Selinda Spillway: An Intrepid Canoe Journey

Time is ticking on one of Africa’s greatest experiences. High waters and mighty rains in the watershed of the Okavango and Kunene Rivers have meant that in recent years, the Selinda Spillway’s headwaters have joined from both the Western and Eastern directions, fully connecting the two waterways from the Okavango Delta through to the Zibidianja Lagoon. This has enabled a lucky few the unique opportunity to experience the incredible Selinda Canoe Trail. The canoe trail begins northwest of the Okavango and then meanders eastward through the Selinda Reserve. It’s impossible to predict how long these channels will stay navigable for, so go now, before you miss out for good.

Enter the wilderness

Your trip begins with a quick hop by light aircraft up from Maun to the Selinda private airfield. From there your guide will greet you and transfer you through the bush (keep your eyes peeled for glimpses of the big five) to the Selinda Camp. As you settle into your luxurious tent, slow down, unwind and acclimatize to the sounds of the African bush. It’s more than likely that your view in the morning will be of animals drinking and generally milling around by the watering hole in front of your tent but to get you even closer to the action, take a game drive along the banks of the spillway to watch hippos wallowing, leopards stalking and lions dozing in the early morning sun.

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Take to the water

Your adventure truly kicks off as you grab your canoe and head for the waterways. The 45 kilometer trail finishes close to the convergence of the Linyanti and Kwando Waterways. The area is well known for elephants, hippos, lions, leopards, buffalo, roan antelope, and wild dog. Once your expert guide has briefed your group, the trail starts with a short afternoon paddle to the evening’s first camp. The fly tents will already be set up when you arrive meaning there is nothing left to do but enjoy a sundowner and watch the enormous African sun sink slowly below the horizon.

Row, row, row your boat

For the next few days, you will find it all too easy to fall into the gentle routine that begins in the early morning with a hearty breakfast – when the Spillway is at its most peaceful. Your days are spent paddling along the water channels stopping whenever there is something of interest to be seen along the banks. For the landlubbers amongst you, walking is also a big part of the experience and if there happens to be activity that warrants further investigation a little inland (think leopard kills and elephant stampedes), you stop on the banks and take a short walk into the bush. A tasty brunch is taken around midmorning and your guides will, as if by magic, conjure up light snacks throughout the day to keep you going until dinner.

Peace in the African bush

At night, in the warmth of your cozy tent (that your helpful support team will erect and dismantle each day), the deep silence is punctuated by nocturnal sounds, from peeping frogs to roaring lion or the hyena’s whooping call. The atmosphere is magical and for us is the highlight of any African safari. On the last morning of your canoeing safari paddle down the final stretch of waterway, soaking in as much of your watery surroundings as possible, watching the local wildlife going about their daily chores.

This really is a special experience but if you fancy extending your African trip why not get in touch to find out about our great suggestions for the Okavango Delta or South Africa.