Watch and wonder from the water at Africa’s abundant wildlife, writes Heidi Fuller-Love.
With its leopards and lions, medicinal plants and colourful birds, it’s no wonder that the vast continent of Africa is renowned for the diversity of its wildlife. If you’ve ever dreamed of getting up close to the ‘big five’ – lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and Cape buffalo – what better way to do so than to take a safari cruise? For these, you’ll glide through the jungle, stop over in remote lodges or travel to ports that offer easy access to world-class game parks and nature reserves.
If you’re seeking comfort, choose companies such as Silversea or Regent Seven Seas, which have larger ships featuring more facilities. But if your main concern is encountering the local wildlife, it’s best to pick smaller expedition vessels owned by companies such as AmaWaterways or CroisiEurope.
So grab your binoculars, slip on some safari wear and follow us on a bucket-list tour of must-not-miss safari cruises for nature lovers.
Wild on the river
If you wish to see wildlife up close, a river cruise – on vessels that are relatively quiet and can travel along narrow waterways – is ideal. To spot big cats as well as giraffe and Cape buffalo, choose a cruise along the Cuando River, which follows the northern border of Botswana’s Chobe National Park. If you prefer to see lions, hippos and elephants, you should consider heading for the shores and waters of Lake Kariba, on the Zambia and Zimbabwe border.
Who does it?
For lashings of adventure mixed with a good old dose of comfort, choose AmaWaterways’ 12-night Rivers & Rails of Africa Cruise (amawaterways.com). This exciting safari cruise combines time in Cape Town and Victoria Falls with a thrilling four-night trip along the Cuando (Chobe) River. There’s also a breathtaking three-night luxury rail trip from Zimbabwe to South Africa, stopping at Hwange Game Reserve, which is home to elephants, lions and African wild dogs.
Safari on the Ocean
Several major cruise lines offer wildlife-spotting options in Africa and some offer pre- and post-cruise safari land extensions, too. Most cruises leave from Cape Town and call at Richards Bay, which offers easy access to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park – renowned as one of the country’s best reserves for spotting rhino – as well Port Elizabeth, which is close to Addo Elephant National Park. Some cruises also include Kenya’s Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary near Mombasa on their itineraries.
Who does it?
Regent Seven Seas (rssc.com) has a 15-night South African Cheer itinerary round trip from Cape Town, which includes safari excursions to world-renowned game reserves ranging from Addo Elephant Park to Mpongo Private Game Reserve. This exciting cruise also includes a trip to see the unique wild horses of the vast Namib coastal desert and a stopover in Walvis Bay to see flamingos, pelicans and other rare birdlife.
Alternatively, Silversea’s breathtaking 14-day Mombasa to Cape Town itinerary (silversea.com) takes in several of South Africa’s top game reserves, plus a trip to see the monkeys in Zanzibar’s Jozani Forest Reserve and the chance to snorkel out to explore Madagascar’s spectacular Nosy Tanikely marine reserve.
But for those seeking the ultimate bucket-list trip, you should take Cunard’s 24-night cruise from Hong Kong to Cape Town (cunard.co.uk) on board the Queen Victoria. From exclusive, one-of-a-kind wildlife excursions to a plethora of exotic port calls, this luxurious, nine-country safari cruise is sure to tick all the boxes.