Nick Trend suggests balmy escapes, from the Zambezi to the Amazon

1 Easy Zambezi

The banks of Botswana's rivers are home to some of the richest wildlife in Africa and the vast Chobe National Park is one of the best places to spot elephants, lions, giraffes and hippos. Zambezi river cruises embark at Kasane with expert guides taking safari and birdwatching excursions. You'll also see Victoria Falls, and the itinerary includes visits to Cape Town and Johannesburg.

The Zambezi River is great for spotting wildlife. Photo: Getty Images
The Zambezi River is great for spotting wildlife. Photo: Getty Images

2 Irrawaddy from Mandalay


The Irrawaddy links the highest Himalayan glaciers with the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean, via the wide plains of Myanmar. The best cruising weather is November to February, when days are warm and humidity levels are lower. From Mandalay, ships head south to the world heritage site of Bagan with its temples and monasteries.
3 Tea and Rhinos

From central Tibet, through India's north-eastern state of Assam, 2,945km Brahmaputra river flows on to Bangladesh before joining the Ganges and reaching the Bay of Bengal. Week-long itineraries sail between the Indian cities of Guwahati and Jorhat, passing through tea plantations, dense jungle and the Kaziranga National Park, home to greater one-horned rhinos, pied kingfishers, eagles, water buffalo and river dolphins.
4 The Nile in style

Most Nile cruises focus on the 193km, three or four-night voyage between Luxor and Aswan, which takes in the most spectacular archaeological highlights including the Valley of the Kings and the temples of Karnak, Edfu and Kom Ombo. There is also (usually) a chance to sail on a traditional felucca at Aswan. The cruise is best combined with a stay in the capital Cairo and a visit to the Pyramids at Giza and Saqqara. The best season is December to February.
5 Southern Mekong

Angkor Wat is one of the many attractions of a Mekong River cruise. Photo: Getty Images
Angkor Wat is one of the many attractions of a Mekong River cruise. Photo: Getty Images

The Mekong flows through six countries, from the Tibetan plateau to the South China Sea, but cruises focus on the southernmost sector, sailing between Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap in Cambodia, with the chance to see the temple complexes of Angkor Wat. Winter temperatures reach the high 20Cs, and it is the driest time of the year in this region.
6 Indian nights

Quiet backwaters and tropical scenery make the estuaries of Kerala in southern India ideal for a gentle cruise past the villages, rice paddies and temples that make the area distinctive. Tailor-made itineraries offer the chance to combine a cruise with a stay in the buzzing port of Kochi for city sightseeing and, for example, cooking demonstrations.
7 No hurry on the Murray

A stunning sunset on the River Murray. Photo: Getty Images
A stunning sunset on the River Murray. Photo: Getty Images

From its source in the Great Dividing Range south of Canberra to Adelaide, this gentle river meanders through outback and provides a rare habitat for bird life. Paddle steamer cruises embark and disembark from the South Australian town of Mannum, offering itineraries that include wine-tasting, nocturnal wildlife excursions and a guided tour of the Ngaut Ngaut Aboriginal Reserve.
8 Ganges tribute

Follow in the wake of the East India Company along the Hooghly river, a West Bengal tributary of the Ganges. Departing from Kolkata (with its grand avenues and cricket ground) through remote regions peppered with rice paddies, mustard fields and mango orchards. Highlights on cruise itineraries include the terracotta temples of Kalna, Clive of India's battlefield at Plassey and the Moghul-style garden of Khushbagh.
9 Peruvian perfection

Cruises set sail from the port city of Iquitos where temperatures reach the high 20Cs throughout the winter months. You join the Peruvian Amazon beyond the confluence of the Ucayali and Maranon rivers. Tours combine time on the water with stays in Cusco, Machu Picchu and the country's capital, Lima.


10 Amazon Adventure

Vying with the Nile as the world's longest river, the 6,440km Amazon flows through a huge variety of landscapes and supports a rich and exotic wildlife. Departing from the Brazilian city of Manaus, cruises offer the chance to see river dolphins, taricaya turtles and manatee as well as the colourful bird life of the tropical rainforest.
The Sunday Telegraph