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Canoeing the mighty Zambezi

Canoeing the mighty Zambezi

My Zambezi River Canoe Safari

Zambezi River, Zimbabwe

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 camping – the rainy season only starts in October.

I began my journey at Matetsi Lodge, upstream from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and enjoyed this luxurious camp and the game drives in open Landrovers. My bungalow had it’s own plunge pool and a great view of the Zambezi. It was remote and quiet – except for the birds and crickets, and the occasional laughter of a hippo.

The Victoria Falls are something to behold. The African 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 Bungi-jumping, but I decided to keep my feet on terra firma!

Our canoe trip started from Lake Kariba, so I made my way there and spent a night in a rondawel at the shores of the lake. At night the hippos would graze on the lawns – so I stayed indoors and read a book. Next morning we were off in a truck 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 km’s downstream. It was a 3 day trip along the shores of the Lower Zambezi National Park. A strong headwind during the first few hours made my shoulders and arms protest, but after wonderful lunch on the river bank under a shady tree and a quick massage I was encouraged to carry on. Luckily the wind subsided and it was easy going from then on.

Gently floating down the river we saw many species of birds – just the thing for me! 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…

There were families of elephants frolicking in the water and the odd antelope and buffalo came down to drink. We even saw a lioness taking a nap on the river bank, and of course we made a wide berth around the many hippo pods.

Elephants, Zambezi River

Hippos are known to be very dangerous and unpredictable. When a hippo bull suddenly surfaced close to our canoe and gave a mock-charge, the adrenaline rush propelled us into some really quick paddling. We suddenly realized that canoes could do low-level flying too, as we paddled away from the hippos as fast as we could. Phew!

Although we had real washrooms at most campsites, on one occasion we where taken to a sand bank in the middle of the Zambezi River for a swim and bath. Our guides Morat and Dickson held onto the boat and kept an eye out for crocs while the other two guides, Iton and Peter stayed at camp, where they prepared a scrumptious dinner over the 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…

Contact Africa Travel Expert Christine Boecker to plan your African Safari!

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