Whitewater Rafting on the Zambezi River

August 13, 2015 by

Action, Adventure & Adrenaline, Middle East & Africa, Things to Do

Exploring Zimbabwe's Zambezi River on a whitewater rafting tour

Exploring Zimbabwe’s Zambezi River on a whitewater rafting tour

Approaching the Zambezi River for the first time was like stepping from a room of silence into one of chaos. The rushing water of the river slammed over rocks, creating rapids with chalky white caps. Yet despite this first impression, after taking in a deep breath, it took only seconds to relax amidst the natural beauty.

Touted as the adventure capital of Eastern Africa, Victoria Falls is a stop that shouldn’t be missed on a trip to Zimbabwe. While the falls themselves are the star, it’s the activities in the vicinity that get your adrenaline flowing. We wanted an up-close look at the lifeline of the great falls, the Zambezi River, and the best way to enjoy it is on a full day whitewater-rafting trip that takes you through the Batoka Gorge.

Down the river

Through the Batoka Gorge

Before we got in the raft we embarked on a 45-minute hike down into the gorge from the rim. The hike was steep and a bit challenging for some people, but it gave us a chance to see some of the scenery up close and take in dramatic views of the gorge as we made our way to the bottom.

While I successfully traversed the trail in flip flops, I would highly recommend you bring sneakers or water shoes with good grip to ensure you don’t slip or fall during the descent. The trail is steep and winds down through terrain ranging from dry and rocky to tropical before hitting sand.

Once we reached the river, we loaded into our raft, secured our shoes and were off into a small lagoon to practice maneuvering. Our guide instructed us in how to move the raft forwards and backwards; sit properly on the side of the raft, where we could place our feet; and drop into the raft and grab hold of the side line.

A successful whitewater rafting experience

Ready for a whitewater rafting experience

From there we were off to take on the great Zambezi River. Our trip started on rapid 11 and continued to rapid 24 over the course of our day, covering roughly 14 kilometers of the gorge. We timed our visit to Victoria Falls perfectly as the water levels were at a stage that allowed a steady flow down the river neither too high nor too low, leaving the rapids to build and surge to Class V in some parts.

Our boat surged and rocked over the waves as we made our way from rapid to rapid. Two of the rapids claimed our group and we learned the meaning of being a long swimmer — where you’re not close enough to the boat to be pulled back on immediately — and also, conversely, a short swimmer — meaning you are close enough to be pulled back on the raft after a fall or flip.

Being on the water gave us a chance to experience a side of Zimbabwe that overwhelmed the senses, from the refreshing feel of the fresh water to the crisp smell of the air as it moved through the gorge. It was the ultimate adventure, with a chance to meet new people from around the world and build respect for one of the best rafting rivers in the world.

Contributed by Lina Stock

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