5 best parks in Africa to enjoy boating safaris


Boating safaris are not the classic 4X4 game drive experience; granted, you do not find as many big animals as you do via a land safari. However, boating is a beautiful way to enjoy being in the bush and seeing the usual wildlife from a different perspective, as well as taking a more detailed view of some of the smaller things which you miss when searching for the big five. Oh, and sipping a gin and tonic whilst the sunset ricochets off the water can be an unforgettable experience in itself; wildlife or no wildlife! Boating is about appreciating the remarkable wilderness you find yourself in and taking a moment without the roar of an engine to just soak in the incredible atmosphere which keeps safari buffs returning year after year.

Lower Zambezi

Zambia’s Lower Zambezi is one of the most beautiful and action-packed stretches of river in the world. The sunsets are never underwhelming here, and the croaking of hippos carries far and wide well into the night. It is truly mighty and unleashes itself into the Victoria Falls which is a must see if you find yourself in this part of the continent.

In the day, you can enjoy anything from rafting to canoeing; your experience can be truly what you want it to be. At night, there is no place in Africa more magical. Have a candlelit dinner out in the middle of the Zambezi on a sturdy float with your chef, enjoy sunset boat cruise and marvel at the pink glow of the sunset on the water all around. The Lower Zambezi is by far the best place to enjoy boating safaris on the continent.

Okavango Delta

The Okavango Delta is singular in that it is the only inland delta in the world. When the Delta is full (usually by July – September) you can enjoy winding through the waterways on a dainty traditional mokoro or take a trip out in a boat to get to the best sunset spot.

Some camps require a boat trip just to get to them, and this is the spirit of the Delta. It would be impossible to go and not have at least one fantastic boating experience there. It is truly beautiful and unique.

Linyanti

Linyanti is in the north east of Botswana and is a beautiful boating spot – one to rival the Lower Zambezi. The boating from camps like Duma Tau are gorgeous; step out from the waterdeck onto a boat and take a cruise along the river.

The sunsets are unbelievable and the accommodation wholly spoiling. You can even sleep out on the banks of this vast and winding river, enjoying a night under the stars with the murmur of the river below.

Mana Pools

Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools is the place to go for the Lower Zambezi experience… But in Zimbabwe! Comparatively to its costly neighbour Botswana, Zimbabwe is extremely good value for money. The wildlife is phenomenal and the boating safaris are exceptional. All for a lot less!

Wild dogs are particularly good here for those who have been on a few safaris and never managed to tick these elusive animals off their list. As well as beautiful boating, walking safaris are also excellent here so Mana Pools is an ideal place for those who do not want to spend their whole safari in a vehicle.

Selous

Zimbabwe is good value for money, but the Selous is the best. The Rufiji River cuts through this wild and huge park in Tanzania’s authentic south. You will not see many other people here, on or off the river.

The boating safaris are excellent for a sun-downer, but also particularly good for spotting the extremely rare Pel’s Fishing Owl. A boat safari is as much of a game viewing experience as if you were on land.

Marc Harris is Managing Director of Africa Odyssey. Africa Oydssey is run by a team of award-winning experts offering tailor-made African safari holidays.

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Comments (14)

  1. Sue West says:

    Until I read this I wasn’t really aware of boating safaris. For somewhere like the Okavango Delta or the Lower Zambezi it makes sense that being at the heart of the landscape is the best way to see everything. I guess that almost every evening is going to bring a memorable sunset. I’ve done a couple of traditional land-based safaris and hardly ever seen a cloud in the sky so I expect there wouldn’t be much to stop a series of great sunsets. Of course, it would be worth getting up early for sunrise and seeing wildlife coming to the river to drink.

    • Marc Harris says:

      Hi Sue,

      Yes a boating safari really adds to the adventure. Most of the destinations mentioned (and a couple of others) offer both land and boat safaris so you can pick and choose what activity you would like to do which makes for a wonderful all-round experience.

  2. Hamish Brown says:

    The sundowner is such a part of life on safari that it is a real tradition. Never given a boat safari a go but I’d be up for a sundowner boat safari.

    • Marc Harris says:

      Hi Hamish,

      Completely agree with you there! Sun downers are excellent and on a boat really adds to the occaision.

  3. Ben says:

    That picture of the elephant tusk high in the waters is always going to be a real attention grabber. It’s a bit frightening until you think about it logically and remember that the photographer and his zoom lens are probably safely about 100 metres away.

    • Marc Harris says:

      Hi Ben,

      Yes it is a classic photo from these watery safari destinations!

      I hope you liked it.

  4. Emma Oliver says:

    Whenever I think of safaris I straight away think of 4×4 off roading, I would never have really considered boating safaris at all until I read this. You’d certainly get a different perspective and whole new experience of it, and I imagine you could cover quite a lot of ground too so you’d perhaps be able to explore more areas in the same amount of time. I get the feeling that it’s a bit more relaxed too, and I find that calmer pace quite appealing.

    All of these park areas look lovely. I especially like the look of the Okavango Delta, which I hadn’t even heard of before. It looks so serene. Early morning or sunset in the evening would be quite nice for a boat tour like this. And of course the Mana Pools get a thumbs up from me if it’s a little more purse friendly. How amazing would it be to see elephants as you do a boat safari! Do they find the boats disrupting or threatening at all, or are they quite used to them?

    • Marc Harris says:

      Hi Emma,

      Yes boating is one of those safari activities that is certainly not at the forefront of people’s minds, but it adds a great alternative than your normal game drive. Walking safaris are also fantastic!

      Generally the wildlife do not find the boats disruptive – often you glide along silently – which is peaceful and serene and the animals have become accustomed to seeing boats.

      A boating safari really is a wonderful experience and I couldn’t recommend it more!

    • Hannah says:

      I wasn’t aware of all these trips either. This region of the world is one of my most favorite to read about, probably because it seems so wild and adventurous. I had to look up Zambia for its location — that sunset picture is unreal! I can only imagine how beautiful it must be seeing that in person.

    • Marc Harris says:

      Hi Hannah,

      Yes these areas are really off the beaten path – they are truly beautiful areas.

      It must definitely be added to your bucket list!

  5. Brian says:

    That’s interesting that Selous is good value. I’ve heard that before. I’ve never been on a safari as it’s been beyond my budget. I don’t need anything super luxurious but I’d love to see the landscape and wildlife.

    • Marc Harris says:

      Hi Brian,

      Yes the Selous is a wonderful destination and very easily combinable with Zanzibar if you want a beach extension as well!

  6. Mike says:

    I have an instinct to visit this part of the world that I can’t really explain. But these pictures do it justice for me. I’ve been thinking about South Africa a lot, and whenever I see the names Zimbabwe or Zambia, I’m reminded that I have so much to see when it comes to being a well-experienced traveler. I can really see myself traveling around South Africa in my later years. These images are truly remarkable and unforgettable, so worth it in my mind.

    • Marc Harris says:

      Hi Mike,

      South Africa is a great country to explore – there is so much of it!

      Zimbabwe and Zambia are more wild and off the beaten path, and they truly incredible experiences.

      You could even combine both countries with some time in Cape Town!

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