Safari vehicles are the traditional way to explore the African savannah but is it the best way? Alan explores the possibility of safari by water, a magical way to sneak up on wildlife.

Done an overland safari? Saw lots of animals? Great. Thinking about your next African adventure? Investing in a new camera? Cool. Land-based safari is fine but travel by water...now that is fun! Safari opportunities by water are growing...fast. You can sleep on a boat or paddle your way to prearranged camps.

What you get is a timeless way of travelling. There is something magical, very beautiful and very African about being on the water. Gliding along. It’s fantastic for birdwatching...and animals often plod, skulk, tippy toe or crash down to the water’s edge for a drink. And of course hippo and crocs are never far away...

The Canoe Safari

So, where’s a good place to start? Well, if you feel like putting in a bit of muscle, want manoeuvrability, and like to feel, smell and touch the water, try a canoe safari. And there’s nowhere better to do one than the Okavango Delta in Botswana.  The reed-lined channels are fun to negotiate and hide birds, and plenty of wildlife. The waters here suit darting canoes – in fact you’ll be in a mokoro, a traditional dugout canoe.

And you can even lay back and let your guide do the work. Local guides pole the mokoros, silently cutting through crystal waters. It’s a good way to sneak up on all kinds of animals riverside, such as elephant and buffalo herds, wildebeest, zebra and other grazers like waterbuck. And you may even spot a predator having a sip.

Okavango Delta Tours

The Luxury Boat Safari

Or perhaps you have an inkling to do the next safari in style. Why not try an eco-friendly, luxury water-based safari along the Chobe River; a massive waterway that divides Chobe National Park in Botswana with the Caprivi Strip in Namibia. The banks of the river are home to some of the densest wildlife populations in Southern Africa. Elephants in particular are found in large number.

Boats that do these safaris are kind of like floating 5-star hotels. Too sanitized for some. But who doesn’t want to sip a glass of South African sauvignon blanc from Stellenbosch while gazing out at marauding elephant herds? Small launch boats can get you closer, zipping around islands packed with wildlife.

Chobe River Tours

Let the Wildlife Come To You

So, if you can overcome your fear of being plucked from your vessel by a giant crazed croc. Sidestep the terror of you boat getting headbutted by a colossal, enraged hippo. Then you can kick back in style or paddle your way through this wildlife wonderland. Let Africa’s ambient waterways bring the animals to you.

By Alan Murphy
Australia AU

Alan is a travel writer and author of over 20 Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guides to Southern Africa and Zambia & Malawi.

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