Smart Luxury

How to Go to Africa (and on a Safari) with a River Cruise

by  Kelsy Chauvin | Updated on Apr 18, 2024
African Dream
African Dream / Kevin Hogan

Many travelers wonder about broadening their cruise experiences to more exotic locales. With that in mind, consider embarking on CroisiEurope Cruises' river-safari tours to Southern Africa. These bucket-list-worthy voyages traverse both water and land in Zimbabwe and Namibia, touching Botswana, Zambia, and South Africa too. 

And there’s no denying the glory of such a robust week of African explorations. From Victoria Falls and Lake Kariba (which is the world's largest man-made lake) to the Zambezi River and Chobe National Park, the sights and sounds of Southern Africa are absolute magic.

What You Need to Know 

African Dream Interior / Photo courtesy of the cruise line  

Day one will be spent touring Johannesburg and dining with fellow Croisi passengers. The group launches into day two by flying north to Kasane Airport in Botswana. The cruise line offers a weeklong Southern African cruise and safari package, which includes three nights aboard either the African Dream or Zimbabwean Dream as you cruise Lake Kariba. Both vessels are newly built compact luxury ships, each with two decks and an upper sun deck, lovely lounge areas, and eight passenger cabins.

The trip’s remaining three nights are spent at Croisi’s private, posh Cascades Lodge, tucked on Namibia’s small Impalila Island. The secluded lodge is reachable only by boat via its private dock on the Chobe River. Here, guests can stay in one of eight spacious bungalows or at the main house with its riverfront terraces.

For each three-night, four-day segment of the journey, daily excursions revolve around the local flora and fauna. During the lodge portion, guests will venture on sightseeing boats along the Chobe and Zambezi Rivers to spot hippos, elephants, crocodiles, impala, and more wildlife. There’s also a game drive in Chobe National Park to view lions, giraffes, water buffalo, warthogs, and more. Lodge time includes gourmet meals made with local ingredients. 

During the cruise portion, passengers will soak up the landscapes of Zimbabwe from Lake Kariba. It was formed in 1959 by the construction of the massive Kariba Dam, which guests are able to see up close on the trip’s closing excursion. 

On the lake, cruisers embark on daily water safaris in a smaller vessel, with stops at crocodile alley” (a small, sandy area at the edge of the lake) and other shores where elephants, zebra, hippos, and kudu congregate. A morning game drive via jeep brings even more upland wildlife sightings in Matusadona National Park.

Aboard the African Dream, you can learn more about Zimbabwe’s (and the surrounding region’s) fascinating history, specifically the Kariba Dam and “Operation Noah,” the tremendous six-year project to rescue and relocate more than 6,000 animals from the flooded valley.

The trip’s grand finale is a magnificent visit to Victoria Falls. Guests spend one night at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge (or a similar luxury lodge) and spend a half-day walking along the edge of the widest waterfall in the world. 

Where the Magic Happens

Cabin on African Dream / Photo courtesy of the cruise line  

The first days enjoying Cascades Lodge come easy. The beautiful setting, friendly and helpful Croisi crew, and delicious dining all deliver instant relaxation. In the roomy bungalows, guests can lounge on their private decks, cool off in their plunge pools, or enjoy the sights of the gentle river just outside.

Onboard the cruise, serenity seems to embrace each traveler. The cabins offer comfort, good storage, and sizable bathrooms — plus soft beds that summon sleep. Outer decks are perfect for gazing across the lake, where you can see the tops of trees that still stand, trunks submerged since the lake’s formation. At night, look skyward at the Milky Way, where shooting stars inspire African meditations.

Between moments of downtime, wildlife is the main attraction. Few sights are as captivating as watching majestic elephant herds roam and eat, each matriarch guiding her calf as it tries to keep pace. The temptation is to take endless photos, but it’s equally wise to let the camera give way to true visions of lions and hippos, giraffes and zebras, and so many more colorful creatures as they exist, untamed.

At trip’s end, the proverbial pot of gold comes, as guests wind their way (via small private plane) to the Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls National Park. The grandeur seems endless, as the falls gush over a full mile of rocky cliffs. Each visitor can stop at its 13 lookouts, reflecting on the immense power and beauty of the earth. It’s a place to remember what vacations are for: fun, adventure, and inspiration.

What It Costs

African Dream exterior / Photo courtesy of the cruise line  

CroisiEurope’s Southern African cruise package starts at around $7,1000 per person and includes the inbound flight from Johannesburg, but not the outbound flight from Victoria Falls at the trip’s end. All excursions, including game drives, meals, beverages, and most gratuities are also included. Not included are some destination fees and visas (such as the $30 Zimbabwean visa, paid at the Kariba Airport), international flights, and an optional helicopter excursion over Victoria Falls (price varies, but generally about $300). 

Additional time in Johannesburg or Cape Town is a wise way to enhance your African journey, either with Croisi’s “extended stay” option to South Africa (price varies by season), or on your own. While in Jo’burg, Croisi’s cruise package includes a city tour and a visit to the Apartheid Museum. Added time in the city, however, allows you to visit historic sites like the Cradle of Humankind, where some of the earth’s oldest human remains were discovered. Among Jo’burg’s many lodging options is the central, affordable Hyatt Regency Rosebank, not far from Constitution Hill.

A visit to Cape Town also is well worth a few days, too. The city is home to the busy Victoria & Albert Waterfront, which is lined with shops, eateries, and stylish restaurants like eclectic Raptor Room and the Gorgeous George rooftop (which is located in a slick downtown hotel of the same name). A short drive from downtown is Camps Bay, home to a lovely beach, an array of boutiques, and the stunning Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa and its oceanfront Azure restaurant.

The Caboose at Rimkus River Retreat
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