Read reviews for the Safari Inflatable Kayak by Innova Recreational Products as submitted by your fellow paddlers. All of the reviews are created and written by paddlers like you, so be sure to submit your own review and be part of the community!
First off, let me say that the boat I am reviewing is the older model Safari. The new model, which I believe came out in 2017 , is longer, wider, and more stable from what I understand. The Safari is well made and will last a long time. For lakes and slow moving rivers it is suitable for anyone, but for swift water I found it to be overly tippy. I am an intermediate hard shell paddler and got this boat to do a Class 3 and 4 river (Ocoee River in Tennesssee). I never could get comfortable in it, and flipped over way too often. Although technically it can be rolled, I could never do it. Because it's so tippy, it's also hard to re-enter from the water. I liked the boat fine for lakes and slower moving rivers, but if you want to do big water, it is challenging, to say the least. For a laugh I let a much better paddler try it out once, and he flipped over in a matter of seconds. He felt that he could eventually get used to it, but, like I say, it is challenging in big water even for good paddlers. If you get one, I would recommend making sure you get the latest, larger, model.
I took the 2nd generation Innova Safari (aka Gumotex Safari in Europe) down the Mekong in Laos and white water trips in Thailand. It was abit small but the new Safari 330 is bigger so i def will be getting it too!
This thing is amazing. Class III rapids are no problem, the pack it comes with is super durable and can carry some extra gear if packed properly. Works fine to hike with - just needs a chest strap, maybe some padding if hiking longer.
The negative review I pointed out clearly does not understand that air expands when it gets hot -and the instructions clearly state to both UV protect the exterior and keep it out of the sun when out of the water.
A bit of waterproof gaffer tape on the drainage holes gives a dry ride in the winter, and it easily keeps up with the hard shells. The stock foot support is pants, I use some heavy duty garden hose, squeezed flat on the ends, with some webbing strap inside the hose. Super glue the ends, and once cured, punch a 12mm hole through at the centres that match the fabric loops where the front leg straps anchor,for extra support, put the hose through some plastic pipe [22mm] then some pipe lagging round that. It's then all day comfortable, and helps for tucking a toe under when Eskimo rolling. This little boat loves to surf as well, just fix an air bag in the back and front to displace the water.
It's allowed me to pass my test for paddling our local man made grade 3 white water course. It's probably more capable than I'll ever be. I had quite a few sniggering glances at my local training pool, till they saw it could be rolled, and generally did everything a hard shell would do, even water polo.
The boat tracked very well with the skeg, and I had no trouble keeping up with the canoes in my group. The boat inflates in about 15 minutes with a foot pump, and deflates even faster. It's easy to carry with the bag provided. I'm very happy with my purchase and look forward to taking it with me next time I travel by air.
I think the inflatable seat and footrest could be improved upon. Perhaps a plastic foot rest that could fit into some slots on the side chambers would be a better design. There's always an opportunity for improvement, but I think it's a very well made boat, and I look forward to several years of adventure with this kayak.
We are not experienced kayakers, but we find the boat easy to paddle and quite responsive. The only down side is the self bailing holes let in some water so I always have a damp behind. This rules out long distance cold weather paddling unless I invest in some protective gear. But I like not having to worry about baling - overall it's not a big problem.
Obviously has a higher profile than a rigid kayak equal length, so its cruising speed is slightly less, but more can be increased weight loading and installing the centerboard that comes standard to increase its directionality. In fact advise its use for any journey, unless we go to practice whitewater (up to grade 3 is approved) or surfkayak.
It is the only know that is swellable self-emptying, by two rows of drain holes located at the junction of the edges with the fairing. It has a large capacity and elastic enough to anchor networks drums, backpacks, reasons, etc.. that portemos.
Portage handles, thigh, adjustable footrest and back seat. Ultimately, for those of you with space issues and seek not beat speed records, super recommended a kayak.
Length: 3 m Width: 72 cm
Weight: 12 Kg
Load max.: 110 Kg
Air Chambers: 3 +1 +2
Material: 1200 Nitrilon
(see more of this review at webkayaker.blogspot.com)
Dimensions (mine is a 2004 model)
Maximum beam 25"
Waterline beam, considering that I'm a 200 lb. guy about 22"
Last night I inflated the Safari in my bedroom just to check it out. The Bravo 8 foot pump worked really well. The Safari chambers are really taut when fully inflated. I was a little concerned about the inflatable foot rest, it only attaches on the bottom in the middle. It feels like if I push with one foot, I'll have to make sure that my other foot is pushing on the other side.
The boat is very snug, which I like, I like the feeling of being "one with the boat". It feels very comfortable to me especially since it's an inflatable and everything gives somewhat. I didn't like the inflatable back rest so I ordered some D-ring patches so I could use a regular backrest from my SOT's.
Took the Safari out today for the first time. The light weight is really handy 'cuz I had to walk down a hill to the river. It also makes it easier to travel with. It does take a little while to inflate, so a hard shell is quicker to launch. But, a hard shell would have been harder to get to the river. Everything's a trade-off. Did not install the skeg, I wanted to get a feel for the boat without it. I also didn't inflate the seat, I wanted to sit lower to make it more stable.
The river I was paddling in is a small river with non-existent current. Got in and pushed off, expecting some tippiness from other reports. It's a little tippy, but I like it. Also, consider that my favorite hard shell is one of the more stable surf skis. Your mileage may vary. It is very maneuverable. Like a whitewater boat, if you stop paddling, it almost instantly turns 180 degrees.
The wind had more of an affect on it than I thought it would. Controllable, but maybe with the skeg it would do better. The inflatable footrest works well, still don't like the inflatable backrest. I like it with the seat deflated.
Pulled over to the shore to install the skeg. Now, the directions said to install it with the boat deflated, but what do they know, they’re just the manufacturer. After trying for a while, I gotta tell you, deflate the center chamber. No other way. So, deflated the center chamber, installed the skeg, and reinflated the center chamber. The one thing I really don't like about the boat is how difficult it is to install and remove the skeg.
With the skeg installed it tracks better. Now, this thing definitely doesn't track like a freight train, but it is definitely better. Now I can really see that the glide is pretty impressive for a 10' inflatable. If you look at the dimensions, with a 22" waterline beam it should be easier to paddle. Also, it should help that the chambers are very taut almost like a hard shell. Also, the wind didn't have as much affect on the boat now. Now, realize that I'm mainly planning on using this boat on rivers where the winds are generally less than on open water lakes.
I didn't bring my GPS, so no hard speed figures, but it seemed pretty impressive for a 10' boat. I don't think that I'd paddle with any sea kayaks though. Especially if my wife's paddling one of them, I hate it when she beats me.
Had to portage around a downed tree, the light weight helped immensely. Little suggestion, if you’ve installed the skeg and are dragging the boat like I was, pick up the stern so the skeg doesn't catch on anything.
Getting in and out was fairly simple, just swivel and throw your legs over one of the side chambers and stand up. It was pretty easy to just sit that way with my legs over the side.
Got back, it dried out pretty quickly in the sun, packed everything up and went home. Also, the shoulder straps on the bag are not very comfortable, but I happened to have an NRS Paragon Pack and that worked really well! (www.nrsweb.com)
Overall, I really like the boat. I always like it when I buy something and it turns out to be as good as I hoped it would be. It all depends on what you're looking for.
There is still room for of improvements though. I found the Safari's pillow style backrest somewhat uncomfortable for anything longer than a half hour of paddling. Innova was very responsive and supplied an "old style" Sunny seat with an upright inflatable backrest. Problem solved! This seat matches the Safari perfectly and I can paddle quite a distance without any sciatic discomfort. I wish this seat was an option for an otherwise great kayak. BTW, since I live in an apartment without much storage space, both my kayaks reside under my bed when they aren't out paddling.
I'll likely sell my Aire Force XL as it is now redundant. The Innova Safari is more comfortable on nice, warm, lazy days and I'll retain it for Class III runs when the weather is nice. I would certainly prefer the Safari over the Traveller or Aire Force XL for long distances, but for quick 1/2 day jaunts down raging whitewater or on cold days when I'd prefer a closed boat, I'll use my Modified Innova Traveller. That's what is so great about Innovas... they're reasonably priced enough so that you can own more than one! Happy paddling. Innovas rule!
Stability is comparable to a hardshell. Novices should take into consideration this if they looking for a "stable" kayak. Just like any hardshell all the safety equipment and the skills are required. A pump, the Safari is self-bailing, and a paddlefloat are not necessary. I noticed some weathercocking with each paddle stroke but now I have learned to compensate with a steeper paddle angle.
Like with all hardshells the paddler must practice re-entries. Although it's easier to re-enter the Safari I recommend practicing this skill. The lack of a closed cockpit makes re-boarding a relatively simple procedure. Speed is good... for a 10' kayak that is. It keeps going along without complaining and without much need of corrective strokes.
The only issue I have is that I wish Innova updated the inflation valves to the new type, as they have with their double kayak, the Sunny. Overall, I'm very happy with the Safari. I highly recommend it as a fun little kayak for day paddles in oceans, lakes and rivers.
I just bought an Aire Force XL for handling big water (Class IV and large volume), but compared to the Safari it is slower, and doesn't play as well as the Safari. For up to Class III rapids, I'll use my Safari. For Class IV or higher, large volume, or unfamiliar rivers, I'll use the safer, but not as playful Aire Force XL.
The only problem with the Safari on large volume and Class IV or greater is the fact that the narrow boat gets swallowed up by big water because the bailing is slower and the side tubes are not as high as other boats. This fact means that the Safari can easily be wrapped around rocks on big, powerful rapids. The Safari has bulletproof construction though, so that is not a problem!
This boat is extremely fun to front surf (that is, stuff your bow down into a hole) because the bow will sink and the water will flow all around you. The fun is amplified because you can actually maintain control under these conditions very easily by using your paddle as a rudder. very fun! The challenge is on though when you turn the boat sideways in the hole (after submerging the bow) as the whole boat will tend to fill and submerge like a submarine into the hole. The first few times that this happens to you, you will undoubtedly flip, even if you are used to surfing hardshells because the water interactions with the boat will be foreign to you. However, if you keep with it, you will find that this boat side surfs well and with a little j-lean downstream it will not fill up, but you have to get the angle right or the upstream wash will grab the downstream tube and you will fill and flip (or submarine surf, if you're experienced enough for it). The real enjoyment comes when you can control the boat completely submerged sideways in a hole (submarine surf). To do this, the proper angle and boat fill technique has to be learned by experience and it is easiest to do in a wide, consistent shelf-drop type hole. The drawback is that in a really sticky hole, you will probably not have the strength after surfing submerged (the boat will be heavy and will want to remain submerged due to slower bailing) to rotate the boat out of the hole. So, when you are pooped from sub-surfing, simply roll out of the boat, swim out of the hole, and reclaim your boat which will be upside down recirculating in the hole (and dumped for you, ready to flip over and re-enter). This boat offers an amazing array of surfing ability as it can surf the smallest ripple or a sticky, deep hole (with LOTS of experience surfing the smaller ripples and holes as a prerequisite!). And, if the hole is powerful enough, you can choose to side-surf either above the water line or submerged. One reviewer commented that a 360 surf was possible, maybe so, but I would think it would be VERY difficult to do without submerging the boat involuntarily. Know the hole your with though, because I would think that a really sticky hole may keep your boat stuck on the river bottom (I haven't experienced this, but I can see the potential)! If you like to surf holes and park/play spots, want a real challenge and a boat you will not outgrow, and the bonus of loading it up in your subcompact's trunk, you will not be disappointed. I think beginners with a go-getter attitude can learn very quickly with this boat by starting small (Class I and II) and moving up as experience dictates, so it's not just for experienced paddlers. The boat maneuvers EXACTLY where you want it with ease and many paddlers have been amazed at how well I am able to place the boat EXACTLY where I want it in a rapid or a hole. This is an inflatable that YOU CONTROL instead of the current controlling you. This is an inflatable that you can instantly spin to get into an eddy after a drop, just like a playboat. Unlike a playboat, the fast hull speed actually allows you to ferry and/or paddle upstream with efficiency to get BACK into your favorite hole easily. Many hardshellers will be amazed just watching this boat perform. Just get one and surf away!
Looks, quality, packability aesthetic appeal: 10
Weight (24lbs boat only, 33lbs fully outfitted with backpack, pump, and paddle): 9 (could always be lighter!)
Backpack quality and design: 9 (very good, but I had to modify mine to make a place for the paddle shaft storage)
Packability and portage: 9 - weighing in at less than 1/2 the weight of my Aire Lynx, this boat can go places!
Quality of materials: 10 (nice!)
Quality of primary valves: 8 (a bit cumbersome)
Quality of seat/thwart valves: 5 (simple, but slow to inflate/deflate, and seem to wear quickly)
Price: 10+++++!!!!! Great boat for the money. You could not do better.
Initial stability: 5 (this boat is not designed for fishermen)
Secondary stability: 8 (exceptionally good for narrow boat width)
Hull Speed: 10 (easily just as fast as a hardshell)
Tracking: It all depends on the skeg - no skeg, spins on a dime - skeg attached - tracks ok (disclaimer here - I paddle mostly class II-IV whitewater, not sea or flatwater, so I am reporting based on river flatwater sections)
Whitewater performance: Simply amazing for an inflatable!
Carving - 10
Surfing - 10
Control with dry interior - 10
Control with flooded interior - 9
Bailing speed - 6 (it could use improvement here, but the good control in flooded conditions really makes speed less important)
Comparison to hardshell performance - closer than you would think - hull speed allows for river running equal to hardshell playboat. River playing (control and ease of hole surfing, enders) is much better than any other inflatable I have tried (Aire Lynx, Aire Force, Sevylor and Stearns products). This is primarily due to lower initial stability which allows for more carving and j-leaning than competing models which are designed with stability-first mentality.
This is a boat designed for intermediate to advanced paddlers which know how to eskimo roll and can brace well in whitewater. Beginners, fishermen, or scaredy cats should look for a boat with higher initial stability. Hardshell Kayakers wanting a packable boat should only consider this boat, the Aire forces, and the Incept Sally kayaks. For quality, performance on all types of water, weight, packability, and price, this boat cannot be beat. For those willing to sacrifice performance for extreme packability, there are always the Alpacka Rafts, but the Innova Junior may be a better compromise.
Way to go Innova, a great product!
My goal is to paddle the 100 trips listed in the Appalachian Mountain Club's book, "Quiet Water – Massachusetts, Connecticut, & Rhode Island." Don't let the title of the book mislead you. In other words, many of my trips include high winds, waves, and hitting rocks and stumps underneath. The Safari has held up nicely. I wouldn't hesitate to buy another one and am always looking at the Innova website for newly designed models. Also, every time I venture out, some interested party makes their way to me and asks about the Safari. This is no exaggeration, people are very interested in this boat.
By the way I've done 35 of the above 100 and still going, going ...
Pros: light-weight, cost, maneuverability, surfing, fun-factor, lake paddling. The tracking fin is great for lake use.
Cons: my model was only rated to 180lbs - a 250 lb friend used the boat and had great difficulty with tipping over. I would be reluctant to try this boat in Class 3+ water, but, maybe I should try it - it always amazes me. Small boat for overnighters. Though the boat is tough and handles srcaping over river rocks, it is susceptible to pin holes from things like blackberry bushes.
Set-up/tear down: Takes me about 15 minutes to go from in the car to in the water. Carrying the kayak in the bag is easy, and I've comfortably carried it down mile long trails to reach inaccessible parts of the lake. The bag has an outer pocket for storing accessories (tracking fin, etc.) but the seam holding it on has begun to tear. The integrity of the main compartment seems ok. One downside to the inflatable-- if you pack it up before letting it dry out, it might stink next time...
Durability: I've taken the kayak through some shallow creeks where I dragged over a LOT of rocks, which only resulted in minor scuffs to the plastic.
Handling: With the tracking fin, keeping the boat going forward is easy. Without the fin, you can turn on a dime. How does it compare to a hardshell? Your guess is as good as mine...
In the boat: The backrest doesn't do a lot other than keep you positioned in the middle of the boat... don't expect to lounge. The inflatable butt pad keeps you up out of the puddle that will develop on the floor, but also raises your center of gravity a few inches and makes the boat feel a little wobbly. Gear space is alright -- you could fit a small backpack up front and maybe a sleeping pad and a few odds & ends in back. Unless you're more flexible than me, don't plan on rummaging through your gear on the water. I might try an overnight trip this summer, but packing would be a real challenge.
Stability/ease of use: I've shared this boat with friends, & the only one who had issues with the tippiness of the kayak was the one who has some sea kayaking experience. In other words, it feels like what I (and everybody else) always expected a kayak to feel like, but is apparently much less stable than a sea kayak. That being said, people have fished out of it without incident, so it definitely can handle some movement without getting wobbly.
I wanted an inflatable for the space and transport advantages, but I could see that much of what was on the market might pack well but paddle poorly. I hoped to avoid that with the Safari, and it looks like I've been successful. I also wanted something versatile--I'll never paddle class IV with it, but the idea of using the same boat for mild whitewater and flatwater appealed to me.
The first few times, I took it out without the skeg in the upper Mississippi (current but no rapids) and it was very responsive. It made the mild eddy turns I tried almost by itself, and it ferried easily too, although I think back ferries are going to take a little more practice. Both upstream and down, it tracked better than I expected, leading me to think that maybe with enough practice the skeg would never be necessary. I've since changed my mind about that. I took it out on one of our larger lakes on a challenging day, with winds 20-30 mph and a deep, hectic chop. On a whim, I bolted the skeg on first. Wow. It's a whole different boat. Even while sliding over the whitecaps like a soap bubble, it holds a course in a beam wind better than my (unskegged) 14' hardshell. Running downwind, it never offers to broach. Upwind or quartering upwind can get a little wet, but I had expected that. The self-bailing feature quickly eliminated any water that came on board. You're fairly exposed in this boat so wear some neoprene and drybag your groceries if the water is big and cold.
On the subject of groceries, I have high hopes of being able to use the Safari for overnighters. The difference between my 175# and the 220# rated capacity is a little more than I carry when backpacking, so it should be possible. A 10 or 15 liter drybag fits in front, and at least a 50 liter in back.
The main worry I had was that I wouldn't fit the boat but at 6'2" with fairly long legs, I have plenty of room.
Setup, packing and daily maintenance seem easier with this boat that they would be with some others, notably the Aire, Stearns and other bladder-in-skin designs. It's easy to wipe dry and it makes a very compact package. I got the K-100 pump from K-Pump, and it fits easily in the pack with the boat and PFD.
Kudos to Tim at Innova for excellent and timely customer service. It's getting less common these days, and we should do what we can to reinforce it.
I have now taken the Safari kayaking in Europe and in Newfoundland, as well as extensive use in New England, and am still very happy with it. Environments have included placid rivers, ocean surf, mountain lakes, and some open water as well. Conditions have been from dead calm to pretty hairy, the latter when I decided to go out surfing on the ocean after a storm had just passed and the waves were about 5 to 6 feet high. I swallowed a LOT of water that day....
There have been no problems. One minor niggle has surfaced, likely of my own doing. When rinsing, washing or drying the boat, I have usually placed it vertically on the ground, with the stern on whatever the surface is and the bow pointing skyward, usually at a slight angle because I lean it against the car or any available structure. Apparently, this has caused the red cover material to scrape off a bit in a very small area measuring about 5 or 6 square millimeters, and a slight crack about 1 inch long has formed in the red cover materia, both were I've rested the boat on the ground. Both of these are negligible and do not affect the integrity of the boat. I just painted a bit of Aquaseal over both and will see if that does the trick. If not, I'll simply glue on a patch to keep the boat looking pretty. But - and this is important - that was my own fault.I'd suggest you learn from my mistake and either put something soft under the boat or find another way to position it for washing and drying.
The boat is otherwise bomb proof as far as I can tell. I've scraped the fin across rocks and sand, have run waves onto rocky shores, have carried it in rooftop carriers where it was unavoidably exposed to pretty intense heat from the sun, and have paddled it in the winter where the air bladders give you welcome insulation and prevent frozen rear ends like one can get in hardshells.
The only caveat, related to the hairy experience of surfing waves considerably higher than I was - the Safari does not bail fast enough to get rid of consecutive dumping waves, and becomes dead in the water. Do not get it if that's what you plan to do 24/7. There's another model, the Traveller, that apparently duplicates the Safari's hull shape but isn't self bailing and has an inflatable deck.
One of my favorite things to do: I will take the boat way out, then jump overboard and swim with it in tow, using a surfboard leash to pull it behind me. Then, when I'm refreshed, I just get back in the boat and paddle on. Try THAT in your average hardshell!
Bottom line: I like this boat so much I'm in the process of buying a Solar II for my wife and kid.
It tracks well with the skeg on. At first I felt it was a bit tippy but have since gotten used to it and now it feels fine. (I have mainly done sea kayaking and canoe & raft on WW.) If you plan on paddling flat water for more than a couple of hours, you may want to get an extra seat (the one that comes on the Sunny), it has a higher back and is much more comfortable.
I talked to two different REI salesman at two different stores. They were both suprised at how closely it performed like a hardshell WW boat.
Today I took the Safari on a local easy (max Class I) river and didn't notice the tippiness at all. The bailing feature works well, there is a little water on the bottom near the sides but it doesn't amount to much. I switched to the closed bailing 380x halfway (friend was paddling) and it had about the same amount of water in it. The skeg attachment does help one go straighter (and thus a little faster due to efficiency).
My only complaint is comfort. Although I feel that the Safari fits my 6' 185lb frame well, the seat was not very comfortable. On a later trip maybe I will try to rig my Sea Eagle deluxe seat into the Safari.
Other big pluses of the Safari is that it packs down quite well and only weighs about 25 pounds, almost half that of the Sea Eagle. I plan to get a 4 part paddle so I can take this boat with me when I have an opportunity to fly to a location with fun waters nearby.
I should also add that the Innova people were very good at answering my questions which led to the purchase of my Innova Safari.