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Explore Africa through its lifeblood

Tuesday, 27 June 2023

Every river has a character, and every waterway symbolises vitality. Life in Africa revolves around its rivers, streams and lakes, defining the essence of the wildernesses they flow through. A safari can be more than game drives, so why not opt for one of the continent’s numerous water safaris and explore Africa through its lifeblood?

Below is a list of our favourite water-based safari destinations.

Want to go on a water safari? Browse our African safaris on offer here.

water safaris

Okavango Delta, Botswana: Water safari by mokoro

The swampy wildlife oasis of the Okavango Delta is one of the most extraordinary safari destinations in Africa, and a ride in a mokoro is an essential part of any exploration. These traditional dugout canoes cut silently through the wetlands’ many channels, propelled by expert guides’ poles. Aside from the peaceful immersion in one’s surroundings, this is the perfect way to encounter wildlife – from elephants to frogs and everything in between.

water safaris Okavango Delta
Glide by mokoro on the waters of the Okavango Delta

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Zambia: Rafting on Batoka Gorge’s white waters

At Victoria Falls, the mighty Zambezi River plunges 100 metres off a basalt plateau before being forced through a narrow and twisting path of Batoka Gorge. The rapids below the falls are classified as Grade V and are widely acknowledged as offering some of the best white water rafting in the world.

Adrift on inflatable rafts, armed with just a plastic oar and a lifejacket, visitors throw themselves at the river’s mercy. Nothing is quite as humbling as experiencing the sheer power of a churning river (especially while underneath it). And after the rather steep climb out of the gorge on somewhat shaky legs, a sundowner imbibed looking out over the “smoke that thunders” is a must! This is one of the most epic water safaris you’ll ever experience.

water safaris Victoria Falls
White river rafting on Batoka Gorge, Victoria Falls
Africa Geographic Travel

Jinja, Uganda: Kayak the Nile

The Nile River is the longest in the world, and its journey begins at the edge of Lake Victoria as it spills out of the lake into a series of plunging rapids. Not much compares to the thrill of riding the tumbling waves, pitting skill against the tremendous power of the torrent. And there are plenty of long flat stretches of calm water to steady the nerves, recover the muscles and marvel at the beauty of rural Uganda.

If this sounds too much (or perhaps when one’s shoulders and arms have had enough), opt for an ice-cold drink on a sedate sunset boat cruise. 

water safaris Nile River
Kayak the River Nile at Jinja

Chobe River, Botswana and Namibia: Cruise on a riverboat

The Chobe River is Africa’s elephant Eden, its lush floodplains and surroundings home to the world’s highest density of these magnificent pachyderms. This corner of the continent is renowned for its water safaris. Explore the various channels and side creeks or meander peacefully, watching elephants snorkel and wrestle in the water. From predator to prey, the abundance of life on display along the riverbanks tinges any voyage with more than a hint of excitement.

water safaris - Chobe
Spot Chobe’s abundant wildlife from a riverboat
Africa Geographic Travel

Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania: Float or dive lazy waters

Only two parks in Tanzania offer chimpanzee trekking: Gombe Stream and Mahale Mountains National Parks, and both are found on the banks of Lake Tanganyika. The terrain of these parks is mountainous, and if the chimps are particularly capricious, a trek might entail several hours of strenuous hiking. As such, there is no doubt that the only way to celebrate a successful day is to leap with joy into the cool embrace of the clear waters of the world’s longest freshwater lake. Sandy beaches are perfect for lazing the days away or soaking up romantic sunsets. Or, to make the most of a water safari at Lake Tanganyika (which hosts over 350 fish species), explore the waters by diving or snorkelling.  

Chill out on sandy beaches by the peaceful waters of Lake Tanganyika

Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe and Zambia: Explore vast shorelines

The fertile shores of Lake Kariba and its fresh waters attract diverse birdlife and wildlife, including elephants, buffalo and various antelopes. Keep an eye out for lions and leopards too. Lake Kariba’s water safaris can be enjoyed in simple pleasure or luxurious style. Dozens of lodges perched on the water’s edge allow you to awaken to the copper glow of the sun rising over the endless lake. Spend the day admiring the scenery or watching elephants browse the shoreline of Lake Kariba. And at the end of the day, the calm waters are the ideal place to admire the starlit skies. There are plenty of opportunities to explore the shorelines from the water, whether on a catamaran cruise, motorboat or even a houseboat.

Explore Lake Kariba’s shorelines on a catamaran cruise or motorboat
Africa Geographic Travel

Lake Malawi, Malawi: Barefoot safari

Lake Malawi offers a plethora of fun for every intrepid safari goer, from the super active to the deeply relaxed. Across the shoreline of Lake Malawi, tiny beach villages and lodges offer many opportunities to explore the waters – above or below the azure ripples. Boat trips provide the perfect vantage to appreciate the lake’s blazing sunsets. Snorkel or dive beneath the surface to take in the fishy kaleidoscope darting around the rocks in the shallows. Sailing and kayaking are at the top of the list for those eager to investigate the various bays and coves along the shoreline. And for beach lovers, there is ample opportunity to lounge along Lake Malawi’s sandy shores and breathe in the crystalline waters, drink in hand.

Barefoot bliss alongside Lake Malawi

Storms River Mouth, South Africa: Adventure in the breakers

Along the ocean’s edge in the Tsitsikamma section of Garden Route National Park, a microcosm of adventure can be found within a rocky ravine where breakers pound rocky shores beneath rolling forests and fynbos. Here, 5kms of sea, reefs and ocean life around Storms River Mouth are protected by the national park. Mere metres from where dolphins romp in the waves and southern right whales visit, thrill-seekers can negotiate the narrow passages of the magnificent Storms River Gorge by kayak, cliff jump into secret pools, lounge on a raft or hop aboard a lilo to float on cool waters after a long day of activity.

Storms River Mouth will enthral adventure seekers

Lake Kivu, Rwanda: Kick-back, beach style

There are plenty of active ways to entertain oneself on a visit to Lake Kivu, from water sports to birding. But why not embrace the Caribbean-like tropical atmosphere of this Great Lake, and take a few days to kick back and relax on sandy shores? Besides, it is the perfect spot to let it all sink in after a life-changing trek with gorillas in nearby Volcanoes National Park.

Relax on the beaches of Lake Kivu

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