Canoeing On The Zambezi From Sausage TRee Camp
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See Africa from a different perspective on a boat-based safari

Most people, when they think of a safari, will picture themselves on a 4×4 safari vehicle, driving across the plains or down dusty tracks. However, there is another, and more unique, way to view the wildlife, and that is from aboard a boat from the middle of a river or waterway. The main photographic opportunity this affords is the wholly different perspective of viewing the wildlife. From a vehicle, you are normally higher up and looking down onto the animal (unless of course you are watching a leopard in a tree with a kill!) – from a boat, you are on the same eyeline as the animal as it comes to the waters edge to drink. Also, from an aesthetic view too, you are facing the animal head on rather than viewing it from behind! Houseboats on the Chobe River The Chobe National Park is most famous for its elephant population – estimated at over 120,000 – which is believed to be the largest population of elephants found anywhere in the world. But it is not only elephants that live here in huge numbers – hippos are plentiful, and float lazily in the Chobe River during the day, emerging at dusk to graze along the river banks. The area is also renowned for its rich river birdlife, with over 450 species having been documented. The Park itself, however, can get very busy – mostly with day visitors coming up from nearby Victoria Falls to do a river cruise, a game drive, then head back down to the Falls again in the late afternoon. The many lodges which are dotted along the Chobe River banks are also fairly large in terms of the number of rooms and therefore number of guests – so you have a lot of game vehicles and boats out during the morning and afternoon safari activity time. This is where a stay on a houseboat wins hands down. During the day, the houseboats cruise slowly up and down the river and if you see something of interest on the shoreline, you call a member of staff, who launches the tender boat and off you go for a closer look. Game Viewing On Chobe River From Zambezi Queen Being on the river means as well that you can travel away from the masses – so while the game drive vehicles and the day tripper boat trips have to leave in order to get their people back in time for dinner – you stay out on the river – so for the early morning and the late afternoon again, you have the river to yourself. The Zambezi Queen Large houseboats such as the 14-suite Zambezi Queen offer comfortable 5* accommodation, suites with private balconies, and large public areas with plenty of space for all guests. Smaller houseboats, such as the Chobe Princess do not offer quite the same level of luxury, however they do have one advantage over the larger vessels – they can go into the shallower waters upriver to get you further away from the crowds. Canoeing on the Lower Zambezi The Lower Zambezi National Park is bordered along one entire side by the Lower Zambezi River, which acts as a natural boundary between Zambia and neighbouring Zimbabwe, which is immediately across the river in the guise of the Mana Pools Reserve. There are no houseboats on this stretch of the Zambezi, however camps like the recently refurbished Sausage Tree Camp have river frontage with spectacular views from the public areas and guest rooms. One of the most popular game activities is to hop into a two-man canoe and with your experienced guide, paddle silently along one of the many water ways for a few hours. If you are lucky, you may encounter large herds of elephants coming down to the waters edge to quench their thirst, or glide quietly past crocodiles basking on the river banks, or even a pride of lion on the sandy river banks sleeping off their nightly hunting excursions. Canoeing On The Zambezi From Sausage TRee Camp If this is possibly a bit too adventurous, there is the option to take a motorised game boat activity. Cruising in the main Zambezi River, you will pass again more herds of elephants, either on the river banks or even crossing the river onto one of the many islands in the centre of the river. Hippos will surface in front of the boat, only to submerge again when you get closer.Sunset Boat Cruise From Sausage Tree Camp For birdwatchers, this is paradise – many water bird species can be spotted amongst the reeds, so a good pair of binoculars is recommended for anyone who is a particular orthologist. Mokoro trips in the Okavango Delta When in full flood during the months of July through to end September, the Okavango Delta is transformed into one massive waterway. Many lodges will offer motorised boat cruises, but the Delta is also unique in that it is one of the only places where you can take a mokoro trip. A mokoro is traditionally made from strong wood from the jackalberry, ebony or sausage tree, but now more often than not, they are fashioned from fibreglass for environmental reasons – but this does not detract from the experience. Sitting one behind the other, a mokoko can take 2 guests. Instead of an oar, a poler stands at the back of the boat and poles you through the shallow waters. Gliding peacefully down narrow waterways lined with tall reeds, you spot many birds and the smaller Delta wildlife, such as the aptly named colourful reed frogs. From such a low and quiet vantage point, every sound is magnified, even the splash splash of the pole going in and out of the water. Listen out for the pure sounds of the African bush – new bird calls, frog choruses, and maybe the occasional trumpet of a distant elephant. Lodges such as the fabulous Jao Camp will offer a mokoro trip in the afternoon, and as the sun starts to set, you will pull up at a scenic spot where a member of staff will have thoughtfully arrived earlier and laid a table with drinks and snacks. After enjoying your drink of choice in this remote location, you will be taken back to the lodge by game vehicle. Delta Delta Sundowner With Jao Camp Paul Campbell is a Co-founder and Managing Director at Travel Butlers. Travel Butlers are specialists in tailor-made safari and beach holidays to Africa and the Indian Ocean. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

Paul Campbell

Paul Campbell is a co-founder and Managing Director at Travel Butlers, specialists in tailor-made safari and beach holidays to Africa and the Indian Ocean. Paul’s love of independent travel was first cemented when he spent 9 months doing the classic back-packing route across Asia, Australia, and North America when he was 20 year old. Over the following 30 years or so he has returned to these destinations many times, and also travelled for extended periods in central in South America as well as making countless trips to destinations across Europe. His first trip to Africa was nearly 20 years ago, and he fell in love with the continent instantly. After a few more trips (including spending a month training to be a field guide in the Sabi Sands), Paul and his wife Tracey decided to leave their jobs in marketing to form Travel Butlers. Their aim was to provide a friendly, professional, and knowledgeable service to help visitors find the very best experiences in Africa. The company was formed in 2003, and initially focussed on just South Africa and Namibia. Over the years they have taken on more staff and expanded to cover a dozen countries in Africa and the Indian Ocean. They still travel regularly to Africa both to find new destinations and experiences to offer their clients, and to check-up on old favourites.

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  1. This makes a lot of sense. It’s the water which pulls in the wildlife and you are already quietly in position.

  2. Canoeing on the Lower Zambezi. It reads like an exciting adventure until you get to the picture of the HUGE elephant, not looking particularly cuddly, about 10 yards from a teeny-weeny canoe.

    Part of me thinks this is the ultimate safari and then another bit questions the wisdom of encroaching in this elephant’s territory.

    I’m going to have to sleep on this one.

    1. Haha. I did the Kariba – Mana Pools canoe trip years ago. Not a safari, but a private 3 canoe trip. It’s absolutely fantastic.
      Respect the elephant and he won’t touch you. It’s the blasted hippos that are a menace!

  3. Having the base of a houseboat is such a great idea. It is far more environmentally friendly than roaring round on a safari vehicle. It all seems much more serene and less instructive in the animal’s world. It has got to really improve your chances of bird-spotting too.

    1. I agree with this. There’s a lot of romance in the idea of a houseboat tranquilly exploring the waters. We’ve done some conventional safaris and you do get shaken to bits both getting to the lodges and then on the game drives. The idea of smoothly slipping through the water appeals. Also we’ve always moved on from lodge to lodge and I don’t enjoy living out of a suitcase. It would be great to have the boat as a base.

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