Ask most people what they might expect on a river cruise and they’re likely to say castles rather than crocodiles, historic buildings as opposed to hippos and city excursions instead of elephants. However, a river voyage in Africa is an exotic world away from a European sailing, and an exciting destination for adventurous clients.
Combining a three or four-night river element with safaris in Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe, there are also longer itineraries that can include rail journeys and time in neighbouring South Africa. Although only two river lines operate in Africa, they provide agents with a variety of options, from a week-long stay to a longer land tour.
“The popularity of river cruises is ever-growing and although Europe remains the most popular destination for this type of holiday, British travellers are increasingly looking further afield for adventurous and diverse destinations,” says CLIA UK & Ireland director Andy Harmer. “A river cruise in Africa is attractive to both repeat guests who are looking for something new and new-to-cruise clients who seek holidays that offer adventure and are off the beaten track.”
He continues: “These cruises offer the chance to explore picturesque Cape Town before going on a safari river cruise to spend days spotting wildlife and taking in the mesmerising sunsets. This type of cruise offers the perfect opportunity for agents to cross-sell, and they should remember to suggest to their clients to begin or end their cruise with a few or more nights spent seeing the other wonders of Africa, such as the Victoria Falls or a game-rich national park.”
Sailings take in the Chobe River, the waterway running between Botswana and Namibia that is the gateway to the spectacular Chobe National Park and home to one of Africa’s densest wildlife populations, before moving into Lake Kariba and the Gache Gache and Sanyati rivers in Zimbabwe.
Clients should be aware that distances covered are far shorter than European river cruises – less than 20 miles on the Chobe, for example – yet the incredible wildlife, nature and star-studded African nights more than make up for fewer sailing miles, and it’s also easy to travel by land to Victoria Falls, only 50 miles away.
There’s a romantic Out of Africa-style tale behind AmaWaterways’ decision to launch its Africa programme in 2012 after co-owners Kristin Karst and Rudi Schreiner married the year before and honeymooned there.
“I told Rudi I wanted to go somewhere totally different, away from rivers, for us both to relax,” said Kristin. “I was very excited to go to Africa and didn’t realise he had sneaked in a two-night cruise on the Chobe on the Zambezi Queen.
“I was completely overwhelmed by the beauty of the setting and how close the ship brought us to wildlife on the river, and I insisted that Rudi found a way to make this experience available to our guests. For me, the two-night programme was not long enough and luckily we were able to convince the owners to put together a four-night programme to which we added safari experiences.”
Land and water
Unlike a typical river cruise vessel that travels from one port to the next, the 28-passenger Zambezi Queen was designed to allow guests optimal game viewing, and it sails on five itineraries for AmaWaterways, with land options including stays in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Kruger National Park and Tanzania.
Director of sales, marketing and digital at AmaWaterways, Jamie Loizou adds: “The African adventures are ideal for both experienced river cruisers looking for something different and those seeking a unique safari experience.”
CroisiEurope combines cruises with a stay at the line’s safari lodge overlooking the Zambezi River, as well as offering longer land-stay additions.
“Land and water safaris give guests an up-close experience of the region and its eco-system, plus the chance to spot numerous wildlife species including elephants, giraffes, leopards, zebras, water buffalo, antelopes and an abundance of birds,” comments CroisiEurope UK sales director John Fair.
The cruise features safaris by boat and open air vehicle and is complemented by a four-day stay in a luxury lodge on CroisiEurope’s own private island, as well as overnights in Johannesburg and Victoria Falls.
“This is a completely unique and exclusive opportunity for 16 guests to experience all that this fascinating destination has to offer. This once-in-a-lifetime journey takes guests to South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe and combines city tours, safaris and a stay at our own luxury lodge. The cruise is perfect for guests of all ages who have a love of wildlife
and adventure,” elaborates Fair.
His sales tips include emphasising that the ship is all inclusive and fares cover all excursions and internal flights. That said, with limited cabin capacity, these enticing itineraries sell fast, so agents should advise their clients to book well ahead in order to secure their preferred dates.
- A two-fold adventure that combines a safari with a river cruise
- Switch-sell to clients considering a land-based holiday
- Intimate small-ship experience
- Options for pre- and post-cruise extensions in the Cape Peninsula
- Choice of eight to 18-night itineraries, including river and rail tour
- Ships serve regional dishes and world-famous South African wines