Going by boat or ship in Africa

Where there are sea, lakes or rivers, travelling by ships, boats or in canoes can be the only form of transportation possible. Most often travelling on water is an amazing experience in itself – especially in Africa with its abundance of waterways and crystal clear seas.

setting sail on the Indian Ocean

Outrigger canoes off the beach in Zanzibar to fish in the Indian Ocean

diving, snorkeling, africa

A small coral island in the Indian Oceans clear turquoise waters off Zanzibar, Tanzania

Some places in Africa one can still experience the most basic means of transportation as in Omorate in Omo valley in southern Ethiopia, the canoes are traditional dugout canoes and their shapes are organic as can be seen on the photograph below.

organic shaped canoe from a tree

Men in a dugout canoe crossing the Omo river in Omorate, Omo valley in Ethiopia

At Omorate, the young boys swim across the wide and deep river alongside the boats with tourists and when the tourists have reached the other side to visit the Dassanach tribe, the boys will try and be guides for them to earn a few Birr.

swimming, river, water

Boy swimming across the Omo river at Omorate, Ethiopia. Photo © Mikkel Alexander Grabowski

On Africas big lakes like lake Victoria, Tanganyika, Malawi and others regular ferries can be found to take you from one town to another or across the whole lake to the neighbouring countries. The ferry route around the lake stopped around 1975 but a small ship that sails a couple times a week from Kisumu to Mwanza and back should be working again.

morning scene lake Victoria

Fishermen in their small outrigger boats set out on the mighty expanse of Lake Victorias Winam Gulf, kenya

Not only is travelling by any body of water in Africa always a fascinating and enriching experience, the water in itself with its features under a tropical sun combined with the animal and plant diversity that exists in Africa, the water creates life and in Africa life can be very generous in all its different shapes and forms.

Tropical paradise island

Diani beach or Pemba island in the Indian Ocean? No - a tropical island called Takawiri located in Lake Victorias 68,000 km2 expanse of water

As can be seen on the picture below, the water level is too low for any navigation on this river by boat or any other vessel. Yet the Yala river in western Kenya run through Kakamega forest, and is here on its way further south until it drains into the Lake Victoria basin, where big ships can sail thousands of sea miles. On bigger rivers like the Congo, the Niger and the Nile sailing with even big ferries have been a tradition for centuries.

river in Kenya

The Yala river in western Kenya is only in parts navigable for smaller boats

Of course it should be mentioned (or repeated) that any setting out in a boat or ship involves the risk of capsizing and if there is no safety equipment people may die. Therefor it is important to always ask the captain about the number of safety equipment in the boat or ship.

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