A Slow Canoe Safari on the Lower Zambezi - Fauna Travel

A Slow Canoe Safari on the Lower Zambezi

Canoeing the Zambezi River / Courtesy of Anabezi

10 Days

The Zambezi River valley in southern Zambia is one of the world’s most legendary safari areas. There are only a handful of camps, a wide range of safari activities, and dramatic sunsets. It’s the kind of place we want to slow down and spend time in. Fortunately, the river provides an excellent avenue for extended exploration by canoe. Starting at the western border of Lower Zambezi National Park, you will paddle your way downstream, for over 30 miles, with stops at both wild camps and luxury lodges. It’s the most tranquil and immersive way to safari.

During the dry season of August to November, high densities of elephants will congregate on the valley floor along with large herds of buffalo and impala, which you can see from your canoe. Predators naturally follow prey, and the park has a healthy population of lions, leopards, and wild dogs. To ensure both safety and continuity for your trip, we’ll arrange a private guide to travel with you for the duration of your river adventure.

This is arguably the most exciting canoeing itinerary in the world. Paddle for over 30 miles down the Zambezi River, with stops at both wild camps and luxury safari lodges.

Your custom travel playlist includes Smokey Haangala’s “Cinyala Munyakna”
Smokey Haangala was a popular musician and journalist in the 1970s and 80s. He is classified as Zamrock, but his songs are more mellow and soulful than some of the psych-rock that you hear out of Zambia. It’s the perfect rhythm for paddling down the Zambezi.

Day 1-2: Arrival at Time + Tide Chongwe Camp

Arrive in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, on your international flight. After clearing customs, transfer to a small prop plane for the short flight to Royal Airstrip near the border of Lower Zambezi National Park.

Chongwe Camp, Zambia / Courtesy of Time + Tide
The Zambezi River Near Chongwe Camp, Zambia / Courtesy of Time + Tide

Rendezvous with your guide and drive to Time + Tide Chongwe Camp. The newly refurbished camp is located at the confluence of the Zambezi and Chongwe Rivers, which are a haven for wildlife. The eight classic safari tents include open-air baths, bold textiles, and a relaxing main lounge. Spend the afternoon recovering from your trip, and finish your day with a boat safari and sunset cruise.

Use your second day on the Zambezi to get acquainted with the landscape and its wild inhabitants. We suggest warming up with a short walking safari before spending the afternoon canoeing around the camp. Enjoy dinner by the water and prepare for your departure the following day.

Day 3: Fly Camping Near Chikwenga Island

Get an early start for the 12-mile paddle downstream. En route, you will enjoy a fabulous safari from your canoe. The perspective is lower, and you can glide silently by elephants and other wildlife. Your expert guide will help you avoid hazards like hippos and crocodiles. You won’t arrive at the next permanent camp today, but we’ve arranged a fly camp on the banks of the Zambezi for the night. The stars are incredible, and only a thin insect net separates you from the wild.

Sleepout tent on the Zambezi River, Zambia / Courtesy of Classic Zambia Canoe Safaris

Day 4-5: Chula Island Camp

After breakfast the next morning, continue your progress down the river toward Chula Island Camp. It will be another big day of paddling, which will allow you to settle into the rhythm of the river. Chula Island Camp is located on Katengahumba Island, separated from the mainland by the famed canoeing area, the “Discovery Channel.” This small island has unparalleled wildlife viewing by canoe, and you will stop to immerse yourself in the wilderness here for a couple of days.

Chula Island Camp has the charm and wild ethos of a seasonal bush camp but the amenities of a permanent camp. The five canvas tents include high-quality mattresses, flushing toilets, running water, and traditional bucket showers – but thankfully, no-wifi. The main lounge is set beneath massive Natal Mahogany trees and is an excellent location for shared meals and wildlife viewing.

Day 6-7: Kutali Camp

After breakfast, take one last paddle down the Chula Island channels and work your way five miles downstream to Kutali Camp, the sister camp of Chula Island. The camp is done in a similar style but set among a stunning winterthorn forest that is ideal for walking and photography.

Spend your next day on walking safaris with the camp’s expert guides. Walking safaris are tailored to suit the individual but are typically a gentle amble through the bush. Being outside of a vehicle heightens all of your senses and also allows you to experience the small things that might be missed in a vehicle.

Day 8-9: Anabezi

The final leg of your journey is a four mile paddle downstream to Anabezi, one of the most luxurious camps in Lower Zambezi. The camp is located on a small ridge above the river in the easternmost accessible section of the park. Each of the twelve tents is connected by a raised deck and features an indoor/outdoor shower and private plunge pool. It’s the perfect place to unwind after your week on the river.

Arrival at Anabezi via Canoe / Courtesy of Anabezi
Arrival at Anabezi via Canoe / Courtesy of Anabezi

Your remaining day on the Zambezi is yours to fill with whatever inspires you. You can continue your exploration of the river downstream by boat towards the Mpata Gorge or choose land-based activities such as walking safaris or game drives. Visiting the spa, grabbing a cocktail, and watching the animals move about camp from the pool are also perfectly acceptable.

We’ve sent you some reading material, including, The Zambezi
The Zambezi traces the history of the communities that have lived along the great river from prehistory through the modern era, using rarely referenced Portuguese sources. It’s a history that engagingly unites history and ecology. View on Amazon

Day 10: Departure

In the morning, drive to Kulefu airstrip for the short back to Lusaka, where you will depart for home. If you would like to continue your journey, we suggest fine dining and whale watching in Cape Town or trekking in the mountains of Ethiopia.

Contact us to start planning your journey into the wild.

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