Victoria Falls & Zambezi River Canoe Safari:
It was August, the middle of the African winter when I set foot on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River, The grass was brown, the trees bare and the midday heat was bearable. It’s the perfect time for game viewing and tenting – the rainy season only starts in late October.
I began my journey at a luxurious lodge, located upstream from the town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Here I immersed myself in a few wonderful days of game viewing in open 4×4 Landrovers. My chalet had it’s own plunge pool and a great view of the Zambezi. Lounging on my deck I enjoyed the peace and quiet, occasionally interrupted by the song of birds and crickets, and the occasional trumpeting of a hippo.
The Victoria Falls are something to behold. The local people call it ‘Mosi-i-Tunga’ – the Smoke that Thunders. All my senses were bombarded – the roar of the water plunging almost 1000 meters, the spray that soaked me in minutes, the view into that unbelievable chasm … I was in awe. The famous bridge that connects Zimbabwe with Zambia is a favorite spot for bungee jumping. Quickly I decided to keep both feet on terra firma!
Canoe Safari on the Zambezi River
Our canoe safari started at Lake Kariba, so I spent a night in a rondawel at the lake shore. At night the hippos would graze on the lawns – so I stayed indoors and read a book! Next morning we were off on our great adventure – it began with crossing the Kafue River on a hand-drawn pont (ferry) en route to Kiambi, our base camp.
After a hearty breakfast we climbed into our canoes and headed for Kualefu (the ‘Far-away Place’) – 90 kilometres downstream. Our 3 day paddle hugged the shores of the Lower Zambezi National Park. A strong headwind during the first few hours tested my shoulders and arms. After a delicious lunch on the river bank under a shady tree and a quick massage I was ready to carry on. Luckily the wind had subsided and it was easy going from then on.
Gently floating down the river we saw many bird species – just my thing! The Fish Eagle is the national bird of Zambia and according to our guide, Dickson it calls every hour from dawn to dusk. There is nothing quite like sitting in the front of a canoe on a huge expanse of water and watching the eagles swoop down to catch their dinner – just a few meters away from us…
We saw herds of elephants frolicking in the water and the odd antelope and buffalo came down to drink. We even saw a lioness napping on the river bank!
We made a wide berth around all those hippos!
When a hippo suddenly surfaced close to our canoe I don’t know who was more surprised… But when that hippo gave a mock-charge we suddenly learned that canoes fly too! The adrenaline rush propelled us with some really energetic paddling.
Most campsites had real washrooms, but once the river became our bathroom. While we enjoyed a swim and bath from a sand bank in the middle of the Zambezi, our guides Morat and Dickson held onto the boat and kept an eye out for crocodiles! By the time we returned to camp, our creative cooks – Iton and Peter had prepared a scrumptious dinner over a camp fire.
The best thing about this trip was the feeling that we were the only people in this wonderful world of water and wildlife. Saying good-bye to such a beautiful country was not easy…