Botswana Canoe Safari

Written by Joseph Cameron

In Botswana there is no point A to point B. A mere trip from the airport to your lodge can turn into a safari in a New York minute. Your Sunday drives are interrupted by giraffes. Your cats are cheetahs. Your locals are hippo and hyena and your neighbors, well, they’re alligators. Seasonal floodplains spanning over 6000 square miles cover your new digs, a usually dry, arid landscape. Rivers pulse through every available crevice like veins, the water the very literal lifeblood to a myriad of semi desert-bush, savannah grasslands and endless salt pans. With all that in your thought-pocket it seems only logical then to use the one mode of transport that gives you an experience closest to the one the animals themselves experience. If you haven’t yet considered seeing Africa’s playground in a canoe, grab a green tea and listen up. From a slotted experience as a part of an existing tour to a 5 day, all-in adventure, Ker & Downey® Africa gets you as close as comfortably possible to satisfying your lust for a legacy of the unique.

“In Botswana there is no point A to point B. A mere trip from the airport to your lodge can turn into a safari in a New York minute.”

Photo credit | Great Plains Conservation

Canoe Safari lead by expert guides along the Selinda Spillway. Photo credit | Great Plains Conservation

What does a canoe safari in Botswana entail?

Not to be confused with a white water rafting, which is available on the lower Zambezi in Zimbabwe or the legendary Mokoro safari, a dugout canoe pushed along by an experienced local poler. A canoe safari is an adventure that transports you into a world unreachable on foot. A truly immersive experience that allows for an experiential approach to becoming one with the animals, in all their elemental glory. The Canadian style boats are equipped with padded seats and have a larger capacity for carrying supplies. We recommend about +- 20 kg to ensure a smooth canoe safari experience (rowing for 5 days can get a little tiring).

When to go on a canoe safari

The best time to get your canoe on is most definitely during the dry season, from June to August. While the weather in April to May is the most temperate, this is when the animals will be cooling off and therefore most drawn to the pools. Those choosing a canoe safari as their main adventure needn’t worry about high or low season. However if a trip on the waterways is an addition to your trip, July to October sees the highest influx of visitors to the Okavango while the wet season, December to April, sees the least.

“The best time to get your canoe on is most definitely during the dry season, from June to August.”

Where you can experience a canoe safari in Botswana

Bone dry for over 30 years, like a sleeping lion, the Selinda spillway suddenly and quite recently, roared back to life. Once a sandy embankment, the waterways now connect the Northern part of the Okavango Delta with the Linyanti Swamps, offering the perfect environment for a steady, action packed adventure.

Selinda Spillway, Botswana

What to expect

There is no plan. The beauty of the whole trip is just that. While your mode of transport is slow and steady, your heart will sing a different tune. Guests arrive at the dock after a 3 hour drive from Selinda airstrip and are led to their canoes where they will find them equipped for camping and ready to go. You’ll paddle at a sustainable pace past riverine forests, open savannah and floodplains and just when you the feeling of isolation hits you, you hear the trumpets of the herd of elephants just around the bend. On a Botswana canoe safari, over 300 species of bird, lion, hyena, giraffe and wild dog lurk in the bush, occasionally showing face at the water’s edge. When the guide finds a suitable place to camp, they will set up, while a private chef prepares meaty delicacies over an open fire. All you need to think about are the stars, your belly and what lay in store for the next day in the African bush.

Welcome drinks after an adventurous day canoeing. Photo credit | Great Plains Conservation

Our recommendation

Selinda Adventure trail is a cultural, spiritual and aesthetically mind blowing trip through Selinda Reserve’s Selinda Spillway. Set in the remote woodlands of the 320,000 acre Selinda reserve there is a full 40 kilometers to cover by canoe depending on the water levels (expect to walk if levels are low). Guests will fly in via private charter from the Private Selinda Airstrip with time to destination dependant on aircraft. Arrivals are encouraged to stay at one of the surrounding camps, (we recommend Duba Expedition Camp or Duba Plains) to ensure that they are prepped for the adventure ahead. Led by master guide Kane Motswane, a river bushmen from the Gudikwa village, located in Botswana’s Okavango Panhandle, this is an experience that most will never have.

To tailor your next bucket list adventure, contact one of our Adventurists to start planning your LuxVenture® Trip.