A Zambezi river safari means seeing elephant bathing.

Leaving Footprints In The Lower Zambezi

By the time it reaches the Lower Zambezi in Zambia, the river has spent much of its energy and it becomes a broad, meandering ribbon of water. Its slower pace sets the mood for a Zambezi river walking safari, which allows you to relax the tempo of your Zambezi safari right down.

I’ve always enjoyed being on foot in Africa, and our walking safari in the Lower Zambezi was a real highlight. There was an almost cathedral-like quality to the early morning light as we walked between ebony and fig trees, crossing patches of dappled light and cool shadow.

We were never far from the river, with the distance being governed as much by the wildlife we encountered as by the occasional inlets and creeks we walked around.

Before we set off, our guide had explained that the aim was not to burn kilojoules, and although the pace was relaxed, our morning on foot did us the power of good. Taking things more slowly meant that we had time to watch the flashing flight of a kingfisher, and to try and locate an African fish eagle that was calling from the canopy above us.

After a few moments, it gave its position away by swooping low down over a broad pool, dipping its talons in the water and rising again with a struggling silver fish.

I particularly enjoyed looking down from the banks on a pod of hippo, lying together like so many smooth grey boulders. Just metres away, a large Nile crocodile lay on a sandbar, mouth open to reveal wicked teeth as it sought to warm up.

Birds walked this way and that across the damp sand, surely within reach of its jaws, but our crocodile paid them no mind. Perhaps a plover nugget wasn’t worth the effort.

Despite being dwarfed by both the trees and the wooded hills rising in the distance, we felt at peace as we walked along, our guide with his rifle slung over his shoulder. He told us that he’d never had to fire a shot in anger, and having been impressed many times already by the sharpness of his vision, we knew we were in safe hands.

Of course, the river exerted a pull on thirsty creatures, and as we sipped our morning coffee (our guide joked that this was the most useful ‘ammunition’ he carried) we watched a small herd of buffalo approach the bank. Thinking they were about to drink, I levelled my camera to catch their reflections but instead ended up with even better pictures as they splashed their way through the shallows to an island.

My favourite moment was peering around the trunk of a mahogany tree (so much more beautiful than any dining table) as a bull elephant enjoyed his breakfast. Rearing up on his back legs, he could reach high into the branches in search of nutritious albida pods.

It was not until then that I’d realised I was also hungry. The fresh air was no doubt the culprit – or it could have been the aroma of bacon and eggs cooking on the blade of a spade which reached us just a few moments later. The chef from our luxury Zambian safari lodge had made it to the end of the walk before us, and now it was our turn to break our fast.

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