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Explorer modus operandi

Explorer modus operandi

Included in the cost of the semi-participatory safaris are return Kariba transfers to / from the safari; all camping and canoeing equipment; all meals; teas, coffees, cordials and wine with dinner and services of a fully qualified canoe guide. National Parks Fees and other drinks including mineral water are not included in any costs. On the last day of the safari, a vehicle meets the party and guests and equipment are transferred back to Kariba.

Where does the canoe trip start?

All canoe safaris take place on the Lower Zambezi River between Kariba and Kanyemba. Most of the safaris start or end in Mana Pools National Park.

More about this section of the river

This section of the Zambezi River flows through a variety of different scenes. Below Kariba Dam the narrowest point is approximately 80 metres and the widest point is 4.2 kilometres near Chikwenya, an island inside Mana Pools National Park.

From the first put-in point, a short distance below Kariba Dam Wall, the Kariba Gorge is narrow and fairly steep sided, this continues for 18 kilometres before the River opens out in to a wide flood plain. The flood plain continues until the Chewore River mouth where the River narrows again at the start of the Mupata Gorge, which is approximately 46 kilometres long. This section is not as steep as Kariba Gorge, but is beautiful and very remote.

The River has not flooded since the wall was built as the dam regulates the flow. (There was a minor flood when three dam wall gates were opened in the year 2000. However, this had minimal effect to the ecology downstream.) There are not enough tributaries below the wall to cause a flood during the heavy rains.

There are no rapids on this section of the river. The water is flat all the way from Kariba to Kanyemba, with an average flow rate of 4 km per hour.

The depth of the River varies from 24 -30 metres in the gorges to as little as 150 centimetres in the flood plain areas, although there is always a deep-water channel. There are a lot of islands and sandbanks, which make good camping spots.

Mana Pools is the only game park in Zimbabwe to be granted World Heritage Status and encompasses some of Africa’s largest areas of Acacia and Mahogany woodland, combined with spectacular, full-canopy Mopane forest.

Mana Pools is part of a 300 million year old rift valley supporting a large variety of mammals and over 400 bird species. Covering over 200 square kilometres, this national park has been set aside to be kept as wild as possible. There is only non-invasive, zero-impact tourism allowed. There are no safari lodges, generators, electric fences or other structures associated with safari camps as these are banned by law.

All the camps must be taken down the day after guests depart to ensure minimal damage to the ecosystem.

Wildlife is abundant in the valley especially during the winter months from June through to late August with game still being clearly visible through to the end of October / early November when the rains start.

The River runs through the Urungwe Safari Area, Mana Pools National Park, Sapi Safari, Chewore Safari and Dande Safari areas respectively. Wildlife will be seen on every trip, most commonly impala, waterbuck, hippo, crocodiles, elephant and buffalo. Animals such as lion, leopard, etc, are more difficult to see but are certainly present.

Wildlife is much more abundant in Mana Pools, especially during the height of the dry season (July to October) when the game viewing can be fantastic. During the rainy season (mid November to end of March) game is around but not as visible.

When to go


High season - 1st July to 31st October

Low season - 1st November to 30th June

The canoe safaris are run year round apart from the Mopane safari which is restricted to April to November (out of rainy season).

How to get there and what to take

All the semi-participatory canoe safari transfers are made in open 4x4 vehicles. There is the option to fly out of Mana Pools and Kanyemba on the day the safari ends (at an extra cost). We can also transfer guests in and out of Lusaka by road or air at an extra cost.

Transfer times are generally of the following duration by road:
Kariba to Gorge 20 minutes
Kariba to Chirundu 3 hours
Kariba to Mana Pools 4 hours
Kariba to Kanyemba 7 - 8 hours

All road transfers are on bumpy, dust roads and its not possible to guarantee the transfers will return in time to catch flights on the same evening as the final day of canoeing.

Equipment: All camping equipment is supplied. This includes gas stoves, kitchen utensils, plastic plates and mugs, pots, pans, tables, stools, camping mattresses, sleeping bags, liners, mosquito nets, candles and cooler boxes and tents.

The equipment and food (in large cooler boxes) is carried in the middle of each canoe. Sleeping bags, with sleeping bag liners, are provided but clients can bring their own if preferred. There are NO ablution facilities provided on these safaris. Fishing equipment is not supplied.

Food: All food is supplied and meals are of a good standard. The meat and poultry dishes are pre-cooked and frozen. Food supplies carried by one rig will last for a 5-day safari; any longer trips are re-supplied either in Chirundu or Mana Pools. Breakfast / brunch usually consists of fruit, eggs, bacon or sausages, beans or tomato relish, bread (toast), marmalade, tea, and coffee. Lunch consists of cold meats and salads, cheese, biscuits, pickles and rolls. Dinners consist of a variety of meat and vegetable dishes.

Drinks: Teas, coffees, cordials and dinner wine only are provided on Explorer Safaris. Clients are therefore advised to bring their own minerals, beer and spirits.

The guides will take clients to a shop prior to departure from Kariba, to purchase such items. Beers and minerals must be purchased in cans to reduce weight and space. 2 cooler boxes are set aside for keeping drinks cold. There is sufficient space to carry up to 5 crates of beer or soft drinks. There is no chance to replenish stocks on the River.

Packing list: Wide brimmed hat; Sun block; Shorts / T-shirts;Track shoes / sandals; Towel (provided on the backed up trails); Tracksuit / Jacket / Jersey for cool evenings; Bathing Costume; Insect Repellent; Personal Toiletries; Binoculars; Torch;Film/camera batteries (no charging facilities on the river); waterproof bags for valuables.

Luggage needs to be kept to a maximum of 10kgs because all luggage and food is carried in the canoes. Packing personal items into soft duffle bags is the best way to carry luggage. It is advisable to bring a light cotton kikoi (or Sarong) and long sleeved collared shirt for protection from the sun. Trousers for evening wear for protection from mosquitoes.

Who runs the safari?

The safaris are managed and run out of the supply office in Kariba and the administration office in Harare.

The canoe trips run with a minimum of 2 passengers and a maximum of 8. Explorer Safaris are led by qualified canoe guides with thousands of hours of canoeing experience (a learner canoe guide must have at least 1000 hours canoeing experience just to sit the canoe guides exam).

The minimum age is 14yrs accompanied by an adult. The minimum age can be varied if children are accompanied by their parents and if it is only one group doing the trip. There is no maximum age limit but remember this is an activity safari and canoes are low slung and require flexibility to get in and out. This trip is NOT suitable for anyone who has had a hip replacement.

Special arrangements can be made for larger groups of friends or family.

Typical daily routine

Generally the day starts with tea / coffee and biscuits at sunrise. The camp is packed and the party sets off. These early mornings make for easy paddling as the wind is calm and it is not too hot. A stop will be made for breakfast, usually after a couple of hours. Stops are made at any point of interest.

The trip continues after breakfast, until breaking for a light lunch and siesta between noon and two pm. The night stop is reached at approximately 5pm. Camp is unpacked and set up and dinner prepared. Camp is generally set up on islands, at sites designated by National Parks.

There are no ablution facilities but the guests are provided with toilet rolls, a spade and matches to burn the toilet paper! Bathing is done using water scooped out of the river in a bucket. Bio-degradable soap can be used in the river. Distance covered per day is approximately 22 kilometres.

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