August 3rd, 2021

The Different Types of Boating Safaris in Africa

Written by:

Toby Pheasant


Safari 101


Whether you're an avid birder, photographer, fisherman, adrenaline junkie or just an all-round lover of nature, boating safaris will definitely appeal to you. 

There are many different types of boating safari possible across Africa - from a small dug-out canoe or 'mokoro' that silently drifts along the channels of Botswana's Okavango Delta, to much larger houseboats that cruise around Zimbabwe's Lake Kariba, and everything in between.

In this notebook entry we'll take you through the key types of water-based experiences possible in Africa, and why we love each so much:

Canoeing from Chongwe River Camp, Zambia


The most rustic, raw and yet serene way of experiencing the rivers and waterways of Africa is in a mokoro or canoe. Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe are best known for these types of excursions, and they most certainly don't disappoint. 

Whether you're in a mokoro in Botswana being slowly propelled along by a local poler, or in a canoe drifting down the Zambezi River, the experiences are largely the same: You remain in the shallower channels and along the banks of the river, calmly drifting along, watching birds as they wade through in search of frogs and insects, as well as catching the glimpse of some of the larger animals coming down to drink. 

Mokoro trip from Mapula Lodge, Botswana

On occasion, one does encounter the odd snorting hippo, but, thanks to the experience of your guide, there is nothing to worry about and it only adds to the exhilaration. 

Similar to mokoros and canoes is white water rafting. Now, while these are a lot of fun, they aren't necessarily a 'safari excursion' and so don't fall into this post, but they are possible on the River Nile in Uganda, and on the Zimbabwean side of Victoria Falls.

Returning to camp after a motorboat excursion in Zambia


Heading out on a motorised flat-bottomed boat allows you to explore further both down and upstream. These excursions are great in a number of ways - not only do they make for the most remarkable sunset G&T barges, but they are also fantastic for getting (safely) closer to playful elephants, basking crocodiles and other larger animals. 

For photographers, the specially adapted low-profile boats allow for exceptional photographic opportunities. 

These boating safaris are predominantly offered in Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe but are also found in Uganda, Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa

Flat-bottomed boat excursion from Camp Xakanaxa, Botswana


To really become 'at one' with the water and all the wonderful creatures that rely on its constant presence, then look no further than a houseboat. 

Staying for a few nights on a houseboat can be as rustic or luxurious as you like, but they all offer a wonderfully unique and fun experience. From your houseboat you can slowly pootle along rivers or across lakes as you sip on yet another G&T or head out on one of the boats tenders for a quick spin. 

Houseboats are found in Botswana and Zimbabwe

Taking the plunge in Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe. / Drifting through the waterways of the Lower Zambezi River.

Whatever your boating style, we know that you would love the experiences on offer across a number of our wonderful destinations. 

Where possible we recommend our guests to sample as many different styles of safari as possible, from game drives, night drives, to hot air ballooningwalking and of course boating too. 

If you are interested in boating safaris but have a few questions or concerns please do get in touch and we can make sure the experience is right for you.

Thanks for reading,

The Bonamy Travel Team

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