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The history of Ilala Lodge Hotel is an interesting one that ties a Zimbabwean family’s background and business to the property that houses the popular and beautiful hotel today.

In 1989, the site, which was originally the Sprayview Restaurant, was offered to the then owners of the crocodile farm, Strath Brown and his partner, Rob Gee. Along with Strath’s wife Beryl, they chose to open a boutique hotel that had 16 bedrooms; at that time, the number of rooms and the hotel rating dictated the price of beer in hotel bars and restaurants. Ironically, the original size of Ilala Lodge Hotel was based on this criterion!

In October 1989, the ground was officially broken and construction was underway. Their architect, Richard Beattie, and their interior designer, Thelma Newmarch, worked tirelessly with the builder, Biffen, to create an inviting atmosphere that was the foundation for the success that Ilala Lodge Hotel still enjoys. Strath and his son Keith were personally involved in the actual building of the hotel, thatching the roof themselves. Hand selected gum poles and thatching grass from the family farm in Darwendale were used in the original structure.

Beryl Brown was an avid and talented gardener, and established the appealing and attractive gardens and surrounds that have delighted guests for years. The unique Indian Laburnums, also known as the ‘Golden Tree’, are part of Beryl’s contribution, and literally light up the front of the hotel when they are in bloom. Thelma suggested the name ‘Ilala Lodge’ after the Ilala palms that grow in the area. ‘Ilala’ is also the Ndebele word for ‘lie down’.

In 1991, the opening ceremony was a resounding success with the local Chief, a highly respected member of the community of Victoria Falls, presiding over the show. As tradition allows, the Chief blessed the hotel, signifying what was to be a great start for Ilala Lodge Hotel. In April 1991, the first guests to stay at the hotel were family friends from Darwendale.

Strath’s daughter, Laura Brown, as General Manager, oversaw the addition of 16 new rooms and doubled the capacity of the hotel to 32 rooms in 1994, which then grew to a further 56 rooms by 2015. In 2018, a new round of renovations expanded the hotel to a total of 73 rooms and includes a selection of standard and deluxe rooms and suites.

Today, Strath’s sons, Andrew and Jim, and their wives, Deidre and Gerry, are all involved in making Ilala Lodge Hotel the success it has evolved into.