Top 10 Canal and River Cruising Vacations in Africa and the Middle East
Sip wine at sunset while wildlife gambol around you in South Africa or Zambia, take a history lesson on the Nile, get close to bird life in Senegal and meet pygmies in the Congo. Africa’s rivers offer choice, variety and more than a hint of adventure.
- Nile River, Egypt
Cruising the Nile is like taking a history lesson through the 5000 years of ancient Egypt as your boat glides past temples, palm-studded river banks, farmers using animal-pulled plows, sand dunes and the elegant felucca sailboats. Along the route are some of the world’s oldest and most amazing archaeological sites like the Valley of the Kings with its tombs of the pharaohs and the 3000 year-old temple of Abu Simbel.
- Niger River
This large west African river is one of the gateways to Timbuktu, the fabled desert town that was so historically hard to reach until 150 years ago. The Niger starts in the mountain rainforests of Guinea, bends through the Sahara in Mali and puts out to sea in Nigeria 2,505 miles later. Fishing, farming, villages, hippos, birds, caimans and other boats break up the monotony of dunes but the ancient allure of this region remains the same.
- Congo River, Democratic Republic of Congo
For the ultimate experience of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness look no further than the 1,087 mile voyage from the city of Kisangani to Kinshasa on the mighty Congo. The mysterious DRC is now opening to tourism after decades of civil war, and the river provides a good means of exploring the sprawling mass of rainforest, crossing the equator, visiting fishing ports, seeing pygmies, river falls and fisheries that actually stretch across the rapids.
- Zambezi River, Zambia
Cruising on the Zambezi River is a far more comfortable alternative to seeing wildlife than bumping along in a vehicle through dusty parks. Sit back and relax at sunset and watch game coming to drink down by the waters edge. There are often sightings of giraffe, elephant, rhino, hippos and crocodiles, zebra and various antelope.
- Saloum Delta, Senegal
This wetland area is located near Kaolack in the central west and best explored by traditional pirogue (boat). It’s a wild region of swamps, dunes and lagoons and has a myriad of small islands scattered between the bolongs (channels). It’s the perfect habitat for storks, pink flamingos and pelicans and fishermen and groundnut farmers.
- Chobe River, Botswana
Chobe National Park is one of Botswana’s largest and the northern section on the Chobe River is particularly picturesque. This area is home to a fabulous range of bird life and wallowing in the river are large numbers of hippos and crocodiles. On land elephants congregate at dusk to drink from the river or even swim across to some of the islands.
- Senegal River, Senegal
This river journey starts from the charismatic town of Saint Louis on the coast, famed for its jazz and French colonial vestiges. From here shallow-draft vessels journey 140 miles to Podor year round or even as far as Kayes in Mali between August and October. Pirogues (traditional boats) also travel along a complex network of channels leading off the River Senegal to the Djoudj National park, the third most important bird reserve in the world.
- Gambia River, Gambia
The Gambia is the smallest country in mainland Africa and is little more than the downstream half of the river and its two banks, so the river is a good way to explore it. The entire 702 miles of river is navigable from its coastal mangroves to the freshwater habitats where hippos, monkeys, baboons, chimps and Nile crocodiles roam to the capital and commercial center of Banjul.
- Olifants River, South Africa
Kruger National Park is the largest game park in South Africa and the Olifants River is the largest river in the park. Put two and two together and you create a game viewing heaven amongst hippos, crocodiles and a variety of other drinking game and birds.
- Breede River Wine Route, South Africa
You can have your wine and drink it too on the Breede River outside Cape Town. The Breede meanders through farmlands, rolling vineyards, green hills and historic wine estates known as the Cape wine lands. There are 560 wineries and 4400 primary producers of vineyards in the Cape and many are accessible from the river.