Interview with the Owner: John Gardiner – Matetsi Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

As we continue our “Interview with the Owner” series, we travel today to the one-and-only Matetsi Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, as Elite’s Executive Director-Hotel Relations & Social Media Manager, Laura Watt, interviews the luxury lodge’s owner, John Gardiner.

We hope you enjoy seeing Matetsi Victoria Falls through the lens of John’s personal perspective (and the obvious deep connection he feels to the land) and that it helps to bring a bit of that “Matetsi Magic” into your life today.

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WHAT SETS MATETSI VICTORIA FALLS APART?

Matetsi Victoria Falls is a destination within a destination. Our luxury lodge, located on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River, is the realization of our family’s dream to showcase everything exceptional about our home country, Zimbabwe.

The property offers exclusive safari and tranquil river experiences, as well as access to the best activities in and around Victoria Falls, all wrapped up in incredible Zimbabwean hospitality. The property also affords guests privacy and the freedom of time and space, allowing them to explore the 136,000-acre Matetsi Private Game Reserve and a 9 mile stretch of the Zambezi River with game drives, walking safaris, boat cruises and canoeing.

WHAT FEELING OR EXPERIENCE DO YOU MOST DESIRE GUESTS OF MATETSI WALK AWAY WITH AFTER A STAY?

A feeling that can only be described as “Matetsi Magic”, and a genuine connection with our beautiful part of the world. Our guests are looked after with such authentic hospitality that they leave feeling like part of the extended Matetsi family.

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE PLACE AT WHICH TO SPEND TIME ON-SITE?

Any spot that overlooks the spectacular Zambezi River – the terrace of any one of our suites, the outdoor area of our private villa or our outstanding wine cellar.

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FAVORITE PLACE OR SPOT TO VISIT OFF-SITE(S)?

There are many very special locations across Matetsi Private Game Reserve; I’ll just share two of my favorites. There are some cliffs that look west over the Zambezi River – a beautiful spot for drinks at sunset. A full-day game drive down to the south of the property will take you to Zanangubo pan – it’s a stunning location for a bush lunch, with remarkable birdlife and wildlife sightings, including the opportunity to see the world-famous Matetsi Sable antelope.

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WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FOOD/DISH TO EAT ON SITE(S)?

Very hard to pick! Our kitchen team is led by two of the finest chefs on the continent, Chef Shane and Chef Artwell, who have taken our cuisine to new heights that guests have likened to Michelin-star level. Fortunately, our guests stay for a few days, so they can experience the variety of dining experiences that we have created.

I should make a special mention of our homemade chocolate éclair though, it is exceptional.

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WHAT WAS THE MOST UNIQUE EXPERIENCE YOU EVER ARRANGED FOR A GUEST?

Matetsi Victoria Falls combines safari with excellent dining experiences. We have brought these elements together to create a variety of guest delights. My personal favorite is our unique bush dinner experience. Set under the vast canopy of a Winterthorn tree, we have hung giant chandeliers of lanterns which subtly illuminate the scene below: silver service and an à la carte menu served to our guests out in the wilderness, accompanied by fabulous wines, of course.

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WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT YOU HAVE PERSONALLY EVER EXPERIENCED AT MATETSI VICTORIA FALLS?

Driving through the wildlife concession with my daughter, Sara, and coming across a pride of 9 lion relaxing around our most recently commissioned waterhole. This moment reminded me of how far we have come on our conservation journey. Matetsi Private Game Reserve, an area that was decimated by poaching and illegal hunting just six years ago (before we secured the concession), is now abundant with wildlife. Our conservation efforts, including the sixteen solar-powered boreholes that we have installed across the property that provide life-giving water for wildlife, have had such an incredibly positive effect.

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CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT CONSERVATION EFFORTS AT MATETSI VICTORIA FALLS?

Conservation is key to preserving the 136,000-acre pristine wilderness of which we are custodians. As mentioned, there has been an incredible return of wildlife to this vast land. This is thanks to the hard work and dedication of our conservation team, who, together with our guides and trackers, are true wildlife guardians. To bolster this positive human presence, we support the anti-poaching units in the area and have also installed the solar-powered boreholes, re-established an extensive road network and installed a state-of-the-art radio communications network. Protecting and preserving our planet’s wild spaces is essential to ensuring our wildlife and wilderness areas can be experienced for generations to come.

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FAVORITE PART OF OVERSEEING MATETSI VICTORIA FALLS?

Creating a new standard in eco-tourism in Africa, which has involved seeing the development of our incredible team and the rewilding of Matetsi Private Game Reserve. It is a great pleasure to be able to share the best of Zimbabwe with our guests from around the world.

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MANY THANKS TO YOU, JOHN, FOR TAKING THE TIME TO SHARE JUST SOME OF THE REASONS THAT MATETSI VICTORIA FALLS HOLDS SUCH A SPECIAL PLACE IN YOUR HEART!

AND FOR ANYONE LONGING FOR A BIT MORE OF THAT “MATETSI MAGIC”, BE SURE TO CHECK OUT THEIR “SIGHTINGS” PAGE, WHICH DOES AN INCREDIBLE JOB OF BRINGING US INTO LIFE AT MATETSI THROUGH CAPTIVATING IMAGERY AND STORYTELLING.