Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel: Honest Review + What to Expect
Waterfalls are always so captivating. If you are like me, you have dreamed of witnessing the sheer power of the world’s largest waterfall, Victoria Falls! There are so many accommodation choices for your Victoria Falls adventure. How do you choose? I will share why I consider the Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel the best accommodation choice to discover all Victoria Falls has to offer.
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The Location + Arrival
Landing at Victoria Falls Airport in Zimbabwe
Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel is located 15 minutes from Victoria Falls Town and the National Park and 20 minutes from the Victoria Falls Airport (VFA) in Zimbabwe.
The hotel offers COMPLIMENTARY airport transfers. The reservation specialist (who is very well organized!) will reach out to you shortly after your hotel booking to arrange the transfer.
A hotel representative picked us up promptly in a nice air-conditioned van after landing at the airport, which was appreciated after a 17-hour flight.
The partly bumpy drive (affectionately known as the African massage) to the hotel is part of the adventure! This was the first time we set foot in Africa, and it was thrilling to see a herd of elephants crossing the road as we drove up to the hotel.
The First Three Impressions
1. Restoration Hardware meets safari chic.
2. Close to town but far enough away to feel you are on your own personal oasis.
3. Luxurious without being pretentious.
Here is a sneak peek inside one of the gorgeous luxury suites we stayed in for 3 nights.
YouTube video of the luxury suite we stayed in at the Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel
Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel canopied king-size bed
With just 16 suites, Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel feels very private and personal.
We stayed in room 12 and had a lovely view from our terrace facing the private game reserve.
Each spacious air-conditioned suite is elegantly decorated and comes with a canopied very comfortable king-size bed (we slept very well!) and en-suite bathroom with a subway tile shower (great water pressure), a separate bath, and Africology skincare products that smelled amazing.
Bathroom with Africology products
In addition, there is a lounge area where you can watch TV and enjoy snacks and local liquor from the minibar.
Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel Personal Living Room
Selection of spirits from the minibar
From the lounge area, you open the back door which leads to an ample-sized terrace furnished by two large comfortable cushioned chairs.
I love how all of the rooms face the local private game reserve. You never know what you are going to see! Every afternoon right before sunset (almost as if on cue), the animals would put on a show by the waterhole.
One evening my husband was able to capture these cute baby baboons playing on a tree.
Personal terrace outside your room
Baby baboon playing on a tree at Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel
The Food & Drink
Sun Terrace on top level. Bar on bottom level.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served at the on-site restaurant, 1871 at Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel. You have the option of dining inside or out on the top level sun terrace.
We chose to be outside on the sun terrace every time. You can’t beat that view!
Most mornings the giraffes would parade in front of us to munch on some trees by the waterhole while we ate our breakfast.
Getting a show from the giraffes while eating breakfast
No buffets here!
All meals are a la carte, which we prefer. The menu offers classic European and African-fusion dishes.
Breakfast was included in our rate. The food was delicious, and the service was extremely personalized. The staff quickly gets to know you and greets you by name.
I absolutely love breakfast food, and the morning meals we had certainly did not disappoint. We can personally vouch for the following breakfast items:
- Eggs benedict: toasted English muffin with choice of ham, bacon, smoked salmon, and hollandaise sauce
- Souffled omelet with mushrooms, gruyere, and freshly grated Parmesan (my husband’s favorite!)
- Crumpets or vanilla French toast with fresh berries and honey
Eggs Benedict with Bacon
Crumpets with fresh berries and honey
We chose to have dinner at the property for all three nights we were there.
The menu of course will change with the seasons, but some of our favorite dishes were the following:
- Sweetcorn soup with a corn fritter and crisp pancetta
- Lamb rogan josh with poppadoms and sambals
- Butternut and lentil curry with basmati rice, sambals, and yogurt
- Tagliatelle primavera with asparagus, garden peas, broad beans in a Parmesan sauce
- Mushroom risotto with porcini mushrooms and creamy Arborio rice.
- Tipsy Tart with toasted nuts and vanilla creme fraiche is a must for dessert!
Lamb Rogan Josh with Gin & Tonic
Mushroom risotto with another Gin & Tonic
The wine list offered a nice variety of South African wines.
We absolutely love Pinot Noir, so we were excited to try one of the local Pinot Noirs, Iona Mr. P Knows from Elgin. It tasted of ripe red strawberries with good acidity and a long finish. It paired nicely with the lamb we had.
Later on in our trip, we went to the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley in South Africa and had a chance to visit some of the top local pinot noir producers during our South Africa Wine Tour.
While lounging at the pool, we also enjoyed a lovely bottle of sparkling dry wine with a zesty finish from Franschhoek in South Africa called L’Ormarins Brut Classique NV.
Enjoying a glass of L’Ormarins Brut Classique NV poolside
The Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel is strategically placed to face the setting sun.
Have a sundowner at their beautiful bar, which is located below the top-level sun terrace. The sunsets are absolutely spectacular.
Our drink of choice was the gin & tonic.
Craft gin has gained increased popularity in South Africa over the years, so we were excited to try some of the top local brands.
Even winemakers have started to make their own premium gins. We tried one called Wildcraft Equinox 79 Gin at Moreson Winery in Franschhoek later on in our trip, which is distilled from estate-grown Chardonnay grapes.
Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel bar
Downside bar’s open terrace at sunset
My husband had the Six Dogs Blue Gin paired with the Fitch & Leedes blue tonic (sparkling blueberry flavored drink with hints of cardamom). The infusion of the Blue Pea flower gives the gin that striking blue color.
Six Dogs Blue Gin & Tonic
Musgrave Pink Gin & Tonic
The Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel has a beautiful pool with umbrella-shaded loungers. You can order food & drink service while at the pool.
Although it was tempting to load up our itinerary with daily activities while we were here, we chose one afternoon to do NOTHING but lounge around the pool drinking sparkling wine.
This gorgeous property forced us to relax and take in the beautiful scenery and wildlife. While sipping on wine, we had the pleasure of seeing a baboon casually saunter across the lawn right in front of us.
Local baboon walking across the lawn
They do provide spa services. I cannot comment since I didn’t utilize this service due to a lack of time. You can only pack in so much on a given day.
However, I did use the spa services at another one of the MORE properties at Lion Sands River Lodge in Sabi Sands, which was amazing.
There is no gym, which was the only negative to this property. However, I found there was really no time to work out because of all the activities we booked for the short time we were here.
Daily wildlife sightings for the month of September as posted by Wild Horizons, a local tour company.
I wish I had known they offered game drives right on the property before we left because I would have definitely booked this activity. I didn’t realize this was an option until we looked over from where we were sitting by the pool and saw a safari jeep driving near the waterhole on the property.
They offer private walking safaris and daily morning and afternoon game drives on the Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve.
They are specifically known for their black rhinos, but there is a good chance of seeing all of the BIG FIVE (elephant, lion, leopard, rhino, and cape buffalo) as shown from the chart above posted by a local tour company, Wild Horizons.
VICTORIA FALLS NATIONAL PARK
Victoria Falls, world’s largest waterfall as seen from the Zimbabwe side
While it’s not the highest nor the widest, Victoria Falls is the largest waterfall in the world based on its combined height and width.
It is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world, and it’s not to be missed! This is the reason you are likely here in the first place.
The Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel is conveniently located 15 minutes away from the Victoria Falls National Park.
The hotel offers COMPLIMENTARY shared transfers to/from Victoria Falls Town/National Park at set times (but we found there is flexibility if you want to be dropped off earlier or later than the set times):
Departs the hotel: 8 am, 11 am, 3 pm
Returns to the hotel: 11:30 am, 3:30 pm
Baboon relaxing in front of Victoria Falls Bridge
1 of 16 viewpoints in Victoria Falls National Park
The hotel does offer to provide a guide, but we found that it is not needed. Navigating the well-marked paths around the park was easy and straightforward.
If you are the adventurous type, I would strongly advise checking out my article on swimming in Devil’s Pool on top of Victoria Falls. This is a once in a lifetime experience!
The hotel can arrange transport for this activity. The experience should only be booked through the official tour operator Tongabezi.
Swimming in Devil’s Pool on top of Victoria Falls
CHOBE NATIONAL PARK DAY TRIP
Family of elephants at Chobe National Park in Botswana
One unique activity Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel offers is a trip to Chobe National Park in Botswana. Because the park is located close to the borders of Zambia and Zimbabwe, it makes for an easy day trip.
I independently booked the tour through Wild Horizons, and the hotel arranged my transport to get to/from Wild Horizons’ main office in Victoria Falls Town.
It takes about an hour to get to the Botswana border and then another 20 minutes or so to get to the Chobe Marina Lodge. From the lodge, enjoy a relaxing river cruise followed by lunch and then an afternoon game drive (the order can be reversed).
Chobe National Park is home to Africa’s largest elephant population! It is a long day, but I highly recommend this tour.
SUNSET ZAMBEZI RIVER CRUISE
This is a highly popular activity that if we had enough time, we would have done it. The Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel can easily arrange the reservation.
There were two companies I had considered. Both are similar in cost but offer different experiences.
Ilala Lodge owns and operates this fleet of boats, which are colonial, charming, old-timey, and elegant. It is a small group cruise (max of 16 people).
Due to the design of the boat, you are able to get closer to the banks of the Zambezi River. The sunset cruise lasts 2 hours and includes all premium drinks and gourmet snacks.
02- Zambezi Explorer Luxury Deck
These boats appear more luxurious and modern. Relax on Ndebele-patterned chairs or lounge seating. Snack on gourmet hors d’oeuvres, and enjoy some refreshing cocktails. This cruise lasts 2 hours and includes drinks and food.
If you want to combine the river cruise with a lovely 3-course dinner at The Eatery, the same company (Pure Africa) offers a combo deal.
Victoria Falls Bungee Jump Bridge
I am a little bit of an adrenaline junkie. I have done shark cage diving with great white sharks and bungee jumping in New Zealand.
My husband and I also swam in Devil’s Pool on top of Victoria Falls, the world’s largest waterfall! If you love to get your blood pumping, there are plenty of other adventure activities at Victoria Falls to keep you busy:
- Whitewater rafting
- Helicopter rides
- Bungee jumping (from Victoria Falls Bridge pictured above)
- Microlight flight over Victoria Falls (wish I had done this)
There are many tour companies that offer the above activities. We had a great experience with Wild Horizons for our day trip to Chobe National Park, so I can highly recommend this tour company.
Another tour company (that I did not use) but is also highly rated is Shearwater Adventures, which operates bungee jumping.
The rates are $445+ USD pp per night.
The Reasons for Choosing This Hotel
#1- LOCATION: ZAMBIA VS. ZIMBABWE
We knew we wanted to stay in Zimbabwe because 75% of Victoria Falls can be seen from the Zimbabwe side.
During the height of the dry season (sometime in October/November), Victoria Falls completely dries up on the Zambia side.
We went in mid-September, and that is the ideal time to do Devil’s Pool which was one of our bucket list items! The Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel provided easy access to the Victoria Falls National Park by offering complimentary transfers to/from the park.
A lot of activities (minus Devil’s Pool or the Microlight flights) seem to operate from the Zimbabwe side.
For example, if you wanted to do the Ra-Inkane sunset Zambezi cruise, you would leave from Ilala Lodge located in Zimbabwe. Another example is when we did our full-day Chobe National Park trip, we started our trip at the Wild Horizons office in Zimbabwe.
#3- MODERN COMFORTS
This was our first trip to Africa, and I had no idea what to expect. We were also going during a time when there was political and economic unrest in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe.
Please note we had no problems at all and felt completely safe staying on the Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls.
With all of this being said, I wanted to choose a property that had a great reputation (Stanley & Livingstone is part of several MORE properties), offered modern comforts, and had excellent service and food.
The Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel not only met but surpassed all of our expectations due to the very personalized service of the amazing staff! Richard (housekeeping), Daisy (reception/concierge), Tulani (driver), Ferdinand (bartender), and Marcus (waiter) were just a few of the names who went above and beyond to make our stay special.
Other Hotels We Considered
The only other hotel we considered, which was about $200/night cheaper was Ilala Lodge.
One advantage of this hotel is that it is located right in Victoria Falls Town (easy access to activities). It is a beautiful boutique hotel but not as luxurious as Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel nor did it have its own private game reserve.
The Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel in Zimbabwe offers the ideal base for your Victoria Falls adventure. By staying in Zimbabwe over Zambia, you will see 75% of Victoria Falls. And if you end up booking the Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel, you will have your own personal private oasis but still be close enough to all of the action and amazing activities.
Best of both worlds.
Plus, it is close to the Victoria Falls Airport, which offers nonstop flights to Cape Town. Victoria Falls was part of our 2-week South Africa itinerary, so we were able to easily jump to our next adventure via a short flight to Cape Town after our time at Victoria Falls.
Wholeheartedly, I can recommend this hotel without any reservations. You won’t be disappointed, and you will wish you had 1 more day when you have to leave. I know we did!
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Questions about our experience at this hotel?
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