Boating and canoeing through the rivers, ocean bays and waterways of Tanzania can be an exhilarating experience. River boating can take you past sleeping crocodiles and hippos sunning themselves with their mouths wide open, gathered in half-submerged herds.
Taking to the water is also a welcome break from the all-day enclosure of a traditional vehicle safari, allowing visitors to experience the sights and sounds of Africa’s waterways up-close and unhindered. On Tanzania’s large freshwater lakes, boats are a popular means of transport and offer visitors the chance to see life in and around the waters — the fishermen bringing in their catch, the bustling colours of the lake shore towns and the sharp movements of small fish in shallow waters. On the Indian Ocean coast, boating takes visitors deep into the fish-filled waters of the Pemba Channel, and through the hundreds of islets strewn across the Zanzibar Archipelago and Mafia Island. Along the coast, boating offers visitors a chance to travel the way the Swahili people do — by wooden dhow sailboats, the wind slowly filling the boat’s sails, the smell of the surf and the swell of ocean waves drifting over the horizon.
Boating safaris are fast becoming a popular alternative for safari-goers adventurous enough to venture off the beaten track. Water-safaris are on offer as a break from longer game-viewing and give visitors the opportunity to get out in the open and see tremendous amounts of bird-life and water species up close. At present, boating safaris for game-viewing are only permitted in the Selous Game Reserve, where the Rufiji River, the Great Ruaha River, and numerous lakes give visitors a choice of many expeditions to choose from. Despite the proximity of crocodiles and hippos during water safaris, the expeditions are extremely safe and the animals react with puzzled curiosity to the sight of boats on water!
Canoeing excursions in Tanzania are an active option for visitors with a few days to spend exploring the northern lakes. Adventure excursions on the soda-coloured shores of Lake Manyara involve canoeing past thousands of pink flamingos in the shallow waters. In Arusha National Park, the freshwater crater lakes of the Momela Lakes make a spectacular canoeing trip, with the forests, highland games, and the imposing crater of Mt. Meru looming nearby. Canoeing excursions allow visitors to get out and explore their surroundings, getting exercised in some of the most beautiful locations in the country.
Boating on the Tanzanian coast, whether on the mainland’s quiet bays or the palm-spotted islands of Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia, is a fun-filled adventure for visitors who want to experience the vibrant underwater life of the Swahili Coast. Day trips to small deserted islands, swimming off sandbars at low-tide, sailing to nearby reefs, or even just tacking back and forth across the bay are all pleasurable options for visitors who want to experience life on the Indian Ocean, and get another view of life on the Swahili Coast.