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Small hotel, big break: The Zambezi Grande lodge is filled with beauty

Get lost in exquisite luxury at the Zambezi Grande in Zambia

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By House & Garden South Africa | May 23, 2023 | Travel Leisure

When redesigning Zambezi Grande, an intimate family-owned lodge in Zambia, Michele Throssell Interiors looked to the abundant inspiration around it for cues – from the iconic bush and waterscape to the lodge’s architecture.

Transforming what was purely a family holiday home into a five-star fishing and safari destination required elevating the suites to a hospitality level, but the footprint and the lodge and architecture remained undisturbed. “We inherited a lodge built in a Cape Dutch style – which we loved, as it is unique on the river,” said Michele.

A magnificent bedroom design at the Zambezi Grande. Photograph by Elsa Young

Michele and her team entirely redid the interiors but consciously retained the sense of history and family in which the lodge is rooted. “The intention was to keep the feeling of a home and the soulfulness of the lodge while upgrading it so that it would meet all the requirements a guest would have,” she explained.

Amalgamating contemporary and traditional

To do that, the designer married old and new – combining the existing Cape Dutch elements and traditional motifs with contemporary, textural African touches for a fresh spin on safari. The result is an understated and unpretentious luxury that feels fresh and evocative but pays homage to the past and is firmly rooted in its context. “The design aesthetic celebrates our history but acknowledges contemporary living and honours the African wild,” Noted Michele.

The lodge’s idyllic location on the iconic Zambezi – specifically, high on a bank overlooking the river and shaded by trees – informed the spirit and energy behind the design. “From the beginning, the colours of Zambia served as a large part of the inspiration. Especially the river – how it appears from above when flying over, and the way the colours vary from dark greens to rusts. The contrasts too of the foliage, sand, water, and rock.”

The sounds, sights, and smells of the river and its surroundings define the experience of your stay at Zambezi Grande, as well as its design. From elegant dinners on the deck accompanied by a chorus of hippo grunts to the lantern-lit island and bush dinners around a bonfire and sunset river cruises with elephants silhouetted against the sunset or action-packed tiger fishing under the expansive African sky.

Have a lovely dinner overlooking the Zambezi River. Photograph by Elsa Young

The design and activities celebrate this sense of place and the rituals and rhythm that define the experience of being in the bush. An integral part of that rhythm is the people that make the experience a reality, and the easy flow of the day is courtesy of the warm and seamless service and evident passion that the Zambezi Grande team has for this place.

Travel writer Julia Freemantle writes: “It is also in the contrasts – old and new, bold, warm tones and calming, cool greens, the sense of adventure you find out in the wild and on the water countered by the cocooning spaces you retreat to in the lodge – that you find the dynamism that epitomises the spirit of the Zambezi”.

“This is a story of families seduced by the great Zambezi. The galaxy of stars, the calls of the wild, the sky as it slowly changes colour, give this destination a profound sense of stillness, space, and magic.”