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Weaving through the landscape of Botswana’s northern sector is not only the famous Okavango River, but also an equally vital but lesser known lifeline, called the Selinda Spillway. Banished to obscurity by decades of dry, the Spillway came back to life during the high rains of 2009. Since then, its beauty has been renewed after three decades, enabling adventurers like those of us at Great Plains Conservation, the rare opportunity of canoeing its waters. Since 2009, the Selinda Canoe Trail has been the consummate favorite among those seeking a first in pristine wilderness.
The trail begins downstream from Selinda Camp, northeast of the Okavango Delta, in the 320,000-acre Selinda Reserve. We follow the Spillway east as it meanders through the Reserve, passing through riverine forests, floodplains and open savannah. We begin each day at the break of dawn in our 18-foot Canadian canoes. Whilst paddling, we encounter wildlife along the Spillway’s banks, and disembark our canoes to enjoy walks, looking for tracks and signs. After brunch and a bit of a siesta at midday we continue onward through the afternoon and arrive at our campsite before dark. The Selinda Canoe Trail replicates the safari experiences of old as we navigate this rarely visited region, fly camping along the way. We complete the 45-kilometre journey close to the convergence of the Linyanti and Kwando waterways.
All equipment is carried by canoe, so the camp is rustic by nature. The 9ft x 9ft dome tents are furnished with comfortable bedrolls and quality linen and towels and accommodate two guests. For every two tents, there is a safari ‘bucket’ shower and ‘short drop’ loo. Our trail chef cooks tasty delicious meals over the fire. Guests gather around the fire, chairs for all, and watch the culinary magic with a cool drink to celebrate the day’s achievement.
The Selinda Canoe Trail’s season is during northern Botswana’s dry months when the game migrates to the Spillway. The area is well known for elephant, buffalo, sable, roan, and African wild dog but could very well come across cheetah, lion, leopard and variety of other species. Bear in mind that the mode of safari is by foot and canoe, so wildlife is mostly seen close to the shore of the Spillway or on walks nearby.
The guaranteed set departures are for a maximum of eight guests and operate from mid-April to early-October each year based on water levels.
At the end of the three-day canoe trail, guests are transferred to the Selinda airstrip at around midday for departure. Ideally guests may elect to stay on for an additional night at either Zarafa or Selinda Camps.
Days 1, 2 & 3: Game drive transfer from Selinda airstrip to starting point on the spillway, paddling downstream, overnighting in true wilderness areas for 3 nights.
Day 4: Transfer by road to Selinda airstrip for onward arrangements
The Selinda Canoe Trail: The guaranteed set departures are for a maximum of eight guests and operate from mid-April to early-October each year based on water levels
A night spent at Selinda or Zarafa camps before or after the Trail is highly recommended.