The Zambezi is Africa’s fourth largest river system, after the Nile, Zaire and Niger rivers. It carves through six countries on its journey from the DRC, running to the Indian ocean, and covering some 1,670 miles. Large areas along its course are protected national parks and reserves; of these, the Lower Zambezi in Zambia is undoubtedly well suited for canoeing safaris — the biodiverse region is home to large populations of wildlife that flock to this magnificent watercourse in the drier months of the year.
Specifically, this lower section of the Zambezi spans around 80 miles, passing through the renowned World Heritage Site of Mana Pools to the south along with the Lower Zambezi National Park to the north, linking the two parks via a maze of islands, with large numbers of elephant moving between the parks.
Following the harnessing of the Zambezi river in the 1950s between the massive Kariba and Cahora Bassa dams, canoeing safaris could then be run downstream between these points, relatively unimpeded by white water or fluctuating water levels. The first pioneering trips kicked off in the 1980s, allowing canoeists to weave their way downstream on tamed waters, getting up close to wildlife from the safety of their sturdy, 18ft Canadian canoes.
Today, a number of canoeing safaris are available, varying in distance and endurance level, but all offering the opportunity to view ever-shifting landscapes from atop the water. A natural theatre unfurls on the banks of the river before safari-goers, with the stars of the show including hippoes, crocodiles and herds of elephant. After a day’s canoeing as a group, guests camp out on islands to soak up their wild, untamed surroundings, or alternatively, individual trips with luxury accommodation can be arranged. Additional activities such as guided walks and game drives in areas of interest along the route can also be added.
Need to know
Need to know
Minimum ages 15 years
3- to 9-night canoeing safaris
Walks, drives, luxury options available
Reasonable level of fitness required
Camping options: wild or supported