After an unforgettable few days at Sausage Tree Camp, it was time to head up the river to Anabezi – a second luxury tented camp in the Lower Zambezi National Park.
Our arrival at Sausage Tree camp was ever so stylish and our arrival at Anabezi was equally exciting. This time, we were going to canoe down the Zambezi river, to Anabezi’s front doorstep.
Well, not quite. We would canoe for most of the way and then hop on a speed boat which would take us to the riverbank in front of Anabezi tented camp.
It would be a very leisurely three-hour paddle along Zambia’s spectacular river and there would be one ‘break’ on the way. After three days at Sausage Tree, we realised that nothing is every ordinary when you’re on a luxury safari like this one. Our pit stop would be a very civilised coffee break – complete with home made cookies – on an island in the middle of the river, where elephants had recently been hanging out.
If we needed the toilet, we’d have to go au natural. But I could forgive them for that.
This was all very exciting.
If you’re thinking of canoeing down the Zambezi river, it’s not something you can do without an expert guide. This river is VAST with some parts reaching 8km wide. So, BC and I jumped into separate canoes, and we were accompanied by a guide each to navigate around the changing depths, currents and sandbanks of this great waterway.
Our guides were very happy to do the bulk of the rowing, while we kicked back and enjoyed the scenery, keeping our eyes peeled for wildlife. Despite them insisting we relaxed and enjoyed the ride, I did contribute to the rowing. After all, it wouldn’t be fair to make Alex do all the work…
The other reason you need a guide, is because this river is full of those very unpredictable hippos. And aside from the walking safaris, this was one of the activities I was most nervous about. They may be herbivores, but I’d heard many horror stories about how dangerous these roly poly creatures can be. They’re pretty cute, but they’re not to be messed with. So as with all wildlife, you need to respect them and keep your distance!
Alex explained that hippos don’t actually swim much and spend most of their time on shallow sandbanks in the middle of the water. If they do swim in deeper water, they can’t really attack and shouldn’t do, if you make a noise and let them know you’re there.
The thing you need to remember however, is to hold on in case they happen to swim underneath the boat. If you’re unlucky enough for this to happen, the key is not to panic. ‘You might fly up in the air a bit,’ Alex explained, ‘but just let yourself come back down’. The key is not to fall out. Especially when there are crocodiles living in the Zambezi.
As we slowly floated along the water in the beautiful glow of the morning sun, I totally relaxed. We watched Egyptian geese, goraf herons and spoonbills on the river bank and got very excited when a crocodile slipped into the water beside us.
Tapping the side of the boat to alert the hippos, we passed dozens of pods, all giving off their amusing, Eddy Murphy-like guffaw as you pass.
The most exhilarating moments were passing buffalo on the river bank who gave us their intense stare as we paddled by.
And hearing the cough-like roar of a lion echo from the woodland on the Zimbabwe side.
I was nervous about going canoeing before this trip but I knew it was something I would totally regret if I chickened out.
I’m so glad I didn’t.
From waterbuck and elephants to an abundance of birdlife, this was a three hour wildlife spectacle on water filled with a wildlife soundtrack of cats, elephants, the ibis bird and the mesmerizing sound of the water.
All this, and we hadn’t even got to Anabezi yet – we had many more safari surprises to come.
VIDEO: Canoeing down the Zambezi