Waterways of Southern Africa: A Luxury River Cruise Safari - 2019

Johannesburg • Chobe National Park • 3-night Lake Kariba expedition cruise with Kariba Dam, Gache Gache River, Sanyati Gorge • Matusadona National Park • Hwange National Park • Victoria Falls National Park • Cape Town
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Experience a different kind of safari. This all-inclusive adventure will immerse you in Africa’s most iconic rivers, lakes, and landscapes. But, although we’ll be taking the way less travelled, we’ll be doing it in true comfort and luxury – all the while experiencing some of the best wildlife viewing imaginable.

At the heart of this journey are three of Africa’s most iconic waterways. The great Zambezi, famously first explored by David Livingstone. The Chobe, a river so dense with wildlife that it has become a compulsory pilgrimage for any safari enthusiast. And Lake Kariba, the world’s largest man-made lake, home to a fascinating ecosystem and striking scenery.

Of course, we’ll embark on traditional game drives as well, exploring four iconic parks: Chobe, Matusadona, Hwange and Zambezi national parks. We’ll have many unparalleled opportunities to see the Big Five – and so much more.

This adventure also gives you an insider’s view of the wide variety of local cultures we’ll encounter. We’ll hear traditional tribal tales from local storytellers, visit villages on Impalila Island in Namibia, taste true African hospitality at a restaurant in South Africa’s Soweto township, and make an uplifting visit to Zimbabwe’s Chinotimba Primary School, a heartwarming Vantage Cares site.

And the luxury? In a class of its own. Sail aboard the 16-passenger African Dream, a ship so deluxe that it features a 1:1 crew-to-traveler ratio. Stay at the Vantage-exclusive Iganyana Tented Camp, a secluded 15-tent getaway on a private concession in Hwange that will make us feel as though we have the African wilderness all to ourselves. Plus, two brand new, utterly indulgent safari lodges, Cascade Island and Old Drift Lodge, await us, offering soul-soothing serenity in the heart of a wildlife-rich wonderland.

Enjoy 26 included excursions and safari activities, five Cultural Discoveries, the singular sensation of seeing the Victoria Falls, and survey the Cape Peninsula from the summit of iconic Table Mountain.

This all-inclusive program allows you to see the wilds of Africa from a different perspective: the rivers and lakes of this celebrated continent. Take to the waters of southern Africa and glory in the best African safari experience imaginable. Join us on this incomparable adventure!

Click here to get a glimpse of the wildlife you may encounter on this adventure — plus, tips on how to capture the perfect photo for a lifetime of memories.

Johannesburg to Cape Town

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DAY 1:

Depart home for Johannesburg, South Africa

Your adventure begins with an overnight flight to South Africa, arriving in Johannesburg on Day 2.

DAY 2:

Arrive in Johannesburg, one of South Africa’s most fascinating cities

Today you’ll arrive in Joburg, as it’s affectionately known — one of Africa’s most important and energetic cities. Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by a Vantage representative and transferred to your sophisticated and centrally located hotel. You have the rest of the day to rest and relax after your journey.

DAY 3:

Get to know Soweto, historical center of the “Rainbow Nation”

After breakfast, we head off to Soweto — an abbreviation of ‘South-Western Townships’. This historic township was at the heart of South Africa’s struggle against apartheid, and many of the country’s most important leaders lived here at one time or another. In fact, Vilikazi Street in Soweto is the only street in the world where two Nobel Peace Prize winners have lived: Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Once a run-down shantytown, Soweto has become an important part of Joburg’s economy, and is now home to many successful businesspeople and several affluent neighborhoods. Our guide will show us both sides of Soweto and provide us with fascinating descriptions of life here.

Cultural Discovery: We visit Vilikazi street, stopping at the house where Nelson Mandela lived before he was arrested, and tour the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum, which commemorates the role students played in the struggle against apartheid. We’ll lunch at a vibrant local restaurant, where we’ll get a taste of township hospitality.

After lunch, we’ll return to our hotel and enjoy an afternoon of relaxation around the pool with its magnificent views over the city. This evening, we’ll all get together for an orientation meeting and a welcome dinner.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 4:

Fly to Kasane and transfer by boat to your deluxe riverside hideaway in Namibia

This morning, it’s back to the airport — but this time our flight will be much shorter. When we land in Kasane in Botswana, it’s a quick drive to the small, private boats that will be waiting to whisk us away to our tropical island lodge.

With a warm breeze ruffling our hair, we’ll cruise along the reed-fringed river, getting a glimpse of our first wild animals along the way. Look out for hippos as they submerge with a snort, and keep an eye open for crocodiles basking like toothy logs in the sun.

Arriving at Cascade Island Lodge is an adventure in itself. This luxurious and extremely exclusive lodge is tucked away on tiny, densely forested Impalila island. The island is part of a small archipelago that forms the border of four countries: Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Zambia. A maze of floating walkways and bridges links the lodge, and wooden decks with comfortable seating project over the river. Here there will be tea and cake ready for you to enjoy in the lounge, while your bags are taken to your spacious rooms. Settle into the lodge and let the utter peace and tranquility here start to sink in.

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 5:

Embark on land and water safaris in Chobe National Park

One of the many highlights of this safari is the variety of ways it offers us to experience Africa’s rugged beauty. Today, you’ll survey it from the comfort of a private safari vehicle and on board customized private boats.

Our day begins with a game drive in Chobe National Park. This is Botswana’s third largest conservation area, and is home to the world’s largest population of elephants. All of the Big Five are found here, as well as many other extraordinary animals, such as cheetah and wild dogs.

Lunch is another exciting event, as we’ll enjoy a traditional African barbecue on board a floating restaurant in the middle of the Chobe river. The sumptuous meal is made even more enjoyable by the friendly staff and the glorious views.

When lunch is over, we’ll simply step onto our private boat for another leisurely exploration of the park. Water-based game viewing offers us some unique safari experiences, such as elephants swimming across the river with their trunks raised, or red lechwe antelope bounding across shallow swamps in showers of sparkling water. On our return to our lodge, we’ll have time to unwind before an evening feast in this secluded and romantic setting on the water’s edge.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 6:

Visit local villages on Impalila Island and enjoy an African folktale evening

We’ve already been introduced to Chobe’s abundant wildlife and bewitching landscapes, so now we’ll get up-close and personal with its culture. Today we’ll visit traditional villages on Impalila Island. We’ll have the chance to learn about the local customs, and perhaps even be invited into people’s homes. It’s a fascinating glimpse into a way of life very different to our own, and a meaningful opportunity to connect across cultures.

We’ll return to our lodge for a lazy lunch. Afterwards you may want to take advantage of the private plunge pool at your bungalow. Or, you can choose to head out onto the waters again on a private boat. Keen fishermen should definitely try a spot of tiger fishing. This is prime territory for these ferocious game fish, and the lodge’s staff can provide expert advice on how to hook them. Tonight, a local storyteller will entertain us with magical tales of the region’s traditions.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 7:

Fly to Lake Kariba, the largest man-made lake in the world

Today we set off on a whole new adventure to another exceptional destination. We transfer to Chobe to connect with our charter flight to Lake Kariba.

On arrival at Lake Kariba, you may be astounded by its size. This massive man-made lake is, in fact, the world’s largest. We’ll have a picnic lunch and pay a visit to the Kariba Dam wall. Built in 1955, the dam serves as a source of electricity for 70% of the country. Over 140 miles long and 25 miles at its widest point, the dam’s creation flooded flatlands, hills, forests and villages, creating strange and mysterious sunken landscapes. You’ll get to discover the history and legends surrounding the dam’s construction, including the tale of the Nyami Nyami, the Zambezi river god.

The lake itself will be our home for the next few days, as we’ll be cruising it aboard the the deluxe African Dream. We’ll board the ship and settle into our luxurious rooms, all of which have breathtaking views over the water. After dinner in the ship’s panoramic restaurant, you may want to head up onto the roof deck to watch the moon rise over the ghostly silhouettes of drowned trees.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 8:

Explore the unique waterscapes of Kariba

Dawn today finds us sailing smoothly along this immense lake, as the rising sun turns our languid wake to gold. After breakfast, we’ll hop onto nimble tender boats to survey out-of-the-way corners of the Gache Gache River. The serpentine stream will take us past hidden inlets, patrolled by hordes of huge crocodiles and majestic fish eagles. Perhaps, if we’re extremely lucky, we might even spot Ermintrude, the fabled pink hippo of Gache Gache — a rare albino hippo who lives on the far reaches of this river.

After lunch on board our ship, we’ll explore the Sanyati Gorge next. Here, the lake narrows into a deep, winding valley with steep banks. Wildlife approaches the water to drink, and local men paddle traditional canoes, fishing for tilapia bream. While we’re marveling at the scenery, our guide will tell us more about the creation of the lake as well as its fascinating ecosystem. Tonight, we can look forward to another delicious dinner and a restful evening aboard our luxury ship.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 9:

Discover the treasures of Matusadona National Park

Today we get to explore Matusadona National Park, one of the most remarkable game parks in the world. Before Lake Kariba was built, this area was all but inaccessible. Today it’s an Intensive Protected Zone, where hunting is strictly prohibited, and is one of the last sanctuaries of the endangered black rhinoceros.

The history of the park is closely bound with that of Lake Kariba. The creation of the lake resulted in flourishing grasses around its edge. These support huge numbers of grazers like Cape buffalo and zebra, and consequently their predators. In fact, Matusadona has one of the highest concentrations of lions anywhere in Africa.

We’ll go for a game drive in the area followed by a cruise around Matusadona National Park in a small private boat. On our way, we’ll be looking out for white rhino, elephant, giraffe, zebra, buffalo, leopard, hyena, and some of the 240 species of birds here. As we cruise, we’ll also learn about Operation Noah, a monumental rescue operation which relocated more than 6,000 animals to Matusadona when the dam was created. You’ll also enjoy a cruise around the Matusadona in a small private boat to get up close and personal with the area's wildlife.

We’ll return to the ship for lunch and spend the afternoon cruising the lake in comfort, enjoying panoramic views from the lounge, or soaking up the sun on the roof deck.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 10:

Fly to Hwange National Park and our Vantage-exclusive tented camp

After breakfast, we’ll hop aboard a short flight to Hwange, to reach our luxury tented safari camp. Iganyana Tented Camp is a Vantage-exclusive property that recalls the safari days of yore while offering delightfully modern indulgences. Once we’ve settled into our spacious, air-conditioned tents we’ll seek out wildlife on an afternoon game drive on our private concession.

Throughout our Hwange stay, we have the privilege of exploring a carefully managed private concession, so we’ll encounter fewer vehicles and be less likely to frighten animals away. We’ll be sure to scan the surroundings for wild dogs, as this part of Zimbabwe is famous for them.

On our return, we’ll sip sundowner drinks on the raised viewing deck and watch as elephants and other game wander up to the nearby water hole for their evening drink. After a delicious dinner, we’ll relax with stargazing around the fire and see if we can spot the Southern Cross constellation, known to locals as The Giraffe Stars. Then we’ll head to bed for a blissful night’s sleep, lulled by the sounds of the African bush.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 11:

Seek out Hwange’s wildlife and listen to local stories around the fire

An early morning safari In Hwange National Park is an excellent opportunity to see some of the magnificent predators this park is known for. In the cool of the early morning, nocturnal hunters are still out and about. If we’re lucky, we may see lions stalking their prey, or spot a leopard snoozing in a tree with the tasty remains of an unfortunate impala after a successful night’s hunt.

Lunch will be served back at the tented camp, then we’ll set out for an afternoon game drive in our private concession. For animals in Africa, afternoons are the peak time to head to their local water hole for a drink. And, since Hwange has a plethora of well-frequented water holes, afternoon game drives are always productive here. As animals of all sizes, from baboons to buffalo, gather around the water, so too do their predators, hoping for an opportune moment for an easy kill.

Excited by a day full of wildlife sightings, we’ll return to camp for dinner, cooked over the coals by our accomplished chef. Then we’ll gather around the fireside once more. Here, under the sparkling blanket of the Milky Way, a local storyteller will enthrall us with traditional tales of the Shona and Ndebele tribes.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 12:

Embark on a walking safari and a game drive in Hwange

After breakfast, we’ll don walking shoes and neutral-coloured clothes. We’re about to go on a walking safari! These thrilling adventures are only offered in special parts of national parks and we’ll be led by a highly experienced professional safari guide.

On foot, we’re much closer to the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations of the bush. We may trace the outline of a lion’s paw-print in the sand; crumble fragrant wild basil between our fingers; track the call of a giant eagle owl; sneak up on prancing zebras; or discover the mystery at the heart of an ant lion’s den. Every walking safari is different; every square foot of wilderness has stories to tell — and our guide knows them all.

After lunch at camp and some time to relax at the lodge, we enjoy another afternoon game drive in our private concession, before returning to camp for dinner.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 13:

Tour the Victoria Falls, a Natural Wonder of the World

This morning, we transfer via motorcoach to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, where we’ll check in to our brand-new luxury camp, the Old Drift Lodge. Seamlessly harmonizing with the natural environment while offering modern luxuries, this brand-new camp on the banks of the Zambezi offers spacious deluxe tents with stylish furnishings, indoor and outdoor showers, private plunge pools, and more.

We’ll eat lunch at our lodge, then take a guided tour of the Victoria Falls National Park. You’ll be able to stand right on the edge of the fern-covered cliffs and gaze into the boiling depths of the Devil’s Cataract. The roar of the falls is overwhelming, and the spray so heavy that we recommend you wear a raincoat. After absorbing the unforgettable sight and awe-inspiring might of the falls, we return to our lodge for dinner.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 14:

Go on a Zambezi walking safari and enjoy an African bush dinner

This morning, you may decide to wake up early to take the "Flight of Angels." This spectacular helicopter ride will give you an angels’ eye view of the falls. And, the extended “Zambezi Spectacular” flight also includes aerial game-viewing along the river. The falls are impressive from any vantage point, but soaring over them is an experience that promises to entrance you.

Cultural Discovery: After breakfast, we’ll go on a walking safari along the banks of the Zambezi. A visit to a local market afterwards will give us a fun opportunity to interact with local artists and, of course, the chance to bargain for souvenirs, such as the distinctive stone carvings Zimbabwe is famous for.

Our lunch location offers yet another commanding view. The Lookout Café sits right on the edge of a deep corner of the Batoka gorge. While we eat, we can watch as adrenaline seekers whizz across the gorge on a zip line, or jump straight into it on the Gorge Swing.

After lunch, we’ll return to Zambezi National Park for an afternoon game drive, for the chance to tick off any elusive animals that we may not yet have spotted.

Dinner tonight is something a little different. We’ll drive into Victoria Falls National Park for a quintessential African experience: a three-course bush dinner beneath a blanket of stars. As we dine, we’ll enjoy African dancing and entertainment (weather permitting).

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner
Optional Tour: ‘Flight of Angels’ over Victoria Falls,

‘Flight of Angels’ over Victoria Falls

  • Approximate Cost: $179 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 12-15 minutes
  • Location: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
  • When: Morning Tour

When David Livingstone wrote about his first sight of the Victoria Falls, he said that “scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight”. The ‘Flight of Angels’ actually gives you the chance to see the falls as an angel — or an eagle — would. The most popular of the helicopter flights, it lifts off less than two miles from Victoria Falls town center and takes you over the Zambezi River to fly a complete circuit above the Falls in both directions. The 12 to 15-minute flight gives you the best possible views of the falls, and will certainly leave you agreeing with Dr Livingstone.

Zambezi Spectacular Flight

Zambezi Spectacular Flight

  • Approximate Cost: $349 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 25 minutes
  • Location: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
  • When: Morning Tour

For a longer ride than the ‘Flight of Angels’, treat yourself to an unbelievable helicopter flight over Victoria Falls and the mighty Zambezi River. This 25-minute scenic helicopter flight over Victoria Falls guarantees spectacular views, making a complete circuit over the Falls in both directions. You’ll also fly over the zig-zagging Batoka Gorge and see the eight past positions of the Victoria Falls, carved away by the water over the millennia. Finally, you’ll fly over Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve, where you can spot wildlife from the air.

DAY 15:

Meet the children of a local school and learn unusual Livingstone lore

This morning you can enjoy a long, leisurely breakfast, or you may opt to go on an exciting early morning Elephant Encounter. This powerful experience allows you to interact directly with these majestic creatures, and even feed them. Being so close to them, and learning about the work being done to save them, is both enlightening and rewarding. The optional tour also includes a visit to the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust, and a to visit a local village.

Cultural Discovery: Today, we’ll also visit Chinotimba Primary School, where we’ll be greeted with smiles and songs from the children, and get a chance to interact with them and learn about their lives. Vantage Cares, our philanthropic arm, supports the school, so you can see firsthand the good you’re helping to do by traveling with us. Many travelers say this is one of the unexpected highlights of the trip.

This evening, we’ll take a last cruise along the Zambezi River. While we watch the sun set in a symphony of colors over this timeless waterway, we’ll listen to a talk about the "Trails of David Livingstone." We’ll be floating along the very same stretch of river the legendary explorer once navigated, and our third-generation Zimbabwean storyteller will reveal Livingstone lore that few history books include. After hearing this riveting tale, we’re sure to look at Livingstone’s life a little differently. Dinner tonight is at our lodge.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner
Optional Tour: Elephant, Vic Falls Wildlife Trust laboratory, and Local Village Experience

Elephant, Vic Falls Wildlife Trust laboratory, and Local Village Experience

  • Approximate Cost: $295 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 3.5 hours
  • Location: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
  • When: Morning tour
Pay a visit to The Wallow, a large, thatched boma overlooking the Masuie River, which provides a magnificent setting for guests to enjoy an elephant interaction in the Wild Horizons Wildlife Sanctuary.

Arrive to fresh welcome towels and tea, coffee, croissants and muffins. After an introductory talk, you’ll notice the elephants emerging from the bush to take up their positions in front of the deck, according to hierarchy. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to get so close and to elephants, and you’ll be able to stroke them, and feed them treats. The staff are knowledgeable, and the love, trust and understanding between handlers and elephants is heart-warming to see.

You’ll then hear more about the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust (a Vantage Cares program), and have an opportunity to exclusively visit the Wildlife trust’s laboratory for a lecture and firsthand experience on the great efforts that goes into wildlife conservation. The tour continues with a visit to Mpisi village, where the chief will do a presentation and take you to visit a few households. Here you’ll get to see the various huts families live in, and learn about the daily chores and work done in a traditional household. At the kraal, you’ll see their livestock and get to know about traditional animal husbandry practices.

DAY 16:

Fly to Cape Town and start discovering the Mother City

After breakfast at our lodge, we transfer to the Victoria Falls airport for our flight to Cape Town. As we approach the "fairest Cape of them all," you’ll be able to see the unmistakable outline of Table Mountain from the window of the plane.

It’s a quick transfer by coach from the airport to our grand hotel in the city center. On arrival, we’ll have a short orientation tour of Cape Town, seeing how this once tiny settlement has spread out around the ancient and majestic mountains at its heart. You’ll have the afternoon to relax and explore on your own, or perhaps enjoy a treatment at the hotel’s boutique spa, before we enjoy a Cape Malay buffet at our hotel.

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 17:

Visit Table Mountain and shop at the V&A Waterfront

Today we’ll visit the wonder that is Table Mountain. A spectacular cable car ride will whisk us effortlessly to the top within minutes. Here we’ll be able to see for miles as we enjoy a gentle stroll around the walkways and viewpoints, reveling in the views of the Cape Peninsula and the strange and special plants of the Cape Floral Region.

Next is a visit to the V&A Waterfront, one of Africa’s most visited destinations. Situated in the oldest working harbor in the southern hemisphere, it boasts the iconic Table Mountain as its backdrop and extensive views of the ocean, city bowl and mountain peaks. With over 450 shops selling everything from fashion and curios, to locally sourced and produced jewelry and crafts, the V&A Waterfront is South Africa’s most popular shopping destination, so this is the ideal opportunity to hunt for gifts to take home with you.

The waterfront is also home to some of Cape Town’s best restaurants, with over 80 eateries to choose from. You’ll have lunch at your leisure here, and enjoy plenty of time to explore its numerous attractions, which include the Two Oceans Aquarium and the incredible Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, which has over 100 galleries featuring works by Africa’s finest contemporary artists.

Included Meals:


DAY 18:

Experience the splendor of Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

This morning we set off into the leafy southern suburbs of Cape Town to visit the famed botanical gardens at Kirstenbosch. Acclaimed as one of the world’s most beautiful gardens, it’s set on the green slopes of Table Mountain National Park. Overlooked by dramatic mountain peaks shaded by Afro-mountain forests, the gardens contain a huge sample of the Cape’s incredibly diverse and unique floral treasures. We’ll stroll the shaded walkways and sunny lawns to see rare cycads older than the dinosaurs, ericas of every shape and color, and jewel-like sunbirds perched on magnificent proteas.

We’ll enjoy lunch at a restaurant in the gardens, basking in the sunshine and scenery before returning to our hotel to prepare for our Farewell Dinner tonight, when we’ll celebrate our unforgettable time together.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 19:

Bid farewell to Africa — for now

Today we return to Cape Town airport for our flights home, with cameras full of precious photographs and hearts full of magical memories. But, we’ll say "so long" instead of "goodbye." For such is the power of Africa to capture the souls of those who encounter it, that it’s quite possible you’ll return with us again one day.

Included Meals:


Important Notice: The above day-by-day itineraries are preliminary and therefore subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Vantage Tour Director or local representatives at the destination.

Please Note: The hotels listed are preliminary and subject to change. Although we contract our hotels a year in advance, unforeseen situations do occasionally occur. Should it be necessary to change a hotel, one of equal quality and value will be substituted. You will receive verified hotel information with your final itinerary.

Note: That hotel ratings are based on the hotel and a leading travel industry authority on hotels throughout the world.

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Waterways of Southern Africa: A Luxury River Cruise Safari - 2019

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