On our last trip to Africa, we decided that we needed to pay a visit to Victoria Falls. So we met up with David's dad, and his girlfriend, Donna, and put together an itinerary that included a visit to the falls, a safari on the back of an elephant, and a canoe trip down the Zambezi River.
When we booked it, we assumed that it would be an easy float down the river, perhaps with the chance to see wildlife on the shore. What we didn't expect were the serious sections of whitewater, where we had to paddle like crazy to make sure we got through to the calm water on the other side! I wasn't even sure that we'd have to paddle, since when I "canoed" up a tributary of the Amazon a while ago, it was actually a motorized boat, that hardly resembled a canoe.
We'd actually started our visit to Zimbabwe with a leisurely sunset cruise on the Zambezi, which was really terrific. Relaxing on a boat as we sipped sundowners, we spotted our first elephants on the shore, and we got up close to a family of hippos, relaxing in the river. The water was really calm, so, knowing that we had a canoeing excursion scheduled for later in the week on the same river, I wasn't at all concerned that the adventure would be too strenuous.
On our leisurely sunset cruise, the hippos were enormous, but they were completely submerged in the river. Apparently, they stay in the water during the day, because they sunburn too easily. Their heads would surface every once in a while, and sometimes you'd get a big yawn. You could tell how it could be dangerous if you got too close. Those jaws were huge!
So, then, a couple of days later, we got up early to head for our canoe trip. We drove for a while through a private game reserve, spotting a few antelope along the way, and then found the spot of the river where we'd start our journey. If I thought that we'd just be floating leisurely downstream--boy, was I mistaken! Our guide started our safety briefing by instructing us to avoid the shore in areas where hippos were known to congregate. If a submerged hippopotamus surfaced underneath your canoe and flipped you over, we were told that we'd need to abandon the canoe and swim to shore as fast as we could. Oh, but just don't swim toward a bank where there is a crocodile nest! By the way, there would only be two or three sections where we'd have to paddle through whitewater.
Yikes. I was officially terrified of what we were about to do.
MThe trip actually turned out to be a blast. We were not capsized by a hippo and we did not get eaten by crocodiles. The whitewater, however, was a little more of a challenge. We hit some rapids that spun us around at one point (and David's Go-Pro captured the whole thing, as you can see), while David's dad and Donna zipped past us. Hilarious.
It was a fun adventure, all in all. It might have been a little much for David's dad and Donna, who said afterward, "Well, now we can say we went whitewater canoeing on the Zambezi River, past hippos and crocodiles, but I don't think I really need to do that again." Ha-HA!