Canoeing the Zambezi river is considered one of the most exciting and rewarding safari adventures in Africa. No other river in Africa offers such a rich diversity of wildlife, striking scenery and effortless adventure. Canoe safaris take place either above the Victoria Falls (Upper Zambezi) or in the Lower Zambezi valley and can range from participatory (basic camp with sleeping bags and small pup-tents) to more luxurious (fully serviced with walk-in tents, staff to cook and erect camp etc).
Like walking or horse riding safaris, a canoeing safari gets you out of that 4x4 game viewing vehicle and provides an altogether different perspective on Africa. Children as young as 12 years can join when accompanied by their parents and no previous canoeing experience is required.
All Canoe Safaris are conducted by licensed professional guides.
The 2 day / 1 night Canoe Trail starts at 7.00am with a pick up from your hotel in Victoria Falls followed by a two hour (50km) game drive through the Zambezi National Park in an open vehicle. You will arrive at your canoe launch site for a continental riverside breakfast. At this time, your guide will give a thorough briefing, which will cover: conditions of the river and rapids, canoeing instruction, safety and general information.
The first day is spent canoeing downstream (18kms), running small grade one and two rapids, exploring channels and bird and game viewing. This day includes the exciting Sansimba channels. A picnic lunch is served on the mainland or an island in the Zambezi River.
You will arrive in camp on the afternoon of the first day for tea. Camping equipment, drinks and dinner are all included. See information below on Kalai River Camp.
In the morning a full English breakfast is served, after which you will board your canoes for the second day's canoeing (another 18kms) downstream to the Victoria Falls, including the Kandahar Rapids.
The scenery, channels and the rapids on both respective days are very different. Cold minerals & beers are served at the take out point on the last day. You are then transferred the short distance back to Victoria Falls and arrive to arrive back at your hotel at about 4.00pm.
Kalai River Camp is situated approximately 25kms upstream from Victoria Falls in the Zambezi National Park and is a mobile rustic bush camp. It is important to note that it is not a “luxury permanent lodge”! The camp is fully backed up by a team of staff that set up camp in preparation for client's arrival. The camp comprises of large walk in tents, equipped with camp beds, mattresses, sheets, pillows and duvets, camping water basin (which are filled with hot water each morning), a paraffin lantern, a bedside table and hand towels. There is also a portable toilet and hot shower in camp. The camp and dining table are set up under the stars on the riverbank with stunning views of the river. On all overnight trips limited beers and minerals (approximately 2 per person per night), wine (1 bottle per 2 pax). If clients want other alcoholic or imported drinks they must supply their own. During winter months (April, May, June, July and August), the evenings, nights and early mornings will be very cold.
The majority of people who join trips are first time canoeists. No previous experience is required and our staff are specially trained to prepare and guide you through the day. Children from 12 years upwards can canoe if accompanied by a parent and fit into a lifejacket.
2 & 3 day canoe trails are also available canoeing much the same section of the Zambezi, returning to Kalai River camp each evening.
Participatory Canoe Safaris on the Lower Zambezi, Zambia
These canoeing safaris are participatory with all supplies and provisions being carried in 5.4 metre two man fibreglass Canadian canoes, which have a carrying capacity of 320kgs.
Canoeing safaris that extend over 4 days are re-supplied by vehicle and uplifted at the end of the safari by 4x4 Land Cruisers.
All canoeing safaris are kept to a manageable size of 5 canoes per safari maintaining an orderly group of canoeist on the water. Larger groups may be accommodated for on request by splitting the groups up during the day and coming together for meals and evening camps.
All our safaris are participatory and self-contained from the start to the finish of the safari. We have a carefully selected inventory of equipment to ensure that a reasonable level of comfort is maintained throughout the safari. Two-man dome tents with mosquito gauze protection, mattress, sleeping bag and pillows are all provided.
All canoe safaris are lead by an experienced river guide. All safaris depart on any given day of the week year round:
- Island Trail: 3 night / 4 day island hopping canoeing safari through the middle Mana flood plain region of the Lower Zambezi.
- 5 in 1 River run: a 4 night / 5 day adventurous canoeing safari through the flood plains of the middle Zambezi encompassing game drives, both night and day, a walk and a visit to a traditional fishing village.
- Great Zambezi: a 5 night / 6 day safari geared towards the canoeing enthusiast looking for that element of added excitement. This section of river passes through the floodplains of the middle Zambezi and the confines of the remote Mupata gorge, before ending at the confluence of the Luangwa River. On this section of river one can explore the numerous subsidiary channels, which are prolific in bird and animal life.
Canoeing from Luxury Camps
Most of the safari camps within the Lower Zambezi National Park (and even outside the Park) offer morning or afternoon canoe trips as one of their activity options, returning to camp by boat or game drive vehicle after 2 to 3 hours.
Our Explorer Canoe Trails along the Zimbabwean side of the Zambezi river offer you a truly magical experience in the surroundings of the Zambezi Valley. All Canoe Trails are lead by Professional Guides who have passed the rigorous tests set by National Parks and who have all studied and passed a Medical Air Rescue Services first aid course. Each guide carries a weapon and radio.
The Explorer safaris are available throughout the year. May, June and July are excellent months for birding and have cooler temperatures ranging from 8 degrees at night to 22 degrees Celsius at midday. August through November are best for game viewing and temperatures range from 14 degrees at night to 35 degrees celsuis at midday. October provides extremely good game viewing, particularly along the shoreline, but midday temperatures may reach well above 35 degrees celsius.
Explorer Canoe Trails offer seven different trips on the Lower Zambezi River ranging from 3 to 6 days, featuring different sections of the river starting from the Kariba Gorge below the dam wall through the rolling flood plains of the Mana Pools area and beyond to the Mapata Gorge and Kanyemba on the Mozambique border. These canoe safaris are semi-participatory i.e. you can participate in setting up and taking down the camps (if you choose) and are suited to clients who have an adventurous spirit and who enjoy the truly outdoors experience.
All Explorer Canoe Safaris are expeditionary- style - so therefore all equipment is carried on the canoes and the canoeists camp on islands each night - baggage is therefore limited to 10kg per person.
A typical day would be as follows: - early wake up with tea/coffees/biscuits, paddle for an hour or two taking in the sights and sounds along the river, stop for a full English breakfast. Paddle until lunchtime, a meal consisting of pickles, cold meats and salads, followed by a siesta (or fishing time) for a couple of hours. Set off again for a gentle afternoon paddle to an island for the night stop.
Mana Pools Shoreline (luxury camping) - 3 nights/4 days
Our Mana Shoreline Canoe Safari allows guests to enjoy the wonders of Mana Pools National Park whilst drifting silently along the mighty Zambezi river. This is a fully backed-up safari, where the camps are set up each day at each different campsite by our camp staff. This stunning safari offers the opportunity of both walking and canoeing with an armed professional guide in one of the most sought-after locations in Africa.
We work with a number safari operators that offer luxury canoeing safaris within Mana Pools National Park. Taking a maximum of only 10 guests, you are assured of an exclusive and memorable safari adventure.
Canoeing - using extremely stable 18ft 6in Canadian-style canoes fitted with comfortable bucket seats, seat cushions and optional lifejackets, you will surely enjoy a unique experience as you drift silently on the current, enjoying the spectacular scenery and approaching wildlife up-close and in total silence. No previous canoeing experience is necessary - just an adventurous spirit and a dose of enthusiasm.
Walking - early mornings are the best time to set out from camp on foot, when the animal spoor is still fresh from the activities of the night before. Your senses come alive as you hear every sound and become aware of every movement. Test the wind as you approach some of Africa's big game for that close-up encounter - and share in the knowledge and experience of our qualified Professional Guides.
Game-drives - using an open 4 x 4 vehicle you are able to explore the many pools and more distant areas of the Park away from the river.
Canoeing from the comfort of a seasonal Tented Camp within Mana Pools National Park
For over twenty years Stretch Ferreira has been one man amongst the magic that is Mana Pools, witnessing not only the change of seasons but also studying and learning from them.
Come and join him on a safari of a lifetime as he shows you Mana in his own inimitable way; crawl with him amongst the wild dog; walk with him beside the eland herds and stand in awe with him beneath an old elephant bull.
Canoe down the Zambezi where it's at its most beautiful; birdwatch at the tranquil pools; or maybe catch your first tigerfish.
Stretch's traditional tented camp offers the ultimate up close and personal safari, without compromising on comfort. En suite facilities include flush toilets and hot showers. A covered lounge and bar area are complemented by an open-air dining room. Your spacious tent is nestled on the rivers bank and there are never more than 10 guests in camp.
Please note that the camp is closed for the rains from November through to March each year.
The high waters in recent years flowing through northern Botswana have caused the Selinda Spillway to flow like it has not done for nearly three decades. This will enable canoeists and adventurers the opportunity to experience a rare first. The Selinda Spillway is an ideal setting for Botswana's newest canoeing and walking adventure safari. The route will begin downstream from Motswiri Camp in the north-east of the Okavango Delta and travel eastwards along the Selinda Spillway through the private 300,000 acre Selinda Reserve towards the Kwando River.
The Selinda Canoe Trail will replicate the safari experiences of old as we navigate along the Selinda Spillway over three nights and four days, camping along the banks of the river wherever we find ourselves at the end of the day. The total distance from one end of the canoe trail to the other is roughly 70 km's. All 3 nights will be spent in fly camps along the way at no particular pre-arranged site. Where we finish at the end of the day's paddling is where we will camp that night.
The area is well known for elephant, buffalo, sable antelope, roan antelope, wild dog and could very well come across cheetah, lion, leopard and variety of other species. At the end of the three day canoe trail, you will be transfered to the Selinda airstrip at around midday for departure or ideally guests may elect to stay on for an additional night at either Zarafa or Selinda Camp.
Each Canadian canoe will have two guests who will paddle their own canoes downstream under the guidance of our trail leader. Even though we will be canoeing most of the way with the gentle current, participants will need to be reasonably fit. Each safari will be hosted by 4 staff members. There will be 1 cook, 2 camp hands and our guide who will be carrying most of the equipment.
All of the necessary equipment will be provided and carried on the canoes, so the camps are of a rustic nature. The dome tents will be furnished with comfortable bedrolls and quality linen. There will also be enough chairs for guests to sit around a fire at night and to have a well earned lunch along the way. Meals will be prepared on the fire by our cook. Our ablution facilities will be bucket showers with hot water in the evenings and ‘short drop' loos and a shovel.
Please note that when we set up camps as we travel along the Selinda Spillway, that these camps are unfenced!