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Zambia: Kiambi Lower Zambezi

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Kiambi Lower Zambezi | Zambia | Africa

[Visited: May 2014]

The memory of my only canoe safari back in 1989 was still on my mind: even after doing many safaris after that, I remembered it as the best safari I ever did. When the chance was there to go back to the Zambezi river and do more canoeing, I was excited about the chance to relive the experience. I realize that, much younger, I once floated down the same stretch of the Zambezi, past Mana Pools on the Zimbabwean side, for 6 days - this time, we would only have 3 hours. The drive from Lusaka turns out to be pretty straightforward, and after installing in tent-huts with great views over a bend in the Zambezi river and Kanyemba island, we are ready to explore the camp and the surrounding area.

Picture of Kiambi Lower Zambezi (Zambia): Yawning hippo in the Zambezi river before sunset

At the end of the afternoon, a flat boat with regular chairs takes us on a tour around Kanyemba island. We have been watching the branch of the Zambezi at our camp, but have not seen any elephants or other big animals, and are eager to spot anything. Just after rounding the bend, we see our first hippos, sneakily hiding in the water and sticking their heads out to see who is passing by. We see birds, and after a while, we turn into a shallower stretch of the river, close to the Zimbabwean side. We see a crocodile, or better said: just the upper part of his beak and eyes floating in the river, we see more pods of hippos and birds, until we finally spot two elephants. We watch them grazing in the high grass before we continue further downstream and see three male elephant emerge from the water, most of their bodies dark grey; only the upper part the regular elephant-grey. We observe them for some time; the sun is now setting, making their silhouettes stand out against an orange sky. After that, we see even more elephants before we sail upstream, back to the lodge after a successful cruise.

Picture of Kiambi Lower Zambezi (Zambia): Elephant at the bank of the Zambezi river

The next morning, we are all excited, some anxious, about the upcoming adventure. The beginning is easy: a motorized boat tows us, and our canoes, upstream. Once we are in our canoes, we try to stick to the instructions of the guide, and follow him to avoid the pods of hippos. At one point, we see a hippo tumble down the steep banks of the Zambezi, and are happy we are not floating where he hits the water with a big splash. Plenty of birds (marabous, white egret, and more) and hippos; we see one elephant but it is not very close. The going is easy: we merely have to steer with the flow, and watch out for wildlife. Then, we spot contours of several elephants on the banks of the Zambezi, and when we come close, it turns out the animals are grazing, and do not seem to care too much about our presence. This is how I remember my first safari canoe: being very close to animals without the noise of a vehicle, trying to stop your canoe at the bank, and just observe in awe. Birds land on the back of one, the elephants keep on eating; almost no drinking. I could have stayed a long time, but unfortunately, we have to get going. But when we do, we are totally satisfied - apart from the fact that we have no more time left to continue further downstream.

Picture of Kiambi Lower Zambezi (Zambia): Branch in the Zambezi with birds
Picture of Kiambi Lower Zambezi (Zambia): Elephant contour at sunset
Picture of Kiambi Lower Zambezi (Zambia): Hippos in the Zambezi river
Picture of Kiambi Lower Zambezi (Zambia): Elephant with birds on the banks of the Zambezi river
Picture of Kiambi Lower Zambezi (Zambia): Marabou birds with stretched wings on the banks of the Zambezi
Picture of Kiambi Lower Zambezi (Zambia): Warm afternoon light on the Zambezi river
Picture of Kiambi Lower Zambezi (Zambia): Elephant with white bird on his back on the banks of the Zambezi river
Picture of Kiambi Lower Zambezi (Zambia): Crocodile lazing in the sun on the banks of the Zambezi
Picture of Kiambi Lower Zambezi (Zambia): The banks of the Zambezi river with an elephant
Picture of Kiambi Lower Zambezi (Zambia): White egret flying away
Picture of Kiambi Lower Zambezi (Zambia): Floating hippos in the Zambezi
Picture of Kiambi Lower Zambezi (Zambia): Grazing elephants on the banks of the Zambezi
Picture of Kiambi Lower Zambezi (Zambia): The Zambezi river in the late afternoon

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