Into the Wild: Zimbabwe Walking & Canoeing Safari

A 11 day trip to Zimbabwe 

Safari is different in Zimbabwe. Walk across landscapes of rhinos and elephants, canoe through rivers of big game, and feel a deep connection with the wild. Combine a 4-day canoe expedition with days spent walking in the bush, and this exclusive adventure provides a new perspective on African safari. You will find yourself listening, smelling, looking and feeling as all of your senses will be inspired on this intrepid journey into areas that very rarely see people. With this Zimbabwean safari trip, you will celebrate the authenticity and wonder of a big-game world.

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Most tours are customized for private travel.

General Information

Photos
A view of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.
Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Victoria Falls, Lake Kariba, Matusadona National Park, Zambezi River, Kariba, Mana Pools National Park, Chirundu, Kakomarara, Lone Acacia Island, Trichelia Island, Hwange National Park

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Victoria Falls – Arrival on the Zambezi

Touch down in Victoria Falls and transfer to your lodge by boat, a journey along the Zambezi and a quick insight into what’s to come in Mana Pools. In the coming days, you will start paddling along the Zambezi, some 600 kilometers downriver from here, where it is narrower and less daunting. From the boat, you might see hippos and elephants, legendary figures who dot the length of the Zambezi. Chacma baboons and vervet monkeys cluster in the trees overlooking the river, while prints along the riverbank suggest that antelopes are not far away. Spend the afternoon relaxing at the lodge before a sunset dinner cruise, which is gourmet and wild in equal measures.

What’s Included: accommodation, airport transfer, tour

Day 2: Victoria Falls – Majestic Viewpoints and the World’s Most Powerful Waterfall

Wake up to wild animals in the river. Then remember that this is just an introduction to Zimbabwe’s wildlife. There is much more to discover in the days to come. Victoria Falls is just two miles downriver from the lodge, and you are staying close to the country’s busiest tourist town – yet the landscape is dominated by animals. After a relaxed morning, you are transferred to the falls where a thrilling self-guided walking trail runs parallel to the thundering whitewater. At some places, the views are magnificent, with 360-degree rainbows swirling in the mist, or millions of gallons of gushing water stretching onwards for a mile. At other times you get soaked, the mist raining down, exemplifying the power of this waterfall. Explore at your own pace then head back to the lodge, where a second sunset dinner cruise continues the encounters with hippos and baboons.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 3: Matusadona National Park to Kariba – Game Drives and Getting Ready for the Canoeing Adventure

The 4-day canoeing adventure starts from Lake Kariba, where the water of Africa’s Riviera diverts into the lower section of the Zambezi River. Fly to Lake Kariba by light aircraft and spend the morning on a game drive in Matusadona National Park, getting first glimpses of lions and rhinos. Enjoy a picnic lunch on the savannah, then keep exploring into the afternoon, preparing for the canoeing adventure by discovering a huge variety of different mammals. Later in the afternoon, you are transferred to the north of the lake and a luxury waterfront lodge in Kariba. It feels like the edge of the world here. Tomorrow you will be paddling off the edge, into a canyon and a long stretch of river that is completely inaccessible by vehicle.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 4: Kariba to Chirundu – Paddling Through Epic Unpopulated Landscapes

Load up the canoe and start paddling. Your vessel is a stable 19-foot Canadian canoe, perfect for relaxed paddling and carrying your stuff through Mana Pools. There won’t be any rapids, so you are not going to tip, although you’re sometimes required to paddle away from hippo pods or elephant herds acting aggressively. The next few days follow a similar rhythm, waking early for a light breakfast in the bush then paddling for a couple of hours. Stop for a more substantial breakfast on the banks, then keep canoeing until midday, where you reach a remote Zambezi island in Mana Pools National Park. It’s hot now, so take a siesta after your lunch. Afternoons are leisurely, relaxing at the camp and enjoying a walking safari in the surrounding riverine woodland area.

On this safari, you will paddle the full length of Mana Pools National Park. It is a leisurely journey, following the river downstream. Today’s first stretch is light on wildlife but big on epic landscapes. Deep, silent gorges rise above you, glowing through red and orange tones as the morning sun rises. The seclusion is absolute, just a couple of canoes and the enormity of the Zambezi canyons. You will have seen a similar canyon at Victoria Falls; this section close to Chirundu is higher, narrower, and only sees a few people a year. There is no access without being on the water, and you will delight in the remote atmosphere. You are sure to spot a few animals, grazers and giants who occupy the park’s remote corners, often large males cast out from their herd. Over the day, you will settle into the style of safari, feel the grandeur of nature, and spend the night on a remote uninhabited island.

What’s Included: accommodation, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 5 – 6: Mana Pools National Park – Unique Canoe Expedition Through Big-Game Wilderness

Traveling like this almost makes you feel like a nomad. Everything feels so wild. It is like you can better appreciate the life of elephants who roam the banks, sensing that they are also on a long, intrepid journey. Perhaps most poignantly, it feels like you’re on your own journey, not simply heading out to find wildlife. Such a mindset seems to make each encounter more special. Following the Zambezi, you paddle into the game-rich central areas of the park. It is worth noting that these areas remain mostly void of other people, as most Mana Pools boat safaris concentrate on the park’s lakes.

Hippos are a constant now. Large pods cluster in calm waters, with individuals casually yawning to reveal trademark jaws. Younger hippos are regularly spotted on the banks, sometimes less than 15 meters away from the canoe. Elephants make for regular encounters. There are youngsters practicing their swimming, large adults walking on the riverbed and using trunks as snorkels, plus gracious matriarchs showcasing enviable equanimity. Buffalo are also common close to the Zambezi banks, and sometimes you see a huge herd descending into the water, swimming across to Zambia. Baboons seem to be ever-present around your camp while zebras emerge with almost metronomic consistency.

The camps are basic but comfortable. The encounters are legendary. From the water you see everything coming from a distance. You see the herds of waterbuck and wildebeest from afar, hear the grunting giants, watch giraffe go from distant silhouette to high-definition close-up. At water level, you have a complete perspective on the landscape, what animals are where, and which sounds are echoing endlessly. Canoeing is almost silent, so when you approach wildlife, it doesn’t run away frightened. Even lions may be spotted, a pride of predators drinking from the banks. Perhaps you see a cheetah, maybe even a leopard, lurking in the reeds. Canoeing is not just silent safari. It is also slow safari, helping you discover all the little clues and all the predatory eyes hiding along the banks.

What’s Included: accommodation, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 7: Mana Pools National Park – Final Day Canoeing with Africa’s Giants

Stop paddling, allowing the Zambezi current to push you slowly downriver. An open floodplain is packed with animals, mostly wildebeest and zebra on their morning journey to the water. Stop the canoe by the banks and watch everything unfold, the herds marauding forward and the pride of lions lying in wait. Raucous baboons spoil the hunt, hooting fanatically to warn everyone of the camouflaged predators. The zebra and wildebeest walk downriver, looking for a more open place to drink. You watch the lions thinking, and admire the telepathic communication between females, then you see them sulk off in the opposite direction. 

Today you complete the canoeing, reaching the eastern edge of Mana Pools National Park by lunchtime. Spend the afternoon game driving back through the park, exploring the lakes and floodplains that were out of sight from the river. In particular, the guides are searching for the predators you haven’t seen yet. Wind into riverine woodland, scanning the branches for leopard spots. Then cross the plains, deciphering the camouflage of cheetahs in the grass. After three nights of relatively simple camping, you spend this night in a new luxury camp, enjoying a huge suite with floor-to-ceiling glass windows and a private shower beneath the night’s stars.

What’s Included: accommodation, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 8: Hwange National Park – Relaxed Walks and Drives Introduce You to Hwange

A flight from Mana Pools to Hwange keeps you firmly within the wilderness, hopping from one big-game landscape to another. In the wetlands, you’ve grown accustomed to lush, vibrant colors. The Hwange savannah is a different tone completely, parched red dirt blanketed by soft orange dust. It’s harder for the cats to blend in here, and you have no trouble spotting lions and cheetahs on your introductory game drive. One pride seems to pose for the camera, sitting proudly on a rock that juts above the savannah. They approach you, slowly circling the safari vehicle before returning to their beautiful state of repose.

Arrive at one of Hwange’s best camps around midday, where lunch is served and a guide introduces the style of safari. Set in its own private concession, in the east of the park, this camp is widely celebrated for having Zimbabwe’s best walking safari guides. Over these next three days, you have an open canvas to explore, with a variety of routes, all of which are highly unlikely to see other people or vehicles. You have complete flexibility. You will be driven to trailheads, then walk back to camp on foot, for two hours or the full day. Loop around waterholes close to the camp, or take a walk in remote mopane woodland, far from the camp. Mix walks and drives through the day or stick to two feet. These three days can respond to your mood, as well as the natural environment. And just like in Mana Pools, these journeys create a dramatic intimacy with the wild.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 9 – 10: Hwange National Park – Exclusive Walking Safari in a Private Big-Game Concession

Walk slowly towards the zebra, stopping every few meters to gauge their reaction. Admire their powerful shoulder muscles and unique stripes. Then look beyond them to a herd of hartebeest, who are surrounded by a scattered herd of impala. Continue the walk and you find many more antelopes: eland and kudu close to the trees, both roan and sable antelope in the same panorama, steenbok elegantly bounding past. Many of these animals would quickly skip or canter away from a vehicle. But you are just another mammal, and the wildlife isn’t afraid. They return your gaze and inspect their visitor. You watch emotion change in a zebra’s eyes, admire the proud pouting of horned males, feel the connection with these rare and remarkable animals.

Keep walking. Buffalo are up ahead but they don’t bother you, the large harem behaving very peacefully. Elephants are also up ahead, constants on the horizon. Expert guides know exactly how to respect the elephants’ space while getting you within heart-pumping proximity. A southern giraffe wanders past, then the rest of its family, including a new baby that towers above you. All the while you have not seen another person. You are fully engrossed in dozens of different species, perhaps seeing upwards of 50 unique mammals on this 3-day walking safari. Sometimes you cross plains that are inaccessible to vehicles and the atmosphere intensifies; this wonderful sense of being alone with nature is what makes a walking safari so special.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 11: Hwange to Victoria Falls – Departure

The flight to Victoria Falls provides another insight into Zimbabwe’s landscape. It seems you see nothing artificial from the window, the west of Zimbabwe one unbroken stretch of wilderness. Touch down at the small airport in Victoria Falls and transfer on to your international departure, taking the feeling of Africa with you.

What’s Included: airport transfer, breakfast 

Price

Starting Price 

$4,395
This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.