Stealth Safaris

By Sailboat

Oct 15, 2001
Outside Magazine

As the 15-strong herd of elephants—bulls, mamas, and babies—stood haunch-deep in the shimmering blue waters of Zimbabwe's Lake Kariba, placidly grazing the lake bottom near the shoreline, our safari vehicle approached to within a few yards. Suddenly, a big bull turned to glare menacingly at us. Did we worry? Naah.

Our safari vehicle, you see, was a 30-foot sailing catamaran. We hovered just off-shore, impervious to any pachydermatous attack save for a good hosing down, which we would have welcomed on that hot afternoon. Our three-boat flotilla of Wharram Tiki 30s—fast, stable, gaff-rigged cats that sleep six in slightly cramped quarters—spent four days cruising the remote 170-mile-long reservoir. Each night we'd pull into protected coves along a shoreline that just might shelter more large mammalslions, rhinos, zebras, buffalo, and hippos—and fewer people than any lake in the world. Although most clients sail the boats themselves, Sail Safaris owner Lance Reynolds commands the flotilla from a lead "mother ship." Fluctuating water levels and the thickets of Daliesque dead trees make navigation tricky for newcomers, however polished their sailing skills.
Mine were definitely tarnished. Although a veteran windsurfer, I had never sailed a boat. Under Reynolds's tutelage, however, I quickly picked up the basics, and I don't doubt his claim that any weekend dinghy sailor can hand the Tiki 30 with a brief checkout. A staff captain can accompany nonsailors. But for all the fun of sailing, this trip was mainly about the animals. I've already forgotten how to furl the jib, but I'll always remember the look in that bull elephant's face.

Sailing safaris can be booked in the U.S. through African Portfolio at 800.700.3677 or For a group of four, a four-day trip costs $1,825, a seven-day trip, $2,730, including meals, national park fees, and taxes.

Filed To: Sailing, Zimbabwe

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