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Frequently asked questions:
Lower Zambezi Canoe Safaris



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Is canoeing the Zambezi safe? 

Any safari activity is potentially hazardous and all operators indemnify themselves against responsibility for any illness, accident or loss. Lower Zambezi canoe operators focus on a sensible balance between the adventurous and expeditionary nature of the canoe safaris whilst maximising safety and support by providing top guides plus appropriate and well-maintained equipment and vehicles. 

The guides themselves are key to your safety on the river. Their training is stringent and qualification requires that they gain extensive experience before formal examinations. The guides are totally familiar with the areas and environment in which they operate and have both formal training and experience with game found in the area. 

  • Hippos are the obvious challenge on the river and the rules are pretty simple. When approached they back off into deeper water, the canoe trail therefore generally follows the shallows and before crossing or approaching deeper channels, the guide will always announce the approach of the safari by banging the sides of his canoe or slapping the water with a paddle. 
  • Close encounters with large game including buffalo and elephant do occur and the guide's actions are always aimed at keeping the safari safe and at the same time not putting animals under pressure. 
  • Large cats are found throughout the valley - they tend to shy away from man and are in fact often difficult to find. 
  • Crocodiles are found in large numbers on the Zambezi and will usually disappear at the first sight of an approaching canoe trail. 
  • From time to time poachers come into the valley - National Parks patrols and concession holders generally deal them with swiftly whenever they're found. 

First aid and trauma kits are carried on all of our canoe safaris, the guides are all certified first aid practitioners. Radios are carried on safari and there's a good radio network on the lower Zambezi linked to MARS (Medical Air Rescue Services) and bases in Kariba and Harare. The guides are all armed as a precaution and are given appropriate weapons training. 

Canadian standard canoes (19", two-man with a stowage bay) are used on the river - they've been tried and tested on the Zambezi for two decades and are well proven even for those with no previous canoeing or paddling experience. 

Safety is a very important consideration on the Zambezi and despite the fact that there's a close community of operators with common interests some of the operations rely more heavily on this fact than they should and don't equip themselves fully. 

Quite simply, your safety is best assured by going on safari with a reputable operator.


What will I see on the Zambezi River?

  • Aside from the valley's magical scenery and some of the most spectacular sunsets on earth at any time of year, you're assured of seeing big game including hippo, buffalo and elephant. The large game is found in higher concentrations past the Nyakasanga River into Mana Pools and the Lower Zambezi National Park. 
  • Lion, leopard and other predators are found in the area but are more often than not heard and not seen - leopard in particular are very elusive. 
  • Kudu, waterbuck, impala, zebra and eland are among the more common antelope found. 
  • Baboons are a common sighting particularly near the main camps. 
  • The birdlife is always spectacular and varied with over 300 recorded species in the Mana area. The best time of year for birds particularly the migratory species is in the summer months from November to April. 
  • Insects in the Zambezi Valley are fascinating even for avid bug-haters.  The population explodes in the wet season.


Where do you sleep whilst on a canoe safari? 

On the backed up canoe safaris there's a full blown mobile tented camp set up in advance of your arrival at each overnight stop. The tents are of the large walk in variety with gauze skylights, comfortable beds, battery-operated lighting and en-suite facilities. 

On the "full participation" trips, all equipment and provisions are carried downstream with you so things are a bit more rudimentary. Dome tents are provided with stretchers and mattresses. The paddle and mosquito net is how it used to be done - still a really worthwhile option if you really want to experience the African night!


What's the food like on safari? 

All food is provided in generous quantities and of a home-cooked standard. 

  • It stands to reason that the backed up safaris with added space for provisions and equipment are going to produce better food than on the camping trips. 
  • On the other hand, some truly amazing preparations are done on the full participation safaris - particularly when aspiring cordon bleu chefs appear as fellow guests! 

In all cases, vegetarian and special dietary needs are catered for - please advise us when making your reservations.


To go on a canoe safari, where do I have to get to and how do I get there?

All of our lower Zambezi canoe safaris start and end in Kariba, Zimbabwe. 

  • Daily connections are made with Victoria Falls and Harare by Air Zimbabwe. The best regional connections to Harare and Victoria Falls are via Johannesburg and Cape Town unless you've arranged a direct flight from Europe. 
  • Lusaka is a good alternative road-connection with Kariba. 
  • Air charter companies operating throughout the region service Kariba - links with Botswana and the Kafue and Luangwa are relatively simple but expensive. 
  • The Kariba Ferry is a good option when linking Kariba and Hwange or Victoria Falls if you're coming in on a self-drive basis. An alternative is the six hour drive from Livingstone to Siavonga in Zambia.

Departure and return times for canoe safaris are best handled by either spending the night before and after the safari in a Kariba hotel - our combination safaris are planned to avoid extra nights in Kariba whenever possible. (Nothing wrong with the hotels, you just get more productive safari time by actually being on safari!)


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Last update 11 July 2000

UK Head Office
Shilston Barton, Modbury, Devon, PL21 OTW
Tel/Fax: +44 1548 830059

Zimbabwe Head Office
The Heights, PO Box 158, Kariba, Zimbabwe
Tel: +263 61 2532  Fax: +263 61 2291

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