Your guide to river cruising in Africa

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The concept of the safari has evolved well beyond the traditional experience that features 4×4 game-viewing vehicles, safari guides, trackers and guests in search of the Big 5 in Africa’s bushveld. While still a firm favourite because there’s always something new to see, river safaris are growing in popularity.

Kate Powell, General Manager, Sales & Marketing for the Zambezi Queen Collection tells us why we should swap the lodge and Land Rover for a luxury houseboat on the Chobe River in the northern reaches of Botswana, for our next safari.

Why go on a river cruise?

For travellers looking to get away from it all and discover one of Africa’s last untouched wilderness areas, the Chobe River is a destination easily accessible from South Africa. It’s perfect for nature and wildlife enthusiasts, bird watchers, wellness seekers and those who enjoy all of the above with a touch of luxury. But how best to explore this region?

Without a doubt, on the river on one of the Zambezi Queen Collection’s boutique houseboats. When staying at a traditional lodge, you’re ‘landlocked’ in one spot, but a houseboat gives you a range of vantage points to take in the scenery, from the 120 000 elephants that call this area home to the 450+ diverse bird species that provide ample opportunity for bucket list sightings.

A river safari makes for incredible game watching as the animals come down to the river to drink and the elephants playfully swim across the river right in front of you! The photographic opportunities are unparalleled,(ask about the Zambezi Queen Collection’s specialist photographic boat too!).

Boarding one of our deluxe houseboats, you will be immersed in this extraordinary wilderness, whilst enjoying all the comforts of an exclusive boutique hotel.

Discerning travellers can step onboard the stunning Zambezi Queen or the smaller, more intimate Chobe Princesses’ – also available for exclusive use hire if travelling with family, friends or a small group.

What can travellers expect on a river cruise?

Expect a safari with a difference and with much less hassle. Here, the wildlife comes to you. So, whether you’re hopping on a tender boat for your mid-afternoon wildlife viewing or enjoying your morning cup of coffee on your private balcony on the houseboat itself, you can enjoy easy wildlife viewing and birdwatching 24/7.

The Zambezi Queen houseboat cruises up to 25 km of the river while the Chobe Princess houseboats can navigate up to 50 km so guests are really immersed in the region.

What’s life like onboard a river cruise ship/houseboat?

It’s entirely up to you! This is the kind of safari where you get to decide if you want to rise with the birds or prefer to laze all morning watching game from the comfort of your bed. Itineraries are flexible so while there are a range of activities on offer, you can choose just how much you want to pack into your holiday or how relaxed you want to be. Forget the traditional crack of dawn, chilly game drives.

On the houseboats, you get to spot wildlife in style. Imagine relaxing in a plunge pool, watching the hippos snorting in the river or admiring the sunset while game watching from your bed. A day onboard could look like this: start the day with a leisurely cup of coffee before heading off on your morning excursion.

Every day, choose between or enjoy all three two-hour activities on offer, including guided river-based game viewing, birding excursions, fishing trips, cultural tour, and photographic safaris. Enjoy a delicious lunch and dinner on board and don’t forget the sundowner while watching the magnificent Chobe River sunsets.

How do I know if a river cruise safari is right for me?

If you’re looking to admire the wildlife and birds in their natural habitat in the least intrusive way possible, then a river safari is for you.

If you wish to explore a length of the Chobe River and revel in the peace and stillness, then a river safari is the most relaxing safari out there. River-based game viewing, fishing and birdwatching excursions are incredible and entirely different from land-based excursions. This is also one of the best areas in Africa to enjoy tiger fishing.

Anything else travellers should know about river cruising in Africa?

The Zambezi Queen Collection packages are all-inclusive with all meals, drinks, recreational activities as well as road and boat transfers included.

Don’t forget the camera and binoculars. You’ll snap the most incredible images from the custom-designed photographic safari boat, which provides a water’s edge vantage point.

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