Houseboat Tips

The last 4days I was on a houseboat with my mom and her boyfriend and a few other people I love spending time with, which is why I figured I’d share some tips and thoughts for any of you considering it at some point in the future.

The most important thing to remember is that whatever you don’t use, you can always bring back so it is a case of ‘better to take more than run out in the middle of a huge lake’. Secondly it is vital that you go with people you like! Don’t tempt yourself with the prospect of throwing them over board and feeding them to the crocodiles. If you have these two things under control, there’s nothing else you can’t fix any way.

Toilet paper and fresh water is pretty important; it’s also something most people tend to forget. Silly things like dish washing liquid and hand soap are also things usually left off the list. Plus spices and the basics like coffee and sugar have a way of slipping under the radar too. Try too plan everything food-related with as much detail as you can. Include snacks and the possibility of fish you caught yourself because you need to remember that there are no shops around the corner when you’re on a boat in the middle of nowhere.

If you’re food is all sorted, you can focus on the drinks. Personally asking me what I will want to drink or even eat in 3 days time is completely pointless as I’ll probably end up craving something else anyway. But generally if you take a variety of drinks and anticipate that you will want to give your taste buds something interesting every few hours, it’ll turn out great. In our case we had dietary requirements that needed to be looked after and other medical things we needed to plan for. As it turns out, our planning went down really well.

We did actually catch a lot fish and even had left over worms who kept trying to escape [and I can’t blame them] so we ended up with extra food we left for the captain and the cook as a courtesy to them. We also took a lot of vegetables because obviously we are all prone to eating high carb foods and way too many snacks when we are on holiday, leaving us quite sluggish but counteracting it with vegetables, water and fruit helped us maintain our energy and excitement throughout. If you’re going to a place like Kariba and you know the sun is on a mission to destroy you, best take vegetables like carrots that will increase your Vitamin A intake. Eating fish [high source of Omega 3] is also a great way to chemically perk things up and for our 4 day trip it was perfect for our 3rd dinner. We were already starting to think in terms of packing up and saddened by the end of our trip as well as starting to get slightly annoyed with the personality clashes accompanied by the confined area of the boat. After eating fish however, we were right back in the party mood.

With food and drink is out of the way, we can get to the serious packing! Basically, cameras are the only electronic device you will really be using. There is no signal on Kariba or at least very little and most of it is from the Zambia side so our roaming charges would have been sky high for extremely bad reception. As much as I love my laptop, a boat is really not the place for it and besides, you have nature and people around you which should take up all of your time. We did use a stereo but that was mainly to scare the baboons away and most houseboats have their own anyway. Mini torches and a spot light came in handy, since used them for wildlife watching and midnight bathroom trips that allowed us to go undetected by the many, many insects of the lake. Speaking of bugs: any anti-mosquito or insect repellent you might require, you’re going to have to take with you, just be sure to use eco friendly ones that won’t destroy the natural habitat. We used citronella oil based wrist bands and they worked really well. However we still slept under mosquito nets to keep the bigger moths away. Sunscreen cannot be emphasized enough! Remember that it is not the direct light from the sun that gets to you, it’s the reflection from the water that really burns you, so please take precautions and be safe.

Check with the owner of the boat about their cooler bags and fridge facilities as you need to keep in mind that you will be going out on the little speed boats too and may want smaller quantities of drinks to be taken with you. The great thing about taking drinks and food in cooler boxes is that you will have a place to put the fish you caught during your trip. You will also need to take your own fishing rods and nets, ext if the boat does not have any. Taking an umbrella for the smaller boat is a good idea but again it is wise to communicate with your captain ahead of time as they may have suitable ones available.

We also used the books available on the boat along with normal notebooks during our ‘alone time’ just too fully appreciate the great nature that surrounded us. We took an extra set of towels to use as our swimming towels and a few extra hats in case the original ones got wet or flew over board, a bit paranoid I agree but better safe than sorry. We each had one warm jacket and the rest of our clothes consisted mainly of T-Shirts and shorts as we spent more time in our bathing suits than anything else anyway. We each took a pair of boots or closed toe shoes so that we could go for walks on the islands and flip-flops to wear on deck but again, we hardly used it as we were mainly barefoot. They washed our clothes on the boat so we came back with clean laundry in our suitcases and could easily have stayed there much longer.

With all nature trips like these it really is about timing. There were other boats there that followed 3 hours behind us and didn’t see any of the animals we did, they even got caught in a storm. So if you want to make the most out of this trip, ask your captain for advice regularly, since he is constant communication with other boats and trust his experience. Make sure you know what each member of your party is expecting out of the trip and try your best to please [or even if you must: disappoint] them all equally. This will just avoid friction and decrease the chances of someone feeling like they got a raw deal. We saw animals and we went fishing and we got a tan, so everyone got what they wanted and even more than they expected.

Feel free to add any of your experiences or tips into the comments as I’m planning to go again shortly and probably missed a few things on this – my first trip.

Loving nature,



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