It was August, the middle of the African winter when I set foot on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River, The grass was brown, the trees bare and the midday heat was bearable. It’s the perfect time for game viewing and camping – the rainy season only starts in October.
I began my journey at Matetsi Lodge, upstream from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and enjoyed this luxurious camp and the game drives in open Landrovers. My bungalow had it’s own little pool and a great view of the Zambezi. From there I couldn’t hear or see another person – just the song of the crickets and the occasional laughter of a hippo.
The Victoria Falls are something to behold. The African people call it ‘Mosi-i-Tunga’ : the Smoke that Thunders. All my senses were bombarded – the roar of the water plunging almost 1000 meters, the spray that soaked me in minutes, the view into that unbelievable chasm … I was in awe. The famous bridge that connects Zimbabwe with Zambia is a favorite spot for Bungi-jumping. I decided to keep my feet on terra firma!
Canoe Safari on the Zambezi River
The canoe safari started at Lake Kariba, so I made my way there and spent a night in a rondawel at the shores of the lake. At night the hippos would graze on the lawns – so I stayed indoors and read a book! Next day we were off in a truck on our great adventure – it began with crossing the Kafue River on a hand-drawn pont (ferry) en route to Kiambi, our base camp.
After a hearty breakfast we climbed into our canoes and headed for Kualefu (the ‘Far-away Place’) – 90 km’s downstream. It was a 3 day trip along the shores of the Lower Zambezi National Park A strong headwind during the first few hours made my shoulders and arms protest, but after wonderful lunch on the river bank under a shady tree and a quick massage I was encouraged me to carry on. Luckily the wind subsided and it was easy going from then on.
Gently floating down the river we saw lots of birds – just the thing for me! The Fish Eagle is the national bird of Zambia and according to our guide, Dickson it calls every hour from dawn to dusk. There is nothing quite like sitting in the front of a canoe on a huge expanse of water and watching the eagles swoop down to catch their dinner – just a few meters away from us…
There were lots and lots elephants frolicking in the water and the odd buck and buffalo came down to drink. We even saw a lioness having a nap and of course we made a wide berth around all those hippos. Once though a hippo surfaced quite close to our canoe. I don’t know who was more surprised, but when the hippo gave a mock-charge we suddenly learnt that canoes could do low-level flying too! The adrenaline rush propelled us into some really quick paddling.
We had real washrooms at most campsites, but on one occasion we where taken to a sand bank in the middle of the river for a swim and bath. Morat and Dickson held onto the boat and kept an eye out for crocs while the other guides, Iton and Peter prepared a scrumptious dinner over the fire.
The best thing about this trip was the feeling that we were the only people in this wonderful world of water and wildlife. Saying good-bye to such a beautiful country was not easy…