Admin Note: Jeremy Waldron of The Wild Source wrote this blog post chronicling his adventures along the Selinda Canoe Trail.
The Selinda Canoe Trail has to be one of the most unique safari experiences I have ever been a part of. The journey is a 4-day, 3-night voyage along the Selinda Spillway linking two of Botswana’s best wildlife areas – the Okavango Delta and Linyanti and Kwando water systems – and is perfect for those who love both remote wilderness settings and a bit of adventure.
Opening with the high rains and floodwaters that were a result of the 2009 annual flood, the spillway filled to its full capacity for the first time in nearly three decades. Mother Nature has blessed the region with ample flood waters the following years, ensuring the Selinda Canoe Trail adventure continues.
Our Canoes are Waiting for Us Along the Selinda Spillway
The Selinda Canoe Trail
The Trail begins approximately 45 kilometers upstream from Selinda Camp and is a fairly easy and relaxing journey. Casually paddling with the light current as you meander your way along the Selinda Reserve, the trail finishes near Selinda Camp (depending on the water levels) where you will then be transferred to the airstrip in time for your connecting bush flight transfer, or better yet stay on at Selinda Camp for a couple days.
The Trail involves relatively easy paddling, though the headwinds can be strong and your paddling may need to be a bit more focused at times. With two full days and two half days spent paddling and taking to foot on walking safaris, prior experience is not needed and all fitness levels will enjoy the adventure. It was quite relaxing to escape the game drive vehicles’ purring engines and hear only a mixture of birds and canoes carving through the clear waters.
Selinda Canoe Trail Accommodations
On each of our three nights on the trail a new camp was set, they were never pre-arranged but were carefully picked by the camp manager and his staff. We slept in large fly tents staked and arranged by camp staff. Even though we carried our sleeping mats in our canoes, the staff still took the liberty to set up our sleeping tent, including the mattresses, as well as pack everything up in the morning. It was truly a hands-off experience.
Typical camp setup along the Selinda Canoe Trail
Dining Along the Selinda Canoe Trail
Each morning we congregated around the campfire for tea, coffee and breakfast. The breakfast included porridge, fresh fruits, yogurt, muesli and toast. Once everyone was fed, we boarded our canoes and began our journey.
Despite only having a cooking fire, the food was phenomenal. It was perhaps the best food I had in all the camps I visited. Having a mixture of greens, vegetables, freshly baked breads, pickled fish, lamb chops and a whole lot more, it was impossible to go hungry and not be consistently amazed at the dedication of the chef. Absolutely brilliant!
Food was as good if not better than most safari camps I stayed in
Paddling for about an hour, we stopped in an interesting looking area for a good ol’ bush walk, looking for tracks and signs of local game. This was the time to really delve into the small aspects of the greater ecosystem surrounding us. After an hour of walking – sometimes less than a kilometer so we could learn about an area in greater depth – we again boarded our canoes and began paddling before stopping for lunch.
The camp staff in the meantime had already broken camp, paddled ahead and had lunch prepared and ready for our arrival. Lunch was followed by a siesta to avoid the midday heat, a swim or general relaxation before continuing through the afternoon, arriving at the campsite before dark where again, everything was already setup, including hot showers and sundowner drinks.
The Selinda Canoe Trail ends near Selinda Camp mid morning on the 4th day, where you will then be transferred to the Selinda Reserve airstrip in time for your connecting bush flight.
The Selinda Canoe Tail requires a 2 person minimum departure with an 8 person maximum.
Selinda Canoe Trail Wildlife
Josh, the expert resident guide was fabulous. He is clearly an expert on the water, having paddled many of Africa’s great lakes and waterways. His knowledge of the area and the many different species of birds and wildlife is wonderful. When we approached hippo or elephant, he ensured our safe positioning while also in view of the animals.
Elephant Encounter along the Selinda Spillway
It was a pleasure to have added something different than the standard game drives I had been doing for the week prior to hitting the water. I was ready to move my body and nothing was better than noticing the absence of a vehicle’s engine. The walking and paddling provided the activity I was looking for – nothing too strenuous, but enough to feel like I wasn’t just sitting there, as is often too common of a theme on game drives.
There is a very good chance to encounter a variety of wildlife along the trail. This area is well known for elephant, buffalo, sable, roan, kudu as well as a variety of predators. However, it should be noted not to expect to have too many close encounter sightings as you experience on game drives.
The bird life is prolific and a great joy to appreciate the smaller species. On my journey, we came across buffalo, kudu, reedbuck, red lechwe, hippo and a huge breeding herd of 50+ elephant drinking from the shore. It’s a very humbling experience to feel so vulnerable when paddling next to hippo and elephant.
Selinda Canoe Trail: What to Pack
What to bring on your Selinda Canoe Trail Adventure:
- Swimming suit
- Water shoes or sandals
- Wide brimmed hat
- Photographers should have their own small waterproof duffel to have their camera easily accessible for quick shots
*Large waterproof duffel bags are provided in which to store your luggage. Mattresses, blankets and linen are also provided.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my 3 nights on the trail. I would be keen to see an option for a 4-6 night trip added to the program. This is one of the most eco-friendly safaris available and that also is very much appreciated when looking to conserve the ecosystem for generations to come.
Jeremy Waldron, African Safari Planner at The Wild Source, joined the Selinda Canoe Trail in May 16-19 2013.
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