Explore the African waterways in style.
Sanctuary Sun Boat III
River Nile, Egypt
Though many operators offer boat trips along the Nile, discerning travelers looking for an exclusive experience will head straight for the Sanctuary Sun Boat III. This elegant vessel is the floating equivalent of a boutique hotel, with 18 spacious cabins accommodating only 36 guests at full capacity. Arranged over four decks, the Sun Boat III feels more like a private yacht than a busy cruiser. High-end service includes gourmet meals prepared by award-winning chefs, plus an on-board masseuse and doctor. The sun deck, known as Cleopatra’s Oasis, harks back to 1920s Egyptian opulence with a palm-fringed pool and curtained loungers. Itineraries are either three or four days long navigating the 140 miles between Luxor and Aswan. A highly knowledgeable Egyptologist provides guided tours at each stop, bringing historical sites — such as the Valley of the Kings and the Karnak temple — to life.
Harmony G Yacht
Gambia River, Senegal / Gambia
Within the past decade, Ghana and Senegal have begun to feature as ports of call on established international cruise line routes. But a more in-depth voyage of discovery into the region is also available with vessels such as Harmony G, offering excursions along the length of the Gambia River. The 21-cabin mega yacht has been renovated twice since its launch in 2001. The sleek vessel boasts all the usual modern conveniences, a small and knowledgeable complement of crew, and an elegant design without being flashy. Departing from Dakar, the Harmony G sails along the Atlantic coast of Senegal before turning east into Gambia and heading 240 miles upriver. The eight-day itinerary includes daily stops to visit villages, markets and several national parks. With limited tourist infrastructure so deep in-country, this cruise is a perfect introduction to a region of astounding natural beauty largely off the beaten track.
Chobe River, Botswana / Namibia
Gliding down the Chobe River, the luxurious Zambezi Queen is as much of a showstopper as the magnificent array of animals which gathers along the river’s banks. Each of the 10 standard and four master suites on this floating hotel has a private balcony from which guests can enjoy views of the river and landscape. Built in the early 1990s, the three-decked houseboat was beautifully restored 10 years ago, managing to combine old-world charm with five-star modern luxury. The elegant barge navigates along a 25-kilometer section of the river between Botswana and Namibia, offering stunning views of the Caprivi Strip on one side and Chobe National Park on the other. Should one tire of watching golden sunsets while sipping cocktails in the air-conditioned, mosquito-proofed comfort of a suite, there is also the option to head out in a small tender for a more up-close-and-personal experience of the local fauna. This area is home to one of the largest elephant populations in the world, with hippos, lions, buffalo and many rare birds also in abundance, all of which appear completely unfazed by the proximity of humans. Itineraries are short, either two or three days, making this river safari a wonderfully indulgent addition to a longer trip.