Five Best African River Safari Destinations

Pula! Mvula! In southern and East Africa, rain goes by many different names. That’s because it’s incredibly precious, with many areas going through long periods of drought and dry seasons, when the earth cracks and plants die back and every living thing holds its breath, waiting for the rain.

That, too, is why the rivers that flow through these dry lands are so loved and admired … rivers that create green-lined pathways through arid land. They are life-sustaining and, as such, are a wonderful place to go on safari.

Here we discuss five of the best safari destinations that can include river/wetland activities.

Zambezi River

KateWhite Water Rafting on the Zambezi - Kate

The great Zambezi river – Africa’s fourth largest – rises in Zambia and makes its way East over 2 500 kilometres, to the Indian Ocean in Mozambique. Along its way it forms a little part of the border between Namibia and Zambia and the whole border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, and travels through spectacular African bush, much of it reserve.

Bungee jumping on the Zambezi near Vic Falls -

It’s home to many beloved and toothy African animals, most notably crocodiles and hippo, and supplies drinking water to many more, including elephant, antelope and wild cats. At places its wild and filled with currents (see the Vic Falls gorges below), and in others its wide and gently flowing. On our Zimbabwe & Zambezi Exclusive Overland Safari, we spend two idyllic days paddling along the Zambezi from Gwabi to the Chongwe River, passing Mana Pools and plenty of hippos and crocodiles along the way and camping on remote islands.

It’s a gentle paddle at an easy pace and offers incredible sightings of wildlife and birds, undisturbed by any sounds but the flow of the river and the splash of the paddle.

Some of our other tours that can include paddling on the Zambezi:

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls -

If wild adventures are your forte, the white water rafting in the gorge below Vic Falls is an absolute must. To put it in perspective: the world’s largest sheet of falling water, at over 5 500 feet wide and 350 feet tall – with an average flow rate of 1 000 m3/s – falls into a 360 foot-wide gorge and then zigzags it way through a series of beautiful basalt gorges. The result: a whole lot of fantastically turbulent water and Grade 5 rapids. Perfect for adrenaline junkies.

Andrew MooreHippo in the Zambezi River - Andrew Moore

If you prefer to keep your heart beating at a regular pace, Vic Falls has plenty more to offer. Marvel at the beauty of the ‘Smoke that Thunders’, go for a flip in a helicopter above the falls or just amble over the bridge and put your foot in Zambia/Zimbabwe.

Some of our safaris that visit Vic Falls include:


Elephants and calves bathing in the Chobe River, Botswana -

The Chobe River runs along the northern part of the Chobe National Park in Botswana and flows into the Zambezi River just above Kazungula Ferry. It creates a beautiful green belt through wild African bush with high concentrations of wildlife.

During the dry winter months, the river is one of the few sources of water, which means spectacular game viewing on cruises along it. Large herds of elephant, buffalo, giraffe and antelope – to name a few – come down to drink from (and play in!) the river and the birdlife is fantastic.

Roderick EimeChobe Cruise - Roderick Eime

The Victoria Falls & Hwange Lodge Safari can include not only a game-viewing cruise along the Chobe River, but also a sunset cruise above Victoria Falls and canoeing on the upper Zambezi!

Other safaris that can include a boat cruise along the Chobe River are:


Okavango Delta from the air -

It’s impossible to put the beauty of the Okavango Delta into words. This huge floodplain that offers visitors waterways filled with hippo, crocs and plenty of other wildlife and birdlife has to be seen to be believed. Eleven km3 of water spread out across an area of 6,000-15,000 km2, depending on the time of year, creating pristine waterways and islands.

Athena LaoMokoro, Okavango - Athena Lao

Paddle your way through the channels and experience Africa, unspoilt by humans and all the noise that comes with them. Instead, listen to the hippos grunting, a huge variety of birds and insects and the gentle splashing of the mokoro pole.

Some of the ABS tours that include the Okavango Delta:


Mathias AppelLemur - Mathias Appel

For something a little different, visit Madagascar, a tropical emerald paradise. Surrounded by white beaches and the warm Indian Ocean, the island has large rain forests and wetlands filled with fascinating primates, birds and insects.

Join our Madagascar Luxury Kayaking Adventure and experience the natural beauty of the area while kayaking through the wetlands and lagoons to tucked away beaches through coastal and rain forests. Watch out for the curious eyes of lemurs, reptiles, turtles and crocs.

WoodlouseSt Luce - Woodlouse

On this trip, there’s also the opportunity for other water-based oceanic activities like snorkelling and whale and birdwatching boat trips. It’s a watery wonderland!

So, while much of Africa is dry, its rivers and wetlands offer many wonderful water-based activities too. Speak to one of our ABS consultants to find the safari that best suits you.

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