Zambezi Mana Canoe Trail
After being collected by your guide you are driven to the first nights camp, a distance of approximately 30km. This is a leisurely game drive through the spectacular Mana Pools floodplain. The vehicles are open Toyota Land Cruisers with tiered seats and good all round views. This area has some of the highest concentrations of wildlife in Zimbabwe and the drive through is usually very productive, enabling your guide to give you an overview of the various animals, birds and plants that make up this unique floodplain habitat.
On arrival at “Vundu”, the first camp, you will be met with the welcome smiles of our support staff and a lunch of cold meats, a variety of salads and freshly baked breads.
After a refreshing lunch break you will be taken on a short drive to the launch spot near the confluence of the Ruckomechi and Zambezi Rivers where the professional canoe and walking guides give a full safety briefing include pointing out where all the equipment is kept, such as radio and first aid kits, as well as explaining what to do in the case of an emergency. The briefing will also run through the basic ideas of steering and controlling the Canadian style 18 ft canoes. After the briefing, depart in the canoes downstream to Vundu.
This is a slow paddle allowing time to become used to the canoes and the different steering techniques. You should also start to see some of the multitude of animals and birds that are attracted to the water’s edge. Hippo, buffalo, elephant and crocodile as well as a variety of antelope species may be seen.
Arrival at camp is around sunset. The camp is fully prepared and you will be able to sit back and relax with sundowners and snacks – tea and coffee and hot showers are also available. A campfire is already burning and this is invariably where guests will gather to discuss the day’s events and plan for the morning. In the background your support staff and resident chef are busy preparing a three-course dinner for you.
Overnight Camp Vundu
An early wake up, just as the dawn breaks. Hot water is placed in raised basins outside each tent, while tea, coffee, muffins or home made biscuits are already waiting by the campfire. While everyone gets their personal kit together the support staff loads the canoes with everything that will be needed for the day. You need only worry about a small daypack carrying the essentials such as sun block, camera and spare film, hat and binoculars. A large dry bag per canoe is provided.
The aim is to be in the canoes and on the water in time to watch the sunrise. This is one of the most magical times of the day and you will be enchanted as you drift along quietly, listening to the sounds of the African bush wakening to a new day.
Paddle for a couple of hours before stopping the canoes to breakfast under a grove of acacia trees. After breakfast set off on a walk into the floodplains and surrounding woodlands. This is a great time to try and catch some of the predators before they hide up for the day. You may even be lucky enough to spot one or more of the diurnal animals making their way down to the river.
This walk offers an opportunity, not only for game viewing, but also a chance for you to explore some of the smaller more interesting aspects of the environment. You will spot a variety of animal spoors, and may even find yourselves engrossed in tracking down a particular species. You will be fascinated by strange insects and spiders as your guides share a wealth of knowledge about this miniature world that forms such an integral part of the bush. You will listen to the sound of the many brightly colored birds and marvel at the beauty and tranquility of this unique area.
Returning to the canoes you head downstream to an area renowned for its huge, old elephant bulls. Your guides try to time the trips to catch them swimming or wading out to the grass islands, where you will be able to glide quietly alongside these awesome giants. Their age makes them so placid they tend to ignore the canoes. Lunch break coincides with the heat of the day.
To find an escape, pull up the canoes below a grove of mahogany trees whose dense shade provides a welcome relief. The campstools, tables and lunch are all offloaded from the canoes. Lunch generally consists of cold meats, freshly prepared salads, pizza or quiche and cheese and biscuits. After eating and drinking ice cold drinks you have a choice to either take another short walk through the mahogany forest or to just relax and enjoy an afternoon siesta. The late afternoon and evening is spent drifting down to camp and enjoying the game and birding on the river’s edge. Where you will once again reach the camp at sunset to be met by the smiling faces of the support team. This night’s camp, Chessa, overlooks a small channel, with a large grass plain separating it from the main Zambezi, 500 metres away. Frequently the plain hosts buffalo, waterbuck, elephant and hippo in the evenings.
Overnight Chessa Camp
This follows the same basic itinerary as day two, with a predawn wake up and sunrise whilst drifting down the Zambezi. However, this is the day that you will enter the “Wilderness Area” of Mana Pools National Park where there is limited access to people and vehicles. In fact the only road is 3 to 5 kilometres in-land and is the one that our support team will use. From here on it is a much more remote environment with very few people.
Breakfast may be taken on the Mbera River floodplain, which comprises stunning acacia woodland with large patches of thick “Adrenaline” grass – a habitat much favoured by all the predators. Towards the end of the dry season it also hosts large groups of female elephants with their babies. This day’s paddling is through a maze of small channels before once again joining the main Zambezi River. For a change lunch is on one of the shallow sandbanks in the middle of the river, where a table and chairs are set up in ankle deep water with the whole width of the river stretching out on either side of us. This afternoon is your last chance for canoeing. Depending on water levels and time allowed, there may be an opportunity to explore Chikwenya Island on foot. This unique Island, the largest island on this section of the Zambezi River is host to a prolific bird population and a number of interesting mammal species. In the afternoon you will paddle into Illala Camp to spend the last night.
Overnight Ilala Camp
Depending on your departure time, or if you are moving on to an alternative camp, you may either take another early walk before breakfast or have a lie in! After that, there will be a short game drive to the airstrip where we bid you farewell.
PLEASE NOTE THAT COSTS DO NOT INCLUDE NATIONAL PARKS FEES WHICH ARE PAYABLE DIRECTLY TO PARKS EN-ROUTE. PLEASE ASK YOUR CONSULTANT FOR THE FEE BEFORE TRAVEL. WE WILL NOT BE LIABLE FOR THE PAYMENT OF NATIONAL PARKS FEES.
If you're combining this experience with another of our safari / camping options – we will move you to your next camp.
- We provide all equipment for the supported camps and hiking trail: bedding, towels, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, tents, cooking equipment, and extra water containers.
- Specific catering is arranged with prior notification.
- Maximum number of clients – 8
- Minimum number of clients – 2
- Exclusive/Private guided rates on application as with customised/extended version safaris.
- National Parks Entry and Camping fees not included and will be advised on booking.
- Standard Booking Terms and Conditions on provisional booking request.
- All rates and conditions/itineraries may change without prior notice but we shall endeavor to keep all information up to date.
SUGGESTED PACKING LIST
- Sturdy well walked-in hiking boots/shoes and a pair of light sandals to wear at night
- Lightweight bush coloured clothing – (laundry may be done at the supported camps - mid year can be cold at night and early mornings so light weight warm clothing is a MUST)
- Long pants
- Beanie and sleeping socks for cool months (June – August)
- Wide brimmed hat
- Good light weight binoculars of 10 xs or less power
- Camera/video – please bring plenty of back-up power / batteries – we do not have electricity in our camps
- Personal insect repellents and sunscreen
- Small hiking towel