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Canoe Trip on the Upper Zambezi

by Boo Peel
(Pietermaritzburg)

Well our trip started off with a fantastic game drive through the Zambezi National Park - where we saw about twelve Wild Dog lying on the road in the early morning - it was wonderful (it is always a thrill to see these endangered animals - and a real bonus to the canoe trip.)

When we arrived at the launch spot - we were given a cup of tea and a very good and thorough safety talk by Shaun our guide.

The group was then split into partners and we were shown the inflatable's (crocodiles - as they are called). I must say that the first fifteen minutes feel very low and close to the water - but you soon settle down and start to enjoy and appreciate your wonderful surroundings.

The Zambezi River is wonderful on this stretch with lots of channels to be enjoyed and then of course the stretches of white water to be negotiated. 

I must say having Tony in the back of my canoe was very reassuring (as he has spent many years guiding and canoeing and knows the Zambezi very well) and I settled back to enjoy some great bird watching and the warm African sun.

Yes, I did have to do my share of paddling -but mainly the river is quite fast flowing and the paddling fairly easy. It is entertaining to watch the couples trying to paddle together and ending up going round in circles - sometimes it is best to have the married ones separate - for obvious reasons.

Because of the quietness of the canoes the game on the bank very rarely even know that you are approaching - and one can really get up close to them - but with the safety of the river and in some areas high banks. We did not see any elephants on this particular trip - but we certainly have seen them before at the right time of year.

The hippos and crocodiles are there to be honest - but the guides know their stuff and the banging of the water (to alert the hippos and make them surface) becomes an almost reassuring sound and I found myself banging the water - whenever I saw anything that looked like a hippo - which most of the time, was merely a tree stump.

We did have an interesting half an hour when we had to get out of our canoes and wait on the bank for a hippo to move off into deeper water, before Shaun would proceed.

The white water and rapids that we went through - were not very big and the inflatable's handled them very well - a bit of water coming into the canoe - was the worst that happened.

Again the guides were very professional with one in front and one behind all the canoes to make sure we all got through with out any difficulties.

The day was over to soon for me and I found myself wishing it was longer - we arrived at the take out point to a wonderful picnic lunch which was very well received.

The food and hospitality of our guide and the staff of Shearwater was fantastic.

This trip is definitely one of my personal favourites..

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