Canoeing down the Zambezi River

Richard Bransdon in the Zambezi Valley
Branson Family
Virgin Galactic
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Published on 13 July 2023

Many years ago, when Holly and Sam were kids, my family had the pleasure of travelling down the Zambezi River. Mum and dad came along – and we even managed to get Joan in a canoe! It was an extraordinarily beautiful trip, going through the Mana Pools and seeing some incredible wildlife.

Elephant in the Zambezi Valley
Branson Family

I was recently invited by Tim Evans, a lifelong friend who used to be the Queen’s doctor, to repeat the trip. He has always been passionate about protecting wildlife and spent a lot of time in Zimbabwe when he was younger.

It was delightful joining Tim and his son Wilf, my sister Vanessa, my daughter-in-law Isabella ,and a wonderful group of conservationists to camp and canoe down the magnificent river. We had to watch out for enormous crocodiles, buffalo, and hippos that could accidently tip over our canoes. Thankfully, we had brilliant guides.

The wildlife in the area is spectacular, from lions to leopards and elephants. We were fortunate to see many of the gentle giants on the trip, and see the sterling work the Zambezi Elephant Fund is doing to protect them.

We also visited Wilderness Destinations Ruckomechi Camp, which is part-owned by The Rise Fund, a group commited to social and environmentally-positive investments that I’m proud to be a founder of. It was a glorious few days, surrounded by magnificent baobab trees, and great to see The Rise Fund’s work in action.

At night, it was great fun sharing stories in the wilderness. We reminisced about camping in Zimbabwe with my parents, particularly about a dream Dad told me about when we last visited.

“I had a dream last night,” he said, with a twinkle in his eye.

“Did it involve a woman?” I asked.

“Yes,” he replied.

“Did you misbehave?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “But she misbehaved outrageously!”

Richard Branson canoeing down the Zambezi Valley
Branson Family

Thanks to Tim, John and Nicci Stephens, James Egremont-Lee and everyone who helped organise the trip, and to the Zambezi Elephant Fund for their important conservation work.