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Victoria Falls by the Zambezi team

...launching point for extraordinary safaris into Southern Africa

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  • classic Safpar on the Zambezi
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  • Rafting Zim-side
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Fast Facts


  • Full day trips
  • Multi-day expeditions
  • No experience required
  • Do you dare?

Whitewater Rafting

It's the wildest one-day whitewater rafting trip in the world! Better still, multi-day expeditions are run down the Batoka Gorge.

Acclaimed as the "wildest one-day whitewater run in the World" and recognised by rafting enthusiasts as one of the top ten paddling rivers on the planet! If you don't immediately associate the terms "Stairway to Heaven" and "Oblivion" with adventure, then you haven't experienced Zambezi Whitewater!

Go on a one-day Zambezi whitewater trip or for best value and the best kick: join us on a multi-day rafting expedition through the Batoka Gorge. 

18-IMG_0144.jpgNo previous experience is required and you don't need to be a proficient swimmer. At the beginning and at the end of any of the raft trips, you'll need to negotiate a steep path out of the gorge. The walk out is 750 vertical feet up a gradient of 1 in 3. A person of average fitness can manage this in about 20 minutes.

We have one-day trips for those who are short on time or who just want to experience the "commercial rapids" upstream.  Multi-day trips continue downstream through the Batoka Gorge. They last from two and half days to a full week on the river. 

These whitewater trips are run on both sides of the River, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

If you're serious about watersports then you MUST take a look at the Batoka Expeditions - three outstanding options on the Zambian shoreline. There's one good half-day option - available in Zambia only.

Explore your "options", "all the facts"  or the full rafting map  below...


 

There is a great selection of whitewater rafting options in Victoria Falls starting from half day to 5-day trips. Multi-day trips are only available on the Zimbabwe side of the river. 

  • The one-day rafting trip: the wildest one-day whitewater trip on the planet.  We operate on both shorelines in Zambia and Zimbabwe.  During high-water season (January to July) we run from rapids #11 to #23, during low-water season (August to January) you'll experience the Zambezi at its finest from rapid #1 to #21. "Pitch and paddle the next day" - no advance booking required.

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If you thought the one-day option was a wild decision then here's the serious stuff: multi-day Batoka Expeditions!  

  • A day and a night: Covers the day trip with a pull-out at rapid #23 and an overnight at our campsite over the Zambezi.  All-inclusive, returns to Victoria Falls at around 10h00 on the second day.  Available during low water only.
  • Two and a half days: Includes an overnight camp at rapid #23 with rafting on the second day down to the upper Moemba campsite, trip ends the next day at Chibongo (the Batoka dam site).  All-inclusive and returns to Victoria Falls for lunch on the third day.  Available during low water only.
  • Five-day expedition: A full coverage of the Batoka Gorge from Victoria Falls down to Matetsi.  Four nights are spent camping at rapid #23, upper "Moemba", below Chibongo, and below "Asleep at the Wheel".  Rafting continues on the fifth day followed by a 3-hour transfer back to Victoria Falls on the Milibizi/Hwange road.  Available during low water only.
  • Custom trips: All-inclusive private expeditions for groups of between 4 and 20 guests on request.
  • The half-day trip: Chopper-in, have lunch and take it easy from rapid #10 down to #25, you're back in Livingstone around 5-ish.

 


Background

Commercial rafting started in 1981 on the Zambezi River below Victoria Falls and has attracted a great number of enthusiasts over the years. Unsurprisingly so, as the one-day low-water trip is considered to be the best one-day whitewater experience in the world!

The basalt gorge below the Falls has been cut over the last 300 million years. The gorge is approximately 120m (400ft) on entry. On the one day trip, the take out point is approximately 230m (750ft) deep, with a gradient of 1 in 2 - it takes approximately 20 minutes to walk out if you're reasonably fit. The river drops by about 120m (400ft) in the first 24km (15 miles). The river is up to 60m (200ft) deep. The rapids are between 100m (330ft) and 2km (1,2 miles) apart.

The Zambezi is classified as a high volume, pool drop river. The river floods between mid February and the end of June. Huge volumes, in excess of four times that of the Colorado River, flood over the Falls at peak. Nearly half of the rapids are classified as Grade 5: "extremely difficult, long and violent rapids, steep gradients, big drops and pressure areas". Grade 6 is "unrunnable".

Rafting is conducted on both sides of the Zambezi River, in Zimbabwe and Zambia below the Victoria Falls. The steep walls of the gorge are not suited for game. Birdlife is usually very good. There are small crocodiles in the river - they are not a serious threat. Bilharzia is not a risk.

When to go

The "low water" run occurs when the Zambezi River is at its low level generally between July and mid-February. This is the most exciting time to do rafting. Day trips are conducted between rapids 1 and 18.

The "high water" run follows after fresh inflow from the catchment areas in Angola and Zambia. The water rises and flows more rapidly and the day trips move downstream from rapids 11 to 23. We're in high water from about February to July with a short "closed" season around April/May depending on the season's rains.

An overview of the rapids

 

Rafting map

The Zambezi is renowned for its extremely high volume and steep gradient - treat it with respect….

  • The 3 "Minus rapids":  Occur before the official #1.  Minus #1 and #2 are the only rapids that have been run, Minus #3 is impossible to access because of its proximity to the falls. Rapid #2 is the biggest and most impressive rapid on the river.
  • "…against the wall" # 1: Class 4/5:  The Boiling Pot, is the start of the low water trip. From here the river hits a wall forming a wild cushion wave and eddy.
  • "…the bridge" # 2: Class 3: A wild mixture of waves - at its best in the early part of the low water season. Clearly visible to bungee jumpers and spectators on the Victoria Falls bridge.
  • Rapid # 3: Class 4: A steep and radically fast wave with an easily avoidable hole. The second part of this rapid is best in the early part of the season - a small wave train with an excellent pocket on the Zambian side.
  • "Morning Glory" # 4: Class 4/5: The first major rapid offering varying lines with an almost river-wide hole at the top, followed by a few diagonals off the right-hand wall and finally a big hole at the bottom.
  • "Stairway to Heaven" # 5: Class 5: Best in the early part of the season, with an 8m drop over 10m. Very steep and powerful with a heap of massive waves and holes. Although it isn't too technical, its size and volume make for an amazing spectacle and an even more amazing ride. Avoid the waterfalls and a hole on the left called the "catcher's mitt" plus a large pourover on the right.
  • "Devil's Toilet Bowl" # 6: Class 4: A Short rapid with a deceptively steep and powerful hole on entry followed by some nasty boils and whirlpools.
  • "Gullivers Travels" # 7: Class 5: A very respectful 700m run of class 5 high volume whitewater at certain levels. This is the longest and most technical rapid on the one-day whitewater trip.  The run consists of a main channel with smaller channels feeding into it - includes the "Temple of Doom", "The Crease", "Patella Gap" and "Land of the Giants".
  • "Midnight Diner" # 8: Class 3/5:  This rapid has 3 runs.  On the left is "Star Trek" with a hole of up to 5m reserved for the brave.  The "Muncher Run" in the centre takes you through a window of "Star Trek".  On the right is the "Chicken Run".
  • "Commercial Suicide" # 9: Class 5/6: The Zambezi's most infamous. This is a river-wide pour-over with a very narrow slot of less than a metre on the right - commercial portage!
  • "Gnashing Jaws of Death" #10: Class 4: An easy run before lunch…..
  • "Overland Truck Eater" # 11: Class 5: A big barrel for about two weeks in the year during the transition between high and low water in mid January and early July. Watch out for the hole, eddy line and whirlpool.  This is the first rapid on the "high water" run.
  • "Three Sisters" #12A,B,C: Class 3/4: 12B is the famous Zambezi surfing wave for kayakers - surfs best between August and December with two windows and a massive green shoulder and a big eddy. Rafters prefer the term "three little pigs".
  • "The Mother" # 13: Class 4/5: A massive wave train at its best, first 3 waves super fast.
  • Rapid # 14: Class 3: Big S-bend in the river. Center chute to be avoided at lower water levels.
  • "Washing Machine" # 15: Class 5: Simple wave train but un-runnable in the middle because of a huge crashing hole - go left or right into the eddy.
  • "The Terminators I and II" # 16: Class 4: A massive wave train and tough at higher levels, not much when low.
  • "Double Trouble" # 17: Class 5: A simple wave train but un-runnable because of 2 large holes - also known as "The Bitch".
  • "Oblivion" # 18: Class 5: Three waves make up THE rapid on the Zambezi.. The 3rd crashing wave is responsible for more raft flips than any other in the world - only about 1 in 4 attempts succeed between September and October! This rapid marks the end of the "low water" one-day run.
  • Rapids #19 to #25: Class 2/3: Easy runs at the end of the day. Rapid #23 is the last rapid on the "high water" one-day run.

 An explanation on how the rafting season works

Water levels dictate the rafting season. Flooding follows the start of the rains usually around mid-November in the upper Zambezi catchment area in Angola and Zambia. Flow over Victoria Falls increases especially from December with a peak flood around March or April which drops off until the onset of the next season's rains. The "low water" season from around August to early January is best for rafting, there's a short "high water" period on either side and the river is closed during the floods sometime from March to May.

Here's a guideline on how the season works (read in conjunction with the "map of the area")

  • River closes altogether from sometime around end February to April for the "super high" season. 
  • River opens at rapid #15 sometime April to early June for "high water". Rafting takes place from rapid #15 to #23. 
  • Rafting opens at rapid #11 after "high water" period sometime early June to early July for a short "medium low water" season. Rafting takes place from rapid #11 to #23. 
  • Rafting opens at rapid #1 around mid August to early September for "low water". Rafting takes place from rapid #1 to #23. 
  • Rafting closes at rapid #1 and starts from rapid #11 around mid to end December for another period of "medium low water". Rafting takes place from rapid #11 to #23 
  • Rafting closes at rapid #11 and starts from #15 mid February to March: "high water". Rafting takes place from rapid #15 to #23 until the river closes for "super high" season sometime around end February to April.
Rapids/month April May June July August Sept Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar April
River opens at #15

Sometime late April, May or June

                   
High water rafting #15 to #23  

#15 to #23

                   
River opens at #11    

Sometime mid June to early July

                 
Medium-low rafting #11 to #23     #11 to # 23                
River opens at #1         in August                
Low water rafting #1 to #23         .................#1 to #23......................        
River closes at #1, starts from #11                 late in December        
Medium-low rafting #11 to #23                   #11 to #23    
River closes at #11, starts from #15                     sometime mid Feb to March  
High water rafting #15 to #23                     #15 to #23  
River closes for super high season                     sometime end Feb, March or April
Enquiries and bookings

Contact the Zambezi team

Please let us have as much relevant info as possible...

The following isn't compulsory but would be very helpful


...guys you might meet on the river

zambezi_man.jpg

Doc

"Doc" is a native Zambian. He's run the Zambezi for 15 years. Also our local expert on history, culture and wildlife. A big character and wizard when it comes to reading the river. Just wait to see what he wears the night he prepares dinner!

Stan Ricketts

Stan Ricketts

Stan has some of the best river skills in the world! Now a 20 year river veteran this is the guy you want at the helm of your raft in Chile, Nepal or the Zambezi. He's a phenomenal cook, wildlife and bird guru. A big character never short on a good story!

Andy from WBN

Andy

This boy's an absolute star! An ex-Pro Surfer and dynamo around the campsite, his river skills are world class too! Andy's a veteran who inspires confidence in all his crews. He'll run the perfect line every time. Andy's rafted more than 75 rivers on five continents.

Whitewater rafting packages

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Tick-it to Adventure

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Simply pre-book selected activities or a safari to claim a free sunset cruise or qualify for a free helicopter flip over Vic Falls

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