A New Kind of Sa­fari – On Wa­ter

SLOW Magazine - - Contents - Text: Belinda Moun­tain Im­ages © Zam­bezi Queen Col­lec­tion

Asa­fari (or game drive) is one of the most pop­u­lar items on a tourist’s check­list when they visit Africa, and for good rea­son. Who wouldn’t en­joy the ex­hil­a­ra­tion of see­ing wild an­i­mals in their nat­u­ral habi­tat and the sim­plic­ity of soak­ing up the sounds and smells of the bush, as the wind rushes through your hair?

But un­less you’re ex­tremely pas­sion­ate about the bush, go­ing on yet an­other land­based sa­fari may not be at the top of your bucket list right now. Which is why you need to con­sider some­thing a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent – a river sa­fari.

A river sa­fari isn’t about ca­noe­ing along­side croc­o­diles and mak­ing camp each night on the sand­bank with only a tin ket­tle and some cof­fee to keep you com­pany (al­though you could do it that way if you’re so in­clined). No, most river sa­faris in­clude lux­u­ri­ous ameni­ties, sump­tu­ous food, hugely knowl­edge­able guides, and the chance to ex­pe­ri­ence Africa in a more per­sonal and peace­ful way. Here’s what makes them unique:

Ex­cel­lent Game View­ing

If you’re do­ing a land-based sa­fari, you’ve prob­a­bly ven­tured down to a wa­ter­ing hole many a time. Wa­ter is es­sen­tial to sus­tain­ing life, and its oa­sis of green­ery amid the dry bush at­tracts high con­cen­tra­tions of wildlife look­ing to quench their thirst. For you as a river sa­fari game viewer, that means in­cred­i­ble, up-close-and-per­sonal sight­ings. See new­born im­pala take their first shaky steps into the world, wit­ness wilde­beest and ze­bra drink­ing from the river, and also keep an eye out for preda­tors. Preda­tor sight­ings are more fre­quent near the wa­ter, so you may have a bet­ter chance of see­ing li­ons, rare packs of wild dogs and elu­sive leop­ards.

A Unique Per­spec­tive

Watch­ing game from the wa­ter in­stead of land gives you unique (and often much closer up) views of the game con­gre­gat­ing there. Be­ing so close to the an­i­mals as they drink also makes for fan­tas­tic pho­to­graphic op­por­tu­ni­ties, as you’ve got the wa­ter keep­ing them in place and you’ll have more than enough time to soak up the ex­pe­ri­ence or snap that per­fect photo.

Year-round Sight­ings

Dur­ing the dry win­ter months when the in­land wa­ter­ing holes dry up, vast num­bers of an­i­mals de­scend on the river to drink. If you’re on a river sa­fari, this means a front row

seat for game view­ing. You’ll also be much more likely to see year-round river­ine wildlife like croc­o­diles and hip­pos.

Ele­phants Aplenty

Ele­phants love wa­ter and can often be seen swim­ming and frol­ick­ing in the river – some­times in huge breed­ing herds. On a river sa­fari, you’re in the per­fect po­si­tion to see ele­phants of all ages, whether it’s new­borns tak­ing their first dip or older males as­sert­ing their dom­i­nance over each other.

Ut­ter Tran­quil­lity

There’s some­thing about be­ing around wa­ter that in­stantly re­laxes you. A river sa­fari where you float down the river on your house­boat (or “ten­der boat” if you’re on a day ex­pe­di­tion) with the en­gine turned off makes for an ex­tremely tran­quil game-view­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, as you lis­ten to the wa­ter lap against the boat, with only the calls of wildlife as your soundtrack.

Float Into Re­lax­ation Sta­tion

A tra­di­tional land sa­fari typ­i­cally means a very early start, as you head off on game drives be­fore the sun rises for the best chance of spot­ting game. On a river sa­fari, you’ll en­joy a later start, as an­i­mals come down to the wa­ter only af­ter sun­rise. If you’re truly look­ing to re­lax and recharge while you’re in the bush, then this is the way to do it.

Per­son­alised Per­fec­tion

Be­cause a river sa­fari is rel­a­tively un­usual, there’s min­i­mal con­ges­tion on the river com­pared with a land-based sa­fari, where you could be sur­rounded by a dozen other ve­hi­cles try­ing to spot a lion’s tail as it dis­ap­pears into the bushes. This makes it that much more ex­clu­sive and per­sonal. Com­pa­nies like the Zam­bezi Queen Col­lec­tion of­fer in­cred­i­ble house­boat sa­faris, with only a small num­ber of guests per boat, mak­ing it in­ti­mate and fa­mil­iar. The en­tire boat can also be booked ex­clu­sively, giv­ing you your own pri­vate villa on the wa­ter. A bonus when trav­el­ling with the Zam­bezi Queen Col­lec­tion is the Green Sea­son Spe­cial Of­fers, of­fer­ing dis­counted rates over cer­tain travel pe­ri­ods.

There Are Plenty More Fish in the… River

If you’re on a mighty river such as the Chobe in Botswana, it means world­class fish­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties right on your doorstep. De­pend­ing on when you go, you can try your hand at catch­ing tiger fish, bream, African pike, tilapia, cat­fish or up­per Zam­bezi yel­low fish from the com­fort of your wa­ter-based ac­com­mo­da­tion.

Bril­liant Bird­ing

While spot­ting big game is un­doubt­edly the high­light of go­ing on sa­fari, bird­watch­ing in the bush is an added bonus – or, if you’re a twitcher, the main rea­son for go­ing. Be­ing on a river sa­fari means you’re close to the di­verse bird species that live on and near rivers – and dur­ing the wet sea­son huge mi­gra­tions mean the bird pop­u­la­tions in­crease even fur­ther.

Oh the Places You Should Go

Luck­ily we have some ex­cel­lent river sa­fari op­tions right on our doorstep, with the Chobe re­gion in Botswana and Namibia just a short flight from South Africa. It is also a stone’s throw from Vic­to­ria Falls, mak­ing it an ideal com­bi­na­tion. The Chobe re­gion is an in­cred­i­ble des­ti­na­tion all 12 months of the year, an ever-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of wide, dra­matic skies, vivid colours and un­for­get­table game view­ing. The Zam­bezi Queen is a five-star, 42-m long house­boat with 14 lux­u­ri­ous suites of­fer­ing un­ob­structed views of the Chobe River and land­scape be­yond – and is an in­cred­i­ble way to ex­pe­ri­ence this re­gion. Wake up to the sight of ele­phants drink­ing from the river, or the sound of a hyena call­ing into the wild.

Un­like a land-based lodge, the Zam­bezi Queen nav­i­gates 25 km of the Chobe River, al­low­ing you to ex­plore dif­fer­ent van­tage points and en­joy un­par­al­leled sight­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. The banks of the Chobe Na­tional Park are home to one of the dens­est pop­u­la­tions of ele­phant on the African con­ti­nent – es­ti­mated at ap­prox­i­mately 120,000. The na­tional park is also home to a large num­ber of buf­falo, leop­ard and lion, along with a va­ri­ety of an­te­lope and abun­dant birdlife.

If you’re look­ing for your next min-blow­ing, mem­ory-mak­ing, heart-warn­ing hol­i­day, I think you just found it. For more info, visit www.zq­col­lec­tion.com.

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