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HOUSEBOATS

Houseboats offer great opportunities for game viewing, fishing or simply relaxing with a good book and having a cool drink and a barbecue. Although houseboating in Southern Africa was pioneered on Lake Kariba which is shared by Zambia and Zimbabwe many other destinations now offer houseboat holidays. Houseboats are usually fully equipped and in many instances a small crew comprising a captain and cook are provided. Other well known known houseboating destinations are the Okavango Delta, (Botswana), the Knysna Lagoon (South Africa) and the Chobe River (Botswana).

Game viewing and fishing from houseboats have became a tradition on Lake Kariba, one of the world’s largest man made lakes, and the first were launched in the early 1960s. The dam wall was first closed in 1958 and the Lake, which is shared by Zimbabwe and Zambia, took several years to fill but before long houseboats were being used to view game, host fishing expeditions and to generally relax and enjoy the setting. The Matusadona National Park and a number of other protected areas border on Kariba which provides for excellent game viewing from the water.

Big game animals tend to ignore boats and visitors often get very close to elephants, buffalo and other wildlife feeding at the edges of the lake. Most people spend their days game viewing, fishing or simply relaxing, reading or enjoying a barbecue on board.

Houseboats on Kariba, which has dammed the Zambezi River, vary considerably in size. The smaller boats have accommodation for six people while the larger vessels can accommodate more than 20. The houseboat costs usually include the fees of a captain who commands the vessel and is responsible for navigation, it is easy to get lost on the 220km long lake, and a cook. Many guests buy their own food and drink although some owners prefer not to allow self catering and supply, at a cost, all food and drinks.

Once on the water there is no particular schedule. Meals are taken whenever everyone agrees and other activities are all agreed upon by the guests. Most houseboats follow the shoreline so game is often spotted.

Most trips last several nights and some up to a week.

Many vessels have air conditioned rooms and all have small tender boats that allow anglers access to the shallows and game viewing by boat. There are also houseboats on the remote Cahora Bassa Dam in central Mozambique. This dam is also on the Zambezi River.

Although houseboating in Southern Africa was pioneered on Lake Kariba many places now offer houseboat holidays.

There are a variety of houseboats available operating on the Chobe River in Botswana which joins the Zambezi River upstream of the Victoria Falls. Game viewing is particularly rewarding in this area as large numbers of elephants drink along the banks of the Chobe every day. Watching elephant swimming and playing in the water is a special privilege for any wildlife enthusiast.

There are also houseboats for hire in the Okavango Delta. Game viewing here is also very good as is the birding. The houseboats allow visitors to penetrate deep into the papyrus fringed channels.

In South Africa houseboats are available on the Knysna lagoon in the southern Cape and at Port Alfred in the Eastern Cape. Although these areas do not have big game there are other attractions, not least being able to stop off at restaurants along the shoreline. Tourists usually crew these boats themselves as the distances covered are much smaller than on Lake Kariba.

Houseboats on the Jozini Dam in northern KwaZulu- Natal offer a similar experience to that on Kariba as part of the dam falls within the Pongola Nature Reserve. There are a few houseboats on Lake Malawi.

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