Canoe the Zambezi River Travel Guide


Tackle the mighty Zambezi River by canoe

The best way to explore this region is on the river itself, from where you get an unrivalled view of the river, its inhabitants and its nature. The river is the life force of the region, bringing water through vast areas of dry savannah and is therefore a huge draw for wildlife, making its banks some of the best safari areas in sub-Saharan Africa. Perhaps the most iconic way to explore the Zambezi is my canoe. A slow, steady pace allows you to take in the sights, and there are no loud engines to startle away more timid animals.

Canoeing the Zambezi River sounds like a good idea, but what do you need to know about it? Obviously, it is more involved than a simple canoe ride from the dock at your local lake. There are more things to keep in mind, more items to keep handy, and definitely more places to see. Here is a quick guide that will lead you through the basics, highlighting must-see spots, indicating essential supplies, and pointing out important tips. Enjoy a fun and exciting adventure down the Zambezi River and stock up on souvenirs to stash between the sunscreen and bug repellent!

Places To See

It's going to take you a long time to canoe the whole river so here are some of the places you can canoe and which you should consider visiting on a trip.

Victoria Falls

No trip to the Zambezi River is complete without including the magnificent Victoria Falls. The statistics alone are staggering enough. At the peak of the wet season, 546 million cubic meters of water per minute plunge into a deep chasm 100 meters below. The spray rises to an incredible height of 1 kilometer and can be seen from 30 kilometers away.

Fitting for its impressive size, Victoria Falls has no lack of activities for adventurous visitors. Facing the falls is another basalt cliff, rising to an equal height. Along the top of this cliff runs a path through the mist-fed rainforest, from which hikers can view the falls directly. Just below the falls sits the Victoria Falls Bridge. Here visitors can take in the entire breath-taking majesty of both the falls and the deep gorge it plunges into; the more daring can bungee jump from the bridge itself. For a full view, fixed-wing and micro-light flights offer an aerial tour, allowing you to see the entire breadth of the falls plus its tolling effect as it carves an abysmal zigzagging trench for the next 8 kilometers.

On the Zambian side of the Falls some fool hardy adventurers visit the Devils Pool. This pool is situated on the very lip of the falls and they stare down into the boiling chasm below. We recommend you enjoy this spectacle on videos on YouTube and do not do it yourself!

Rafting

From Victoria Falls it is possible to raft some of the most exciting white water in the world. There are day trips, overnight trips and weeklong expeditions that run many mighty rapids. All the equipment is provided so just bring yourself. You don't need previous experience as each raft is captained by a professional guide, but you will need to follow his instructions and paddle or you will be going for a swim!

Mukuni Village

Just a short distance away from the falls is the tribal Mukuni Village, where you can get a taste for yourself of authentic tribal living, including ceremonies such as the Lwiindi Ceremony in July. Nearby is Mukuni Victoria Falls Craft Village: a treasure trove of handmade souvenirs. Here you can find anything from walking sticks to jewellery to masks and much more.

Tip: Be sure to explore the entire village before making a purchase! Some vendors offer a better quality than others. Also, many sellers are willing to make a trade rather than taking cash. Offer items that may be scarce, such as batteries or T-shirts.

Zambezi Fishing

If you enjoying throwing a line out from you canoe, there are a few great places to go for fishing and some large and exotic fish to catch.

The upper regions of the Zambezi River form the Barotse flood plains, where abundant wildlife and plant life can be found. The scenery is a draw enough on its own, despite its remoteness. The true adventure, however, is found in the characteristically huge size of the tiger fish.

More fishing can be found on Lake Kariba, where you can participate in a huge annual tournament known as the Kitfit. The Lower Zambezi is known for excellent catches of bream and tiger fish.

Safari

There are many safari lodges and camps situated on the banks of the Zambezi in Zambia and Zimbabwe, most of which offer water activities such as canoeing or boat game drives. You are accompanied by guides on these and have the luxury of returning to a comfortable bed every night.

The resorts in the Delta

The mouth of the Zambezi runs into the Indian Ocean in Mozambique. Here the vast amounts of silt carried by the waters are deposited in the delta and have formed some idyllic sand bars and coastlines which offer some luxurious and tranquil beach holidays. Benguerra Island is a sand Island situated in the Zambezi Delta and is home to some luxurious and exclusive resorts.

Insider Tips

Adventures are there to be had on the Zambezi, but the trip will only be as good as the supplies and equipment you use or you bring with you. Your canoeing adventure will go a lot smoother if you are well-prepared. With that in mind, make a note of these essential items as you plan your trip.

Weather

Despite the beauty of the landscape, the sun can be merciless at times. Plan ahead by bringing a good sun block, but donít stop there. Guides recommend you bring a long-sleeved shirt and a towel for extra protection. A wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses will protect you from eye strain and sun-induced headaches. Remember, you are out on the water for long periods of the day so the sun reflects back at you as well Remember sun block on the bottom of your chin and behind your ears.

If you plan on travelling during the wet season, be sure to bring a light jacket, as well as a dry change of clothes for later on. Even if you travel in the dry season, rain gear may be beneficial, especially if you intend on exploring the waterfalls.

It may be scorching during the day, but the nights on the Zambezi cool quickly, so bring warm clothes such as socks and a fleece jersey.

Activities

What is a trip to the river without a good dip? There are some places where it is safe to swim although always follow the instructions from your guide. In addition, bring a casual change of clothes as well. Note that in this land of wildlife, neutral colours are best, such as brown, green, or khaki. This does not mean camouflage, however!

A trip this exciting needs to be recorded, either in video or picture format. Donít forget the camera. If you do bring along something for picture-taking along your canoe trip, secure it inside a waterproof container. Even a sealed plastic bag is enough.

For certain canoe trips, you will need your passport and visa, since part of the Zambezi acts as a national border. Otherwise, it is often wise to make arrangements with the guide office to hold important items like your passport and credit cards for safekeeping.

It is quite likely that you will want something to remember the trip by, so be sure and bring some extra money with you to buy memorabilia, as well as any snacks you may want to bring along!

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