Messing about in boats… a safari with a difference

There are greater than 150 tripoints on this planet however just one worldwide quadripoint, and right here we had been, perched precariously, within the prime of a 2,000 12 months outdated baobab tree, searching over the one place on this planet the place 4 nations meet and two nice African rivers be part of. We had been on Impalila Island, on the banks of the Chobe River, on the jap tip of the Caprivi Strip, a small slither of land that belongs to Namibia. From our vantage level on the prime of the tree, we may see Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia, in addition to the confluence of the Chobe and Zambezi Rivers.

If I assumed climbing up had been a little bit of a hair elevating expertise, getting down from the tree had my knees wobbling like jelly, and it was solely by nearly falling, reasonably ungracefully, onto our information’s shoulder, as he stood ready patiently on the base of the tree, that I lastly managed to get again onto terra firma! I fairly envied my husband, who being somewhat liable to vertigo, had stayed on strong floor, watching as our children had scampered up like seasoned mountaineers and I’d laboriously heaved myself up the steel rungs, positioned just a bit bit too far aside for my legs to stretch between comfortably.

Impalila Island, flanked to the north by the Zambezi River and to the south by the gushing rapids of the Chobe River, is dwelling to round 2,500 folks, in 25 small villages. It was additionally dwelling to my household, for a few magical days.

Toes firmly on the bottom, we headed again to Ichingo Chobe River Lodge. ‘Ichingo’ means spearhead, the identify coming from the triangular form of Impalila Island. Discovered on the south aspect of the island, the lodge is a birding and fishing paradise, so nicely camouflaged by the riverine forest that you simply wouldn’t even understand it was there, if not for the motor boats tethered neatly on the financial institution under. The world across the lodge is an unimaginable maze of waterways, floodplains and bush. Over 450 species of birds have been recorded right here, together with some rarer species just like the Pels Fishing Owl, rock pratincole, African skimmers, and Pygmy geese. The tiny reed islands reverse the lodge had been densely populated by weaver hen’s nests and their fixed chatter and exercise continued at any time when there was daylight.

Nestled beneath big Jackalberry bushes was our ‘tent’, and I exploit the time period advisedly, as we had correct beds, tables, chairs, an ensuite toilet and even air-conditioning. From our personal deck we had pretty views of the river, and at evening we went to sleep with the sound of the speeding water ringing in our goals.

My household appear to be of the overall opinion that no journey to a river is full with out making an attempt your hand at fishing. Not one to face of their approach, however not sharing their ideas on fishing, I fortunately waved them off with their rods, and loads of refreshments, to attempt their luck. Every tent has its personal assigned tender boat and private information, and with entry to over 100km of prime fishing waters I used to be certain they wouldn’t come again empty handed. I relaxed by the pool, with my e-book, to await their return.

A number of hours later they had been again. The waters across the lodge are dwelling to the wanted, ferocious tiger fish, in addition to tilapia, African Pike and Zambezi Yellowfish. Regardless of this, my husband and sons between them, had solely managed to hook a solitary tiger, which had apparently managed to leap off the road, taking the lodge’s coverage of ‘catch and launch’ somewhat too actually! They returned to the lodge with all the standard fisherman’s excuses about the way it was the “improper time of day”, or the “improper time of 12 months”, or improper time of “one thing or different”… I personally assume it was an excessive amount of speaking, and doubtless too many beers!

Leaving Ichingo and travelling just a few kilometers upstream on the Chobe River we ‘upsized’ our boat expertise, and exchanged our glossy fishing motorboats for a 45m lengthy luxurious houseboat, the Zambezi Queen.

A ‘boat safari’, on a floating boutique resort, is a completely totally different expertise from a standard land-based safari. It is a luxurious vessel, with three flooring and solely fourteen cabins, so not more than 28 passengers at a time. Basic class with fashionable comforts, a 5 star expertise in a wild atmosphere. Navigating roughly 25km of the Chobe River, the Zambezi Queen lets you discover the river and the land from a distinct vantage level. Watching the panorama continually unfolding and altering earlier than your eyes.

There’s something very particular about drifting alongside a river with wildlife at eye stage and nearly inside arm’s attain. Consuming herds of elephants, temperamental trying buffaloes, yawning pods of hippos and solitary, stealthy crocodiles that basked on sandbanks within the morning solar. Staying on board the Zambezi Queen is like being on a everlasting recreation drive, however with a a lot greater consolation issue. It is a incredible strategy to see wildlife from a very totally different angle. The boat cruises slowly down the river, the Caprivi Strip on one aspect and Chobe Nationwide Park on the opposite, permitting you loads of time to take in the surroundings.

The primary night, moored in Namibian waters because the solar went down, we sat again, glass of wine in hand. Admiring the surroundings and the dramatic colors of the sky and watching because the glowing orange solar slipped under the horizon. From the highest deck, a big open house that homes the bar, lounge and eating space, big home windows opened onto uninterrupted views of the river, as twilight coated the land past.

The gentle lapping of water, the muffled grunts of hippos and the chirping of swallows nesting within the eves simply exterior my window, woke me the subsequent morning. Opening the curtains, earlier than returning to the consolation of an opulent mattress, we watched the Chobe River waking up earlier than our eyes. A few hippos bobbed up and down within the water. A small herd of buffalo stared balefully and immediately at us. Swaying grass on the financial institution revealed glimpses of camouflaged impala. The fantastic thing about the scene left us speechless.

The male members of my household opted for a pre-breakfast journey to attempt their hand at fishing once more. I selected a extra sedate bird-watching journey.  Gallinules, rails, crakes, herons and extra flew amongst the floating reed mattress islets. Dozens of smaller birds flitted by means of the undergrowth, their vivid iridescent colors flashing in opposition to the foliage. Jacanas strode throughout rafts of waterlily leaves, every leaf the dimensions of a dinner plate. The gradual drift of our tender boat meant we didn’t disturb the peace and we may get proper up near the birdlife.

After breakfast again on the boat we relaxed the morning away, a pair of binoculars shut at hand, to take a better have a look at something that drew our consideration as we drifted previous.

Leaving the ‘mom ship’ that afternoon, once more by tender boat, we went out to get even nearer to the wildlife. The darkish blue color of the river contrasted with the greens and browns of the financial institution. Birds swooped previous us. Baboon households got here all the way down to the water’s edge to drink beside herds of impala and puku. We drifted previous elephants, trunks within the water like large straws, who paused mid ‘sip’ to observe our progress. Kingfishers hovered and plunged within the river, attempting to find fish. There was one thing mesmerising in regards to the river that afternoon.

One other elective exercise from the Zambezi Queen is to journey by tender boat to an area village on the floodplains of Namibia’s’ Caprivi Strip, the place you meet the villagers and elders of the Subiya tribe and learn the way the inhabitants of this 100-year outdated village reside, and a few of their traditions. You should buy woven baskets, some jewelry, or maybe a carved picket animal, to take dwelling as a memento of your vacation. If you wish to, there’s additionally a possibility to provide the kids helpful items like faculty stationery, books, and so on. To complete off your go to, you possibly can watch (and even take part) a show of conventional dancing and singing.

Our last dinner on board. Glasses and cutlery glistened within the heat glow of the eating cabin. This was an African-themed dinner with a wide range of conventional dishes. Waiters saved glasses full. A number of journeys had been made by my numerous members of the family, forwards and backwards to replenish their plates from the quite a few desert choices.  The whole Zambezi Queen solid and crew sang a number of songs to farewell us earlier than our early morning departure the next day.

A memorable journey, a beautiful strategy to expertise this stretch of the Chobe River. Our journey jogged my memory of Kenneth Grahame’s line in The Wind within the Willows… “Imagine me, my younger pal, there’s nothing – completely nothing – half a lot price doing as merely messing about in boats”.

Getting there

The Zambezi Queen is ideally positioned for these wanting to go to the well-known Victoria Falls or Chobe Nationwide Park.

The Zambezi Queen is accessed by flying into Kasane Worldwide Airport, from the place it’s a 20 minute highway switch to the Botswana Immigration Publish after which boat journey of round quarter-hour, through Namibian Immigration on the opposite aspect of the river, to the Zambezi Queen. A highway switch from Livingstone and Victoria Falls is a journey of two to 3 hours.

When to go

The Zambezi Queen sails on scheduled weekly departures each Monday (two-nights or four-nights), Wednesday (two-nights) and Friday (three-nights).

Recreation viewing on the Chobe River is at its finest from March to November when the climate is drier and the animals are extra cellular as they seek for meals and water. Summer season and spring additionally provide distinctive alternatives although, as you watch the panorama burst into life after the primary rains of the season

Birding season begins in September, when the primary migrants arrive, boosting the hen inhabitants generally by 20% in comparison with the winter months. From December by means of to March birdlife on the Chobe is extraordinarily busy and the colorful breeding plumage on show is a unprecedented sight.

Fishing safaris may be carried out all 12 months spherical, a very good time is from the annual floods beginning in March to the feeding frenzies within the winter months.

Eco credentials

A number of environmentally pleasant requirements have been set on the Zambezi Queen. They run the newest, most gas environment friendly and lowest emission mills throughout the day. After 22h00, the complete boat switches over to the battery energy by means of the evening. Sizzling water is offered by a photo voltaic heating system on-board the vessel and energy-saving lights are put in by means of the vessel. All cleansing detergents and facilities on the houseboats are biodegradable, and so they use an eight-stage river water purification plant for water in showers, faucets and the pool. A water jet propulsion system replaces the standard propeller system inflicting no harm to the riverbed and/or fauna and flora.