Inspired by the Zambezi River: African Bush Camps’ Thorntree River Lodge in Zambia
Fox Browne Creative’s vision sets a scene for memorable adventures as travelers get a feel of ‘floating on the river’ without leaving their suites
From its rise in the dense Miombo woodland in Zambia, to its dramatic tumble over Victoria Falls along the Zimbabwean border, and its eventual drain into the Indian Ocean off the coast of Mozambique, the Zambezi River rolls 1,600 miles and doesn’t stop for anything. It’s only fitting that the design of Thorntree River Lodge, an ultra-luxury destination from African Bush Camps (ABC) and Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Award honoree as one of the Best Resorts in Africa 2021, give guests a feel for the motion of the river – and more. “Our aim was to create a sense of river cabins floating over the banks of the Zambezi,” recalls Debra Fox, founder and owner of the South African multidisciplinary design studio, Fox Browne Creative, of the design dreamt up for the 2017 opening of Thorntree along the banks of the Zambezi in Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park. “We were inspired by the notion of the old-fashioned river cabins that are renown along the Zambezi near the camp.”
Overlooking more than 1,000 feet of riverfront frequented by elephants, hippos, rhinos, and countless bird species, Thorntree’s 12 canvas guest tents rest on raised platforms, giving a sense of floating above the Zambezi. This feeling is heightened by private infinity-edge plunge pools that seem linked to the water. Inside, wooden and sleeper car cladding lends warmth and texture to living spaces open to the river for seamless flow to the outdoors.
Indeed, with wandering wildlife and close proximity to the Zambezi, guests can enjoy the bush without leaving their suites. Spacious rooms allow for alfresco dining and are arrayed with large black-and-white photographs of the Zambezi valley by South African photographer David Ballam. Regional design elements complete the scene. Tonga baskets, reeded ceilings, and copper cladding celebrating Zambia’s copper industry on the wall of the guest bar. Blue hues reminiscent of the river – including accent pieces in cobalt blue mud cloth, a handmade Malian cotton fabric traditionally dyed with fermented mud – add organic texture and create a relaxed mood.
There is much more to appeal to guests at Thorntree. A shop and library housed in a large domed building were inspired by grain silos; a pool playfully equipped with composite stone loungers in the shallow section for guests to keep cool in the warm, humid climate; and a sunken fire pit – a signature feature of every ABC destination – emblazoned with a steel orb laser-cut with scenes from the bush. The fire pit quickly became a meeting point for guests to enjoy coffee and tea before morning safaris.
From that first sip, days are full of activities for guests, including guided walking safaris and game drives, as well as canoeing, catch-and-release fishing, and relaxed cruises on a secluded section of the Zambezi. All activities are included and led by African Bush Camps continuously trained and passionate Zambian guides.
Located approximately 20 minutes from the international airport in Livingstone, Thorntree River Lodge is easily accessible from across the globe, with airlines such as Emirates, British Airways, Kenya Airways, and South African Airways offering direct and one-stop routes. The Victoria Falls Airport across the Zimbabwean border is not much further: ABC’s chauffeurs and guides collect guests in a first-class, deep-cleaned shuttle limited to 6 passengers per pick up/drop off.