9 Reasons to Take an African River Cruise

Never thought of sailing along Africa’s flowing waters before? This article will make you think again! Here are all the reasons why your next trip to the continent needs to be a river cruise!

Mind-blowing safaris and Africa may go hand-in-hand, but throw river cruises into the mix and everything changes! It’s one of the continent’s hidden experiences that efficiently couples life-enriching travel with cocktails out on the open water. If you love seeing animals in the wild and exploring Africa’s awe-inspiring landscapes by land, wait until you discover the wildlife and wilderness on water.

As the industry continues to roll out more itineraries that will carry travellers off to captivating places, Africa’s rich and diverse countries are prime destinations. CroisiEurope, a France-based tour company that’s been cruising the Rhine and Danube for many years, is now breaking into Africa. Their triple-decker houseboat, African Dream, took her maiden voyage in early 2018 across Lake Kariba, along the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, AmaWaterways has also begun treating potential explorers to the golden trails of East Africa. Their vessel, the Zambezi Queen, will take you to local villages and famous national parks.

The takeaway? There’s never been a better time to cruise into a sunset or sail alongside hippos on the Chobe River. Here are all our favourite reasons to take an African river cruise in 2019!

1. See Africa as you’ve never seen it before 

River cruises lend themselves to experiencing countries in an entirely new way. Imagine being able to do that in Africa? Even if you have visited a number of times, observing the majestic beasts and witnessing the continent’s rich heritage while sailing along its rippling waters is an experience that cannot be rivalled or matched. Therein lies the real beauty of an African river cruise: to experience the continent as you’ve never experienced it before. If it’s something you’ve never tried out before, going on a river cruise in place that’s abundant with grazing animals, ancient traditions, and scenic landscapes is an excellent way to begin!

2. Frolicking hippos

The Chobe River is part of the larger Cuando River which snakes through Angola and Namibia’s Caprivi Strip and into the Linyanti Swamp on the northern border of Botswana. This in itself is enough reason to take an African river cruise; think of how much ground you will cover! The Chobe, however, is where you can see the mighty hippo frolick alongside you. Do as this creature would, and spend at least one morning lazing about the river and observing it in the wild.

hippo submerged half way in the river with its jaws wide open
Ready to sail alongside these beasts? | © Joachim Huber/Flickr

3. You unpack once 

Covering this vast continent is an explorer’s dream, but managing public transport, hauling your luggage, and continually having to open your suitcase and re-pack is hardly what you picture when imagining an epic adventure. River cruises are heavenly because they take away this hassle while delivering on an epic journey. Pack and unpack once with the view of Africa’s natural wonders in the background.

4. Mesmerising golden hours 

Watching the sunrise or sunset is lovely. Vacations are the perfect time to wake up early (or sleep late) to catch first light at dawn, or to watch the sun dip in the horizon. That mysterious golden hour just after sunrise and just before sunset is a beauty to behold, and on an African river cruise it stands out as something magnificent. As the bright sun disappears, it tinges the water with its golden glory, all of which can be enjoyed on a gleaming deck with a refreshing drink in hand, courtesy of your floating hotel.

Sunset boat trip along Chobe River in Botswana | © Max Pixel

5. Live in a floating luxury resort

River cruise ships do more than just get you from one location to the next. Hop onboard elegant vessels that are kitted out with large beds, air-conditioning, spacious lounges, dining rooms, verandas, and decks. It’s exactly like staying at a luxurious hotel – just one that floats along Africa’s flowing rivers.

6. For the exquisite bird life

River cruise vessels offer ample opportunities to see soaring birds. Africa’s rivers are a haven from which you can watch winged creatures dive for their dinner. Depending on the region you are exploring, you could see colourful kingfishers or eagles. Other birds to keep an eye for include vultures, owls, robins, doves, and geese. While it’s a given that enthusiasts will enjoy all the different species, even if you aren’t an avid bird watcher, imagine watching these graceful creatures take flight over a delicious breakfast.

A bird with a brown body and white face and black crown walks along the river
Lesser Jacana, Chobe River, Botswana | © Derek Keats/Flickr

7. Local feasts 

Africa will engage all five of your senses in a heartbeat but the most delicious way to explore the continent is with your taste buds! Even if you aren’t a big foodie, you aren’t going to turn down a feast, now are you? Your African river cruise makes it easy to enjoy mouthwatering local meals while avoiding tourist traps. Sample dishes made with native ingredients or freshly-prepared tapas. The African Queen will treat you to lunches in scenic locations along the river, while the Zambezi Queen will take you to spots where you can enjoy picnic spreads along the river banks. Wash it all down with sparkling concoctions and colourful cocktails – you are on holiday after all!

8. It’s a safari on water 

You can drift in and out of your reverie along the river while doing one of the things that Africa is famous for, safaris! On a river cruise get to see Africa’s iconic Big 5 from a new perspective. Along with up-close views of species that you’ll pass on the water banks, many itineraries include safaris through the continent’s breathtaking national parks. What sets your experience apart is the fact that post-safari, you get unparalleled views of the surrounding nature from the middle of the river while you have lunch.

Elephants marching along the river banks in a row
Catch birds at breakfast, spot elephants over lunch | © Max Pixel

9. Explore more 

Discovering the best of Africa is no easy feat. There are over 50 countries, hundreds of languages, cultures, traditions, and so on. A lifetime wouldn’t be enough to take in all the sights and sounds; after all, it’s the world’s second-largest continent. As the river cruising industry continues to curate itineraries that are out of this world, it is probably one of the best ways to explore as much as possible of Africa’s raw beauty, ancient history, and wildlife in the one trip. From spotting elephants, lions, giraffes, and hippos in Chobe National Park to seeing Victoria Falls and visiting cosmopolitan cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg, your river cruise will let you see and do it all!

Based in Toronto, Sahar is a full-time content editor for Days to Come and part-time travel junkie.

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