Our Cape Town to Victoria Falls tour started in Cape town with 23 happy travellers! After a very exciting 20 days touring through South Africa, Namibia and Botswana – where we got to know each other very well, made good friends, saw spectacular places and had so much fun – our tour ended in Victoria falls, situated at the top of Zimbabwe, only divided from Zambia by the 4th longest river in Africa, the mighty Zambezi!
As we arrived at Vic falls we were welcomed by the friendly staff at Adventure lodge where our activities for our stay were booked. There were heaps of activities on offer, however a few of us had heard about the white water rafting and were curious to find out if it was an activity that amateurs who had never rafted before could participate in.
At the lodge, they showed us a DVD with all of the activities that were on offer in Victoria falls, and that’s when we saw how much fun people who had never rafted before were having bouncing through the rapids on the Zambezi River. The staff assured us that it was heaps of fun and really safe as we would be in the hands of highly qualified and experienced rafting guides. The braver travellers decided that it would be a once in a life time opportunity, so we put our names up for the next morning’s rafting. The rest of the group booked helicopter flights over the Victoria Falls for the afternoon while others decided to take a stroll down to the Falls to get a good view and add some even more beautiful pictures to their already full album that they had made on the tour.
We were all extremely excited for the activities that we had booked and a few were still quite nervous for the rafting the next day. In the evening we all met for one of the last night’s dinners together as a group while we psyched each other up and enjoyed many of the local beers, fittingly called “Zambezi Lager”.
6:30am, beep, beep, beep, went my alarm clock and I woke up with a smile on my face, full of excitement and ready to go for a swim in the famous Zambezi river.
We had a quick cooked breakfast at the lodge before being met by the other rafters at 7am. Before heading down to the river, we had a briefing on how the day was going to proceed. We were thoroughly briefed on the safety issues and showed the hand and paddle signals which our rafters would use on the river to let us know what we needed to do. Enough talking, it was time to get going!
We all jumped into a van which took us down close to the bottom of the Victoria Falls, where we received our gear. We fitted life jackets, safety helmets and were given a paddle each.
Then for the long walk down the gorge…
It was such a spectacular view across the gorge, where you could see many birds and also trees clinging for dear life to the sides of the cliffs. Close to the bottom of the gorge you could hear the rush of water and we had our first glimpse of rapid no.1. If any of us had cold feet, this would be the spot to turn around, but luckily we were all brave souls and continued to where our rafts were waiting for us in a quiet pool at the bottom of the Falls. We were divided into groups of eight and were presented with a rafter who would be our guide down the river for the day. We then got into the raft and the guide made us paddle around the pool to get used to the raft and again briefed us on instructions and how to control the raft. We all had to jump into the water to get used to the temperature and I guess to get assured that our life jackets would save us from drowning.
Everybody ready? Start paddling!
We punched through the first rapid, we all got splashed and there were smiles all around as we made our first conquest of the day! What a great success, this was going to be a lot of fun!
Each of the nineteen rapids of the day had gnarly names like “The Boiling Pot”, “Oblivion”, “Stairway To Jeaven” or “Highway To Hell”, “The Muncher” or “The Overland Truck Eater”. As we got pushed down the river, our rafting guide explained to us exactly what we could expect going through the next rapid and he would tell us the class or difficulty rating of each rapid.
Before each hectic rapid our guide would walk through the raft and tighten each person’s life jacket because as they got wet they loosened up a bit. After the first few rapids everyone relaxed and enjoyed the ride, and by rapid no.5 which is also a class 5 rapid (long and steep drops), everyone got the hang of it and nobody felt scared anymore and just wanted bigger rapids. The Zambezi is classified as a pool drop river which means that after each rapid there is a quiet pool where you could catch your breath, go for a swim or pick up rafters who had fallen out of the raft while going through the rapids.
Usually there would be at least three rafts going down the river together with a couple of guys on kayaks so if you did fall out of the raft you would just float downstream and swim to get picked up by another raft or otherwise the kayaks would pick you up and bring you back to your own raft.
Some of the quieter pools were so long that you could relax and unfasten your life jacket on the raft and enjoy the amazing view up through the gorge, get a sun tan or go for a swim and just float with the rafts downstream. At rapid no.8, “The Muncher”, each raft could decide between three routes down the rapid – easy, medium or hard – of course we chose the hard way which was again classified as class 5 and there was an 80-90% chance of flipping the raft. Of course, we flipped!
At rapid no.9 our raft was stopped on the river bank and everyone got out and walked around it because it was classified as a class 6 rapid – which was too big of a drop and not safe for a commercial river operation. After rapid no.9 it was smooth sailing, the team had been formed and we were paddling together in unison to push us through the following rapids. It certainly was an experience that I will never forget.
The last eight rapids ranged from class 3 to 5, but most of them were class 5 and we did flip a couple more times throughout the day. One of the kayaks carried a waterproof box with a camera and he went ahead of the rafts so that he could find a good vantage point and take some epic photographs of the Zambezi river rafters that we could buy later! We all bought a copy so that we could have our bragging rights about how we conquered the mighty Zambezi… and how it taught us to respect the river, more than once! Zimbabwe really is the adventure capital of Southern Africa.
The hardest part of the whole day was at the end when everyone had to climb back out of the gorge, which is approximately 200meters of steep climbing, but luckily there was cold beer, cold drinks, water and a deliciously prepared lunch waiting for us at the top of the gorge.
After lunch we were all so exhausted and getting back into the van was a welcoming experience. We went back to our lodge and relaxed and told stories of our most adventurous morning. There were also some of the group who had decided that they hadn’t had enough action that day and they went and booked on elephant back safaris and walking with lions.
White water rafting on the Zambezi River was definitely an extraordinary experience and one of life’s highlights! I would recommend anybody who has a chance to do it, go for it. You certainly won’t regret it and you will remember it for the rest of your life!
WHITE WATER RAFTING SEASONS:
Low Water (Approximately August to December): The water is low in the river, the falls may be less spectacular for visitors, but the river rafting is far more spectacular than you could ever imagine! Water pours over and around the exposed rocks and creates powerful standing waves, eddies, rooster tails, holes and wave trains, making you realise what it would be like to be stuck in the world’s largest washing machine. Your raft will flip, you will have fun and you will have an experience to last a lifetime!
High Water (Approximately December to August): This is the time of year that gives Vic Falls it’s name “The Smoke That Thunders”, there are over 550 000 cubic meters of water, per minute, plummeting over the edge of the Falls and the spray reaches more than 1kilometer into the air. What this means for the river below is that the water level rises, covers all the rocks and creates the most massive whirlpools as the water attempts to move through the gorge. The upper sections of the river become unrunnable however rafting still operates from rapid number 11 to 23.
When the water is too high for this even, the operators will not be able to offer the rafting experience and you’ll have to satisfy your adrenaline quota with a bungee jump or a bridge swing.
Nomad’s two main tours, the Nairobi to Vic Falls and the Vic Falls to Cape Town tours start and end in Victoria Falls so book now to ensure that you don’t miss your opportunity to experience the mighty Zambezi River!
Here are some of the most untamed adventures that you can experience in Zimbabwe, be prepared to tick off your bucketlist!
Contact us on +27 (0) 21 426 5445 or on firstname.lastname@example.org for all information or to make your booking.