Alison Nichol-Smith

The description does not do justice to the itinerary - lots of game drives, walks and things to do.  You will see an awful lot of wildlife.  Not the 'big 5', but rather too many hippos, and plenty of elephants, crocs and impalas as well as more illusive species. We had a totally terrific time - real once-in-a-lifetime stuff.  I was expecting a sort of 'poor man's safari -  I've never been on a conventional safari staying at a game lodge in the Serengeti, but suspect this is a much more profound and stimulating experience, getting you much closer to the animals as well as the culture and the people.  Zambia is still under-developed as a tourist location, the Zambezi is an incredibly beautiful river, the itinerary was great and we couldn't have asked for more.  Take this holiday whilst you can and whilst the country, and the people, remain unspoilt.

What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

Getting our canoes within 25 feet of a group of elephants drinking at the water's edge.

What did you think of your group leader?

We were  incredibly lucky to have a truly exceptional guide in TK, a wonderfully kind, intelligent, learned man who knew and loved Zambian wildlife and possessed natural leadership and people management skills.  His patience, kindness, sensivity and generosity with his time (the guy just doesn't sleep) was tremendous.

Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

The canoing was quite hard at first - 50km in two days.  Not that challenging but we had wind against us some of the time and by the end of day 2 were pretty exhausted.  The staff put the teenagers in their boats so they could focus on nature watching and we didn't have to worry about them.  I was  glad to have sticking plasters (blisters on hands) and Deep Heat for muscles with me.  Suitable thin gloves, the type used by sports cyclists, may be a good idea.

The exodus writeup says it can get incredibly cold at night - not whilst we were there.  A fleece or light jacket is a definite, and clothes that keep you covered in the evening to deter mosquitos, but that's about it.

The village school is very poor. Take stuff with you for them.  They need clothes - for children aged around 7-9 particularly and also for Ernest and Petronella, who run it.  This is one of the poorest countries in the world at present, so they really do need stuff - tee-shirts, shorts, dresses, skirts (girls don't wear shorts or trousers) flip-flops, pumps and sandals - natural fabrics are best.  The school has as stock of books, pens etc - did when we were there anyway - but no-one has any food or decent shoes.  And there were very few toys about.  Also take lots of packets of sweets - the children will love you for it!  If you're taking seeds, brassicas, onions and tomatoes seem to work best.  Nothing too thirsty.  There is a 20 kilo limit on aircraft baggage but a 10 kilo recommendation for the trip.  Take a 10 kilo rucksack for yourself and another 10 kilos of old clothes to give away - use your allowance.  You'll be glad you did.

The people may be poor, but they are incredibly friendly, dignified and welcoming.  And, outside the capital, it does not occur to them to ask for money - they're more inclined to generosity than greed.

For yourself - take a water bottle and a wind-up torch - your two most valuable possessions.  Bring chargers as you can charge stuff at Zambezi Brieezers, though not during the main part of the trip.  So if you rely on your phone for telling the time, a watch may be useful.   One of our party brought hot chocolate sachets which was a great idea.

Opportunities to spend money are few so you really don't need much.  There's an initial stop-off for water and snacks, then the next spending opportunity is for souvenirs on your last day.  We asked to visit the Chiawa Cultural Centre for souvenirs so we could buy stuff that would benefit the villagers.

Tipping - its suggested you donate 20,000 kwacha each to the village school but this is really not enough - about £15 - £20 each would be good if you can manage it, preferrably in kwacha or $.  Tip the driver form the airport when he drops you off.  We assumed we could tip him on the return journey but it was a different driver.  Lusaka airport takes £, $ or kwacha or a mixture, and gives change in the same currencies, so you don't need to worry about keeping some cash back for refreshments there.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

There were up to 5 staff looking after the 8 of us, including an assistant guide, driver and cook.  Don't assume you will lose weight on the trip.  The food is simple but beautifully cooked on a tiny charcoal stove - our fussy children managed it just fine and everyone always had seconds.  There was also, contrary to Exodus billing, wine with some evening meals for adults.

The Chiawa Community Camp sounds quite grand but is actually just your own party in half a dozen dome tents with real beds (bliss) in the middle of nowhere on the river's edge.  It also has warm showers, real toilets (sort of) and comfy canvas chairs. Other camping is in 2m square tents about 1.3 metres high so pretty cramped.  You put these up yourself, sleeping in a cotton liner inside sleeping bags - you carry your own liner with you.

You can't really swim in the Zambezi(too many crocs) but we did get to paddle once and there is a small pool at Zambezi Breezers.

You will find that you get very close as a group during the holiday.  Weeing behind bushes on islands (and most of them don't have many bushes), warthog spotting and canoing brings lots of togetherness.  And apart from the school and village visits, you really don't see anyone except your own small group for a week.

If children (or adults) are worried - no, you don't get eaten by crocodiles or anything else.  The canoes are incredibly stable and the care taken of you is excellent.  We always felt totally safe under TK's leadership.

Andrew Smith

The best Exodus trip I've done to date. Tranquil in the morning, challenging if the wind picked up, with amazing wildlife on the banks and in the river. We had an excellent tour guide and the group camaraderie was second to none. This trip provides the unbeatable joy of getting right into nature coupled with happy exhaustion to get you to sleep at night.

What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

Slowly paddling down river watching the sun rise and listening to the early day bird and hippo noises - a level of tranquility you just can't get in London!

What did you think of your group leader?

Legend. Knew exactly what he was doing and how deal with everyone in the group, whilst providing plenty of entertainment during the day and around the camp fore at night.

Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

Check out the flight times before you book flights with Exodus, BA direct may be a better option. If not, you can get out of Nairobi airport and into the city easily for dinner to pass the stop-over on the way back.

Jenna McCowan

An absolute gem of a holiday - if you're looking for something completely different, relaxing but exhilarating, with a really up close experience of wildlife and Africa outdoors, I couldn't recommend it highly enough. I spent most of the week dirty, sandy, sweaty, wet, insect-plagued and slightly buzzed by the hippo-dodging activity, but I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

Getting up close and personal with a herd of elephants just metres away from us on the bank.

Lying in a tent listening to hippos munching, lions roaring and elephants snoozing.

Avoiding canoe collisions whilst remaining vigilant for grumpy hippos 'encouraging' us out of their territory.

Siestas and shallow water river baths, and then the delight of an outdoor shower treat.

What did you think of your group leader?

TK was fabulous, intuitive of the group's needs, with a quick wit, a can-do attitude and heaps of local knowledge. He and Carlos fed us very well too!

Do you have any advice for potential travellers?


If you fancy the buzz of getting completely away from Westernised life and out of your comfort zone to tackle the challenges of the Zambezi River and get up close to some of the most amazing nature I've ever seen - go for it! Be aware that you will come close to large wild animals (mainly hippos in the river!) but this is part of the experience and the guides are always vigilant and close to hand. Be prepared to get hot, sweaty, sandy, dirty and meet a few insects, but it just makes the arrival of a cold beer and a shower at the end of the week a much treasured experience.

Zambezi Canoeing by Richard Maxey

A superb trip, full of wildlife and wilderness adventure. And, almost as scary, a classroom full of 6 year olds.

What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

Wild camping on islands surrounded by hippos and crocodiles - slightly nerve-wracking!

What did you think of your group leader?

TK was fantastic. Canoeing through this area is a potentially risky activity, but we were kept safe and entertained at all times.

Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

Be prepared for a scary start to the trip - we canoed to our first camp in the dark! Bring a sense of adventure and a good camera.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Highly recommend this trip.

Melinda Wieneke

The unhindered exposure to the Zambezi River and its wildlife made this an excellent trip. The guides made an otherwise impossible trip possible.

What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

Watching families of elephants bathing and drinking yards from the canoes.
   
What did you think of your group leader?

CB was erudite, charming and knowledgable.

Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

I would recommend that anyone on this trip have some experience with canoeing and camping - and enjoy both of them.  The village and orphanage visits are a pleasure because they are done sensitively.  Small clothes are needed in both places - if you have room in your bag.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Get some lighter paddles!  The ones provided are much too heavy.

Jennifer Cook

A great way to see Zambia and interact with the river life.  Great exercise without being overly challenging.

What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

Watching wild elephants on shore from the canoe - amazing!  You can get much closer to the elephants in the canoe than you ever could safely on foot, and I got dozens of amazing photos.

What did you think of your group leader?

Very professional, good humoured and patient.

Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

Come prepared to leave some of your luggage behind.  You don't need a lot of things in canoe (you are carrying everything with you) and you can pick it up at the end of the trip.  If I had of known this in advance, I would have arrived prepared with my luggage separated as there way no time to do this on arrival.  Also it gets a lot colder than you may think at night and the sleeping bags were quite thin, bring your own if you feel the cold.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Bring footballs or simple play items for the kids in the orphanage, not pencils and school supplies, they have bucketloads.

The land safaris weren't worth the effort, it may just have been the time of year, but land-based wildlife was in short supply.

Barbara Snell

What an amazing adventure! It's tough and scary at times but so very worth it!

What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

I don't know which bit to pick, it could have been sitting in a canoe with two lions up on the bank above us, or being so close to the elephants as they stood feeding on the bank, maybe it was watching the beautiful Carmine Bee Eaters nesting in the river banks or on a more human note the faces of the children we met at the village. I do know that it wasn't the hippos - mean big scary beasties they are!

Also sitting on the sand bank, cold beer in hand, watching the last rays of the sun with new friends comes pretty close.

What did you think of your group leader?

CB and Carlos - well there aren't enough words to describe how exceptionally good these two guys are. CB is a very experienced guide, good with people, so knowledgeable and with a wicked sense of humour. Carlos is training and has his finals next year. A brilliant cook - he kept us all well fed throughout the trip on very limited cooking equipment. He also has a great sense of humour and a very infectious giggle.

The two of them kept us safe for the entire trip despite some close encounters with the hippos. They were a great credit to Exodus and the training they have received.

Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

Don't pack too much - we did as always!! Take some unwanted clothes to give to both the village and the orphanage. Book the BA or South African flights you will get there on time and with your bags! The group flight is with Kenyan Airways - it was late and one of our group had no bag, it arrived 5 days later.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Lastly if you want an exciting, energetic trip with lots of wildlife thrown in then this is a great trip for you! This was our second trip with Exodus and I am sure there will be more!

Lower Zambezi Canoeing - Steven

An amazing experience. You get really close to nature!

What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

Seeing so many elephants up close. Watching some of the most amazing sunsets and sunrises.

What did you think of your group leader?

CB was excellent. His hard work, calm manner and unending patience made the trip extra special. The way he and Achmel(?)produced such excellent food on a tiny heap of wood or charcoal was amazing. Thank you so much to them.

Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

Take some gloves as the canoeing can be hard at times when you are up against the strong wind.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

A really rewarding trip which really gets you back to nature.