Canoe Safari, Lower Zambezi (Zambia & Zimbabwe)

The silence, as you drift with the flow on a canoe safari down the Zambezi River, apart from the distant splash of a hippo or the trumpet blast from a half-submerged elephant, is golden.

Crocodiles soaking up the sun’s rays look so deep in sleep they might as well be fossilised, but they surprise you by disappearing noiselessly beneath the surface in the blink of an eye.

A canoeing safari along the busy banks of southern Africa’s Lower Zambezi is magical. It’s a gentle yet exhilarating adventure that, when well guided, allows for opportunities to experience the local flora and fauna at thrillingly close range. Aside from enjoying the stunning river scenery with its distant bush backdrop you soon realise why the region is famous for big game.

You will regularly encounter all manner of water and land-based species, as well as large game including elephant, buffalo, hippo, eland and kudu. There are also considerable opportunities to see lion, leopard and African wild dogs when embarking on a driving or walking safari. The birdlife is also prolific, with over 400 species.

I was enthralled from the moment I first set eyes on the region. Flying in across the magical Zambezi escarpment, you see the river slithering through the bush like a silver eel sliding across parched desert. This is deceptive, as life below is as plentiful as it is paradisiacal.

Declared a National Park when I first visited Zimbabwe and Zambia in 1983, significant parts of the Lower Zambezi region have subsequently been granted UNESCO World Heritage status.

Engagement and protection from the likes of CITES has assisted the region. Their ivory trade ban, and the continued presence of ZAWA patrols, have assisted in the healthy development of the elephant population.

Although a year-round destination, the remoter stretches of the Lower Zambezi (from Mana Pools in Zimbabwe to Selinda in Botswana) are particularly good for canoeing safaris during the drier months of May to mid-November.

Whether embarking on a canoeing excursion for an hour, afternoon, several days or a week, you are in for a unique experience and truly extraordinary wilderness experience.