Watching the sun rise over the dust-filled horizon. Hearing the bush come alive as the birds and insects greet the day. Seeing wild animals in their natural habitat as they eat, drink and go about their lives. Being on safari in Africa is a privilege and an unforgettable experience, whichever way you look at it.
But there are a few ways you can experience the African bush: you could stay at a safari camp on land, or on a houseboat on the water. So how are they different, and what are the advantages of each? If you’re not sure which one is for you, here’s the low down:
Probably the better-known way to see animals is via land, where you stay at a tented camp or lodge and traditionally drive in the early mornings or late afternoons on 4x4 vehicles through the veld, catching a glimpse of birds, animals, insects and flora along the way. You’ll get to explore a variety of habitats including grasslands, floodplains and seasonal pans.
Because you’re land-based, after your game drive you’ll have the rest of the day to do your own thing, whether this means relaxing with drink in hand under a shady tree, taking a dip in the pool or heading off on a cultural village tour. Many land based lodges offer water-based activities too like fishing, boating and canoeing, so you can explore the peaceful waterways surrounding you as well.
Land-based safaris suit families with young children, because there’s more space for them to run around in, plus many lodges offer babysitting facilities if your child is too small to go on game drives.
Safaris on the water offer a tranquil experience, as you glide along rivers and explore remote corners of the landscape that no one else has access to. If you love water-based activities like fishing, boating and mokoro safaris, then this is also the ideal choice for you.
Birders will be in paradise as they glimpse breeds like Pied Kingfishers, Yellow-Billed Oxpeckers and African Darters. But animal viewing is equally dramatic, as you’ll spot all sorts of creatures venturing down to the river’s edge to quench their thirst.
The twitch of a hippo’s ears in the water, the sight of an elephant’s trunk dipping down to drink – you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to animal spotting. Best of all, you may well be able to see all this from the comfort of your own cabin while on board a Chobe River houseboat such as the Zambezi Queen or Chobe Princess.
A water-based safari on board a luxury houseboat doesn’t mean you’re confined to your luxurious cabin though – visit the plunge pool on deck, have a meal in the restaurant, enjoy a drink at the bar, or put your name down for any of the interesting daily excursions on to land.
This sort of safari is ideal for couples for those wanting a bit of peace and tranquillity, getting away from it all in intimate and exclusive surroundings.
What if I want the best of both?
If you’re struggling to choose between the two options, the good news is that you can have it all, as some travel companies combine water and land-based safaris into one glorious package. For example, the Zambezi Queen Collection offers a safari experience where you can stay in the intimate tented Ichingo Chobe River Lodge before boarding either the luxurious Zambezi Queen or her three Chobe Princess houseboats – all in the Chobe region.
The Chobe is an incredible destination all twelve months of the year, an ever-changing experience of wide dramatic skies, vivid colours & unforgettable game viewing – by boat or by land. The most popular time to visit the area is during the dry months from May to November, when animals have to venture to watering holes and the river’s edge to find something to drink – making for dramatic game viewing with some incredible sightings.