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Canoe safari map - lower Zambezi



For ease of reference the Lower Zambezi River can be divided into three main canoe safari stretches:

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Kariba to Chirundu

The first is a 3 day leg of about 56km from Kariba to Chirundu run only on the Zimbabwean shore. This safari takes you through a very scenic stretch in the Kariba Gorge. The game is not extensive - and with the exception of hippos and crocodiles the chance of seeing elephant, buffalo, cats etc. is slim. There is a very interesting historical aspect to this section with the discovery of the Ingombe Ilede archaeological site in 1960 - general literature is thin on the subject but is well worth the research. Birdlife is very good with Black Eagle nests in the gorge - we have had a few sketchy reports of Taita Falcon sightings near Nyamasowa. 

The first day is spent canoeing through the gorge, and with the exception of birdlife and sounds from a few fishing villages en route, it's often a very eerie experience. The second and third days see the Zambian and Zimbabwean escarpments receding as the floodplain widens on both sides of the Zambezi. Hippo pods are usually encountered shortly after the Zambezi passes through the gorge (hippos aren't found in the large numbers on this stretch as they are beyond Chirundu). 

If you're short on time and keen for a taste of canoeing the Zambezi River then this is an excellent "camping" option. The overnight sites are on islands in the middle of the river. Departure dates with reliable operators are unfortunately limited on the Gorge Safari [Shearwater].


Chirundu to Mana Pools

The second canoe stretch is a 4 day leg of about 70km from Chirundu to Mana Pools. This is the most popular "full participation" stretch on the lower Zambezi River and is run on both the Zambian and Zimbabwean shorelines [River Horse and Shearwater respectively]. The game is superb (hippo pods will be encountered within about 10 minutes of launch) especially in the dry season, birdlife is good year round but best in the wet season from November to April. On the camping trips, overnight stops are on both the mainland and on islands. One of the Zambian outfits [Sobek] offers a unique "cultural" extension to this safari. 

The safari passes along the Urungwe Safari Area and goes into Mana Pools on the Zimbabwean bank. This is where canoeists encounter the most game and birdlife on the entire Zambezi River from source to sea. Mana Pools is essentially closed from November to April, and the only really viable way to see the area in the wet season is via canoe. 

The Mana Pools shoreline from Ruckomechi down to Chikwenya on the Zimbabwean bank offers the best game viewing opportunities. The best way to explore this section exclusively is on one of the deluxe canoe safaris over four days - these are "backed up" trips with a full camp crew in attendance [Patrick Brakspear's Classic Africa Safaris].


Mana Pools to Kanyemba

The third canoe stretch is a 6 day "full participation" safari of about 120km from Mana Pools to Kanyemba on the Mozambican border [Shearwater]. Game around Mana Pools is excellent but tends to thin out downstream especially once the Mupata Gorge is reached. Here the scenery is dramatic and the rare Taita Falcon can be found. The trip passes from the Mana Pools region, into the remote downstream portion of the Zambezi River past the lower Zambezi Safari areas to the top of the Caborra Bassa dam on the border of Mozambique. 

In reality only four and a half days is spent canoeing and the last day is a 7 hour (hot and dusty) drive back into Kariba. This stretch appeals mostly to people with extra time and a taste for true wilderness. It gives one the best opportunity to experience the full diversity of the lower Zambezi River from the open flood plains to the confines of the gorge.


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Last update 17 July 2000

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

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The Heights, PO Box 158, Kariba, Zimbabwe
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