Why You Should go on a Canoe Safari in Zambia

By Stephanie Adams

Typically you can’t canoe in Africa’s national parks because of the danger of crocodiles and hippos: when they feel threatened they’re known to attack boats! But in Zambia’s Liuwa Plains National Park there are no such waterborne predators, so it’s safe to explore the seasonal waterways which flood and become navigable after the rains.


The Liuwa Plains National Park is in the northwest of Zambia, close to the Angolan border. It is extremely isolated and wild, and until recently it was virtually inaccessible, but that’s precicely why it’s so appealing. The best way to get there is to fly into the Kalabo Airstrip, cross into the national park on a floating pontoon, and then drive or travel on by boat, depending on the time of year. If you’re feeling flush, you can see the park from the air as well, flying in from Kalabo by helicopter.


On a canoe safari you can approach the wildlife without disturbing them: the only noise will be the ripple on the river. Many animals, in particular zebra, wildebeest, and other plains game, come down to the water’s edge to drink and bathe. The lion, cheetah, and leopard can only cross between the river islands at certain points, and the guides know exactly where they are, so you’re bound to enjoy very intimate wildlife sightings.

A canoe safari a peaceful way to travel; you can spend a full day out on the water, breaking for a picnic in a scenic spot. In the height of the wet season, it’s impossible to drive and walking is a challenge, but by canoe you can float more or less anywhere you choose. You get a very different perspective on the park this way, as the tall grasses and reeds rise up above you. Scarcely above the water level, birds will dive past you as they fish, and insects will buzz on by.


The Liuwa Plains’ wet season runs from November to May, though as it takes some time for the water channels to fill up, you should wait until the early part of the year if you want to canoe. You can still visit the park when it’s dry, but then you’ll need to swap your aqua safari for game drives and bush walks.

Where to stay:

The King Lewanika Lodge – the first permanent camp in the Liuwa Plains, opened in 2017. It’s an intimate camp which gives you access to the whole park. There are six gorgeous tented suites, plus an extraordinary central lodge with steel ribs, wooden floors, a thatched roof, and sides that open to the plains. Africa Exclusive creates bespoke wildlife itineraries in Africa, including kayak safaris in the Liuwa Plains National Park.

Follow the author on @maximum_pr (twitter). All photos submitted by Maximum PR.

Click here to read about a must-do kayaking adventure in London.

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