Toka Leya, an ideal base for some great adventures

I was standing on a wooden platform on the bank of the Zambezi River gazing at the magical vista. As I walked along the forested river bank breathing in the fresh air, I wondered how one man changed the landscapes along the river and around the magnificent Victoria Falls. The land used to be inhabited by the Lozi people, who were survivors from the disintegration of the Rozwi kingdom of Great Zimbabwe. 

I’m at the Toka Leya Camp which is located at Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. 

Discovery of David Livingston

The arrival of European pioneer and adventurous explorer David Livingston in Africa in 1855 was a turning point in the history of the African continent especially around Victoria Falls. The discovery of the Zambezi River at the border of modern Zambia and Zimbabwe by David Livingston along with his publications about what he witnessed and then described in his writings about the beauty and magical power of the Falls opened the eyes of the Europeans to a new and fascinating world wonder. A chapter in the book of nature marked the area as a most desirable attraction that, sadly, forced the native people to move slowly inland in the interest of this new world heritage site. This opened the doors to tourists from all over the world. 

David Livingston witnessed the slow flow of the Zambezi River plunge from the rocky cliffs down to the snaking gorges, creating several foaming waterfalls. The locals described the falls as the Smoke that Thunders (Mosi-oa-Tunya). David Livingston has depicted it in his diary: “The whole scene was extremely beautiful …. so lovely, must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”

The exploration of David Livingston in the 19th century was materialized in the early 20th century by the ambitions of Cecil Rhodes in the development of the railway system to connect Cairo to Cape Town and the building of the Victoria Falls Bridge, paving ways of attracting Europeans to the jewel of Africa. The Department of National Parks and Wildlife of Zambia, which was established to conserve the wildlife estate, national parks, game areas and bird sanctuaries with other relevant government authorities, worked on plans to develop landscapes along the Zambezi River. The authorities allowed the construction of hotels and lodges to accommodate the influx of tourists.

Wilderness Vision

In 2008, Wilderness won a tender to develop Toka Leya Camp along the Zambezi River in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. The site was previously home to the Lozi people of Makumba village. The land along the river was harsh and burnt, lacking much natural flora and vegetation. Wilderness, as a prominent conservation and hospitality company, had a vision to restore the beauty of the environment, so they drew a plan to change the face of the area, making the campsite look naturally attractive.

Luxury tented rooms

Toka Leya Safaris Campsite has twelve tented en-suite rooms raised on wooden decks connected by walkways so as not to disturb the flow of wildlife. Three of the suites are family units with an extra bedroom. There is an airy lounge, dining area, bar and pool. They all offer wondrous views over the Zambezi River and the local hippos, crocodiles and elephants that come down to drink. During your stay you will find a variety of animals wandering over the campsite including monkeys, impala, buffalo and warthogs. You could also see elephants below walkways feeding on the leaves from trees. There are guards during the night to keep the pathways safe for guests. Despite subtle lights along the paths, the watchmen will always accompany guests to and from their rooms after darkness.

Dining

There is a huge open-sided lounge, bar and dining area furnished with comfortable sofas and chairs facing the Zambezi River. A brick oven in the corner of the lounge is used make pizzas. An extended deck facing the river is also an inspiring place to have lunch or enjoy afternoon tea. When you are eating under the shadow of a tree, you have to watch out for the monkeys who are waiting for a moment to grab your bread or fruit. Guests are asked not to feed them.

Enjoying the early morning sunrise and feeling a cool breeze from the river, I enjoyed my breakfast on the sun deck. Lots to choose from including fresh juices, fruit salad, omelettes or a full English breakfast with boiled eggs, sausages and baked beans. More than enough to fortify yourself before joining one of the exciting activities. If you are going on a game drive, the staff can serve breakfast in your room. For lunch and dinner, staff ask you in the morning to choose your favourite dishes from an à la carte menu with several choices before leaving the camp.

Toka Leya offers a three-course meal for lunch and dinner. I always enjoyed starting my meal with mushroom soup. My preferred main dish was a pan-fried Zambezi Bream served with crisp garden salad, potato crisps and tartar sauce. My choice of dessert was watermelon with vanilla ice cream and coconut oat cookie, followed by mint tea. The friendly staff were always available to serve fresh fruit juice, coffee or tea. My best moment at Toka Leya was dining after sunset under the light of a lantern, watching the scattering orange and yellow colour of the sky on the far horizon.

SPA and Gym

After becoming exhausted from a day of game drives, you can lie down by the swimming pool under sun umbrellas watching the slow flow of the Zambezi River and passing animals. The lodge has also a SPA, for pampering, with two treatment rooms both facing the river. There’s also a gym.

Activities

The lodge provides a variety of activities and game drives in the National Park, as part of their inclusive packages. The guests can choose two activities per day. The staff are flexible in planning both individual or group excursions. You can tour of Victoria Falls from both the Zambian side and Zimbabwean side around the gorges. The hotel staff will arrange the one-day pass needed to cross the Zambia Zimbabwe border. Tours of the city of Livingstone, the old market and the Livingstone Museum are at the top of the agenda. You should not miss the game drives, sunset river cruises and navigating with Toka Leya’s small boat to Livingston Island, which has a historical background, following in the footsteps of David Livingston. Depending on river heights, you can go all the way to the edge of the Falls and jump into the Devil’s Pool.

Heritage Village

Wilderness Safaris and the staff at Toka Leya Camp have a good relationship with local communities. As part of the vision to promote education and ecotourism, Toka Leya arranges a cultural tour for guests to visit nearby Sinde Village to engage with the indigenous people, see their handicrafts and experience their way of life.

If you are interested in adventure activities, you can choose bungee jumping off the Victoria Falls bridge or more extreme water sports such as canoeing and water rafting on the Zambezi River. You can gain yet another perspective of the landscapes around the Zambezi River and Falls by enjoying a helicopter trip or a microlight flight.

The activities are endless. Toka Leya is a luxurious setting to lift your soul, broaden your knowledge of Africa and keep you fit.  

Find out more:

Our Silver Travel Advisors can tell you more about holidays in Zambia and book you a trip. Call 0800 412 5678.

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Mohammad Reza Amirinia

Freelance journalist, photojournalist & travel writer

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