Iconic images of game viewers framed by brazen sunsets and surrounded by arid savanna are a constant reminder of the safari life in Africa. Coupled with these popular game drive images we are also rewarded with numerous safari style images of mokoro trips, boat cruises and wildlife swimming in pristine bodies of water. We are familiar with these typical safari scenes, but there’s a different style of safari that pretty much flies under the radar in terms of safari holidays in Africa. We’re talking about the much-loved experience of a houseboat safari!
Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe/Zambia is probably the most popular and well-documented destination for a houseboat safari, but the mighty Chobe River in Botswana is also an exquisite option for this category of safari.
Lake Kariba rests on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe and is the world’s largest man-made lake. It is actually in the Zambezi Gorge, spreads out over the Zambezi Valley and is surrounded by pristine nature reserves teeming with game. The lake is dotted with floating hotels and has numerous small islands. In terms of wildlife, there’s plenty to see. Big game is fairly prominent, with a major highlight being the herds of elephants happily swimming between the fertile islands. This is always quite a sight to behold – elephants use their trunks as a snorkel and love nothing more than to indulge in swimming sessions.
The Chobe River is one of the most popular safari destinations in Botswana and the shores are a playground for high concentrations of elephant. Chobe is home to hippos, crocs and a menagerie of other wildlife. Waders and birds of prey also frequent the area, making it an absolute heaven for birders.
When you hire a houseboat for a safari you have the option to charter for a set period of time. It’s standard for a crew to accompany you for the duration of the hire. Amenities are all on board and – depending on the boat you hire – you can either charter the boat with the self-catering or private chef option. With the houseboat, there are tender boats. These boats are used for navigating narrowing areas of water and for game viewing and fishing. The tender boats have a crew and don’t tend to traverse too far from where the houseboat drops anchor.
As its name suggests, this is the big daddy of houseboats. This is a mobile water mansion and the daddy Warbucks of Lake Kariba.
It comes complete with a splash pool on board, sundeck area and even braai facilities. Well-appointed cabins completely kitted out with bathroom amenities and all the luxuries from home provide the idyllic hideaway after a day spent
For the eager fisherman who owns their own speedboat, there is option to tow this behind Big Daddy. The houseboat does have its own tender boats, but they’re strictly crew driven and only facilitate fishing and game drives in the region of the houseboat. This is a 5 star houseboat, complete with efficient and qualified crew that ensures all of your needs are met. The mooring of Big Daddy is at Marineland Harbour and departures normally take place around 10am. If you’re on a fishing expedition, you can expect to tiger fish, bream, tilapia, catfish and barbel.
The Chobe Princess is a luxurious houseboat with all the frills-and-spills of five star hotel living. This up-market vessel is berthed on the game-rich Chobe River at the entrance of Chobe National Park. The area is affectionately referred to as the “Land of Giants” because of its abundant herds of elephant. The Chobe Princess can be booked out on an exclusive use basis, sole use or just the individual cabins.
The Chobe River is a prime game viewing destination and many flock to its shores to see impala, buffalo, elephants and other wildlife. There are actually 75 mammal species and 450 bird types to spot in the region, so be sure to bring your binoculars and photographic equipment.
There’s an extensive deck area and large cabins from which to enjoy the sweeping views of the Chobe landscape. Luxury cabins are all en suite and glass panels allow for incredible 360 degrees of the surrounding landscape.
The boat has a tender ferry that transports you to the banks of the river to get up close and personal to big game.