Ideal for: The intimate nature of this property means guests are guaranteed a personalised experience. Honeymooners can expect a host of surprises, from private dinners on the pool deck to complimentary spa treatments, while families with children over the age of six can enjoy tailored activities including child-friendly game drives and sunset storytelling. Many combine a stay here with a visit to neighbouring Botswana, where Sanctuary Retreats has four camps.

Explore: The Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park is one of Zambia’s smallest and has a distinctly relaxed atmosphere due to the lack of predators. Guests can expect to see elephant, buffalo, zebra, giraffe, impala, crocodile, hippo, baboon and vervet monkey.

There is also a colourful array of birdlife and a small but prized collection of rhino. Seven activities are included in the rate at Sanctuary Sussi & Chuma, ranging from game drives and walking safaris to catch-and-release fishing and sundowner cruises on the river. A tour of the Zambian side of Victoria Falls is also included, but agents should elevate clients’ experience by booking a helicopter flight over the waterfall instead – undoubtedly the most exhilarating way to view this incredible natural wonder.

Wow: An evening on the river is hard to beat. We set out in the late afternoon sun, sipping gin and tonics and munching on local biltong while scanning the reeds and riverside for movement: a bachelor herd of elephants having a drink, a trio of loping giraffes in the distance, Marabou storks paddling in the shallows.

Our brilliant guide Herbert expertly navigates his way along the river, negotiating the rapids, rocks and pods of hippos with ease. At one point he turns the engine off entirely and we float, listening to nothing but the sounds of the bush. We return to camp as the sky turns pink – just in time to secure front row seats for sundowners on the terrace next to a crackling fire.

Book it: Rooms start from $755 per person per night.

Erica Rich